California dreamin’, a Dos Caminos do-over and savoring India’s Ayurvedic tradition

San Diego has the unusual quality of being a great escape for Las Vegans not only in summer, but also in winter; the weather there is amazing. On a recent December visit the temperature was 74 degrees with not a cloud in the sky.

If you go, you can do as I did, and stay at la grande dame of San Diego hotels, the US Grant (326 Broadway, in San Diego’s Gaslamp Quarter, which recently underwent a $70 million renovation. It’s one of those chandelier and pillar hotels you don’t see here, and the main restaurant, the Grant Grill, is a must. Chef Chris Kurth does stylish California cuisine, and the African mahogany-paneled bar is a watering hole for the local elite.

A few miles north in tony La Jolla, one of the country’s best chefs, Trey Foshee, has a three-level restaurant, George’s at the Cove (250 Prospect St., Cuisine called California Modern is served on the lower level, and it’s innovative, delicious and includes fresh sardines and lamb done two ways.

Among the multitude of restaurant openings this season, there is a re-opening, when Dos Caminos returns to Las Vegas. If you remember, the upscale Mexican restaurant had a brief-but-bright life in the Palazzo. Sometime in March, owner Stephen Hanson and his restaurant group, B.R. Guest Hospitality, will surface in Summerlin’s Canyon Pointe Plaza under the direction of the company’s corporate chef, Ivy Stark.

Meanwhile, one of the best meals I have had in recent months was at a small Indian restaurant called Mantra Masala (8530 W. Warm Springs Road, 598-3663), partially hidden in the rear of a mini-mall. Chef Tapan Bose is knowledgeable about Ayurveda, the ancient Indian health philosophy, also his native cuisine. He uses considerably less oil in his preparations than the other Indian chefs in Las Vegas, and he’s recently created an entirely new menu.

I stopped by for excellent pan-seared sea bass coated with masala spices, mussels with exotic flavors, yogurt-marinated tandoori chicken and boti kabab—fork-tender chunks of a spring lamb with a sneaky bite. The restaurant is both charming and tasteful, and will change your idea about what this exciting cuisine really is about.

Finally, I was pleased to notice that my neighborhood, the eastside, finally has gotten onto the ramen merry-go-round with the addition of Shoku Ramen-ya (470 E. Windmill Lane, Suite 110, 897-0978). Imaginative local chef Lorin Watada, who owns Bachi Burger next door, is the heat behind this new place, where you can do ramen several ways, including with lobster. I recommend the kara-age chicken wings.

Hungry, yet?

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