Armenian cuisine in Las Vegas!
Just another typical afternoon college beer break at a local craft brewery?
While taking a summer afternoon college pilsner beer break at the Tenaya Creek Brewery the other day, I started playing a game of Jacks or Better Five Card Draw on a poker machine. I only intended to have one quick beer and play a few cards, before returning home to finish writing essays for classes in college.
As every poker machine player knows, sometimes the game takes a dead heat path. The game progressed in a pattern of allowing me to get a few dollars ahead, then it set my chip count a few dollars behind, before returning to even money. This pattern seemed to go on forever. In fact, after about an hour, I still had the same amount of money that I walked into the craft brewery with. The only concession was that I got one complimentary beer, because I was gambling. When I finally ended up $5 ahead, I cashed out and left the extra greenback winnings on the counter as a tip.
While playing poker, a friendly couple plonked down on the bar stools next to my seat. I overheard them speaking to each other in a couple of languages that sounded familiar, so I asked them where they were from. As it turned out, they were from Armenia and Russia. They got married just before moving to Las Vegas and they had been working at casinos in this city for quite some time.
Their faces looked familiar and I know that we had talked in the past at some point. To outsiders, Las Vegas might seem like a big city that has very low odds of seeing the same two strangers twice in a lifetime. In reality, when hanging out away from the Las Vegas Strip and the downtown tourist destinations, one finds that Las Vegas is kind of a small town. Like many small towns, a fair percentage of the local working population have a habit of frequenting a narrow range of places, that offer a comfort zone that is to their liking.
When I heard the one vaguely familiar face say that he was from Armenia, I thought this was a strange coincidence, because I shopped for some Armenian food items at the Mediterranean Market a few days before. After shopping, I did some educational research reading about Armenian cuisine and later that day I created an Armenian style summer salad, then I published the recipe article. A series of events like this dies make a person realize that this is a small world that is filled with deja vu. Oddly enough, food karma often seems to be the cause of coincidences. In other words, an oddsmaker would set very long odds on a chance meeting like this occurring.
Since the small world of Las Vegas that afternoon had just turned into a small poker playing world with long-shot odds, it then became easy to strike up some fun conversation with the Armenian and Russian couple. We were having a grand old time yakking about everything from Armenian food, to hot rod cars, sports and good vodka from their homeland. I was stuck in a stalemate poker game and they were lucky enough to hit one winning nickel poker hand after another.
After calling my poker game a draw, I popped one final question, before heading back to the home front. I asked the couple if they knew if there were any Armenian restaurants in Las Vegas. I had to laugh because they both blurted out an answer at the same time, while stepping all over each others words trying to describe how good this Armenian restaurant was! Apparently their Armenian restaurant suggestion was worth heeding, because they had nothing but good things to say about the place.
On my way out the door of the brewery, I gave the friendly couple some thankful gratitude, wished them luck and bid them adieu. Off I went in the direction of home and suddenly, hunger set in. The thought of good Armenian food caused my tummy to growl like a lion. I suddenly veered right onto the highway and set a course for the Armenian restaurant across town. I figured that since I had just overstayed my visit at the Tenaya Creek Brewery while doing some quality socializing, spending some extra time dining out before returning home to do a few hours of college essay writing was okay, since the homework due date was not yet critical. I was hungry, it was summer, the weather was too hot to slave over cooking in my home kitchen and I needed the stress relief anyway.
Shish Kabob House, Las Vegas!
So, off to the Armenian restaurant in the early evening it was. I have driven past the Shish Kabob house several times in the past. For some odd reason, which probably had something to do with stereotypical preconceived notions, I pictured the Shish Kabob Restaurant as being a standard big city Arabic or Persian fast food style restaurant with a tiny dining room that mostly did a local neighborhood to-go food business. I later found out that what I pictured this restaurant to be, was in fact totally in error. More often than not, when I have a preconceived idea about a place that I have never visited before, the preconceived notion later becomes a source of embarrassment. This is one of life's important little lessons. Sometimes it does not pay to figure a place out, till one actually arrives at the destination. Ce est la vie!
When I arrived at the Shish Kabob House, I immediately figured out that this place was not a to-go style kabob shop. The clientele were dressed sharp, there was a large group of people attending an event in the banquet room and the large dining room theme spelled out elegance. This was not a big city kabob to-go shop. This place was a real nice restaurant that offered elegance and comfort. I was impressed to say the least.
