HEIDI’S PICKS

Heidi’s Picks is a weekly selection of restaurant suggestions from Review-Journal critic Heidi Knapp Rinella. Price symbols are based on the cost of an average entree: $ = entrees less than $10; $$ = entrees between $10 and $20; $$$ = entrees between $20 and $30; and $$$$ = entrees more than $30.

BLT BURGER

The Mirage, 3400 Las Vegas Blvd. South; 792-7888

An inhospitable hostess notwithstanding, BLT Burger was a lot of fun and a lot of good food. The fried dill pickles were flavor-packed and so light as to be almost pickles tempura, and we also found the macaroni and cheese bites, regulation burger (with blue cheese added), a lamb tandoori burger and toffee milkshake all worthy of a fine American tradition and the reputation of the French chef — Laurent Tourondel — who’s given his name to the place. (12/19/08)

Overall: A- $$

EMPEROR’S GARDEN

4215 Spring Mountain Road, 889-6777

When they slip you a fork if you’re not Asian you get the idea that this is an authentic spot and indeed it is, tucked away in Chinatown Plaza and frequented by busloads of Asian tourists. Service was a bit slow toward the end — we saw one woman march into the kitchen for more rice — but we liked the shrimp, mushrooms and fresh spinach in the won ton soup, and also the pan-fried dumplings, barbecued pork, crispy beef and Shanghai egg rolls. (5/15/09)

Overall: B+ $$

GRITZ

1911 Stella Lake Drive; 255-4748

This tiny spot is very much in the no-frills category but that just seems to fit with its simple theme, which is grits, grits and more grits. We liked the signature grits bowl with egg and cheese and an oh-so-fluffy biscuit, the Alabama among the "state plates," which features thick-sliced bacon along with eggs and biscuits and grits, and a spirited and satisfying chicken gumbo soup of the day. (2/02/09)

Grade: B $

SIMON RESTAURANT & LOUNGE

Palms Place, 4381 W. Flamingo Road; 944-3292

There’s a definite whimsical air about Simon Restaurant & Lounge — witness the cotton candy and Rice Krispie treats — but the kitchen knows when it’s time to be serious, too. That’s evidenced by the various surprises hidden in the menu, such as the shredded-apple and celery-leaf "slaw" with the Crispy Rock Shrimp, and the decidedly citrussy notes of the braised shortribs. Also worthy of note: classic steak tartare and Grouper Casino, with the flavors (and clams) of the classic Clams Casino. (6/5/09)

Overall: A- $$$$

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