Through the decidedly freezing economic climate of the past few years, plenty of restaurants - including a number that were well operated, served excellent food and certainly deserved to survive - fell by the wayside for one reason or another, most of those reasons related to the fact that there just weren't enough feet coming through the door.
So what's the secret to the survival of Todd's Unique Dining, which has not only hung on but apparently prospered in a Henderson shopping center since 2004? As I sat during dinner the other night, what struck me was the continual parade of feet coming through the door.
Todd's owner Todd Clore has long had an appreciation for regulars, and that's what many of them clearly were. A surprising number were carrying in their own bottles of wine, which made sense once I learned that on Wednesday corkage is free for up to two bottles (normally it's $20 a bottle). But many others clearly were not regulars, judging from the CES badges dangling from their necks.
I also was slightly taken aback (but in a good way) by how polished the service was. Although the hostess gave a little frown when we told her we didn't have reservations she was otherwise fine, and our server was one of the best we've had in a long time and could certainly hold his own at any restaurant on the Strip. He was professional without being stuffy, friendly without being either chummy or obsequious and wonderfully efficient, filling our wine glasses regularly and letting us know the status of our entrees when they were delayed a bit.
And the food. Todd's is definitely in the upscale category, widely considered one of the few suburban gourmet rooms in the valley, yet Clore has been able to hold most entree prices to the mid-$20s through various sleights of hand.
An example: beef short ribs ($27), still a fairly low-priced cut though not as much as it once was, and wonderfully soul-restoring if it's prepared well, which it was in this case. My first clue? The rich, beefy aroma that wafted from it as it was set on the table. The beef was meltingly tender and suitably moist, and for contrast had been topped with crispy fried onions (the menu mentioned a "caramelized onion sauce" but the reality was crisper and much better), with a mound of kicky jalapeno-flecked mashed potatoes supporting it all.
Pork tenderloin ($25) was equally tender and moist, and served with a stuffing reminiscent of apple pie and a melange of fresh vegetables. Both entrees were garnished with a small bunch of enokitake mushrooms, an attractive touch we don't see much anymore.
For starters, we knew we had to go with Todd's classic goat cheese wontons ($8), which I think have been on the menu since the opening. We've had them before and they were as good as we remembered, crisp-skinned, creamy within and perfect with the tart/sweet raspberry sauce that balanced the earthy flavor of the cheese.
We also had a beet salad ($9), which turned out to be a pile of tender slices of the ruby-red root, tossed in a horseradish-tinged vinaigrette and ornamented, as for a late Christmas, with a bright-green sprig of fennel and a few edamame and snow-white crumbles of goat cheese, all of which added flavor and texture as well as color.
And speaking of color: It's been a while since we've been to Todd's, and we were pleased to see it freshly painted in rich neutrals, with complementary art. With soft jazz drifting in an out, it made for a comfortable environment.
Which is no doubt another attraction for all of the feet that pass through that door.
Las Vegas Review-Journal restaurant reviews are done anonymously at Review-Journal expense. Contact Heidi Knapp Rinella at 383-0474 or email her at hrinella@ reviewjournal.com.