By Anna Roth
By Pete Kane
By Molly Gore
By Molly Gore
By Pete Kane
By Lou Bustamante
By Pete Kane
By Ashley Goldsmith
Recently, I spent a week traveling the back roads of rural Nevada, perhaps the 10th time I've done this -- a very long story -- so I'll just touch on the wild mustangs and how you've never smelled anything like a hundred miles of unbroken sage and get to the point, which is food. Normally, I like to camp while traveling through rural Nevada, but since I had a few prisons to visit -- like I said, a long story -- I didn't have time, and, with no way to cook, tried to save a few bucks eating on the cheap at the local casinos.
As I was already well aware, the four staples of rural Nevada's casino cuisine are eggs, meat, potatoes, and gravy (an omelet stuffed with sausage, smothered in gravy, with a side of hash browns), which ain't bad for the first few three-meals-a-day, especially with a little blackjack for dessert. But what I'd never done is eat at casinos for a week straight, which is pretty much the ugly, homesick section of the story, so let's skip to the part where, after stopping for Thai food near Auburn on my return to California, I decided to slow down and cook more the next time I travel through rural Nevada. Or at least hit the Basque restaurants in Elko, which, I've heard, are quite good.
Now, if those casinos all had a Gin Joint things might have gone differently, because at Gin Joint, a California-style fusion of Asian, Latin, European, and Middle Eastern cuisines offers as much variety as anyone could ask for. Located next to Dad's Bail Bonds, across the street from the Hall of Justice, the place exudes an urban, almost Bruno's-like aura, with enough faux-wood paneling and exposed brick to let you know it was once a dive bar (the Inn Justice), and enough jazz and backlit liquor bottles to say it isn't anymore.
For me, the joy of getting out of San Francisco has always been twofold, because while I like the contrast of seeing other places, it also makes me realize this is where I belong. And so, to celebrate my return, I invited my friends Michelle and Chloe for an evening of cocktails, fine dining, and tales from the Silver State. Though they'd met once in passing, the matchmaker in me had a feeling these two would bond if given the time, and sure enough, within seconds my two dates were conversing with all the intimacy of sisters on a variety of femalecentric topics whose many depths and nuances escape me now.
Sadly, my story about McGill, Nev., took a back seat to, among other things, the high price of Earl jeans (and if anyone cares, the point is that people who complain about living in a boom town should visit one that's pretty much gone bust). But then, I had a very promising menu to keep me busy, not to mention the house cocktail -- an Absolut Mandrin Cosmopolitan with blood oranges ($6).
Though I've spent many hours extolling the bitter-crisp virtues of Mandrin and tonic, no sooner had my Cosmopolitan been set before me than a certain, special something was in evidence. A wickedly elegant blend of lime juice, triple sec, blood oranges, and my favorite 100 percent grain-neutral product of Sweden, the Cosmo's clean, fruity precision touched me in a way few cocktails have before. Yes, it was love at first sip, and therefore I would like to make two requests of the public at large: 1) If you are a bar manager, please stock up on blood oranges; and 2) If you are a friend of mine and wind up in jail, please don't send me to Dad's with your bail money, because I'm only human, Gin Joint is right next door, and by the time you get out I'll probably have new friends with whom to enjoy this magnificent drink.
Well, that was enough for me, and I left. Then returned a minute later for another Cosmopolitan, not to mention all the food we'd ordered. As I mentioned, Gin Joint draws freely from the world's cuisines, a jack-of-all-trades gamble that, in most cases, pays off. My favorite appetizer was the Japanese-inspired salmon tempura maki roll with mango-soy dipping sauce ($5.95, and if I had to choose one sushi dish to put on a menu, tempura'd maki would definitely be it) -- a crisp, golden-skinned roll served with julienned carrot, radish, and cucumber sprinkled with black sesame.
The fried risotto ($6.25) -- a ball of deep-fried rice, stuffed with ham and fontina cheese, topped with tomato sauce -- wasn't as successful, since the deep-frying robbed the risotto of its texture, fusing it into a bland, starchy mass. Nor was anyone impressed by the bruschetta of the day ($4.95) -- eggplant -- which, though an interesting idea, was greasy, and none too pretty, as if eggplant ever could be. The mixed greens with feta, toasted walnuts, basil, and balsamic vinaigrette ($6.25), on the other hand, showed a fine understanding of the art of salad-making, since the delicate vinaigrette allowed the meatiness of the nuts to come through. Our final appetizer -- the chipotle red potatoes with cilantro lime aioli ($3.50) -- was also a hit, a wholesome pot of pure potato happiness that Chloe, after summoning the many muses of heaven and Earth, declared with a flourish to be "so good."