I initially placed a chicken and beef kabob order to-go, but after getting into the comfortable friendly atmosphere, I sat at a table and asked the host to change my order to dining in-house. A asked what kind of beer they had and the waitress named a few American national brands, then she said that they also carried Armenian beer. Since I could not remember any specific Armenian brews, I asked for a refreshing Armenian lager of some kind. She delivered a bottle of Erebuni Beer and the beer poured nicely into the glass with a thin foamy head. This is a characteristic of good old world lagers. Erebuni definitely is a nice brew.
Customers at the table next to me commented about the beer I was drinking and a nice conversation ensued. Those folks were regular customers and they had nothing but good things to say. The evening was quickly turning into a pleasant social event. A good restaurant atmosphere and good food has a way of promoting this. Obviously the couple back at the Tenaya Creek Brewery, suggested the Shish Kabob House for far more reasons than just good food. This restaurant epitomizes what a good dining experience is all about.
The chicken and beef kabob showed up from the kitchen a short time later. While chatting with the server, she proudly exclaimed that the beef on the kabob was actually filet mignon. As a chef, I realized that this means this restaurant purchased whole beef tenderloin sections, which are a bit pricey.
A chef has to fabricate the tenderloin section efficiently or the restaurant food cost will go through the roof. Armenian restaurateurs have a reputation for being efficient restaurant managers. My step grandfather was a great restaurant manager and consultant who learned the ropes by working his way up in Armenian owned American diners way back when. He was the first to teach me to never waste good food and he said that an ounce of good food that goes in the trash each day, can add up to thousands of dollars over a long period of time.
I have worked as a sous chef for a couple of billionaire Armenian entrepreneurs in the past that owned fine French restaurants. They liked my work because I waste no good food and I keep food costs low. I happen to know for a fact that it is possible for a mid priced restaurant to serve beef tenderloin in all menu items that call for beef and still make a good profit. A restaurant that successfully accomplishes this feat, does achieve high quality marks!
Warm pita bread covered the Chicken & Beef Tenderloin Kabobs, to keep the entree from cooling down. The old world café style food presentation was appealing and it was refreshingly uncomplicated. The plate of food simply had the look of pure comfort. I was hungry as a "fasting elephant" by then, so I dug right into the food. All I can say is the chicken and beef tenderloin were tender beyond belief and the favor was old world Armenian at its best. The rice and accompaniments were perfect too. This was a great plate of Armenian food and the portion size was generous!
I filled up my tummy, till I could eat no more. I actually had leftovers to take home by the end of the dining venture, so I asked for a "doggie bag." While placing the leftovers in a to-go container, waitress reminded me that I had also ordered Baklava for dessert, when I first placed my original order as take-out food. I completely forgot about this during the time that I decided to dine in the restaurant, instead of carting the meal home. I looked at my swollen belly and said to myself, "I must be crazy! What have I done to you? Sweet Baklava is on the way!"
Since I was full already, I requested the baklava to-go. It was getting late and I needed to get back on track with the school homework that I put off. I figured that the baklava would a perfect snack for later that night and it certainly was. There is nothing like baklava for taking the edge off of a hectic day and adding sweetness to life!
The Shish Kabob House atmosphere was comfortably elegant. I do suggest breaking out some fine threads and shining the shoes, before venturing to this restaurant.
The dining room and kitchen looked spotless. Outdoor dining is available and the view of the moon over the palm trees created a romantic atmosphere for couples that night.
The chefs are talented and they prepare authentic food that appeals to the local Armenian, Russian and gypsy populations that live in the surrounding neighborhoods. The service staff was professional, cultured and attentive.
The Shish Kabob House offers menu prices that are a real bargain in this modern age. Dining value is the key to success and this increases customer satisfaction. Lets put it this way. Only satisfied smiles could be seen in the entire dining room. Nice!
A small band stage for entertainers is located near the host station, so this place really must be happening on weekend nights. A large banquet room is available for special events, like weddings, birthdays and business meetings.
The Shish Kabob House also runs a busy catering business. The host informed me that their food is a favorite of employees in the neighboring business and medical office parks. They also cater to large parties on the Las Vegas Strip, which is fairly close by.
This restaurant also maintains a good friendly business relationship with the Armenian bakery that is located next door. The host mentioned that the bakery is a place that I should check out. This will be a future dining venture that will be featured in an article sometime in the near future.
The Shish Kabob House is centrally located at 6620 West Flamingo Road in a small plaza, between Torrey Pines and Rainbow. The parking lot is well lit and there are plenty of spaces. For more information, follow this hyperlink to their website: Shish Kabob House
Recommending the Shish Kabob House is very easy to do! Everybody likes good Armenian shish kabobs, especially on warm summer evenings here in Las Vegas. This restaurant has an extensive clientele base and they simply are doing everything right. Yum!