Archive for the ‘Gustatory Gratification’ Category

Deez (do)Nutz in yo’ mouf!

April 21, 2010

Dee’s Donuts.

That’s right, deez nutz. Let’s get the laffs out of the way first thing here, because this little place is fuckin’ phenomenal.

One of my casual acquaintances tittered and giggled on his facebook page about the kitschy little doughnut shop down the street from his practice called Dee’s Donuts. Hey yeah guffaw hyuk hyuk. I admit, I giggled too and emplored the address so I too could click a photo for this lame blog and we could all chuckle at the cutely ironic name. After all, up the street is a mail and copy shop called Goin’ Postal, so I figured cute little tongue-in-cheek punny names was de rigeur for this block.

I trundle into Dee’s at around nine in the morning. Their “open” sign wasn’t even lit, which made me wonder if I’d gotten there too early. But seriously, doughnut shops are open and doing business an hour before chickens wake up, so there’s no way they weren’t open. When I push through the front door, ringing the cowbell tied to the pushbar, I’m immediately met with a familiar yet at the same time completely alien lilting, singsong chatter coming from the middle-aged couple running the store – they were speaking Japanese.

Holy shit goddamn! You simply have to be kidding me here! A Japanese doughnut shop up in a boring, extremely wealthy (whitey whitefish) North Las Vegas suburb. Consider me thoroughly tickled.

I ordered their two doughnuts and coffee special for 2.50$. I scored one lemon-filled and one with a delicate, pale pink frosting. The coffee was kona, a blend that was the hottest shit there was back before Starbucks showed up and changed the zeitgeist caffe to be one not of complex, diverse flavors, but to that if monolithic, flavorless, corporate blandness. What I’m getting at here is that this coffee is like being punched in the nose by flavor. Wow. Years of Starbucks had numbed my buds to the point where I’d forgotten that coffee was supposed to taste like coffee, and not bitter, crusty old wool socks.

Whereas the coffee is a swung fist to the nose, the doughnuts are sex with a woman you love. Sweet and soft. Glistening with icing that gently sticks to your fingers but doesn’t come off in big, gloppy clumps of oversweet gunk. The cake bits are warm and cuddly like a goodnight embrace and the lemony filling was tart like a morning kiss.

And then there was the pink one. Its icing actually had little flecks of real strawberry therein. I’d never before had pink icing that tasted anything other than like that bland “pink-flavored” syrup. The icing was thinly pale translucent, not the heavy, brittle, flavorless, opaque magenta crust to which I’m used.

Everything about this experience is everything I feel I’d been denied in my life. Dee’s Donuts truly is one of my favorite experiences here in this godawful city.

Even better than making out with a stranger.

Dee’s can be found at basically the northernmost extreme of the city, where the Deucer meets Durango.

I say “gomen nasai” and she says “ah sankayoo!” And life is awesome.

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Hey baby, what do you say I take you home and eat your pupusa?

April 17, 2010

Drippy with stringy cheese and full of flavor, these pupusas are a punch to the lips that leave a fella reeling and demanding more.

Now, in previous entries I’ve railed against my boring, WASPy kin by deriding their faux-worldliness and absolute lack of cultural awareness as they gravitate around that which they find comforting like scared little cavemen huddled around their campfire, shivering in abject horror at that which lurks outside of their established comfort zones.

I’m going to level with you here, gentle reader, I ain’t as worldly as my braggadocio proclaims. Adventurous and fearless in my epicurian pursuits, yes, but I’m only slightly more well-traveled than that one rug that just held the whole room together. Johnny Cash I ain’t (however I have been to Hawthorne).

I live vicariously through Anthony Bourdain and Andrew Zimern, anxious to follow in their footsteps and eat the absolute bonkers shit they get paid to shovel down. Alas, I lack their big greasy money and entertainment industry contacts, so I make do with what little I have and attempt to make that go as long and far as I can.

