Rao’s, Las Vegas NV

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Rao’s

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Olive Loaf, Rustic White, Cheesy Flatbread with Tomato Pepper Cream

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Baked Clams – Little Neck Clams with Oregano Bread Crumb Stuffing

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Gorgonzola Meatballs – Rao’s Traditional Meatballs in Gorgonzola Cream Sauce with Toasted Ciabatta

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Traditional Rao’s Meatballs – Ground Veal, Pork and Beef, Italian Breadcrumbs and Seasoning, Marinara Sauce

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Bucatini alla Carbonara – Pancetta, Egg Yolk, Cream, Pecorino Romano Cheese, Sage

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Ravioli Purses – Beggar Purse Ravioli with Bartlett Pears and Ricotta Cheese, Brown Butter, Sage, Dried Cranberries

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Rigatoni Filetto Di Pomodoro – Pancetta, White Onion, Cracked Black Pepper, San Marzano Tomatoes, Pecorino Romano Cheese

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Veal Parmesan – Pounded and Breaded Veal Chop with Marinara Sauce and Melted Mozzarella and Parmesan Cheese

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Uncle Vincent’s Lemon Chicken – Charcoal Broiled, Bone-In Chicken, Uncle Vincent’s Famous Lemon Sauce

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Duck Cannelloni – Duck Confit, Ricotta Cheese, Sage & Dried Cranberries Rolled in Fresh Pasta

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Cannoli alla Siciliana – Deep Fried Pastry Shell Filled with Ricotta Cream, Candied Fruits, Chocolate

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Dessert Platter – Peanut Butter Tart with Graham Cracker Crust and Chocolate Ganache, Traditional Tiramisu, and New York Cheesecake

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Double Espresso on Ice

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Generally unamused by Restaurant Week, an excuse for infrequent diners to eat dumbed-down menus from restaurant’s they’d not normally visit in the name of a charity that would be better served by direct donations, it was only long-standing New York Import Rao’s at Caesars Palace that seemed willing to do something interesting with the $50.15 prix-fixe, a selection of novelties offered in addition to the restaurant’s fabled fare finally providing a reason to check the space off a long-term list of places as-yet unseen.

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Currently toqued by Chef Fatimah Madyun with pastry duties assigned to Laura Augsburger, Rao’s Las Vegas was the second amongst three current iterations of the East Harlem classic whose ‘impossible’ reservations and ‘owned’ tables garner far more attention than the food, yet with the Southern Italian recipes of Frank Pellegino presented true to form the menu itself is a well-culled pick em’ of plates to please any palate, the “On-Strip” pricing and stereotyped Eye-talian service an expected footnote probably best ignored.

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Dining as a group of five, and as such able to sample widely from a tasting served in four family-style courses despite initial suggestions that the Restaurant Week option could not be ‘added’ to a larger scale meal, it was in a basket of fresh bread in three varieties paired to peppery tomato cream that the meal began and as much as restraint was attempted given all the upcoming carbs, any resistance proved futile as the warm trio was replenished more than once – the bites not topped with creamy spread proving more than amenable to sopping up any sauce gone astray.

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Dividing the meal into appetizers, pastas, entrees, and dessert, with a bit of overlap to balance out courses two and three, it was after a short delay that round one was delivered along with glasses of wine for those choosing to imbibe, and although the well seasoned clams proved somewhat skimpy in portion given the pricetag there is little argument that Rao’s signature meatballs more than justify their legendary status, the balance of meat and breadcrumbs somehow dense and dainty at the same time with a spice profile that melded well to both crushed San Marzanos as well as the special cream sauce rife with blue cheese.

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Noting that the large space was perhaps 2/3 full throughout much of the stay, and that waiters appeared stretched across sections that saw them working two-tiers of the restaurant at once, there was again a sizable delay paired to empty glasses prior to pastas presented by a pair of back-servers, yet when the three piping hot plates arrived almost all sins were immediately forgiven, the imported dry bucatini prepared perfectly al dente beneath a smooth lacquer of eggs, pork, and cream while the tubes of Rigatoni were equally well textured amidst an aromatic red sauce, the housemade purses a far more mild option that may have benefitted from a bit of salt or grated Pecorino, though the bites taken with dried cranberries were admittedly quite nice.

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Seeing secondi arrive in a much more expedited manner than the prior course, each dish served with an appropriate warning that plates were ‘extremely hot,’ it was here that the Restaurant Week special of Duck Cannelloni was presented and although the composition was perhaps a bit reminiscent of the aforementioned ravioli the utilization of confit duck proved a substantial upgrade to the milky ricotta in terms of both taste and texture, the $51 Veal Parmesan a bit overpriced despite good quality and substantial portion while the lemon chicken was moist and surprisingly restrained, the crispy charred skin proving a more than admirable foil to the citrus.

