Photos by Joe Urcioli - Co-owner Jessica Harman and Executive Chef Chris Kight

Bandito Latin Kitchen & Cantina at Hughes Center a Little Bit Cuban, a Little Bit Spanish and a lot Authentic Mexican

Kent Harman has spent several years running other people’s restaurants, including Duke’s and Border Grill. Now after spending two and a half years developing the recently opened Bandito Latin Kitchen & Cantina at the Hughes Center his family-owned restaurant is up and running. 

Situated in the space on Howard Hughes Parkway just off of Flamingo that 20 years ago was Piero’s Café, later Fog City Diner and a dirt lot for the past 10 years, the strikingly beautiful building was built from the ground up. The décor is a mix of rustic and modern, with hand-distressed wood, hanging Edison lights, a high industrial ceiling, ample natural light via 30-foot-tall floor-to-ceiling glass windows and an outdoor patio with views of the Las Vegas Strip. A remarkable eye-catching feature are two huge murals in the main dining room of “Bandito” and “Rosie” created by local artist Brett Rosepiler.

An open kitchen allows you to see the back-of-the-house team in action, under the direction of Executive Chef Chris Kight. The Chicago native has some impressive chops, having worked for Gordon Ramsay in London, at Thomas Keller’s French Laundry and recently at The Matador in Downtown Summerlin. Chef has a home in Mexico and has plenty of firsthand experience with true Mexican cuisine. He says his intent is to offer authentic Mexican cuisine, not necessarily the Americanized version we may be used to. 

During our tasting we found no lack of spiciness, but it was not over the top. The vibrant flavors made with fresh ingredients will be sure to impress, such as guacamole spiked with roasted serrano peppers and heirloom cherry tomatoes; extremely tender fried octopus with yellow peppers, Romanesco and red Bandito sauce; chicharron & arugula salad with roasted corn, heirloom tomato, rainbow carrots and crispy chunks of pork belly; seafood ceviche with scallop, shrimp, halibut, cucumber, red onion, watermelon radish, jalapeno and citrus; and the addictive turkey chorizo albondigas—meatballs in a delectable creamed salsa verde and cotija coating. The best deal on the menu has to be the tacos, which come two to an order for lunch ($13-$16) and three at dinner ($17-$21) and are served with achiote rice & charro beans and choice of a side, with six options such as the potatoes al pastor topped with a sweet and slightly spicy sauce. You’ll have seven to choose from: carne asada, roasted chicken, braised octopus, carnitas, al pastor, beef barbacoa and Baja fish. 

The cantina program presents creative cocktails rotated seasonally, such as the Smoking Bandito—a blend of Hornitos Black Barrel Anejo Tequila, pineapple juice, lime, black salt and agave that is garnished with a smoking sprig of rosemary; or the El Guapo Margarita with Patron Silver, Grand Marnier, agave, lime, and Marnier caviar (passion fruit balls). 

For the finale of my tasting I was able to relive my childhood with the favorite dessert I enjoyed as a kid—pineapple upside down cake—but Chef Kight’s version was a bit different, with his being made with equal parts flour and polenta and topped with tropical crema. No complaints from me on his version; I found it delightful.

325 Hughes Center Dr.

702-857-7550

banditolv.com

Hours of operation:
11 a.m.-11 p.m. daily

 

Photos by Carlos Larios

Relive Your Childhood at Sugar Factory

The two-story dining attraction at the Fashion Show Mall opened in February, and is the largest in the Sugar Factory chain that now numbers 13 worldwide locations. This new massive outpost spans 22,000 square feet and is a tribute to all things made with sugar.

The décor is simultaneously elegant and fun. It features a floor-to-ceiling candy dot wall, NY-style tile floor, mirrored ceiling, candy bins highlighting more than 500 types of candy, several crystal chandeliers, a Moulin Rouge marquee and on the second level, a fantasy-like “candyland” with 14-seat horse-drawn carousel surrounded by 5,000 light-up candy flowers, oversize cupcakes, lollipops and animal sculptures that overlook views of the Strip. 

Executive Chef Ruben Barragan recently came over from Jardin at the Wynn. He has a difficult mission in executing a 46-page menu that is as thick as a dictionary, but after our tasting I can proclaim he is up to the task. 

We began by experiencing the goblets—16 varieties of 64-oz concoctions meant for sharing, such as The Drake with Virginia Black Whiskey, peach puree and sweet tea with Sour Patch Peaches and a burst of strawberry lemonade cotton candy; when poured into the large glass dry ice enables it to bubble and steam. We also did what a kid would do if he was allowed to—that is, have dessert before dinner—partaking in the “Insane Milkshakes,” which come topped with a dessert, like the Caramel Sugar Daddy Cheesecake with vanilla ice cream, cheesecake pieces, caramel sauce, a slice of NY-style cheesecake, rainbow lollipop and a Sugar Daddy candy. In addition, each milkshake glass is a work of art, and the outside of the glass is covered with edible delights like dark chocolate and gold graham cracker cookie pieces as in the Campfire Spiked S’mores Milkshake.

Although we were nearly full from our dessert sampling, we pressed on and sampled some of the daily brunch items, including the Sugar Factory eggs Benedict—two poached eggs, Canadian bacon, parmesan and grilled asparagus over English muffin topped with Hollandaise; and Nutella chocolate chip pancakes—a huge stack topped with melted hazelnut chocolate, whipped cream and served with warm maple syrup. But our favorite of the day, and a very unique treat for the eyes, was the rainbow sliders. Listed under appetizers but large enough to feed two or more people, it is comprised of five mini-burgers served on colorful buns (blue, red, yellow, green and purple) with American cheese, crispy onion and a yellow duckie (the restaurant’s mascot and reminder of one’s childhood days) souvenir to take home. 

Other hearty options for lunch or dinner include Mediterranean chicken pappardelle pasta with sun-dried tomatoes, sautéed artichoke hearts, Kalamata olives, roasted garlic and toasted pine nuts served with garlic bread; pan-seared NY strip with mushroom brandy sauce and side of Yukon Gold mashed potatoes; and an assortment of burgers dubbed “Monster Burgers,” such as the white chocolate burger—grass-fed Angus beef topped with pepper Jack cheese and Applewood smoked bacon served on a white chocolate ganache brioche bun with white chocolate shavings.

Before leaving, be sure to stop in at the candy shop, which offers oodles of sweets, chocolates, lollipops and bins of candy to take home and 38 flavors of ice cream and gelato.

I’ve barely touched the surface of the massive menu offerings, but suffice it to say you should definitely come with a big appetite, as all dishes are gargantuan portions; and also a camera, as you’ll want to snap shots of the colorful décor and menu offerings, which are equally stunning to behold. 

Fashion Show Mall

702-685-0483

sugarfactory.com/location/fashion-show

Hours of Operation:
Mon.-Thu. 10 a.m.-11p.m.,
Fri. & Sat. 9 a.m.-12 a.m.
Sun. 9 a.m.-11 p.m.