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Desert Companion

The popular vote: Elite Yelp reviewers pick their faves of 2012

Dish of the Year

Seared ahi tuna at The Barrymore

The boyfriend and I were celebrating our anniversary, and this melt-in-your-mouth seared ahi tuna had my guy exclaiming, “I’m having a foodie moment!” No predictable Asian fusion preparation here. This pesce is paired with comforting accompaniments. It’s served atop a decadent polenta and given a touch of earthiness from a porcini ragout. Braised greens lend texture and add a pungent flavor, while the pinot noir reduction is the lightly sweet, umami ribbon that wraps up this piquant package. My only regret: sharing. Love makes you do irrational things. (99 Convention Center Drive, 407-5303, barrymorelv.com) — Jade Webber

Cocktail of the year

The Hummingbird at The Martini

Served in a generous carafe that pours plenty for two, The Hummingbird is a light and zingy mix of St. Germain elderflower liqueur, soda and brut champagne served on the rocks with a twist. Its divine floral and lychee flavors will send it through your straw and down your throat a little quicker than necessary — making you glad your carafe is still half full. Sipping this fizzy treat in one of the cozy chairs by the fireplace makes for a truly delightful libation. (1205 S. Fort Apache Road, 227-8464, themartinilv.com) — Robyn Lew

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Breakfast of the Year

Bread & Butter

Stepping into this unassuming neighborhood joint, your eyes are immediately drawn to the dizzying array of red velvet bagels, Nutella banana muffins, PB&J brioche and other creations that could only be dreamt up by Chef Chris Herrin. Beyond the countertop of sweets, the open kitchen perfumes the air with savory options made to order, from country ham and egg waffle sandwiches smothered with a rosemary béchamel to breakfast pizzas topped with eggs, caramelized onions, mozzarella and potato. Like its namesake, Bread & Butter brilliantly combines sustenance with indulgence when it comes to the first meal of the day. (10940 S. Eastern Ave. #107, 675-3300, breadandbutterlv.com)
— Christopher Shen

Drink of the Year (Non-Alcoholic)

Yuzu soda at Café de Japon

This is the only place in town for true yuzu soda, just like street vendors sell in Japan. It has a pungent and citrus-y zing, but also a touch of sweetness — that’s the complex yuzu fruit for you. The soda also has yuzu rind at the bottom, giving it an extra fresh pop. At the café, the soda is served in a Mason jar. In a hurry? Hop in and take it to go. (5300 Spring Mountain Road #101, 431-8038, cafedejapon.com) — Lisa Rubin

Service of the Year

Parma by Chef Marc

Parma chef/owner Marc Sgrizzi works the room like Sinatra, gladly creating off-menu items the Chairman would approve. Server Krisztian Odor’s charm and memory for your favorite wine and dishes (even my dad’s beloved caponata) demonstrate exceptional service. Spectacular — and unsolicited — desserts arrive on special occasions, and Jedi action includes running a wayward to-go box to the parking lot. The Chef’s Table is presented with forethought, passion and delight, featuring spot-on wine pairings. The whole team is tops, but Krisztian’s contagious smile always leads me to request him when making reservations. (7591 W. Washington Ave. # 110, 233-6272, parmabychefmarc.com)
— Christie Olds

Ambiance of the Year

La Cave at Wynn Las Vegas

La Cave has three distinct spaces, each with its own sultry vibe. The first boasts a cozy bar that feels like a wine cellar. The second, separated by an arched portcullis, is reminiscent of a scene from “Casablanca,” with torchères and low ceilings creating a more intimate atmosphere. Finally, the patio. When we rounded the corner to be seated here, I literally gasped. Cathedral ceilings, tied-back drapes, candlelit tables with wicker chairs and lush lagoon views transported me right out of Vegas and into a Tahitian dream. I’ll return for the ambiance alone. (3131 Las Vegas Blvd. S., 770-7375, wynnlasvegas.com)
— Kathryn Bailey Rose

Best-Kept Secret of the Year

Yummy Grill & Sushi

Forget the rolls and bento boxes. Feasting on an omakase dinner here is a great opportunity for Chef Eric and his team to showcase some of the freshest seafood from around the world. Live seafood includes abalone, sweet-spot prawns, some of the freshest sea urchins from Santa Barbara, plump sea scallops from Boston and fatty o-toro from Spain. Die-hard sushitarians will appreciate Japanese specialties such as kohada, mirugai, shima-aji, and ji-kinmedai direct from Kyushu and the Tsukiji Market in Japan. (7331 W. Lake Mead Blvd. #105, 562-8668)
— Nelson Queja

Date Spot of the Year

Twin Creeks at The Silverton hotel-casino

Twin Creeks’ low-lit, cushy setting is quiet enough to carry on a conversation, while lounge music sets a sexy mood. First-date jitters? Sip them away with my favorite: the orange-vanilla-infused bourbon TC Manhattan. Tapas are great ice-breaker fare, too, when you’re experiencing the same tastes together. And you’ll seal the deal at a steal: Twin Creeks’ half-off tapas and cocktails happy hour (8 p.m. to close, daily) at the lounge makes for a deal-ightful date option. To really impress your date, ask about the off-menu specials. You can thank me at your wedding. (3333 Blue Diamond Road, 263-7777, silvertoncasino.com)
— Jade Webber

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