Impending Irish, impressed by Mina, and notes from Phoenix

St. Patrick’s Day is nearly upon us, and with it comes Rí Rá Irish Pub (see Page 19), opening March 17 in the Shoppes at Mandalay Place. The menu will be creative. Look for culinary delights such as Irish potato cakes, pub wings with homemade Guinness barbecue sauce, whiskey garlic mussels, curried crab claws and baked goat cheese. Irish cuisine is no longer an oxymoron, and the Guinness should flow like an Irish stream. Lunch is served 11 a.m.-4 p.m. weekdays, dinner 4-11 p.m. daily.

Last week, I stopped in for a last breakfast of free-range turkey hash with Turkish eggs and a Greek yogurt parfait at the now-shuttered Silk Road in Vdara. The gorgeous space, filled with Karim Rashid designer furniture, deserved a better fate, and so did chef Martin Heierling, who is still cooking with gas at Sensi in Bellagio.

Bellagio is also home to Restaurant Michael Mina (693-7223 ). Mina has redone his menu completely, to bring it more in line with the one served in his signature restaurant in San Francisco. This Tony Chi-designed room was once primarily focused on fish and seafood. Now every dish has the imprimatur of the ultra-creative Mina, and in my opinion, has become his best Vegas restaurant again, surpassing his efforts at Seablue and American Fish.

I was in rapture eating my Dungeness crab tortellini and truffled, stuffed Jidori chicken, but there is much more. An appetizer of crispy quail with harissa and a pita panzanella salad, whole roasted foie gras carved tableside, and main dishes such as braised pork short ribs and Mina’s classic lobster potpie keep Mina in the forefront of Las Vegas chefs. And service, led by old pro GM Jorge Pagani, remains the most efficient in the city.

On March 16, enjoy Mina’s cooking with wines of Lewis Cellars at one of the truly special dinners this season. For $225 per person, guests get a four-course dinner prepared by Mina designed to complement the wines of this boutique producer, including butter-poached lobster, oak-roasted California squab and Brandt Farms beef.

Finally, I recently returned from Phoenix, where I ate one good meal at Dr. Andrew Weil’s True Food Kitchen (2502 E. Camelback Road, Suite 135,, a natural foods restaurant which actually serves tasty food, and a slightly disappointing one at Pizzeria Bianco (623 E. Adams St.,, reputed by many experts to be the best pizzeria in the country.

Rumor has it that investors are looking to open a True Food Kitchen in Vegas, so keep an eye out. As to that pizza, the crust is amazing, but if you don’t like it slightly blackened, it may not be your style. Chef Chris Bianco isn’t cooking anymore, though, due to asthma, and what we ate wasn’t better than our own Settebello Pizzaria Napoletana, where there isn’t a two-hour wait.

Hungry, yet?

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