Crave-worthy Creole, hot Chinese, and a food court do-over

New Orleans-bred chef Carlos Guia, who opened the late, lamented Commander’s Palace at the Aladdin (now Planet Hollywood), is adept at all things Cajun and Creole. He makes the best gumbo in town, not to mention shrimp étouffée, incredible beignets, and specials such as pheasant-and-foie gras potpie just before Mardi Gras at the Country Club in Wynn (770-3463). In other words, right now through the first two weeks of February.

This dish is a must for any lover of New Orleans cooking. Picture a perfect pastry hat concealing a rich, creamy filling stocked with chunks of gamy pheasant and slabs of duck foie gras complemented by vegetables. A light field-green salad is served on the side, to lessen the indulgence.

Speaking of indulgence, I ate in two of my favorite local Chinese restaurants last week, and was delighted to find that both had improved considerably since my last visits.

Yunnan Garden at 3934 Schiff Drive (869-8885), an alley that runs off Valley View Boulevard, and is a bit hard to spot. It’s home to some of the spiciest Chinese cooking in town: cucumber salad laced with ma la peppers, wontons in an incendiary red broth, and whole fish in a Szechuan chili sauce that causes beads of sweat to drip down my shirt. If you want a less challenging item, try the smoked duck, which the server will probably say you won’t like. You will.

There’s even better news for Chinese food lovers living on the southeast side. East Ocean (9570 S. Eastern Ave., 567-4800) has a new owner, a team of new chefs, and dim sum that still rivals any in Las Vegas. This huge place is the only authentic Cantonese restaurant in these parts, you know—live fish tanks, rolling carts and all the Chinatown-style bells and whistles.

The siu loong bao (“little basket dumplings,” or juicy pork-filled dumplings to you, fella) come in little aluminum foil cups, so the juice won’t spill onto the plate when you bite in. I sampled chicken and salted egg porridge, sticky rice wrapped in lotus leaves, spare ribs in black bean sauce and at least four other dishes, and each one was exemplary.

In other news, Castle Walk Food Court at Excalibur, a 20,000-square-foot space, has gotten a makeover. A few of the new options include Krispy Kreme Donuts, Pick Up Stix and Popeye’s Louisiana Kitchen, which serves fried chicken as good as any I know about (and that includes ones sold for five times the price by celebrity chefs.)

Finally, let’s keep our fingers crossed and hope owner Chris Herrin finds a way to keep Henderson’s Bread & Butter open. It’s rumored he’s going to either close it or make it a retail bakery. We needs places like his in this breakfast-challenged burg.

Hungry, yet?

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