Critical successes, a new hit and one we’ll miss

The San Pellegrino Top 50 Restaurants in the World for 2011 were recently announced, as they are every April. For the second year in a row, first place belongs to Noma of Copenhagen.

I’m privileged to be a part of this selection process, along with critics, industry professionals and gastronomes around the world. The eligible voters are instructed to vote only for places in which they have dined. As yet, I have not had the pleasure of dining at Noma.

Spain’s El Celler de Can Roca, my choice for first, was awarded the second slot, and several chefs with representation in Las Vegas made the Top 50, among them No. 10 Thomas Keller for New York’s Per Se, and No. 16 Pierre Gagnaire in Paris, also of Twist at the Mandarin Oriental. A Chicago restaurant, Alinea, was America’s top selection at No. 6.

One of our own, chef Geno Bernardo of Nove Italiano (in the Palms, 942-6800) is underappreciated by critics, in my view. He continues to introduce new trends and products, and recently hosted a lunch featuring produce from Pahrump’s Grow Smart Farm, where he is sourcing mixed greens, garlic and herbs. You can taste these crops on a new spring menu at his restaurant.

The farm-to-fork salad, prepared with red-leaf lettuce and other mixed greens, comes tossed with strawberries and goat cheese, and we have to agree with the chef that the greens are among the best we’ve tried.

The chef is also doing spring brodo (a fresh daily soup), Thai snapper with artichokes, fingerling potatoes and olives, and an original take on veal osso bucco served with saffron risotto, pea shoots and gremolata.

The fifth annual Lee’s Beer and Tequila Experience will be 3-8 p.m. May 14 at the Las Vegas Hilton. The event will feature food, a live band, more than 300 microbrews, and more than 70 tequilas. Tickets are $40 in advance, $50 at the door.

Finally, the quality of our homegrown Japanese restaurants continues to rise. The new kid on the block is Goyemon (5255 S. Decatur Blvd., 331-0333), opened by veteran sushi chef Takashi Segawa and Tokyo native Martin Koleff. The restaurant’s name refers to a Japanese folk hero from the Samurai period.

This is an all-you-can-eat sushi restaurant with a twist: For $27, you also get to order a variety of cooked dishes and a number of desserts. (Certain items cost extra.) And the cooking is impressive. Shrimp tempura was as light and crisp as the law allows, and tonkatsu (pork cutlets with panko batter) come in bite-size chunks. One of the best hand-rolls is the Cynthia, chopped spicy salmon, shrimp tempura and avocado swathed in eel sauce. The nigiri—those clumps of rice topped with raw fish—is impeccable as well.

Hungry, yet?

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