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Food lovers know Vegas is the 9th Island

June 27, 2011 - Carla Tracy

As many of you know, Las Vegas is affectionately called the “9th Island.” So many people from Hawaii live, work and vacation there that everywhere you go, there are signs of the connection — from the Hawaiian Marketplace on the Strip with its bronze statue of King Kamehameha to zany and fun establishments such as Kahunaville.

For instance, Maui Brewing Co. is proud to report that a distribution agreement has been signed with Cépage Selections of Nevada. With distribution in HI, CA, OR, WA, ID, CO, TX and AZ, this makes Nevada the ninth state where MBC products are sold.

"Vegas is often referred to as the ‘ninth island’ due to the long-standing connection with Hawaii, so it's only fitting that it's our ninth distribution territory; what can I say? They wanted real Hawaiian beer!" says MBC owner Garrett Marrero.

Master Sommelier Rob Bigelow, who is also the food and beverage director of the new Aria Resort & Casino Las Vegas, was on Maui recently as a panelist at the Kapalua Wine & Food Festival. He’s one of only 105 professionals who have earned the title of master sommelier in the United States. What a veritable wealth of wine information! This man knows his stuff! He’s told crowds at the Ritz-Carlton, Kapalua’s ballroom that he’s got 16 sommeliers working for him at the Aria and a culinary staff of thousands. He loves our island of Maui, too!

Below, I’ve listed a few fun and affordable Las Vegas establishments with Hawaii connections that I visited on a recent trip. I’m sure all of them will make you feel right at home.

Located at Treasure Island Hotel & Casino, Kahunaville is Las Vegas’ original island restaurant and party bar. Enjoy outrageous presentations of Hawaii-infused food in the Oasis dining room or one-of-a-kind frozen cocktails poolside at the Lanai bar. The fun continues nightly with flair bartending, live DJs, karaoke and much more in the world-famous Party Bar.

“Kahunaville has always been known for our amazing bartenders and party drinks,” said Mark Green, owner. “Kahunaville Party Rum’s tropical flavors will allow people to take the party home with them when they leave Las Vegas. The bottles were designed specifically with our flair bartenders in mind as they entertain and take the party to a whole different level.”

The must-try appetizer platter features a giant ceramic volcano with dry ice emulating Pele’s smoke, surrounded by island favorites such as wings, pot stickers, ribs and more. Other menu items include Hawaiian sliders, Moana ahi tuna, and Kona crab salad.

Pink Taco at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino is a place where part-time Maui resident Carlos Santana likes to hang out. That’s because he performs regular shows at The Joint just a short walk down the hallway. What a hallway it is! You may peruse outfits worn by Madonna, Sting, the Rolling Stones and then some.

The Mexican restaurant with a California flair is affordable and authentic and you may dine inside or by the pool. It’s also now open 24 hours a day and it serves a mean breakfast.

At the entrance, you’ll be enchanted by the Mexican women in the display kitchen, hand patting masa to make fresh corn tortillas. Guacamole is mixed to order. You’ll also find handcrafted sweet corn tamales stuffed into husks, carne asada skewers marinated in cilantro serrano sauce and served with Mexican slaw, and camarones — sauteed shrimp over Mexican rice with creamy poblano sauce. It’s as good as Mexican food gets — and — with regular Carlos sightings, it’s even better.

The Pub at Monte Carlo will also appeal to people from Hawaii because of its affordability, casual air and fun atmosphere. When we dined there on a recent visit, we were seated by Hostess Veronika Ripley, and it was easy to discern she was from Hawaii.

“Being away from Oahu for eight years hasn't been too difficult,” she told us. “The Pub at Monte Carlo is a second home for me. There really is something for everyone to enjoy at The Pub! If I had to be away from home, I'd want to be welcomed and comfortable. The Pub staff and atmosphere never let me forget the feeling of home ‘da Aloha’.”

“Our pupus, like the chicken fajita nachos, are great to share while you wait for a mouth watering burger. It's like I cooked it on my own hibachi!”

Known for its sleek, industrial look and impressive beer list with over 250 selections, The Pub allows you to create your own beer flights from the extensive list of draft options, watch a game on one of the big-screen TVs or request songs from the dueling pianos players Thursday nights. It’s all a fun, relaxed and casual environment — with a Hawaii native at the hostess stand.

When we dined at Eva Longoria’s Besu Steakhouse at the Vdara Hotel & Spa on our last night in Las Vegas, we noticed that the manager approached every table, treating the tourists as if they were guests in his own home. When he made his way around the floor-to-ceiling glass room with views of colorful waterfalls outside, he found out we were from Hawaii. Then with a big smile on his face, he told he was originally from the Big Island and that his mother lived to be the ripe old age of 105 there. He also said he was “hapa-haole, and that he moved to Vegas some 40 years ago.

We also were informed about the chef’s tasting package. It offers guests a one night stay at Vdara between Sunday through Tuesday and dinner at Eva Longoria’s Beso Steakhouse. The package features a chef’s guacamole and housemade tortilla chips, salad and entree chili rubbed skirt steak tacos, Eva’s favorite. Follow it with churros for dessert. Or, you may opt for any other entrée from the expansive menu.

But we decided to indulge in incredibly fresh salads, mashed potatoes with the biggest mother lode of black truffle shavings I’ve ever seen, and perfectly cooked rib-eye steaks. No two scoops rice like in Hawaii, but it was a savory and fitting finale on our trip to the 9th Island.

"Carla Tracy is like our eyes and ears,” says Chris Speere, co-program coordinator of Maui Culinary Academy, where the future chefs of our island are being schooled. “She is a great resource for our local chef community, sharing her active travels and dining experiences from across the nation. She keeps us all up to on the latest food trends and connects Maui to America's dining scene.”

Wow! Thank you, Chris! What a compliment. That being said, stay tuned for “Take A Gamble on Las Vegas,” another blog coming soon about some fine-dining restaurants in that great food city.

 
 

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Blog Photos

At Kahunaville, Mandi McCrary enjoys a mountain of a pupu with Pele's smoke erupting out of the volcano.