Which means I find myself rubbing elbows with the real people, poor, hard-working folk on down times and disastrous circumstances. These people need a hearty meal at a low price, one that sticks to the insides and warms the heart as much as it warms the stomach.

When I first arrived here in Sin City USA, I noticed one word continuing to crop up on backlit signage at low-rent strip malls in the back streets near the University campus: “pupuseria.”

Now, this is the first time I’d ever seen the term, I was fascinated. Quickly consulting the wikipedos, it was very-helpfully revealed that a pupuseria was a restaurant what serves pupusas. Thanks, wikipedia, I could have deduced that one on my own.

Some days later, while waiting for a date that never materialized, I decided to satiate my curiosity and find out fir myself what the damn big deal was about pupusas.

On that lazy Friday afternoon, I moseyed into Las Pupusas Restaurant at the corner of Eastern and Tropicana. Upon entering, I was greeted by a friendly Salvadoran woman who walked me through the ins and outs of today’s culinary expedition into the Darkest Unknown. She was my Sherpa and I was the goober-ass hillbilly tourist idiot.

Pupusas are a traditional Salvadoran dish that dates back to before there even was a Salvador. They are doughy lumps of masa dough stuffed with a meaty, cheesy filling that’s been mulched to a fine purée then grilled on the hot top.

There were three fillings on the menu, and I ordered one of each, as well as a delightful pineapple punch that had bits of apple floating about therein.

It’s telling when the beverage cost more than the entree, but this is tough grub for tough people – people who see fruity beverages as an extraneous expense, unneccessary for survival in the harsh reality of their lives. But I digress, this punch is the forshizzlest. It needs to be served with a bigger bore straw so a dude can suck up all the delightful rough-chopped apple bits.

The dish arrived, looking all the world like three big, floppy, cheesy pancakes. The cheese filling bled out the sides and created a delicious brown crust around the edges, exactly the sort of thing I loved in my grilled cheese as a youth, but that which would always be cut away before service. Sigh.

The meal as it was served. Three pupusas of varying flavors, a little bowl of delightful fermented cabbage, red chile tomato sauce and the pina/manzanita punch. Stellar.

The plate came with a side of lightly-fermented cabbage studded with chile, tomato and cilantro flavors. It was crisp like a properly-drained Southern coleslaw but tart and delicious like sauerkraut. I could eat just this coleslaw and be happy.

The pupusas themselves were a soft, pillowy, buttery, cheesy delight, swimming in herbiage that was not the typical Mexican flavors to which I’m accustomed, but at the same time, distinctively Latin. I someday wish to work in a kitchen like this to learn the subtle complexities of the seasonings. What I can say though is I’m in love.

I savored each of the three varieties on the menu: Revueltas (fried pork and refried beans), Loroco (melty, drippy, Quesillo cheese and their proprietary blend of 11 herbs and spices) and a Calabaza (squash and Quesillo). All were outstanding, but my favor fell on the Revueltas, being a dude that’s got a soft spot in his guts for anything that’s been trimmed off of a that most majestic and delicious of critters: the stately swine.

The total bill came to under ten bucks, four of which was my beverage. There was so much wonderful, filling food that I was unable to finish it all. I honestly cannot remember a time when ten bucks at a sit-down place left me satisfied. I need a nap.

I honestly do not know how I made it to almost thirty without having never experienced a pupusa. But now that I have, I fully expect this dish and these wonderful little pupuserias – blaring Cuban music from the PA and adorable children running but not screaming around the tables – to be a regular thing for myself, my friends, family and out of town guests.

Fan-fuckin’-tastic.

Maybe this town doesn’t suck so bad after all?

Mr Chop-Chop

April 14, 2010

I’ve always had a little rule when it comes to eating out anywhere “ethnic”: if there’s white people inside – back in the ride.

White people, by and large – especially those that think Las Vegas is paradise -don’t have any damn taste. They’re content in thinking that Qdoba is exotic fare and that they consider themselves worldly when they get the rubbery sushi on a larf when they see it at their grocery store deli.

