Risk & Reward
Joe Mikulich, Oscar Amador Edo and Roberto Liendo.
About 10 years ago, I was broke. I had come back from touring frat houses across the United States, performing comedy for bros and their sorority significant others and had no place set up to live. At the time, a friend from high school was building a business empire in California and told me I could stay at his house here in Las Vegas, watch the property and handle his affairs as needed.
Some would call me a glorified houseboy, but this article is not about my weekly phone calls to my mother. Some would say I was doing my old pal a service – I once even prevented a robbery by turning on the lights at 3am, thereby scaring off the predators. I say I was lucky to have a such a generous friend, one who offered me a home and put up with all my quirks on his monthly visits back to Las Vegas.
While I didn’t have much money, I did have another way of expressing my gratitude. Ever since high school, I knew the best restaurants in town. If my guidance counselor during my senior year had suggested that I become a food writer, he would have been prescient. This other way of showing my appreciation to my benevolent landlord was to make sure we went out for the best meals while he was in town. He would have nothing but the finest food on my watch, and I would too, because you know, what are friends for?
For a year, I begged him to go to Raku, the Japanese robata grill in Chinatown that changed the landscape of Asian dining in Las Vegas. Back then it was new and different, and for those who had never experienced Japanese charcoal-grill cooking, it could be a bit obtuse. Finally, my amigo relented, and we had a stunning dinner at the Chinatown hotspot. When I asked my comrade how he felt about the meal, he said, “Jason. I have only one regret.” I looked at him inquisitively. He continued, “That it took me a year to listen to you to get to this place.”
A decade later, I found myself in my friend’s proverbial shoes. As a food writer, I pride myself on being up on all the latest and greatest restaurants. But, admittedly, one fell through the cracks. While last year seemed to present a new, hot restaurant opening every week, one of them got lost in the shuffle for me.
And it wasn’t that I didn’t know about it. It wasn’t that I hadn’t heard the rave reviews from those who had dined there. It wasn’t that I hadn’t seen all the year-end awards it won in various local publications. It just took me too long to finally get there.
The acclaimed EDO Tapas had been open since last summer before my initial visit this past winter, and after a blow-you-away experience, courtesy of restauranteur Roberto Liendo and chef Oscar Amador Edo, I found myself saying the same thing my old pal did. “Jason, I have only one regret. That it took me so long to get to this place.”
No matter. Lately, I’ve been making up for lost time, having one dynamite dining experience after the next at EDO, which, contrary to popular belief, is not called that because it was the former name of Tokyo, though that would make sense given Amador’s Asian flare on many plates. Says Liendo of the moniker, which is partially a play on Chef Amador Edo’s name, “(It stands for) Extra Day Off. The way the name came, we were thinking of a name that people in the industry can easily remember. In New York, they have Employees Only. Originally, we were thinking this place would be more of an industry hangout. People would come after work.”
That was a miscalculation on Liendo’s and Amador Edo’s part. Try to get a table without a reservation any Friday night around 7 pm and see how long the wait will be.
What makes EDO so exciting is the risks the team is willing to take. Of the philosophy that he and Amador Edo share, Liendo states, “We didn’t want it to be a classic Spanish restaurant. We’ve seen a lot of classic Spanish restaurants come through. I think classic, nowadays, is boring, at least for us. We respect the restaurants that are classic. But for me, being innovative and being outside of the box and utilizing ingredients from all over the world and bringing in other techniques from other cultures into a Spanish kitchen, that’s a lot of fun. And that goes for any cuisine.”
That means you paella fans out there better get to the restaurant ASAP because before you know it, the ballsy twosome is removing the most famous Spanish dish from their Spanish restaurant’s menu. Instead, diners will be treated to far more exotic – at least for the US – grain preparations. Bomba rice with uni (sea urchin) folded is unctuous and will make you long for a cold day so you can warm up with this comforting dish. This version utilizes a lot of sofrito, garlic aioli and cremosa to bring the flavors out. It’s finished with lobster and chorizo making it about the richest rice plate in Las Vegas.
Another new dish is the kimchi crab cake. The funky, fermented veggies are folded into the cake. It’s served with an uni aioli, shishito peppers, a spicy chili garlic sauce and a fried egg with a kimchi yolk (how do they do that?) to take this bite we all know to new levels.
And then there is the South American corvina crudo with aji limo, orange yuzu dashi, fennel, Granny Smith green apples, cucumber, micro cilantro, and strips of the fried fish on top. It’s okay if you don’t know all those elements. A dish like this sounds more like it belongs on Top Chef than at your neighborhood tapas place, but that’s what makes EDO so thrilling. This is exciting, modern food. EDO presents a culinary spree where the thoughtful chef and owner grab hands with the diner and jump in the deep end together.
While we all love shiny new things, you would be a fool not to get some of the “classics” that made EDO standout from jump street. Montadito is a smoked salmon bruschetta with truffled cream cheese and honey. It appears tableside under a cloche and is imparted with applewood smoke in front of the diner. For a New Jersey boy who misses bagels and lox, this more than fills the void.
Green tartare is a mound of cucumber, zucchini, avocado puree, pistachio vinaigrette, and micro cilantro topped with a furikake flavored chip. Pick whatever classical meat-based tartare you want and tell me this doesn’t stack up right next to it.
The aptly named bikini also shows off. The just over razor-thin pressed sandwich contains sobrassada, a cured sausage from the Baeleric Islands, and mahon cheese, another Spanish prize.
Desserts are whimsical. Granita features strawberry shaved ice, popcorn mousse (yes, you read that correctly) and some actual popcorn for added texture.
Then there’s this: a plate is covered in dehydrated raspberry dust. A compressed watermelon studs the plate along with cherry tomatoes that have been modified in an alkaline solution to bring out their sweetness. Candied pecans, which would be delicious by the handful, loop around the edge of the plate and all of that is complimented by an almond-milk yogurt spuma. It might be difficult to wrap your head around this, but your belly will thank you for ordering it.
EDO also showcases the first gin and tonic cart to make an appearance in Las Vegas. The trendy, movable station is all the rage in Spain but is just gaining traction in the United States. Featuring Monkey 47 from Germany, Hendricks from Holland, and Sip Smith from England, there is always a variety of gins to create a libation with. For those who want to go outside of the classic cocktail box, try a botanically infused gin to get you there.
For the best value, check out the ridiculously low-priced tasting menu for $45. Put your faith in Liendo and Amador Edo. Says Liendo of this way of dining, “Slowly, we want to grow to be more of a tasting restaurant than tapas. This restaurant is more of an experience. We see who has the most fun. Those are the people who experience the restaurant properly.”
As for me and my old buddy, we haven’t seen in each other in a while. He got married and had a bunch of kids. I got not married and had a kid of my own. It’s easy to lose touch when you have other responsibilities. But we text once in a while. And hopefully, we can meet up some time for another great meal together, this time at EDO Tapas. Heck, I might even let him treat…you know, for old times’ sake.
EDO Tapas, 3400 S Jones Blvd #11A, Las Vegas. 702-641-1345. https://edotapas.com
A selection of charcuterie and cheeses.
Acorn-Fed Pluma Ibérica.
EDO’s cocktail cart.
Montadito, Smoked Salmon Crostini, Truffled Cream Cheese and Honey.