The Other Georgia, Restaurant Week, James Beard Slights, Diaoyutai Delights

I love to use this space to describe unusual local food experiences. For instance, there is cuisine from the former Soviet republic of Georgia being given a workout at Forte European Tapas Bar & Bistro, the Bulgarian/Spanish restaurant owned by the Manchev family (4180 S. Rainbow Blvd., 220-3876.)

Forte’s chef, wine importer and man-about-town, Stefan Manchev, has done adjarski khachapuri (Georgian cheese-stuffed bread baked to-order in the oven) and khinkali (Manchev’s version of Chinese dumplings, but with a lot more garlic) from the beginning. And now he’s added two more Georgian dishes as specials: lamb chakapuli, tender braised lamb in a green sauce redolent of tarragon, the most prevalent herb in Georgian cooking; and chicken chakobili, stewed chicken in a red sauce fragrant with spicy red pepper and aromatics.

Las Vegas Restaurant Week is baaaaa-aack. It runs from March 8-15, one day longer than in previous years, and once again offers locals and tourists the opportunity to support Three Square Food Bank, the charity that helps fight hunger in Southern Nevada. Visit any participating restaurant during that week for a multicourse, prix-fixe meal created specifically for the event, and part of your check will go to Three Square. Menus range in price from $20.13 to $50.13, and a complete list of participants can be found at

Once again—and in spite of the diverse and imaginative restaurant activity both on Strip and off—Las Vegas has been slighted by the New York-centric James Beard House with regard to the organization’s annual awards. And while it is commendable that it has singled out Picasso for both Best Wine Service and Outstanding Chef (Julian Serrano); Raku’s Mitsuo Endo for Best Chef West; and Rao’s Nicole Grimes in the Rising Star category, I’d say the Beard people have once again missed the boat. In fact, they missed the entire pier.

Finally, I was recently treated to one of this (or any) year’s more memorable dinners when the Diaoyutai Guest House of Beijing, ably assisted by Bellagio executive chef Edmund Wong and his team, put on a full-blown Chinese banquet for 50 enraptured guests, as part of that hotel’s Epicurean Dinner series. The Tuscany Kitchen was transformed with flowers and Chinese crockery into a mini version of the Forbidden City.

The dinner was a treasure trove of delicacies, beginning with delicate fish maw and abalone soup before steamrolling through whole abalone, lobster claw, beef tenderloin with mustard sauce, and assorted desserts. Handmade dragon-beard noodles were also served, after an expert chef twirled, twisted and floured the dough 48 times.

Hungry, yet?

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Want to drink like a member of the Rat Pack? The recently-renovated Golden Gate Casino's vintage cocktail menu includes the evocatively-named Frankie Two Fingers—Jack Daniels served the way Frank Sinatra reportedly liked to order it while sitting at the casino bar. The Recipe: Two fingers of Jack Daniels Splash of bottled water Four ice cubes Legend has it Ole Blue Eyes quaffed the drink while waiting to catch trains home to Los Angeles from the nearby station with pal Dean Martin. He drank it his way—and now you can, too.