Sampler Platter with Michel Nischan


 It’s also cool in the sense that we want to give the idea of taking food seriously while still having fun.

As this is going to print I’ve got my good buddy Michel Nischan in town. He’s a James Beard Foundation Award winner, and his Westport, Connecticut restaurant that he opened with Paul Newman, Dressing Room: A Homegrown Restaurant, is incredible. Everything he does focuses on a more healthful, organic, and locally sustainable food future; if you’ve been paying any attention to my previous columns you know that’s what I’m all about, too.

We’re teaming up for a special James Beard Taste America event at Simon @ Palms Place. It’s going to be-well, was by now-a reception with apps like crispy rice spicy tuna, then a four-course dinner with wine pairings. My courses: sheep’s milk ricotta gnudi with late tomatoes and basil pesto, and Colorado lamb chops with pomegranate glaze and cream farro. Michel’s: seared scallops and cured pork belly with antebe with polenta, and pan-friend angel food cake. Sounds pretty good, huh?

Right now, we’re also changing the menus at all three restaurants, which is normal. We change seasonally, based on what the public is eating and what the local markets are doing. Simon LA has 11 new items, like a Kurobata pork chop, wild king salmon, and brick-roasted organic chicken. Simon @ Palms Place now has that Colorodo lamb, cider-braised baby back ribs, and gnudi. We’re also talking about doing a brunch on Sundays at the Palms, letting the employees wear their pajamas, having a nurse behind a Bloody Mary bar, and a sake/sushi side bar kind of thing. What could be better on a Sunday in Vegas?

One dish that isn’t changing is our dessert dish, the junk food platter. There’s Hostess cupcakes, snowballs, caramel corn, cotton candy, peanut butter ice cream, cookies to go in a bag, all on a platter with a thick milkshake. That’s my play on things, inspired by my childhood. I remember these things that I loved to eat, but when I went back and had them again they were pretty disgusting. So instead we make quality products, using great chocolate and the best ingredients. And I’ve seen the platter imitated now! It’s great! This involves love and effort to create, and I’m happy when I hear it’s caught other people’s imaginations, too.

A lot of my food is somewhat tongue-in-cheek, like the meatloaf I grew up with. Only this time it’s all high quality organic. It’s the same with everything I do: quality products, what’s good for you, and what you like to eat. I want people to find their favorite dishes at my restaurant. I want people to have the feeling of, “Hey, let’s go have that yellowtail carpaccio at Simon, that’s my favorite dish!” Or sometimes it’ll have a twist, like the California pizza, aka the sushi pizza-it’s with wasabi rice (rice cooked with wasabi stock), then crabmeat, tuna on top, nori, a sprinkle of soy sauce, lemon juice, sesame, and…it’s awesome! It’s my version, re-examining the dish.

I’m also going to reinterpret the cooking show. We’ve already shot a teaser for a rock ‘n’ roll cooking road show. We’re going to outfit a bus with a kitchen that folds into a dining room as well. Then it’ll go on the road with a band; I take a bunch of my cooks with me and we do whatever the rockers want. If they want a dinner after the show, or breakfast, or whatever, we make it. Rick Nielson from Cheap Trick is going to play a revolving personality in it. So it’s part reality and part road show. It’s another aspect of the craziness of a music tour, except the difference is that for once there’ll be good food. I’m the guy that will keep all the pieces intact when the drama and the breakdowns occur. I’m excited for it.

It’s also cool in the sense that we want to give the idea of taking food seriously while still having fun. The bottom line in my restaurants is that we’re looking for the best organic products, trying new ideas, and the food is real. We’re keeping it real. When you go around the world and you see people who are seriously into it, who love it and live for it, you get a great feeling, and that’s the type of restaurant I always wanted to have. You can get anything from a tuna tartare to a meatloaf, so you can get anything you want.

Other than that, the scene’s been great lately. From Michael Phelps to Jean-Georges Vongerichten, Jamie Foxx, Ashlee and Jessica Simpson, Paris Hilton, Criss Angel, Holly Madison, and a lot of other really amazing people, the vibe’s been just what we shoot for. Oh, and if you’re thinking about New Year’s Eve already, at the Palms there’s always something going on. I’ll be there and at Cathouse, running back and forth between the two. So come have some fun and great food, or track me down for at least a toast. And you can always email me at