Boathouse Asian Eatery at Palace Station Another Great Example of the Property’s Transformation
If you haven’t been to Palace Station in a while, you’re in for a happy surprise, for once you enter you will discover the property has been completely transformed. The two-year $192 million modernization project that included adding a movie theater and a major revamp of its eateries is nearly completed, and one of the most promising additions is Boathouse Asian Eatery.
Situated on the newly-added eastern side of the building just steps away from valet, the Eatery is bedecked with hanging lights, beautiful hand-painted artwork gracing white tiled walls, wood features including a lattice ceiling and mahogany tables, open kitchen and a large faux tree in the dining room. From the outside, it may appear to be a casual dining venue, which it is in regards to the reasonable pricing and comfortable, relaxed atmosphere, but upon entering and seeing the stunning artwork and experiencing the upscale presentation and service, you will realize it’s the best of both worlds.
The Boathouse moniker is derived from the fact that the restaurant’s founders, brother-and-sister team Cat and Tu Do, initially left Vietnam via a boat and eventually settled in the US and with their partner Hans Mogensen opened a restaurant of the same name in the Graton Casino in Rohnert Park in Northern California. Their roots are evident in the menu, with Vietnamese dishes such as clay pot catfish, Vietnamese-style egg rolls and sweet & sour catfish soup.
The menu is built around sharing and dishes are served family style. In addition to Vietnamese, there are plenty of Japanese, Chinese and Korean offerings. I highly recommend starting with one of the sushi rolls, of which there are more than a dozen options, such as the trainwreck (spicy tuna, shrimp tempura, unagi, spicy aioli) or choosing from the large selection of nigiri/sashimi.
Other representatives of Asian cuisine include hamachi jalapeno with yuzu soy, walnut prawns with creamy pineapple glaze and candied walnuts, shaking beef (wok-seared filet mignon cubes with bell pepper and onion) and Korean short ribs and kimchi fried rice.
For a restaurant that centers around seafood, freshness is key, so it’s a major plus that seafood arrives every day except Sunday, and a live aquarium houses live lobster and crab until they are ready to be prepared.
A knock on Asian restaurants is the lack of desserts, but here you can enjoy a rather unique creation: corn flake-crusted deep-fried Oreos served with vanilla ice cream. Other more traditional Asian dessert choices include green tea, vanilla and red bean ice cream; and mochi in flavors of strawberry, mango and green tea.
Helming the kitchen is Executive Chef Zy Alconcel, whose resume includes five years cooking Japanese cuisine in Hawaii, and in Las Vegas at Robert Irvine’s Public House, banquet dining at The Mirage and eight years working with Stations Casinos. Chef Zy helps with menu formation and the Hawaiian tuna poke salad (fresh tuna in a spicy sesame sauce with tobiko and land and sea greens) is one of his superb creations.
A fine example of the quality service is Eugene Kang, of whom we had the pleasure of being served by during our visit. When asked what he likes about working at the Boathouse, he said, “The open ambience and fusion of Asian cuisine gives variety to our customers and I appreciate sharing that with people.”
It’s not often a restaurant has a general manager that is a highly skilled chef, but such is the case of Ian Delph, who has held executive chef positions at upscale establishments such as Center Cut Steakhouse. Ian finds directing his culinary orchestra very satisfying and has been known to jump into the kitchen to help out in a pinch. He describes his clientele as very diverse, including Asians looking for authentic cuisine and regulars of the casino seeking high quality dining at a very reasonable price. In the works are plans to further entice diners with wine, whiskey and sake pairing dinners.
With pricing of the vast majority of menu items between $10-$15, a happy hour (Mon-Fri from 3-6 p.m. and 10-11 p.m.) with dozens of starters and sushi rolls under $10, beer for only $3 and well cocktails and house wine and sake ½ off, not to mention cuisine done exceptionally well and a varied menu that offers something for everyone, both locals and tourists have several reasons to visit again and again.
Open Sun-Thu 11-10 and Fri-Sat 11-11 palacestation.sclv.com/Dining/Boathouse
Esther’s Kitchen Celebrates 1st Anniversary
Esther’s Kitchen, named for Chef/Owner James Trees’ late great aunt, a huge supporter of the talented chef who wrote the check that sent him to the Culinary Institute of America-Hyde Park, has created quite a following as one of our city’s top new restaurants, as well as being part of the Downtown Art District’s emergence as a critical part of our local dining scene. The native Las Vegan chef’s Italian restaurant, self-proclaimed as seasonal Italian soul food and known for its use of fresh, seasonal ingredients, has recently garnered several accolades, including being named one of the Gayot 2018 Top 10 New Restaurants in the US and its inclusion in John Curtas’ 2019 Eating Las Vegas: The 52 Essential Restaurants.
