Chef James Mendoza has been making the rounds at off-Strip casino Mexican restaurant kitchens. He worked at Bamboleo at Rio, opened Mi Casa at the Silverton and now runs the show at the Hard Rock Hotel’s Pink Taco, which recently renovated its menu. “I’m just continuously cooking Mexican food and eating at different restaurants to see what’s out there and try to blend new elements into my style,” says the Southern California native.
Takeout pick: pupusas “I crave Salvadoran food. There’s a little shop across from UNLV. I like to stop in and take home about a dozen pupusas at a time.”
Condiment of choice: Cholula “I like spicy food, and when I go out to eat it’s not usually spicy enough for me. I have to have it.”
Kitchen influence: Richard Sandoval “He’s one of the chefs I’ve followed and watched and tried to learn from. I went recently to try his restaurant Isla at Treasure Island and didn’t realize they had changed it into a seafood place.”
Home-cooked meal: steak “Definitely a steak, maybe with a béarnaise sauce. I like to play a little bit with something I don’t do here at Pink Taco, get out of my ordinary realm.”
Cocktail of choice: vodka tonic “I like to settle in and relax with my drink and a cigar.”