An Epicurean recap, the new Secret Kitchen and a farewell to Fleur

Epicurean Affair at the Palazzo is one of my favorite food events of the year, staged by the Nevada Restaurant Association with benefits going to its scholarship fund. This year it was staged Sept. 9 at the labyrinthine Palazzo pools, and a good time was had by all.

A few of the best dishes were porchetta with mushroom ragout from Luciano Pellegrini, executive chef at Valentino; crispy maple-glazed pork belly with Black Mission fig jam from Cut; and Meyer lemon pound cake with huckleberry compote and lemon sabayon by Postrio’s pastry chefs Kenny Magana and Melissa Zahnter. All three restaurants, by the way, are in the Palazzo or the Venetian.

That’s not to say that the rest of the city wasn’t represented. There were terrific honey-glazed spareribs from Khotan in the TI, and great miso-marinated black cod by the Nobu people, not to mention a hefty braised short rib from Prime at Bellagio.

My favorite libation, among many, was Serrano bartender Ray Srp’s Bada Bing Cherry cocktail, not to mention wines from J. Lohr and beers by Gordon Biersch. I’m already looking forward to next year.

Later in the week, I visited a new Thai restaurant called Nittaya’s Secret Kitchen (2110 N. Rampart Blvd., 360-8885), run by a charming woman who already has Jasmine Thai restaurant on the north side. “This place is for me,” she told me. “I’m cooking what I like to eat here.”

What she likes to eat is something she calls Thai tapas. They include fried spinach leaves topped with spiced ground chicken, homemade Thai sausage with roasted peanuts, and delicate whitefish cakes—all small plates perfect for sharing, If you want traditional Thai dishes such as green curry or pad Thai, though, not to worry. They are delicious here as well.

This is a little jewel box of a place, elegantly decorated. But the weather on this day was so perfect, most of the guests opted to dine outside. We nibbled on the fried spinach leaves, her Thai sausage and an entire spiced-rubbed Cornish game hen. I plan to visit again soon.

Finally, Hubert Keller, who has competed on Top Chef Masters, held a small party to thank all the friends and clients who supported him at Fleur de Lys, his now shuttered Mandalay Bay restaurant. He’s planning to reinvent his concept as a tapas bar, although the hotel seems to be struggling over a new name for it. A December reopening is planned. In the meantime, the original Fleur de Lys, on Sutter Street in San Francisco, lives on.

Hungry, yet?

Follow Max Jacobson’s latest epicurean observations, reviews and tips at

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