Highlights from our Northern Nevada restaurant reviews of the past year
3374 Kietzke Lane., Reno, 829-1537
I walked into Antojitos on a bright weekend during lunch hour to an exhilarating and promising atmosphere. Friendly and nimble staff careened through the large but still nearly packed dining room keeping tables cleaned and orders moving.
As I understand it, one of the translations of antojitos is “appetizers,” so it’s ironic we didn’t try any. But why would we? The complimentary chips and salsa—finely blended, relatively heavy on the pepper and lime, not sugary as is so tragically standard—were top nacho.
Enchiladas and I are currently going through a trial separation, so, along with my husband, I decided to see how Antojitos came through on unwrapped seafood. The tostada mixta ($3.75) is scrumptious, with cocktail-style, cooked-then-chilled shrimp and octopus bits over a foundational layer of ceviche.
The seafood soup is not for the seafood-squeamish, but it turned out to be a deliciously gamey blend of flavors and aromas in a fresh tomato soup base, even if it was a bit of a chore to pick out all the various bones and exoskeletons from the fish and crustaceans. It was also a generous portion. The chicken chimichanga combination with Spanish rice and beans ($7.95) is a highlight. Antojitos comes off as an excellent local Mexican option.
10 E. Ninth St., 284-7270
The Corkscroo has taken over the space once occupied by the Breakaway, an infamous college bar at the University of Nevada, Reno.
The space has changed a lot; it’s no longer the disgusting, vomit-stained bar it once was. The bar is very dark, with low lighting, but also very clean.
One of the most popular appetizers is the Not Yo Chips basket ($4.50): crisp, thick tortilla chips with a generous portion of warm, spicy nacho cheese and sour cream.
For entrées, The Corkscroo offers unique, homemade recipes like the Tempura BLT ($7.50), and the North Beach garlic and blue cheese burger ($7.75). A twisted take on a classic sandwich, the Tempura BLT comes with deep-fried tomatoes, bacon, lettuce and orange aioli on a hoagie roll. Two large, fried tomato slices give this sandwich an interesting flavor and the fried tomato texture goes well with the crispy bacon. The North Beach burger is huge and incredibly moist, with each bite releasing an explosion of garlic, blue cheese and meat. All in all, the food is far beyond what you would expect from a bar.
Located right across the street from the UNR campus, the Corkscroo’s unique food and all night kitchen makes it an ideal place for college kids to hang out and unwind after class. For the rest of you, the Corkscroo has above average bar food, so definitely give it a try.
25 St. Lawrence Ave., 348-0571
Crème is a classy new breakfast and lunch café, amusingly located amid the hubbub of west Virginia like the Wild Orchid Gentlemen’s Club and Aces Tattoo. The food and service at Crème beautifully match its quaint décor: cute, cool and comforting. The small, tidy interior is equipped with just a half a dozen or so tables, an ordering counter, and a few stools with window seating. One big bonus is Crème’s customer-only parking lot.
Crepes, all in the appealing $5-$6 range, drive the bus on Crème’s menu, which has classic staples including ham, sausage or vegetarian alternatives. There are also a few desserty breakfast options, such as the Nutella or caramel apple at $4.99 each, or the lemon butter and powdered sugar German crepe ($5.50). An added bonus is their decadent coffee, served tableside with a personal French press.
Simple but elegant, the crepe ranchero ($5.99) is a sort of huevos rancheros number with egg, cheese and black beans in cosmopolitan dress, is a must try. The additional salsa and guacamole did wonders with a perfectly cooked crepe.
In general, Crème is a great place for a casual midday chat with that friend you never see enough, accompanied by inexpensive but tasty food, great service, and delicious coffee.
222 Los Altos Parkway., Sparks,
Tha Joint, a sushi and Korean food restaurant in Sparks, sounds like it should have a Rastafarian theme. Instead, walking in you find yourself in prison! Luckily in Tha Joint, the only actual prison similarity is the décor. Tha Joint has a modern look with black walls and black and white pictures of various correctional facilities—the sushi bar even has bars on it.
Most people frequent Tha Joint for the all-you-can-eat sushi. Unlike most sushi restaurants, the all-you-can-eat lunch ($16.95 each) doesn’t restrict which rolls you can order according to price. The all-you-can-eat price also includes appetizers and dessert.
Tha Joint offers a lot of unusual rolls, such as Tha Bomb, which comes with crystal shrimp, cucumber, seared tuna, barbecue sauce, buffalo sauce and green onions. Tha Sexy House Wife includes cooked scallops, pepper powder, salad greens, yellowtail and spicy sauce.
The house specialty is Tha Joint, a roll with with crystal shrimp, spicy crab, scallops, avocado, pepper powder and spicy sauce. This roll is spicy, but the avocado and crystal shrimp give it a nice balance.
Tha Joint has great sushi, interesting décor and friendly staff. All of the rolls are fresh, brightly colored and delicious. Unlike most correctional institutions, this is a place worth returning to.
