Charitable chow-down, an L.A. story and a hidden Chinese BBQ

What does $100 to $150 get you in this town? On May 26, it bought 1,500 attendees of the annual Epicurean Affair a night of first-class food and drink from far-reaching regions—all in the name of charity, in this case the Nevada Restaurant Association and its scholarship fund.

I was among those who indulged at the Venetian/Palazzo event at the complex’s sprawling Azure Pool, and needless to say, self-restraint is not my strong suit. I was especially impressed by a new Prosecco, an off-dry sparkling wine from the Italian giant Ruffino, and I made sure to knock back my share of Cîroc martinis and Patrón margaritas. (Cîroc, for those unfamiliar, is a French vodka made from grapes.)

Those libations oiled my innards for beef tips from Memphis Championship Barbecue, siu mai pork dumplings from Zine in the Palazzo, albondigas sliders courtesy of Dos Caminos, plus Kurobuta pork “Japanese tacos” composed of onion, soy-glazed pork, Japanese pickles and butter lettuce, representing Nobu at the Hard Rock.

Desserts I enjoyed included homemade gelato by Piero Selvaggio Valentino, dished up by its chef de cuisine, Alessandro Stoppa, and passion fruit-baked Alaska popsicles by Cut’s Kenny Magana. I also discovered local bakery Gimme Some Sugar, whose red velvet cupcake lollipop I devoured under my disapproving wife’s nose. Sorry, babe.

The maestro himself, Piero Selvaggio, didn’t make it to the Epicurean Affair because he was too busy in L.A. tending to his newest venture, Eataly. I visited Mario Batali’s “Home Depot” of Italian food in Manhattan last October, and now Selvaggio has gone and opened a smaller SoCal version of that concept at the Market at Santa Monica Place.

The market, at the busy corner of Third Street and Colorado, features an appetizer bar called Primi al Mercato where one can buy pastas and trimmings, as well as a gelato bar, and Norcino Salumeria, an imported cheese and cold-cut bar. Valentino’s chef, Luciano Pellegrini, is a mainstay. Now here’s hoping that when Selvaggio returns to Vegas he starts scouting locations to bring a slice of Eataly to the desert.

Finally, there’s a terrific little Chinese restaurant hidden in the northeast corner of the mini-mall that houses the popular China MaMa at Jones Boulevard and Spring Mountain Road. Asian BBQ & Noodles sits adjacent to a storefront where a Cajun restaurant will open later this summer.

Almost every customer is Asian, and the walls are littered with paper banners advertising specials in three languages: Chinese, Vietnamese and English. There’s also a barbecue pit with hanging ducks and fatty roast pork, plus a noodle bar for steamy bowls of rich soups.

Just a few dishes to try here include clam noodle soup, oyster sauce duck feet and whole roast suckling pig ($168). Chinese speakers can call 202-3636 for more information.

Hungry, yet?

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Though traditional, this particular soup is especially delicious. Available every day and served in a crock, the beef broth is enhanced with sautéed onions and seasonings. It is topped with Swiss, mozzarella and Parmesan cheeses and a toasted baguette, making it the perfect comfort food. $4.50 small and $5.50 large, 596 N. Stephanie St., 458-0726; 7315 Arroyo Crossing Parkway, 492-1573; 1121 S. Fort Apache Road, 341-0365.



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