The best tres leches, not-quite New York Chinese and meet the bonbon king

No matter how many times I visit Border Grill at Mandalay Bay, executive chef Mike Minor always manages a surprise, or two. I always cite this place as the example of how wrong-headed it is to say that we don’t have great Mexican food in Las Vegas. Border Grill (632-7403) belongs to those Too Hot Tamales, Susan Feniger and Mary Sue Milliken, who drop in from L.A. not infrequently to work the line and greet their customers. They are two of the hardest-working chefs in the business, and their diligence shows.

On a recent visit, I dined with friends from San Francisco on spicy tuna tacos, quinoa fritters and pork belly with sweet corn puree, all new dishes on a specials menu and all terrific. I also tried a new cocktail, the blood orange jalapeño margarita, a sweet libation with a delayed kick. For dessert, we swooned over a tres leches cake, a thick layer of whipped cream doubling as frosting. It’s the best tres leches around, and that includes Mexico.

What’s in a name? Maybe nothing, but I’d say the cleverly named new spot New York Chinese Restaurant in Green Valley (655 S. Green Valley Pkwy., 558-9200; also 9430 W. Lake Mead Blvd., 870-8888) is onto something. When I arrived at about 6:30 on a weeknight I found a large crowd waiting for takeout and a few dining in. I took the liberty of asking some of the folks how they happened to stop by. Most of them told me that they were curious about the name. As to the food, yes, there is old-school fare such as chop suey, egg foo young and wonton egg drop soup. Me, I’m sticking to my favorite haunts in Chinatown.

Finally, you’d be remiss if you didn’t take note of the name Jean-Marie Auboine. This amazingly gifted chocolatier runs his own facility, a chocolate factory and showroom at 4780 W. Harmon Avenue (Suite 1, 222-0535, by appointment only) with his Italian wife, Sara. Auboine produces some of the best nougat, pâte de fruits (fruit jellies), chocolate truffles, jams, spreads and marshmallows I’ve ever tasted, and sells them primarily to top casino restaurants.

He also teaches classes at this facility, where he produces up to 25,000 bonbons per day with flavors such as gianduja, lime ganache and bacon. You can buy his products at either Sugar Factory (Paris Las Vegas and MGM Grand), or at Sambalatte, the fine coffee bar in Summerlin’s Boca Park.

But if you stop by, Auboine, who is fluent in four languages (French, Spanish, English and Italian) will be glad to sell to you directly, and if you’re lucky, give you both samples and a tour of his production facility.

Hungry, yet?

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Social to open at the Palms, Money Plays catches the spirit

Scene Stirs

Social to open at the Palms, Money Plays catches the spirit

By Xania V. Woodman

Hot on the heels of the late-December opening of Scarlet, the Palms’ micro-bar next to N9NE Steakhouse, the property is poised to welcome Social to the scene. Slated for a January 25 opening, the revamped center bar will focus primarily on whiskey. More than 30 varieties will be available in flights and whiskey-based cocktails, including a barrel-aged cocktail program. Before you go all-in on a particularly spendy or unfamiliar sip, Social bartenders will happily pour you a sample.