Siegel’s 1941 at the El Cortez
Celebrating Historic Old Vegas

The name of this restaurant at the El Cortez in Downtown Las Vegas has a dual meaning: the décor and feel are a tribute to the legendary Bugsy Siegel, who was the second owner of the casino, and 1941 heralds the year the El Cortez opened. The restaurant is also doing double duty in filling the void of both the Coffee Shop and the Flame Steakhouse, both of which closed last year.

In addition to displays on the walls of vintage black and white photos and personal items of Siegel and his girlfriend Virginia Hill, the space exudes an Old Vegas vibe, with classic red leather booths, dark hard wood floor and vintage-style lighting. The concept and menu were designed by another legend, this one a culinary one, none other than Jeffrey Kalt, who has had a storied career in restaurant development and over the years altered the culinary landscape of Las Vegas as he lured several big time chefs to our city.

Jeffrey describes the menu as “American classics with modern interpretations.” He had a tall task in keeping both the regular customers of the coffee shop and steakhouse happy and has obliged them by keeping many of the most popular items on the menu, like several steaks, prime rib and burgers and comfort food items like liver and onions; also added some Italian favorites for as Jeffrey says, “Who doesn’t like Italian?” like 7 Layer Lasagna Bolognese and Eggplant Parmesan which is baked, not fried; a collection of some of our nation’s classic sandwiches including Cuban Miami, Italian Beef Chicago and Sausage & Peppers New Haven; and some modern trending dishes such as Grilled Ahi with sesame shitake noodle and Lump Crab Cake with remoulade sauce which unlike many versions, is composed of 95% crab.

The burger menu presents another way to celebrate the history of Old Vegas, as several are named after Vegas mob characters, like the Bugsy Siegel Burger with bacon, grilled onions, tomato marmalade and sharp cheddar. The cocktail offerings also have mobster monikers, such as the Meyer Lansky Mule with Absolut Mandarin, lime, ginger beer and mint.

The price points here are low enough and the quality high enough to keep many regulars coming in several times a week, and Jeffrey reports some days see 800-900 customers coming in. Siegel’s 1941 is open 24/7. To view the Breakfast, All Day and Overnight menus visit http://elcortezhotelcasino.com/dining/siegels-1941.

Hong Kong Café Now Open at The Palazzo

Hong Kong Café has opened at The Palazzo on the casino floor in the former space of ZINE Noodles Dim Sum. For anyone missing ZINE, they’ll be happy to know that 70% of the menu is unchanged. The new restaurant is helmed by Chef Simon To, who is originally from Hong Kong and has spent more than 35 years cooking Asian cuisine all over the world, including France, Hong Kong and Canada. Chef specializes in Cantonese and Szechuan styles and is considered a dim sum master and was awarded the coveted Bleu Ribbon Award from Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts.

The new venue is more casual than its predecessor and is brightly lit, with a checkerboard-like light and dark bamboo wood floor, and cheerful hues, with multi-color light globes and colorful banquettes that are stitched together to create a “kimono” effect.

Chef To’s menu features popular Asian comfort food dishes prepared Hong Kong style with a western twist, which means there are some western influences due to the island’s long time under British rule. The extensive menu is sectioned into Hong Kong Style, Congee, Curry Rice, Oven Baked Rice/Spaghetti, Clay Pot Rice Noodles, Vietnamese Specials, Barbecued & Roasted and Asian Specials.

Chef provided us a tasting of Oxtail Soup—similar to beef stew; Fried Curry Fish Bowl—a spicy mix of white fish formed into balls; Rice Rolls with XO Sauce—flattened rice with bits of scallops and shrimp in the sauce; Beef Tenderloin with garlic flakes—a tender very high quality cut; Macau-style Crispy Pork Chop Sandwich; and desserts of Egg Tart custard and Pineapple Bun, which contains no pineapple but is so named for the texture on its top.

A bevy of interesting drinks are on the menu, such as the Hong Kong-Style Milk Tea in flavors of Jasmine and Taro with chewy boba and several unique cocktails, like the Firecracker Martini with Patron Silver, Cointreau, lemongrass syrup, crushed jalapeno and ginger.

Hong Kong Café is open Sun.-Thu. 11 a.m.-1 a.m. and Fri.-Sat. 11 a.m. to 3 a.m.

www.venetian.com/restaurants/asian/hong-kong-cafe.html