Hash Over

Star Canyon to hit Vegas
Dallas kitsch meets the paradigm of taste. Star Concepts Vice President Michael Cox says Star Canyon and the company's developing taqueria restaurant will open in Las Vegas' new Venetian Hotel--a re-creation of Venice--when the hotel development is completed next April. Star Canyon will be located on the hotel's casino floor, while the taqueria will sit on the bank of a river canal on the second floor. The 5,000-square-foot taqueria (typical size for the concept will be 2,000-plus square feet) is the only one of the planned canal establishments that sits right on the hotel's waterway. While he won't disclose the name of the new restaurant, he says it will be loosely tied to Star Canyon. And what about the long-rumored Dallas location for that taqueria? "It's in the can--it's ready to go," assures Cox. "If I can find the space, it'll be open before the end of the year. But the time is slipping by." Cox says that if he doesn't find the right location soon, it's doubtful Dallas will see the taqueria before Vegas does.

Star Concepts was created as a division of Carlson Restaurants Worldwide after the 470-unit operator of TGI Friday's and Italianni's restaurants snagged Star Canyon and AquaKnox from Cox, chef Stephan Pyles, and TCBY president Herren Hickingbotham last spring. The company is part of Carlson's Emerging Brands division, which also includes a division called Brand-X Bars and Cafes. Among the first projects for Brand-X is the Samba Room Cuban Bar & Latin Cafe, an upscale venue with a "tropical-retro-bossa nova" feel. The Samba Room is scheduled to open before the end of the year in the Travis Walk space once home to Cafe Society. Phil Butler, formerly of Havana Cafe Cubano in Chicago, will head Samba Room's kitchen. Havana Cafe was named one of the nation's best new restaurants by Bon Appetit magazine in January.

List watch
More than 130 Texas wines from 18 commercial wineries will butt corks on Friday during the 1998 Lone Star Wine Competition at the Grapevine Convention Center. Medal winners will be announced September 12 at the Texas Wine Tribute Dinner during GrapeFest in Grapevine. The Lone Star event is the only commercial Texas wine competition in the state...Unlike some Pinot Grigios that can taste thin and stripped of fruit, the 1997 Castello D'Albola Pinot Grigio is richly refreshing. With intense grapefruit aromas and hints of fresh straw, this crisp, round wine is as refreshing sipped as an aperitif as it is matched with broiled fish or raw shellfish. Find it on lists at Alfonso's restaurant and Cremona Bistro in Dallas and Protofino in Arlington.

--Mark Stuertz


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