Restaurant Review (El Segundo Sol) — Las Vegas Fashion Show Mall
Absolutely no detail is too small for master of food and beverage, Terry Lunch. When the famed partner-chef of the much celebrated Mon Ami Gabi Restaurant (inside Paris Casino) opened up El Segundo Sol, which offers highly-customized Mexican fare, he chose his recipes and ingredients carefully.
Take rice, for example.
That’s right — rice.
One doesn’t normally pay much attention to rice in Mexican cooking. Think of the typical spicy brown rice that comes with beans next to enchiladas. It’s a staple hardly worth noticing.
But when Lynch decided to head south of the border for his next cooking phase opening up this ideally-situated restaurant four years ago, he considered about 50 different varieties of rice. Fifty! After sampling everything on the market, Lynch finally found the perfect accompaniment for his one-of-a-kind cuisine — a jasmine rice he infused with garlic which makes for a special taste all its own.
Of course, no one comes to El Segundo Sol for the rice. But this story is emblematic of the overall approach this wonderful restaurant and its head chef takes with every preparation — from the bar to the kitchen. Only the freshest ingredients are selected and served. Cliche? Yes — but in this case it’s accurate. Everything is made in house, from scratch. Even the dairy products come from a small boutique supplier, Straus Dairy in Sonoma County (California).
Here’s a link to the menu: EL SEGUNDO SOL
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Just about everyone knows Maggiano’s Little Italy Restaurant, on the second floor of Las Vegas’ Fashion Show Mall, overlooking the Las Vegas Strip, right across the street from the Wynn Casino. Well, right beneath Maggiano’s is one of the best upscale Mexican restaurants in the city — El Segundo Sol.
Marieta and I have dined in this place 40 to 50 times. We’ve taken a number of out-of-town guests to El Segundo Sol, because it’s the kind of place you don’t see much of elsewhere. These guests and food critics have ranged from writer Des Wilson all the way from England, to radio personality Paul Harris, from St. Louis.
Most recently, Marieta and I attended a cooking and margarita class on our own held on Saturday morning, from 10 am to noon. This fun class takes place about once per month.
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Today’s class was called the “El Segundo Sol Cooking Fiesta.” Cost — $30 per person. Here’s what we were served:
Fresh coffee (starter)
Chips with three kinds of fresh salsa — cilantro, tomatillo, and salsa fresca
Summer Sangria with melon and agave
Guacamole with Guajillo chiles and orange
Watermelon and mint margarita
Achiote shrimp with rice and beans, tortillas, and salsa
Bunuellos with berries and mango, with fresh whipped cream
Here’s some photos of the morning festivities:
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One of the coolest things about the cooking festival was learning the history of different kinds of Mexican cooking, and what the various regions offer. Terry Lynch, who has lived in England and France, also knows Mexican cuisine well. Did you know:
— Dutch settlers in the Yucatan area first brought cheese to Mexico. The locals and their decendents tried to recreate gouda-style cheeses, but instead came up with their own flavors which are now associated with Mexican cooking.
— Another major influence upon Mexican cuisine came from Lebanese immigrants, who settled the central part of the country at the start of the 19th Century. Many dishes we know associate with Mexico actually have roots in the Middle East.
— Yucatan and Baja employ completely different cooking styles and ingredients. Yucatan is more sophisticated and relies more on European influences, whereas the Baja region offers a much simpler cuisine, with lots of fresh seafood.
— Sangria with red wine should be made five days in advance before serving. Instead, what you commonly see — which is fruit tossed into a pitcher and then topped with cheap wine is all for show. It’s a travesty. A proper Sangria requires that fruits to be infused into the wine, and then served chilled. Most restaurants completely blow this. Never order a Sangria is if it made on spot! You are getting ripped off!
— Most authentic cooking in Mexico is made with the freshest ingredients, especially fruits and vegetables. In the U.S., many ingredients are picked before they are ripened (and therefore have less flavor) due to transit times, which cause spoilage. Most all of Mexico is local-market infused, where the produce simply tastes much better.
— Terry Lynch made an interesting economic observation which is the increasing size of spending power of the middle class in places like China and India have created greater demand for Western-style cooking, which means more beef. As a result, beef prices are rising rapidly. This means Americans are now eating more chicken and pork, which is also driving the prices up. The world economy will continue to make meats more expensive, to the point where average people won’t be able to afford their consumption on a daily basis.
Pretty interesting stuff. Oh, and aside from the history and economics lesson, the food and drink wasn’t too bad, either!
When the cooking class concluded, each guest was given a brown bag, Inside were a few special goodies, including a small bottle of tequila and a $10 gift card. What a value!
As for the damage, check this out. Here’s the final bill.
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As you can tell, I’m a huge fan of this restaurant and admire the intense dedication to craft shown by chef Terry Lunch. Check out his other place, Mon Abi Gabi as well sometime.
The bottom line — El Segundo Sol is a fabulous restaurant. There’s indoor and outdoor seating. I recommend sitting inside, since the music can occasionally be loud in the front patio area.
As for the cooking class experience, it’s a must for Las Vegas food aficionados.
Note: Special thanks to restaurant manager Macel Sarapio for always being so accommodating.