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July 01, 1999


Don’t’ let Star Canyon fool you. You will be tempted to pigeonhole it as just another Tex-Mex joint with a star chef’s name attached to it. You will also be tempted to walk right by because you’re not in the mood for yet another Mexican-Texican nouvelle snorin’ sonoran food emporium. So you will probably want to pass on it as you ponder Emeril Lagasse’s take on prime steaks at Delmonicos, or Joachim Splichal’s nouveau bistro called Pinot, but if you do pass on Star Canyon for either of these hot spots, you will be making a big mistake.

Celebrity Chef Stephan Pyles has gotten caught between a rock and a hard place with his Vegas rendition of the restaurant that put Dallas, Texas on the culinary map. That rock is Delmonico's, which is a tad stark for my tastes--although the food is wonderful--and the hard place is Pinot Brasserie—another place with great food but one which doesn’t have its service act together. All of which makes- it hard to get a lot of essentials, like bread, a drink, food and the check.

None of these flaws pervades Star Canyon, however. It’s whimsical and stunning décor is Texas modern in the best sense of the word and the food will make you forget the Alamo. Pyles’ food as executed by Chef Mark Kiffin is chock full of culinary mixed metaphors that takes you from Tijuana to Timbuktu. Every worldly food from tamarind seeds to bourbon to cambazola gets thrown into the innovative mix and surprisingly everything works. Unknown menu descriptions abound and confuse matters even further, but the crackerjack wait staff are walking encyclopedias of esoteric ingredients and they’ll gladly tell you what llapingachos or manchamanteles are (a potato pancake and a fruit mole sauce if you’re interested). So ask a lot of questions, relax and prepare to enjoy some serious gastronomic fun.

Star Canyon is located in the Venetian Hotel & Casino.

This is John Curtas

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