Mouthing Off

Radek run: The news that a Las Vegas hotel is interested in luring Papillon to Nevada from its home at 250 Josephine Street spread quickly last week, but owner Radek Cerny says the move's not quite as likely as it seemed in Norm Clarke's Denver Rocky Mountain News column. "Yeah, they are talking to me, and, yeah, I am listening," Cerny says. "But I have some time before I have to make a decision, and I don't know. It's flattering, but it would change everything."

The Strip-located mega-hotel in question, Paris Casino Resort, is scheduled to open in September, and there's room for five to seven fine-dining restaurants in the $760 million casino. The signature eatery is a fifty-story replica of the Eiffel Tower, but the whole concept is about France, and Papillon would fit nicely into that setting. "I guess the publicity about Papillon in the Zagat guide made them check it out," Cerny says. "That was a nice plug." For the record, Zagat named Papillon one of the country's fifty top restaurants.

But Papillon wasn't the hotel's first choice. "They have tried to get several French chefs, like Alain Ducasse," Cerny says. "He wanted a million dollars just to go there and look at it, and that made them kind of upset. They were like, 'You are not that great, you know.'" Fortunately, Cerny adds, money is not his most important consideration. "I don't want to live in Las Vegas. I like it here, and if I do this, I will have to live in Las Vegas."

The hotel has given Cerny four months to make a decision.
Now, whether Cerny's latest venture, Radex (see review above), will get similar accolades from Zagat is anyone's guess right now, but I think it's one of the better restaurants in Denver. Not the least of the reasons for that opinion is the following recipe, which combines spicy shrimp cakes with a balsamic-kissed butter sauce. If you can't get Japanese breadcrumbs (also called panko) at an Asian market, shred up a loaf of day-old French bread or even any white bread. But whatever you do, don't use fine-textured commercial breadcrumbs, which will make nothing but a big mess.

Radex's Shrimp Cakes
With Balsamic Beurre Blanc
1 cup Japanese breadcrumbs
1/2 ounce mayonnaise
1/4 cup half-and-half
1/2 small carrot
1 1/2 ribs celery
3/4 pound large shrimp (16-20 count), peeled and dried off
2-3 cups heavy cream
2 tablespoons fresh chives, minced
1 tablespoon fresh dill
1 tablespoon celery leaves, minced
1/2 cup fresh or frozen corn
1/2 pound small shrimp, peeled and chopped
lemon juice to taste
black pepper to taste
salt to taste
sugar to taste
cayenne to taste

Combine breadcrumbs, mayonnaise and half-and-half in medium-sized bowl. Set aside. Place carrot and celery in a food processor and process until fine; remove vegetables and place in a colander, squeezing as much water from them as possible. Set aside. Place large shrimp and 2 cups cream into food processor and process, addding more cream as needed, until mixture resembles the texture of mousse. Add remaining ingredients (go easy on the salt) to carrot mixture and mix gently; fold carrot mixture, breadcrumb mixture and shrimp mixture together. Taste and correct seasonings if needed.

Heat large skillet over medium-high heat and add olive oil. Shape shrimp mixture into patties and saute in oil until cooked through and golden, about three minutes per side. Place on plates and spoon balsamic beurre blanc over top. Serves 4 as an appetizer.

Balsamic Beurre Blanc
2/3 cup balsamic vinegar
3 shallots, minced
1/3 cup white wine vinegar
1/3 cup dry white wine
1 clove garlic, minced
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, chilled and cut into tablespoons

In a heavy-bottomed pan, bring balsamic vinegar and a third of the shallots to a boil over high heat. Reduce until a third of the liquid is left; set pan aside. In another heavy-bottomed pan, bring wine vinegar, white wine, garlic and remaining shallots to a boil. Reduce until a third is left. Remove the pan from heat and whisk in butter pieces, a tablespoon at a time, until all are incorporated. Strain into a bowl, then strain balsamic mixture into the same bowl. Use immediately.

Tongue Thai'd: Oooh, another message from Mr. Grumpy. This time he was calling into question the accuracy of my March 25 statement in Mouthing Off that the Chittivej family's Chao Praya Thai, at 5411 Quebec in Commerce City, was the first Thai restaurant in the United States. Apparently, Mr. Grumpy has been eating Thai food "for 35 years in Chicago," and he didn't buy that Denver would have been the first location for a Thai restaurant.

Well, Mr. Grumpy, there may have been Thai restaurants before La-Iad "Lily" Chittivej opened her original eatery and Chao Praya forerunner, Chada Room, at 20th Avenue and Logan in Denver back in 1961--three years before you started eating Thai food--but if there were, they were operating illegally. When Lily applied for a restaurant license, there was no classification for Thai. The late Lily's grandson, Pete, told me that the government created the Thai designation on the spot. "They just didn't know what to do with that," he says. "They told her that she was the first one to open a Thai restaurant in the whole country." Lily's husband had been stationed at Fitzsimons during the Korean War, and that's when she fell in love with Denver.

And a few years after that, Lily and her family helped Denver fall in love with Thai.



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