Thursday, November 29, 2012

Local places: HK Star vs Lazy Joe

A few weeks ago I overheard someone at work discussing the meal he had the night before – it was clams in a black bean sauce, and I was much impressed by his descriptions of the ‘Scent of the sea’ and the delicate sauce and how dramatically he described his sensations while eating. I later asked him where the restaurant was, and was surprised to find it was a Chinese seafood place very close to my house: HK Star Seafood Restaurant at 3400 South Jones, near Spring Mountain.

I don’t really like seafood, but my wife does, and figured a Chinese place would most likely have additional items that I might enjoy, so that night we went down there. The restaurant is in a strip mall full of other Asian places, and takes up four normal storefront places. It looks like a typical low cost Chinese place, with simple tables and chairs and bright signs for an assortment of Asian beers. At the back were several fish tanks filled with live fish, shrimp and lobsters. We were the only Caucasian faces in the place, and when they sat us (the tables were pre set with teacups, plates, small rice bowls and chopsticks) we were immediately given forks, a sign that they knew how adept we probably were. The menu is quite large, running at over thirty pages. There were sections for chicken, beef, fish, vegetables, noodles, lobster, shrimp, sparrow, duck, frogs and a number of other items.

At my suggestion she did try the clams in black bean sauce, while I had a chicken noodle dish. The food was served in the typical family style, a large pot of hot tea was brought out, then a big rice pot, and the two dishes on large platters that we both could serve ourselves from. When served like this we usually end up taking half of each dish home, and thus get two meals out of one order. However, the clam dish evidently lived up to Bob’s description and B ended up finishing the entire plate. I did take half of my noodles home. Total cost for the two dishes, the free rice and hot tea and our drinks was $23. B evidently liked the black bean sauce, we’ve been back two times since and she ordered the chicken in black bean sauce and last week the beef in black bean sauce. Next time she says she’ll try the oyster sauce, her usual very favorite style that she enjoyed in San Diego but hasn’t found a Vegas place yet that makes it well.

So we’ve been to HK Star three times, and the last two times have each brought half of the order home for next day meals. Once when we were there half the place was screened off for a group that came on three tour busses. Usually there are about 200 people in the place, a lot of family groups with grandparents and kids, but service is fast and the food also comes out quite quickly. We haven’t tried any of the lobster dishes yet, but they do bring out a live lobster for you to approve prior to cooking. One meal the table next to us had a soup that was filled with chicken parts – the woman was really enjoying the chicken feet, munching on four or five before complaining about not enough feet in the soup and being brought more. I can see us going back quite a few more times (but not for the chicken foot soup).

Last week we felt like something lighter before Thanksgiving and ended up at a fish and chips place I read about: Lazy Joe’s Fish and Chips at 7835 South Rainbow. We usually hit one of the many Irish pubs for fish and chips, but since I read a good review thought this might differ. Like HK this place is in a strip mall, but only took up one narrow spot. There were about a dozen people eating there, and Joe himself sat us down. We both ordered the typical cod and chips, opting for two pieces of fish and the seasoned chips, and two drinks. Total order: $26. There is a counter down the center of the place, with deep fryers behind so we could see our food being prepared.

When delivered the fish pieces looked rather small (compared to what we usually had at the pubs) in nice rectangular shapes. The breading looked good, but the first bite was a challenge: the fish was so hard and rubbery that I couldn’t bit off any. We used the supplied plastic knives to cut off small pieces, but chewing was reminiscent of those hard yellow pencil erasers with a fishy taste. After one bite, and a try at the overcooked fries, my wife asked why, and rather than complain in front of the happy crowd we asked for to-go boxes, loaded up and took off for HK. My wife suggested giving the fish to some homeless people, but I thought having it would be worse than having nothing (yes, that bad) and we deposited the boxes in the first dumpster we came across. Back at HK Star it was the beef in black bean sauce for her and Kung Pao chicken for me, total bill $23, with enough for another meal taken home.

End result: Skip Lazy Joe’s and go right to HK Star. Cheaper, more food, and MUCH better.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Three turkey things:
1. Mmm – turkey sandwiches.
2. To get Thanksgiving dinner with the kids and they do the cooking.
3. To come home safely and get to make our own turkey dinner, with the leftovers all for me. (B doesn’t like leftovers much, she would rather new).
4. Did I say how much I like the leftovers from Turkey day? Sandwiches, dressing with gravy, smashed potatoes with gravy, mmmm.