Just barely past its first anniversary, Esther’s continues to wow its devotees, of which I count myself a proud member. During my recent visit I was enthralled with a tasting of Chef’s menu, which included yellowtail crudo with yuzu cucumber, radish and chili oil; charred octopus with tomato glaze and squid ink-infused black aioli/garbanzo salad; toasted beets with ricotta gnudi and pistachio pesto; cavatelli with truffle-braised crispy sausage; tomato-Greek pizza with sausage, salumi, cumin, fennel and coriander; branzino with orange fennel, farro and pesto; and pumpkin cheesecake with pepitas, chocolate graham crust and pumpkin spice latte ice cream. On a personal note, I was thrilled to be able to enjoy a pumpkin-themed dish well past the traditional holiday period.
Do yourself a favor and make your way to Esther’s Kitchen, situated smack dab in the heart of the Downtown Las Vegas 18b Arts District. While the physical address is 1130 S. Casino Center, the entrance is on California St. just south of Charleston and a few steps west of Casino Center. There is limited parking on the streets, but they have a parking lot behind the restaurant which you can access from the alley just past the restaurant. Open for lunch Mon-Fri from 11-3 (counter service), brunch Sat-Sun 10-3 and dinner daily 5-11. www.estherslv.com
Chef Marc’s Trattoria Delighting Clientele
My first experience with the culinary genius of Chef Marc Sgrizzi was in the mid-2000s when my wife Lally and I dined at his Marc’s Italian Steakhouse at Lake Mead and Tenaya. So, it was a happy occurrence when we recently rediscovered Chef Marc at his Chef Marc’s Trattoria.
The upstate New York native Chef Marc has a long and illustrious culinary career, having started cooking as a teenager at his family’s Italian restaurant in Southern Florida in the 1970s and later gaining experience at high-end restaurants in New York. After learning the ropes of running both the front and back of the house and opening restaurants back East, Chef accepted a new challenge and opened his first eatery in Las Vegas in 2000, at the aforementioned Marc’s Italian Steakhouse.
After owning and operating a few other restaurants that he built up and later sold, Chef Marc’s latest iteration has been open since October 2015 at 8615 W. Sahara, in a shopping complex at the southwest corner of Durango and Sahara. The humble exterior belies the quaint décor inside, with wood tables and floor, hanging Edison lights, semi-open kitchen, rustic red brick wall and pictures of Sinatra and Italian scenery. Also helping to put you in the mood for Italian fare are musical stylings of Sinatra and other crooners from his era. And, when weather permits, an outdoor patio area is ideal for al fresco dining.
Attention to detail is evident from the beautiful presentation of each dish, the fact that fresh pasta and bread are made in-house daily, the restaurant cures its own meats and Chef Marc regularly takes trips to Italy to learn more about the food and wine he is so passionate about.
During our visit we were treated to roasted butternut squash bisque (a five-star dish that was so delightful my wife had to order two servings to go); imported Italian creamy bufala cheese served with micro arugula, tomatoes and balsamic glaze; duck ragu, a Venice inspiration from Chef’s recent trip to Italy served on a paccheri pasta (like a large rigatoni); un-breaded and magnificent eggplant parmesan (proclaimed by Lally as the best ever and of which we also had to take two orders home!); vegetarian ravioli alla Roma with stuffed ricotta, egg yolk, brown butter sage and shaved black winter truffle; USDA Prime NY steak that was perfectly seasoned and brought back memories of our first visit to Marc’s Italian Steakhouse; and desserts of house-made rum cake, banoffee pie (banana cream with Oreo) and tiramisu.
One of the focal points of the restaurant is the very attractive large glass wine cellar, in which are stored gems from seven regions of Italy, as well as vino from New Zealand, South Africa, Argentina and California, such as the North Coast California Three Barrels Red Blend from Silvia Cellars I enjoyed.
During our visit on a Thursday evening in mid-February, after arriving upon the restaurant’s opening at 5 p.m., we were impressed to see that within an hour nearly every table was occupied. We also learned that 90% of the guests are repeat customers. One thing that is a great selling point for any restaurant to give guests a reason to return again and again is having a fluid menu, which is the case here. Not only do dishes rotate seasonally, but a portion of the menu is devoted to daily specials and a section of inspired new dishes changes every few days.
Repeat visits are also likely due to the fact that the food is sublime, and a bargain for the quality, with a range of prices mainly from $12-$24 and deeper discounts during Happy Hour from 5-7 Wed.-Fri.; and also because every guest gets to interact with the charming Chef Marc, who when not expediting and assisting his chefs on the line, visits with each table.
Open for dinner Wed-Sun. www.chefmarcstrattoria.com