Did you know there’s a restaurant next to Sapphire? You may not think to look, but to the left of the massive doors of the “World’s Largest Gentlemen’s Club” is another set of doors that lead to El Dorado Cantina Restaurant & Bar (3025 Industrial Rd., 702-722-2289, ElDoradoVegas.com). Trust me: Once you walk in, you’ll totally forget that there’s nothing but a red wall that separates the Mexican restaurant from 70,000 square feet of nearly-naked women. [Insert obligatory tacos and tacos joke here. OK, moving on.]
Don’t let geography influence your expectations; El Dorado is putting out some really excellent, honest-to-goodness Mexican fare, emphasizing organic, sustainable ingredients and non-GMO and hormone-free meat. I’m a huge fan of the cochinita pibil, a platter of large chunks of slow-roasted achiote pork shoulder, and the chicken tostada, made with tender shredded chicken and topped with crema and slivers of radishes. And yes, there were tacos, my favorite being the al pastor: grilled, marinated pork with roasted pineapple.
On the subject of being surprised by restaurants, I have made my maiden voyage to Flavortown, Guy Fieri’s Vegas Kitchen & Bar (in the Quad, 702-731-3311, TheQuadLV.com). Every dish on the menu is turned up to 11—tons of strong flavors, loads of ingredients in every bite—but after a while, it all kind of blends together. It’s like construction starting outside your window on a Monday morning, pulling your brain in different directions because it’s new and aggressive. But by Wednesday, you don’t even notice the jackhammer constantly beating against the ground.
One of my first dishes, the Guy-talian Fondue Dippers (pepperoni-wrapped breadsticks served with a sausage and smoky provolone dipping sauce) set the bar with punchy flavors and an assortment of textures, as did the well-constructed Los Nachos del Jefe, topped with chorizo, cheddar and cotija cheese, black beans, jalapeños and red onions. By the time we got to the Mac + Cheese Bacon Burger and Lava Rock shrimp tacos our taste buds felt overworked. Yet I was enjoying the food so much that I kept eating. Each dish felt like an embodiment of Fieri himself: bold, in your face, huge personality. And that’s something I can appreciate.
Here’s a bonus game to keep you foodies entertained during your Guy Fieri experience: Any time you see “Guy” on the menu, pronounce it “ghee” as in Guy Savoy across the street, and pretend that the French titan has traded in his artichoke black truffle soup for sausage cheese dip. It really puts things in perspective.