Monday, November 19, 2012


Well, the group from Sweden is gone and the house is rather quiet. I wrote about visiting the Excalibur show, here are the boys practicing their swordsmanship.

A storm system from the west blew through last week, bringing brief showers and higher humidity, along with high clouds that looked rather pleasant at sunset.

Thursday, November 08, 2012

Political talk

Driving in to work today I was listening to NPR on the radio (yes, I am a paying member) and heard an extensive interview with a politician. The interview lasted for over ten minutes, and I was very impressed in how, during the full time period and with many questions, the politician did not provide one single straight answer, made no commitments and no firm statements. No one will be able to play back that interview in a year and say ‘but you said . . .’.

It doesn’t matter what party, probably every senator would be able to participate in an hour long ‘debate’ and never make a commitment, or even say something that would remotely sound like they agree or disagree with a specific point. This morning it was a Republican senator, he was asked about if the commitment to increase revenue meant that he would accept tax hikes on the rich his response, starting with ‘That was a very good question’ moved on to discuss how revenue could be increased in a variety of ways and proceeded through three minutes of talking about the attitude of the electorate and ending up saying absolutely nothing. Very well done senator, I am glad that you are typical of our representatives in Washington and still wonder how anything is ever accomplished.

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Tournament of Kings review

Well, the visiting Swedes have left, flying out from Las Vegas on a very ragged return journey, having to sit in airport in San Francisco and Hanford, Germany for many hours waiting for connecting flights. It was rather busy (and noisy) in our house, with three boys 8,8 and 10, nice to be back to the quiet dull life we have become accustomed to.

We’ve been investigating things to do in Vegas for visiting kids. The list is not very extensive, Las Vegas was an adult town, and then tried to be a kid’s town and the casinos realized they weren’t making money off of kids so it’s back to an adult play place. We took them to Red Rock where the kids climbed the rocks; to the Circus Circus Adventure Dome for a day of rides (Circus Circus and the Excalibur still have big kids sections); the park down the street from our house and finally Friday we made it to the Tournament of Kings at the Excalibur. That was a big hit.

Locals get a 20% discount, but even with that it was still $60 apiece (which includes food and drinks). Entrance to the arena is down under the casino floor in the Excalibur, in the middle of the arcade. Very convenient, so as you wait to get in the kids get to spend more money playing games and winning prizes. All seats are assigned, so there is no reason to rush in to get a special place. Everyone sits at long tables facing a long dirt covered arena; there are only five tiered rows, and almost every seat is good. The people in front are down low enough so even standing they still don’t block your view.

After being seated people come by with pitchers of soda, and also try to sell alcoholic beverages to the adults and fancy light up swords and flowing headpieces to everyone. The show started on time, with a magician and a fool wandering into the arena to acquaint everyone with the rules, and lead us in some practice cheers and demonstrating the proper method of following along. This got people into the mood for the rest of the show, and was not too much of a distraction while the food was being served. There are no utensils; you got a large mug of tomato soup and a plate with a whole small chicken, a few red potatoes and a broccoli stalk. Desert was a fancy apple pop tart type thingie. The meal wasn’t bad – not great, but OK. The price was less than a Cirque show and there was something to eat.

As you were eating the main cast came out, eight knights on horseback were introduced, with each one representing a different seating area of the arena and you were lead to cheer for the one that matched the area you were sitting in. Then the King came and discussed what was happening and lead everyone in a few toasts – Huzzah! There were women dancers and scattered around the arena were a bunch of large guys in tights, bare chested. They were all very muscular, could have fit in for the Thunder from Down Under show and provided something for the women to look at. A bad guy appeared, and after a few minutes the fighting began.

It was all very energetic – the horses galloping fast and lances breaking and swords being swung. From the noise it was evident that there was contact – and there were sparks thrown off by the swords – impressive! The actors were very energetic, with a lot of falls, rolling around and jumping. Everyone was encouraged to cheer for their champion, with the bad guy coming out at the end for a very dramatic final scene, with fireworks and big flames and loud explosions. The boys really enjoyed it – they didn’t have to understand any English, there were loud noises and big guys swinging swords and riding horses, and everyone got to stand up and yell and scream and make lots of noise. I was more surprised that I actually liked it.

Final recommendation: yes, go see the Tournament of Kings. Not for the food (though we all did eat it) but for the excitement of horses and fighting and noise. Not as technical as the Cirque shows, but a little less expensive and very enjoyable.