Citizens Kitchen and Bar
Ultimate Tots Smothered & Covered – Cheddar, Chicken Gravy
The Big Meatball Parm – Beef, Pork, Grandma’s Gravy, Ricotta
Kobe Chili Cheese Fries – Kobe Sirloin, Cheese Sauce, Waffle Fries
Chicken & Waffles – Bacon and Cheddar Waffle, Fried Chicken, Jalapeno Maple Syrup
Crème Brulee French Toast – Strawberries, Custard, Whipped Cream
Red Velvet Pancakes – Whipped Cream Cheese
Classic Carrot Cake – Cream Cheese Frosting
Reese’s Peanut Butter Cookie
Chocolate Chip Cookie
Perfectly fine with French food and well experienced with ‘modernist’ cuisine, both at local spots as well as internationally revered recipients of three Michelin Stars, but born in the Midwest and raised on anything but foie gras or liquid nitrogen cocktails suffice it to say that I’m a fan of the whole “upscale American” movement – the sort of food that takes the shake n’ bake that mother used to make and turns it into something worth leaving the house for, the sort of food that critics love to critique even though they likely cannot make it as well themselves…the sort of food being served at Citizens Kitchen and Bar in Mandalay Bay.
Open 24/7, and operated by the now Hakkasan-acquired Light Group, it was just after 11am that a friend and I arrived at the Citizen hostess podium and dining as guests of the manager it was mere moments before we were led to a large four-top at the restaurant’s back corner – the low-slung leather banquets of soft leather so comfortable that one might want to take a nap in them, particularly with the sounds of Dylan, Zeppelin, and Pink Floyd playing from the speaker system above.
Obviously a restaurant of dual personalities, the weekend brunch a casual and laid back affair while late nights are said to be a raucous mess of patrons exiting nearby Light Nightclub, it was under the watchful eye of a British gentleman named Tim that our meal took place and whether an effect of being known to the chef or simply the young man’s mannerisms the service could not have been better – easily the best I’ve experienced in Mandalay Bay with plenty of whit and knowledge to compliment an eight plate feast with enough food that it could have fed two-to-three more.
Noting up front that the ‘grab n’ go’ section is mostly devoid of housemade options, instead outsourcing all but the cookies and a few cakes due to kitchen constraints, it was with four savory dishes that the meal began and with plenty of par-for-the-course Lavazza to wash it all down the first round was a bit of a mixed bag – the chicken and waffles excessively priced at $24 with both items less crunchy than would be ideal, though the tots and waffle fries each proved crisp and quite capable of holding up to cheese and meats with substantial depth of flavor, an adult-fist of a meatball also standing out with impressive tenderness beneath a good sear in a bath of bright tomato sauce with grated cheese adding just enough salinity to make it all shine.
Moving next to a duo of sweets, it was somewhat surprising that the Red Velvet Pancakes were not to be found on the weekend menu, but with a simple request a substantial stack of three Frisbee-sized discs was produced with each proving exceptionally fluffy and loaded with cocoa beneath a checkerboard of cream cheese frosting, the neighboring French Toast another hefty option with a crunchy topcoat overlying four supple-centered slices dripping with custard as fresh cream and strawberries completed the picture – both plates on par with the best in the city, and the former amongst the best nationwide.
Unwilling to forgo desserts, and as such requesting the rest of the pancakes be packed up, it was with little hesitation that a slice of carrot cake was ordered and clocking in at probably 12-ounces the four layer slice would prove not only enormous but also outstanding, the moist base bespeckled with carrots, raisins, and nuts amidst a bold spice heavy in cinnamon and nutmeg – a pair of freshly made cookies proving equally delicious and thus leaving one to wonder just how much better Citizens could be if it brought the whole pastry department in house.
THREE AND A HALF STARS: Sporting prices similar to other spots on it’s ilk, with a menu built to please anyone at any time of day, one would be hard pressed to name a better 24/7 dining option on the south side end of The Strip than Citizens Kitchen and Bar and with hats off to service as well as hopes for more focus on the pastry program in the coming months it will be interesting to see what, if anything, changes under new management…though hopefully it won’t be the music, pancakes, or Parm.
RECOMMENDED: The Big Meatball Parm, Kobe Chili Cheese Fries, Red Velvet Pancakes
AVOID: Chicken & Waffles, Outsourced Pastry (Muffins, Cupcakes, Brownies, Croissants)
TIP: Offering various menus at different times during the day, those interested in specific items would be well advised to check in advance, though to keep it simple “breakfast” is offered until 11am seven days a week with the restaurant then transitioning to Lunch/Dinner Monday through Friday and Brunch on weekends, the brunch lasting until 4pm before becoming Dinner.
WHAT THE STARS MEAN: 5 World Class, 4 Excellent, 3 Good, 2 Fair, 1 Poor