The Grape and the Grain
7665 Town Square Lane, 746-8466
Walking into this place, I was impressed. It has an open, modern look and a horseshoe bar in the middle with tables surrounding it. One wall houses racks of wine for sale. The floor is stained concrete, and the ceilings are open with exposed rafters. Random oil paintings of various icons surround the place, like one of Johnny Cash and another of Babe Ruth. The lighting is dark, and the place has a really mellow vibe.
Not only does Grape and the Grain have an extensive draft beer list, with things like Dogfish, Icky and Lost Coast Brewery, they also have a ton of bottled beers, handcrafted cocktails and a martini list.
The Grape and the Grain has a limited menu of mostly pizzas, appetizers and salads. This was fine with me, as these are my basic food groups.
We decided to get the Danish Style Hotdogs ($9), which were two European-style hot dogs with remoulade topped with pickled cucumbers and crunchy fried onions. I was impressed by the size and flavors of the hot dogs, and I thought the remoulade was a nice touch, but I didn’t notice any spicy red sauce. The pickled cucumbers definitely gave this a unique flavor, and the onions were good, too.
We also ordered the chicken nachos ($9), which came out in a portion that disappointed us for the price. The nachos were supposed to have black beans, but ours were missing them. The salsa and the guacamole were fantastic, though, and the chips were thick and crispy. Unfortunately, the chicken was sliced in tiny cubes and gave us the impression it came from a bag.
For pizza, we went with a large Gold-digger ($21), which came with salami, pepperoni, black olives, mushrooms and onions. The pizza was pretty good, with a thin crust and light cheese. However, I wished there had been more onions and mushrooms. The service issues arose again when we sat with empty plates on our table for a while, and our second round of beers never came. But overall, there were no major issue. With a relaxed atmosphere, pretty good food and good drinks, the Grape and the Grain is somewhere I would come back to.
Hill St. Grill
275 Hill St., 322-2710
Hill St. Grill is separated into two areas, with a bar in the front, and the restaurant along the side and in the back. The restaurant has a modern, upscale yet relaxed feel about it. The wooden tables are well-spaced and give diners some privacy. There is also a patio area, with tables, umbrellas, plants and a water feature.
I had come for lunch but learned that, on weekends, brunch is the only thing served from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. The brunch menu included things like lemon soufflé pancakes and frittatas. They also have bottomless mimosas for $10.
I ordered the crispy salmon ($14), with asparagus and an egg sunny-side-up. When the plate arrived, I was delighted by the pretty presentation. The salmon was piled on top of asparagus with the egg on the side. The salmon was some of the best I’ve had in Reno, as it tasted fresh, crispy on top and was perfectly cooked. The grilled asparagus spears had a light layer of salt. A grapefruit hollandaise was drizzled over the plate. I had never had grapefruit hollandaise, but the citrus complemented the salmon perfectly, and I’m starting to think it should be served on nearly everything. Another dish, the quiche of the day ($10), came with corn, red peppers and cheddar and was served with a side salad. The corn gave this quiche richness, and the pepper added some kick. There were flakes of herbs in the crust of the quiche, so while simple, this quiche had a unique flavor. The salad had an amazing lemon dressing, and the greens and tomatoes tasted fresh.
The meals weren’t huge or over-filling, which I prefer for brunch, especially when I’m trying to get my money’s worth of mimosas. This turned out to be an easy task, as our waitress had her eagle eye on my glass and would reappear anytime the glass started to look a little low. We also decided to try the cantaloupe ice cream ($4). It was amazing—light, refreshing and creamy.
The dinner menu offers choices like blue cheese-stuffed mushrooms rolled in bread crumbs and pan-seared scallops. Hill St. Grill is a classy Reno find.
La Cucina Italian Restaurant and Deli
3600 Lakeside Drive, Reno
La Cucina is like a giant hug from the Italian grandmother I never had. The deli, restaurant and bakery is owned by the Cassanari family, owners of Reno restaurant Johnny’s Little Italy. All of La Cucina’s delectable breads and pastries are baked fresh daily.
For starters, it’s recommended that you order a bowl of minestrone ($3.95) or the soup of the day accompanied by a basket of freshly baked, homemade Italian bread.
The grilled cheese panini ($7.95), served on homemade bread with tomatoes, basil and melted provolone, mozzarella and fontina cheese is another of the fresh and simple but delicious items offered on the menu. It comes with a choice of fresh fruit, cottage cheese and ricotta blended with fresh fruit, or a salad.
The Rigatoni Isabella ($8.95), comes with cream, parmesan, peas and proscuitto. Rich, but not overwhelming, the proscuitto was tender and complemented the peas well. The dish comes with a side of homemade garlic bread.
For dessert, try the amaretto chocolate cheesecake ($3.75). Topped with a thick layer of chocolate ganache above a large serving of chocolate amaretto cheesecake with a pecan crust, it will make anyone forget their troubles.
