Las Vegas Sun

October 16, 2017

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Counter Intelligence: Top Japanese chefs at battle, Daniel Boulud, World Food Championships


Tom Donoghue/

2013 UNLVino’s first-ever Bar-B-Q honoring Scott Sibella with the Dom Perignon Award of Excellence at The Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health on Sunday, April 21, 2013. From left: Angelo Sosa, Masaharu Morimoto, Sibella, Gustav Mauler, Scott Conant and Michael Severino.

Chef Nobu Matsuhisa

Chef Nobu Matsuhisa

Hot off the grill!

Before the end of 2014, Las Vegas will have its very own “Iron Chef”-type sushi-and-sashimi showdown when four of Japan’s top culinary masters will be in a head-to-head battle on the Strip. These are the Samurai warriors who will pick up chopsticks and tackle tempura and teppanyaki to determine the winner of the wasabi wars.

Everybody is familiar with Nobu Matsuhisa, with his restaurants at Caesars Palace and the Hard Rock Hotel. Nobu is the first Japanese celebrity chef to conquer Las Vegas.

“Iron Chef” star Masaharu Morimoto will oversee the five-month transformation of Japonais at the Mirage with an August opening.

Morimoto’s design team is en route here from the opening of his newest and second Hawaii restaurant on Maui. His empire also now includes Honolulu, Napa Valley, Mexico, New York and Philadelphia.

We’re not going to forget chef Masa Takayama with his modern Japanese cuisine in Aria at CityCenter, but now comes Katsuya Uechi, who has five California restaurants and one in Miami and will open his first Las Vegas outpost at the SLS hotel on the site of the former Sahara.

Katsuya Uech

His Hollywood and L.A. Live venues are a huge hit with music and TV stars. Design impresario Philippe Starck is partnering with Katsuya on SLS. I’m told that it will be the most spectacular of the six open to date.

A nod of the toque, too, for Akira Back and his stunning creativity at Yellowtail in Bellagio and the new Kumi at Mandalay Bay, where he adds a Korean-American twist to the Japanese menu, as he was born in Seoul.

WORLD CHAMPIONS: More than 400 competitors will take part in the 2013 World Food Championships that get underway downtown on Thursday. There will be seven comfort food categories in the second-annual, $300,000 grand-prize chase: classic American cuisine, BBQ, chili, burgers, sandwiches, bacon, dessert and a recipe championship featuring winners of online recipe contests.

Once the champions of each category are crowned, they will meet at the Final Table on Sunday, where I will be one of the judges for the big payday and ultimate bragging rights to claim the title of world champion. Last year’s inaugural winner was chef Robert Butler from Paris Las Vegas, who defeated America’s traditional favorite burger with a legendary English sandwich of two bread-encased pulled pork.

Food Network star Ben Vaughan (“Health Inspectors”) is MC for the four days on Fremont Street, and preliminary event judges will include Claire Sinclair (“Pin Up”), Tracey Gittins (“Fantasy”) and chef Steve Benjamin (Joel Robuchon).

2012 World Food Championships: Final Table

The inaugural 2012 World Food Championships Final Table at Caesars Palace on Sunday, Nov. 4, 2012. Launch slideshow »

Two must-not-miss events Saturday are the Ultimate Bacon Experience and the Food Fight between two Hall of Fame world-class athletes: NFL running back Earl Campbell and three-time Super Bowl champion Bill Bates.

NEW COOKBOOK: Ahead of his arrival to set up two new restaurants at the Venetian, New York star chef Daniel Boulud has just released a cookbook, “My French Cuisine,” and it’s winning raves from fans and food writers. Daniel and writer Bill Buford shot a video trailer for the new book as a behind-the-scenes look at how the 2,926 ingredients made it into the recipes!

Daniel will open an updated version of his Manhattan DBGB Kitchen & Bar in the former Valentino casino-floor space and once up and running plans a burger pub.

NEW GRILL: Border Grill at Mandalay Bay chefs Susan Feniger and Mary Sue Milliken have confirmed to me that they are hoping to open a second venue Dec. 1 in the former P.J. Clarke’s in the Forum Shops at Caesars Palace.

LINQ’S NEW DINING SPOTS: Full-time employees at the shuttered Gallery in Planet Hollywood have been paid by Block 16 Hospitality owners Billy Richardson and chef Anthony Meidenbauer, according to their PR firm. But the vendors who provided dancers and entertainers for the shows there still say they haven’t seen one penny after trying for more than 45 days to get paid. I hope they will be, as I know at least two folks with unpaid bills nearing $15,000.

Meantime, Block 16, which has Public House and Holsteins here, is going ahead with three dining ventures over the next six months. They’ll launch Haute Doggery late December in the Linq’s open-air retail, dining and entertainment district by the High Roller observation, wheel and nearby in March they’ll launch the brick-oven pizza Flour & Barley there. They also will open The Blind Pig Provisions & Lounge in Panorama Towers just off the Strip.

Haute Doggery will feature hot dog versions of menu favorites from Holsteins, The Blind Pig will be a counter-order restaurant and food market, and Flour & Barley will have a unique spin on a pizzeria. Designed as a rustic sports bar, the 3,800-square-foot eatery will feature a natural wood and brick interior, a marble bar top and marble tabletops, plus, a 1,200-square-foot patio opening to the Linq’s entertainment district.

On Wednesday, more Counter Intelligence and later a Q+A with Nobu. Mangia bene — eat well!

Robin Leach has been a journalist for more than 50 years and has spent the past decade giving readers the inside scoop on Las Vegas, the world’s premier platinum playground.

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