A chef’s name on the restaurant door doesn’t guarantee that person is in the kitchen—in Las Vegas especially. But at Todd’s Unique Dining, the doors don’t even open unless chef Todd Clore is inside.
“When I put my name up here,” he says, motioning to the front door, “it was a commitment.”
For nearly six years, he has lived up to it—six nights a week, 51 weeks a year.
His restaurant, nestled in an unassuming strip mall on Sunset Road in Henderson, is driven by Clore’s fascination with ingredients, which borders on obsession as he seeks out the freshest components to shape his menu daily. And his tenacity has paid off: While Green Valley isn’t exactly known for innovative dining, Todd’s Unique has been collecting rave reviews from critics since it opened.
Clore grew up in Denver and came to Las Vegas 15 years ago, after graduating from the Culinary Institute of America and honing his craft at various restaurants in California. He spent 10 years in the corporate kitchens of Bally’s before tiring of the corporate world and catering to tourists.
“My concept when I opened Todd’s Unique was dedication to locals,” says Clore, who did not advertise during his first year of business, relying solely on customers to spread the word. To him, dedication means keeping the menu fresh, incorporating seasonal ingredients and pushing the culinary limits.
Such as his take on beef and potatoes, which involves braised short ribs that have been slow-cooked for three days, until the meat is unbelievably tender, and spiced jalapeño mashed potatoes with gravy and shiitake mushrooms.
Seasonal dishes quickly become favorites, but not all customers understand that “seasonal” doesn’t mean year-round. When it came time to take the spare ribs off the menu, for example, Clore says “it nearly caused a riot.” Yet his diners like surprises, too—like when Clore whips out his signature watermelon salad in the summertime, with fresh, juicy chunks of watermelon, feta cheese, cayenne pepper, pumpkin seeds, lime juice and basil. “It sounds kinda funky,” he admits, “but it’s one of those things that we worked on awhile and it’s delicious.”
Clore and his staff really let their food-obsessed minds run wild during monthly wine pairing dinners. “It’s almost no-holds-barred,” the chef says with a grin. At their first beer-pairing dinner in April last year, they served German bratwurst and Vietnamese beef in back-to-back courses.
As Clore sees it, “Every pairing is an opportunity to show how these products come together or how these products change depending on what you eat or drink with them.”
Clore most often works the line in his small kitchen, where five others cook, prep and plate along with him. But he also often pops out into the dining room to watch as diners react as they experience his flavors for the first time. “What’s cool about this art form,” he says, “is I get to do my thing and I get to know immediately if it was good or bad. Because the reaction was so immediate, that’s what drew me to cooking.” 4350 E. Sunset Road, Henderson, 259-8633, toddsunique.com