La Cucina is good Italian food, served without the pretentious atmosphere of an expensive restaurant. Italian food connoisseurs and anyone looking for an inexpensive Italian dinner should be sure to check it out.
Los 4 Vientos
145 Casazza Drive, 348-1490
Los 4 Vientos is hidden on Casazza Drive behind Shopper’s Square. The nondescript strip mall is not really something you’d look at twice, but walking into Los 4 Vientos feels like stumbling into Mexico. The walls are bright and cheery orange, red and yellow, and the menu is basically all in Spanish.
Los 4 Vientos offers a salsa bar, complete with crispy tortilla chips and a plethora of salsas that are spicy and fresh. Recommended is the Barbacoa ($9.99), a shredded goat meat soup. The Barbacoa comes in a huge bowl with large chunks of goat meat and rice swimming in a spicy red broth. Goat, it turns out, tastes a bit like a really tender roast.
The al pastor torta ($4.99) comes with a large, moist bun surrounding thick slices of avocado, lettuce, tomatoes and jalapeños, which goes well with the flavor of the sweet and smoky pork. Also recommended is the chicken quesadilla ($5.99), with a thick tortilla crammed full of chicken, Mexican cheese and lettuce. The meat in all of the dishes is really flavorful and tender.
A lot of Mexican places seem to give you chewy, overcooked meat, but not Los 4 Vientos. This place serves some of the best authentic Mexican food in Reno. Any place that can serve goat fashionably is doing something right.
Sterling’s Seafood Steakhouse
Silver Legacy, 407 N. Virginia St., 325-7573
A good quality chop, bone-in of course, is a hallmark at Sterling’s Seafood Steakhouse in the Silver Legacy. Executive chef Neil Campbell offers a Provimi veal chop. It’s grilled to taste—medium rare to medium for optimum flavor—and then is topped with an exquisite Shiitake mushroom and sun-dried tomato cream sauce.
The flavor in the sauce starts with a demi-glace, veal stock slowly cooked until it thickens. Then, some butter, heavy cream, a little white wine, a dash of cognac, shallots and a little garlic combine with the mushrooms and sun-dried tomatoes and voila! A couple of tablespoons of this sauce over the chop, and you have texture and layers of flavor that make you grin with palate ecstasy the minute you inhale the aroma.
On the first bite, you get a rich, creamy feel in your mouth and with the acid from the sun-dried tomatoes noticeable, you then experience a sweet and slightly salty complement to this chop, which is so tender, you could almost cut it with a butter knife. Another pleasant surprise from the chef, the vegetables: seasonal snap peas and spaghetti squash with a drop of honey. With soup or salad and a starch, this tantalizing repast is $34.
Waiters at Sterling’s are at the top of their game, and the ambiance is classic. Casual to fancy is the dress, and reservations are always recommended.
My wine recommendation with the chop is the Ferrari-Carano PreVail West Face 2007 blend from the Alexander Valley in Sonoma. It’s 64 percent Cabernet and 36 percent Syrah. Aromas of blackberry syrup, baking spices and toasted oak surround flavors of warm berry pie and even a hint of chocolate. But a Pinot Noir, Malbec and even a dry Chardonnay can work, depending on your palate.
725 Basque Way, Carson City, 885-2828
“Bistro” is from a Russian word meaning “fast.” Fortunately for us, in the finest tradition, one exists in Carson City. The ambiance of Z Bistro is simple, with tables close together in rows, very much like you’d find in the small, side-street haunts in Paris.
Galettes ($9.25) are commonly called crepes—however, when made with buckwheat, they are correctly galettes. Chef Gilles Galhaut pours the buckwheat on a professional crepe machine to produce a thin, 18-inch pancake. Onto that he puts a creamy mushroom compote prepared with onions, butter, a bit of heavy cream, Herbs de Provence and topped with Gruyere cheese and sliced, herb roasted chicken. It’s folded into a 6-inch square and finished with a splash of crème fresh and a dash of parsley. Four other traditional, savory fillings are offered.
This dish is very well suited for a dry wine, and when you can select from a French list, the magnificent Loire Valley in central France is my choice. Although Loire is a land of white wines, it has some reds that are fruity and pleasant.
Domain du Salvard Cheverny Blanc ’09 is $10. This white wine shows lovely Sauvignon Blanc character, offering refreshing notes of citrus and herbs on the nose. Pascal Janvier Coteaux du Loir ’09 was my red table wine for $9.50. It’s not much darker than a rosé. A whiff of white pepper is quickly followed by a lovely minerality, reminiscent of rainwater washing over limestone. Fresh strawberries follow, ripe and sweet, leading into a tart, bone-dry red-berry flavor that’s light-bodied but mouth-filling with a long finish. As Julia Child once pointed out, French cooking is “one of the world’s great arts” and Z Bistro is a continuing master’s canvas for all to enjoy.