2011: The Year on a Plate

The Top 10 dishes you should not miss

One amazing thing about dining out in Las Vegas is how the techniques and diversity of local chefs increase from year to year. And 2011 was no exception. I sampled a wonderfully eclectic menu over the last 12 months, to which the following dishes will attest. So here—and in no special order—are the 10 best things I ate in 2011.

Avgolemono Soup at Milos

Milos, our best Greek restaurant, prepares a magnificent egg lemon soup upon request. It’s not on the menu, must be ordered in advance, serves 4-6 people and arrives in a huge ceramic tureen. If you’ve had the commercial version, made from a chicken base with a couple of eggs whisked in at the last minute, you’re in another galaxy. This one is made with capon broth, Meyer lemons, Basmati rice and free-range eggs, and is as smooth and delicate a soup as you’ll ever taste. $80, in the Cosmopolitan, 698-7000.

Curried Vegetables at DW Bistro

The theme here is Jamaican/New Mexican, supported by dishes such as jerk chicken sandwiches and dusky red chili served over rice. But I love this soothing, vegan-friendly bowl of squash, green beans and carrots in a rich, coconut milk-based curry. $12 lunch, $14 dinner, 6115 Fort Apache Road, 527-5200.

Pad Thai at Le Thai

Pad thai, a rice noodle eaten obsessively in Asia, is popular in an Americanized form, typically done with a sticky-sweet pre-made red sauce and topped with bean sprouts, crushed peanuts and various meats. Daniel Coughlin, who grew up in a Thai family, uses his grandmother’s recipe—lots of cilantro, garlic and fiery spice. It’s the best pad thai I’ve eaten outside Thailand. $9, 523 Fremont St., 273-7733.

Taco Al Pastor at Los Jarochos

Pastor, Spanish for “shepherd,” refers to shaved meat that is roasted on a spit. In this case, the Mexican version uses pork instead of lamb, and is redolent of garlic, annatto seeds and grease. The Tijuana chain Tacos El Gordo does a wonderful version, but the best one in town is at this family-run, stand-alone restaurant. It’s best enjoyed in a taco. $1.75, 4811 S. Rainbow Blvd., 646-0125.

Shrimp Wonton at Big Wong

Suspend your fear of MSG when you bite into these sweet, crisp, fried noodle packets packed with a generous amount of shrimp meat. Your plate should have about a dozen of them, with drops of hot oil spurting out when you bite in. A sweet and sour sauce accompanies them, redder than the banners in Tiananmen Square. $4.95, 5040 Spring Mountain Road, 368-6808.

Adjarski Khachapuri at Forte

Georgian food at a Bulgarian/Spanish tapas bar? Why not! Adjarski khachapuri is a boat-shaped, oven-baked cheese bread from Georgia, a small country on the Black Sea above Turkey. The bread takes 20 minutes to arrive, but it’s worth the wait. A whole egg is cracked on top before serving, to be cooked by the hot, melted cheese. $7.50, 4180 S. Rainbow Blvd., 220-3876.

Sesame Bagel at Bread & Butter

Former Bouchon baker Chris Herrin is wowing the Henderson crowd with his homey goodies, including the densest, crustiest bagel in the Valley. He makes several, but his sesame-studded bagel has the heft of the hand-rolled type you find only at the Fairmont or St. Viateur bakeries in Montreal. Now all he needs is a wood oven to equal those institutions. $1, 10940 S. Eastern Ave., 675-3300.

Fried Chicken at Blue Ribbon Sushi

There are several worthy fried chicken dishes in Las Vegas, including the delicious version at Michel Richard’s Central at Caesars Palace and a Korean take at Soyo. The panko-crusted bird at Blue Ribbon takes the prize, though, thanks to a spicy honey sauce that accompanies it. $26, in the Cosmopolitan, 736-0808.

House Brined Corned Beef at Rí Rá

The Irish don’t really eat corned beef and cabbage; they eat back-bacon with the vegetable instead. But Rí Rá, the Irish pub at Mandalay Place, makes the best corned beef I’ve ever tasted outside a Jewish deli—grainy, chewy, beefy meat with just the right amount of brine in every salty bite. $15 lunch, $16 dinner, in the Shoppes at Mandalay Place, 632-7771.

Napoleon at Central Michel Richard

Central serves many iconic dishes, but the French-born chef Richard began his career as a pâtissier, and it shows. This is one of the best Napoleons anywhere, thanks to perfectly flaky layers of crisp dough and an egg-rich, canary-yellow, Bavarian cream between them. If you plan to order one, bring a friend. Or two. $8, in Caesars Palace, 731-7110.