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Desert Companion

Side Dish Awards

Surprise of the Year

Yonaka. Brilliant new Japanese cuisine is popping up all over the dining scene, but no one expected a former French café at Flamingo and Decatur to emerge as a palace of future-sushi, a thoughtfully experimental kitchen where any fresh, bright ingredient you can think of — and many you can’t — find their perfect place on a plate with raw fish. Toss in some fun izakaya standards and an insanely cheap happy hour, and you’ve got Yonaka, where hipness and comfort find a delicious balance. BR 4983 W. Flamingo Road, 685-8358, yonakajapaneserestaurant.com

 

Comeback of the Year

Bradley Ogden. A loss for tourists is a gain for locals. After Bradley Ogden’s 2012 exit from the Strip, the Michelin-starred chef quickly reappeared with son Bryan at Hops & Harvest. Expect creative riffs on classic American comfort fare, like slow-roasted short ribs with maple-beer glaze, a perfectly gooey artisanal grilled cheese, and a silky butterscotch pudding. Locally sourced ingredients, a solid beer list and a must-try happy hour add to its appeal. It’s all of Ogden’s talent, minus the buttoned-down feel of his former eponymous restaurant. Debbie Lee 450 S. Rampart Blvd. #120, 476-3964, hopsandharvestlv.com

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Food and Beverage Professional of the Year

Sarah Johnson at Mandalay Bay. What does a self-proclaimed über beer nerd do when handed the reins of a moribund beer program at a major Strip property? Mandalay Bay’s cherubic Sarah Johnson — to our knowledge, the Strip’s only female food and beverage director — dove in and has quickly made her mark with diversified beer selections throughout‚ including Lagunitas IPA on the casino floor (!) and beer-centric food-pairing events. As a certified cicerone, she knows her suds — and for this, we salute her. JB

 

Trendy Treat of the Year

“One of Those” at Lulu’s Bread & Breakfast. Its cryptic name may be designed to avoid the wrath of Manhattan baker Dominique Ansel, trademark-holder of the term “cronut,” but there’s nothing generic about the delightful decadence infused into this flaky, cream-filled masterpiece. Especially when the cream filling is espresso-flavored, we’ll put the Lulu’s version of the doughnut-croissant hybrid up against NYC's or anybody else's. BR 6720 Skypointe Drive, 437-5858, lulusonthemove.com

 

Buffet of the Year

Wicked Spoon. Heaps of roasted bone marrow, perfect kale salads, strawberry-balsamic ice cream: The buffet at The Cosmopolitan may not be the city’s largest or flashiest, but it’s hands down the most inventive. Wild boar sneaks into sliders, beef tongue stars in individual shepherd’s pies, and fried pig tails stand in for the standard chicken wing. There are plenty of safe bets for conservative palates (prime rib, shrimp cocktail), but if you need any more convincing, I have four words for you: macaroni and cheese bar. DL Inside The Cosmopolitan, 3708 Las Vegas Blvd. S., 551-7772, cosmopolitanlasvegas.com

 

Soul Food of the Year

Tie: Fat Choy and Top Notch Barbeque. The only prerequisite for soul food: The chef has to love his own cooking. That’s clearly the case for DIY restaurateurs Sheridan Su and Jimmy Cole, respectively dishing up the most satisfying Asian-American and barbecue grub in town. Su’s Fat Choy is already famous for its pork buns, but the short rib and fried egg-topped burger, and chicken and waffles are just as great. Meanwhile, no one does tender, smoky, intensely zesty spare ribs like Cole at Top Notch. Local food rocks. BR Inside the Eureka Casino, 595 E. Sahara Ave., 794-3464, fatchoylv.com; Top Notch Barbeque, 9310 S. Eastern Ave. #124, 883-1555, topnotchbarbeque.com

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