Whenever I find a neat little ethnic dive eatery, bakery or bar, the first thing I do is check the white-people-quotient of the clientele. More than myself and my party, well I’d honestly rather just go to Carl’s Jr.

Pulling up to the location, you’re assaulted by an illustration of a fellow with a wooden spatula and skillet, flitting around on a cloud, gleefully, forcefully offering you an object from his blazing wok. It’s the Monkey King coming back from the West with a fistful of flavor and who are you to deny him? Being a dumbshit japanophile nerd, I can’t resist an anime character hawking me goods. I even bought skank-ass hot dogs at 7-11 thanks to them using Domo-Kun as a mascot. I’m lame like that

And that’s how this place was, all the regular clientele annoyed at the white guy in a Hawaiian print shirt wafting through the door. Hushed complaints swirl around in alien tongues, complaining that their place is now /ruined forever/  that boring whitebread WASPy dicks have an interest here. Maybe – they think – that If this lame white guy is interested, then maybe it’s nit all that great after all…

Rously loundeye luin ellerything!

To assuage fears, this place was great indeed! The menu is typical Chinese and Thai fare, no twists, no flair, no fusion. Lemon, sweet and sour, general’s chicken – all on the menu along with chow meins and fried rice and Mongolian beef, just like every other greasy chopstick. However being in the mood more for Thai than Chinese, I ordered the mint leaf chicken with fried rice. I usually never order fried rice, finding plain white to usually be more satisfying in a clearly contradictory manner, a sort of zen state of balancing the outrageous with the bland, but this is Vegas baby, anything goes.

The dish came served with a cup of egg flower soup. Great. Egg flower. I usually loathe the soup. It has the consistency of snot and the flavor of a wet sock. This egg flower though, it had something that all others I’ve experienced lacked.

Flavor.

I wouldn't believe me either if I was told there was flavor in this soup.

My head spun around in circles as I actually enjoyed this egg flower soup. It was yellow and had an index of opacity, rather than the dimly translucent gray to which I’m accustomed. I consumed the whole cup out of enjoyment rather than obligation.

The main dish came served with the entree and rice in big molded mounds, the food items were jammed into a bowl and the bowl upended on the plate. Honestly, I don’t know why Chinese-type places do this. Chinese is best eaten from a bowl. Chopsticks are to be used like a scoop, shoveling or flicking the food (primarily rice) into the mouth. Eating Chinese off of a plate is awkward at best. I’d rather eat it off of a couch or the back seat of my car, but there I go again with the asides.

The main dish, mint leaf chicken was a delight. Spicy and basily and garlicky and full of powerful flavors. Thai, in my experience is like the bastard child of a one night stand between a Chinese take-out joint and an Italian cafe. Basil and garlic roll around with wok-fried chicken amid a bed of rice.

Thai is basically everything I like about cuisine, all on the same plate, and this dish was a superb expression of the style.  The menthol from the mint leaves were wrapped in a neverending battle against the capsaicin  from the red pepper, both struggling for flavor dominance along scarred and ragged battle lines in my mouth.

The hot was hot, but not lingering. I’m used to Mexican and Southern fare, trying to be hot just for the sake of being hot, a tingling mouthfeel that sticks around with its feet on your table like a houseguest who wore out his welcome weeks ago but you’re too damned polite to tell to leave. No, this delightful Thai spice took a careful stroll around your lips as if it were window shopping and then moseyed on down the street, never to be seen again.

For eight dollars, I could have done a lot worse. Every time I go to KFC, I spend eight dollars and walk away feeling I’d been ripped off. But rather in this delightful little out of the way greasy chopstick, eight dollars was the perfect fare, a toll to pay to go down a road less traveled and experience actual enjoyment from eating, rather than just ingestion for sustenance.

Mr. Chop-Chop can be found at the corner of Reno and Pecos.