photos by Justin Leung and Emily Yang

Inspired by the ideas of our Restaurant Outings committee, the Epicurean Society team set forth on a restaurant crawl on Wednesday, November 28. Our objective with the food crawl was to sample, observe and enjoy the all-embracing dining options in the local Las Vegas area. After contacting several restaurants, we were able to arrange a table for seven at The Smashed Pig and Park on Fremont in Downtown Las Vegas.

Upon walking into The Smashed Pig, guests will find a bar to the immediate left of the entrance and an open kitchen straight ahead. We were happily greeted by the bartender and our server who presented quite the hospitality as we had light conversations with them. Our experience wasn’t just limited to the server—the manager would frequently stop at our table and touch base with us, further immersing us in the lighthearted and contemporary outlet. By choosing group dining as an option for our group, the restaurant prepared a delicious balance of spicy, savory and sweet dishes. We had anticipated smaller portions; however, the kitchen exceeded our expectations by serving us dishes by course to satisfy our appetite for learning and enjoyment.

Our first step into our journey began with tasting their starters: (1) Buffalo Cauliflower with a side of cilantro ranch, (2) Firecracker Shrimp, (3) Jumbo Bavarian Pretzel and (4) Mini Stuffed Yukons. The Buffalo Cauliflower fills your mouth with a light mild flavor with a crunchy layer and the creamy cilantro ranch doubles the tasteful appetizer. This dish certainly solidified the remainder of our night. Our next starter was as impactful as the first. Don’t let the name ‘Firecracker Shrimp’ give you the wrong impression; it doesn’t ignite your mouth, but instead, carries you through a crispy adventure made with spicy Thai chili and freshly cooked shrimp. This was only the beginning of a spectacular night.

While we had left it up to the Smashed Pig team to decide on our dishes, we had no idea what would come next. The Jumbo Bavarian Pretzel was a positive shock to us and the side of beer cheese and whole grain mustard only augmented the experience of this palatable dish. Crunchy. Simple. Powerful. In contrast to the jumbo pretzel, we finished our starter tasting with a ‘mini’ yukon bites filled with lemon aioli and sausage.

The Smashed Pig team now selected options from the lunch menu and we thoroughly enjoyed: (1) Banger Baguette, (2) The Smashed Pig Burger and the (3) New York Steak Sandwich. Quite the savory treat, the Banger Baguette is made with pork sausage, roasted garlic and caramelized onions. We even had the appetite to finish the Smashed Pig Burger, made with bacon and cheddar, and the New York Steak Sandwich, cooked with arugula, horseradish cream and aged New York steak. Our final treat was a peanut butter and marshmallow fluff: the perfect ending to our savory adventure at The Smashed Pig.

A mixture of outdoor and indoor dining, Park on Fremont captured us in a casual, yet rustic themed establishment. The vibrant, well-lit front patio is accompanied with the traditional fixtures. Park on Fremont brings a novel menu of Pickings, Sandwiches and Comfort Foods. We tasted the house recommended Mac + Cheese Balls, medium-sized bites which carry the house-made mac and cheese and served with a side of cheese sauce. 

Epicurean Society, with its final restaurant crawl completed, looked towards the next opportunity. The UNLV Hospitality College was the venue for the 5th Annual Ment’or Young Chef Competition and the 3rd Annual Ment’or Commis Competition. Taking place on December 12 on the fourth floor of UNLV’s Hospitality Hall from 8:30 a.m.–3:30 p.m., these two competitions are hosted by chefs: Thomas Keller, Daniel Boulud and Jerome Bocuse. These prestigious culinary competitions introduce a group of aspiring young chefs to a jury of 9 chefs: the jury evaluates the dishes based on presentation, time, authenticity, etc.

Epicurean Society was invited to participate by selecting a group of professional individuals to serve the chef jury. It was recommended that servers have at least 1 year of hospitality experience in the restaurant industry, previous or current experience as a server preferred, and knowledge of front-of-house services. 

I write to send my appreciation to first and foremost, Chefs: Thomas Keller, Daniel Boulud and Jerome Bocuse. Secondly, the chef jury which consists of Paul Bartolotta, Justin Cogley, Gerard Craft, Olivier Dubreuil, Chris Hastings, Timothy Hollingsworth, Michelle Karr-Ueoka, Gavin Kaysen, Roland Passot, Mathew Peters, Francis Reynard, Rich Rosendale, Curtis Stone and Philip Tessier. Thirdly, the UNLV Hospitality College for providing the space, equipment and volunteers. Next, the sponsors: All-Clad, Bridor, Nordaq Fresh, Pure Bred Lamb and Steelite International. Lastly, I would like to congratulate all Young Chef and Commis Candidates for their hard work, determination and companionship.