Our Public Houses, General faux chicken, and the Olympics of Hunger Games

If you’re still a bit confused by the fact that there is a restaurant called Public House at Luxor, it’s understandable. After all, there is another restaurant by the same name at the Venetian, and there is no relationship between the two.

Luxor’s Public House (262-4000) is a large, boxy, brightly lit space with a slightly unfinished feel. It’s not a so-called gastropub, but more of a pub/sports bar, and the first West Coast outpost for the East Coast chain. The service was cheerful, and I could see Monday Night Football from my table on one of the restaurant’s many large-screen TVs.

What I ate was only so-so. Philly cheese steak egg rolls, cut on a slant, are delicious here, and I was surprised by how much I liked my pastrami on rye. Unfortunately, I sent the jambalaya—assembled rather than cooked together and dominated by a sour tomato sauce—back to the kitchen. So for now, let’s call this place a work in progress.

I have no such mixed feelings about Veggie House (5115 Spring Mountain Road, 431-5802), where Cantonese-Malaysian chef Kenny Chai, who previously had three restaurants in San Diego, cooks with imagination and heart. Chai replicates many classic Chinese favorites such as spicy crispy beef, General Tso’s chicken and fish with hot bean sauce using gluten, tofu and soy proteins. The resemblances are incredible, right down to a bean curd fish “skin.” Try the garlic-laden cold cucumber salad. No tricks there, but the dish is terrific.

Since Nov. 1 is National Sushi Day, it’s appropriate to mention that Luxor’s Rice & Company (262-4852) welcomes sushi enthusiasts with a monthlong prix-fixe menu priced at $38 per person for four courses. A sake pairing is available for an additional $12 per person.

And because I’m giving Luxor’s Public House some ink, I should mention that Block 16 and chef Anthony Meidenbauer, the company and chef that run the other Public House, have created many new dishes for their Las Vegas restaurants, including Holsteins and the Barrymore. A few more creative examples include the Fun-Ghi (a beef patty with truffle-marinated portabella mushroom, caramelized onion, Gruyere and frisée) at Holsteins, shepherd’s pie pierogis at Public House and Muscovy duck confit with creamy farro at the Barrymore.

Finally, the World Food Championships goes down Nov. 1-4 at Bally’s, with additional events at Paris and Caesars Palace. The competition features four categories of classic American cuisine, including barbecue, chili and burgers. The Travel Channel’s Adam Richman will appear, as will several other notable cooking superstars.

Hungry, yet?

Follow Max Jacobson’s latest epicurean observations, reviews and tips at VegasSeven.com/blogs.