One of the coolest things about my job is who might be on the other end of the line when the phone rings.
Sometimes it’s not pleasant, like when a TV-famous chef called me to complain after we used his name and “obnoxious” in the same sentence. After I finished sputtering and hung up, I Googled his name and “obnoxious” and got a gazillion hits, that and the call both proving the point. But I digress.
Sometimes it’s very pleasant, like the day maybe 10 years ago when I picked up the phone and the voice said, “This is Pat Morita.”
“Oh, sure,” I thought, hesitating.
“You know, from ‘The Karate Kid?’ ”
“Oh, I know who you are,” I said, finally recognizing the voice. Yeah, I do a lot of sputtering on the phone.
Anyway, what Morita (who, I later learned, called the newsroom, where he was beloved, with some frequency, and who is no doubt waxing on and off in heaven) was calling about was short ribs. He liked them, and was looking for a place that served good ones. Ten years ago, short ribs weren’t the trendy comfort-food item they’ve become today but more the product of home kitchens, and I was at a loss.
Things have changed a lot in 10 years, and while I was eating the shortribs ($23) at Vic’s New American Cuisine I thought that, if Pat Morita were alive today, I’d certainly recommend them to him, because they were fab.
And it took me a few minutes to get to that point. The menu description had momentarily slipped my mind and when the dish arrived it looked like a largish bone with a little meat attached and more shredded over the top, with mashed potatoes smeared across the plate and something fried — onions? — on top. And then I started eating, and the Cinderella-dressing birds started singing: The clear flavor of parsnips reminded me that, no, those weren’t potatoes but a puree of a vegetable that’s far more interesting and a perfect companion to the earthy beef that rested atop. The beef actually was boneless, a good-sized block of tender flavor topped by the additional shreds, the whole complemented perfectly by a deeply flavored reduction. And those fried things that at first glance looked like onions were potatoes — not the “nest” the menu promised, but still a nice element of crunch.
Sauces seem to be a theme at Vic’s, because as our waiter had promised, the butter-whiskey broth that served as a basis for the Caramel Apple Pork Chop ($24) had indeed soaked into “Grandma’s favorite stuffing,” adding both flavor and needed moisture. The roasted, caramelized apple that topped the chop was a novel touch and not as sweet as we had feared, but the chop, although meaty and flavorful, was a tad dry.
Salads are included with dinners and we liked the tossed greens with the unusual but quite appealing blue-cheese-barbecue dressing. A deconstructed (or yet-to-be-constructed) Caesar was a plateful of crisp elements, the dressing tending toward the acidic side, which pleased one of us but not the other.
Nostalgia seems to be a theme at Vic’s as well, but nostalgia needs some perspective. A starter of Meatloaf Spring Rolls ($8) was a novel idea, logs of meatloaf within crisply fried wrappers and served with a duo of sauces that were faintly Asian-inflected. But here’s the thing, Vic: Grandma’s meatloaf is dry. Yes, we know you love her, but maybe you ought to work on her meatloaf recipe just a bit.
Service throughout was fine. The decor is simple and streamlined, which befits the room, built in tiers to take advantage of a truly impressive view of the Strip. It was a bit noisy on one end of the room, which the excellent hostess noticed, leading us away from it. The soundtrack was tailored to the Sun City Anthem location, mostly ’50s and ’60s hits (not that there’s anything wrong with that), but we think they could work on the speakers, unless the goal is to remind guests of ’60s AM radio.
At any rate. It was dark when we got to Vic’s, but the website recommends a sunset sitting and that would be truly enjoyable, although it’s tough to do with winter coming on.
Oh, and one other thing: The executive chef of Vic’s is Vic Moea, one of a number of locals who have found a measure of fame through food-TV variety shows.
We have to think Pat Morita would approve. Happy days, indeed.
Contact reporter Heidi Knapp Rinella at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0474.