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Already selecting a single cannoli as part of the prix fixe, and adding on a $32 platter with three more options to share, dessert at Rao’s no doubt trends towards the classics and as good as both the dense cheesecake and crisp tube of lightly lemon cream were, neither could outmatch the block of espresso-soaked ladyfingers amidst mascarpone, let alone the peanut butter tart that no-doubt tipped its hat to Reese’s while simultaneously meeting the tongue both rich and as light as a cloud.

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THREE STARS: While some purists may suggest that such ‘one-off’ concepts are disingenuous to the original others may consider such things to be a benefit providing the cooking is on point, particularly since most lack the political (or mob) ties required to visit the original and would likely be better served eating somewhere else in The Big Apple instead. Setting aside high prices and service that would benefit from a few more hands-on-deck, Rao’s is a worthy dinner for those seeking rustic red sauce on the Strip.

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RECOMMENDED: Meatballs, Bucatini alla Carbonara, Peanut Butter Tart.

AVOID: If you are gluten intolerant or on a low-carb diet…perhaps the Baked Clams as well.

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TIP: Daily specials, which are recited tableside, are available per Chef’s whim and can be confirmed by a phone call. Additionally, like everywhere else in Caesars, the Total Rewards Card will save a dollar or two per plate.

WHAT THE STARS MEAN: 5 World Class, 4 Excellent, 3 Good, 2 Fair, 1 Poor

https://www.caesars.com/caesars-palace/restaurants/raos

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Posted in Bread Basket, Coffee, Dessert, Food, Italian, Las Vegas, Nevada, Pork, Rao's, Tiramisu

Siegel’s 1941, Las Vegas NV

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Siegel’s 1941

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Coffee

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Chocolate Nutella Pancakes w/ Vermont Maple Syrup

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Chicken & Waffle – Boneless Chicken, Sausage Gravy & Pure Maple Syrup

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Challah French Toast – Vanilla, Cinnamon, Confectioner’s Sugar & Pure Maple Syrup

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Fat Irish Corned Beef Hash – Crispy Home Fries & Poached Eggs

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White Toast and Butter

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Monte Cristo – Shaved Ham, Gruyere Cheese on Grilled Brioche with Fries

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Miami Cuban – Ham, Pulled Pork, Swiss & Pickle with Slaw

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Carolina Pulled Pork Sandwich – Coleslaw on Sesame with Fries

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Chicken Pot Pie with Steamed Broccoli

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Spaghetti w/ Hand Rolled Meatballs and Garlic Bread

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Chicken Parmigiana with Spaghetti and Garlic Bread

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Salted Caramel Turtle Pie – Chocolate Mousse Topped w/ Salted Caramel & Pecans on Ginger Snap & Graham Cracker Crust w/ Tahitian Vanilla Bean Ice Cream

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Brioche Bourbon Bread Pudding – Tahitian Vanilla Bean Ice Cream & Bourbon Sauce

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Perhaps the most aspiring downtown hotel dining project in recent memory, and one that instantly sparked interest given the 24/7 concept within the historic El Cortez, it was with three friends that a four-course feast was enjoyed at Siegel’s 1941, the sizeable space and immense menu showing promise of great things to come despite only officially being open for five days at the time of our mid-morning arrival.

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Inspired by Bugsy Siegel, an early investor in the El Cortez, with a soundtrack that veers vintage as Rat Pack classics float beneath gilded ceilings overhead, Siegel’s 1941 features several touches harkening the era for which it is themed and with Virginia Hill gazing on over wood and red leather the menu is wide-reaching with breakfast, ‘all-day,’ and late-nite versions offered depending on the time, the transition from breakfast occurring at 11:00am proving the impetus for the party’s 10:15am reserved table.

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Managed by Scott Farber and conceptualized by ESPLV, a design group behind several local restaurants with varying degrees of value, it would seem obvious that a concept as aggressive as Sigel’s 1941 would be marred by a few issues in its opening days, and fully admitting that staff/kitchen transitions are one of those ‘kinks’ it was no-doubt a pleasant surprise that saw Scott diligently looking over his team throughout the stay, a middle-aged Hispanic woman providing almost universally impressive service given the complex coursing of the order, while a few kitchen delays and errors in execution seemed a bit more egregious – the chicken sent in place of requested eggplant, while a side of meatballs was instead served as the spaghetti centered entrée with a whole lot of watery noodles eventually going to waste.

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Beginning with breakfast, a few cups of coffee as well as orange juice, milk, plus a cocktail all brought along with water with refills rarely requiring a request, course one saw four plates delivered and while the flaccid pancakes with a simple spread of nutella could have benefitted from a bit more imagination both the chicken and waffles beneath peppery sausage gravy and the challah French Toast were as good as any served within a local diner, the use of 100% pure maple syrup a definite highlight, as was the quality of house-made corned beef acting to anchor a hash that featured golden-brown potatoes and lightly seared red peppers alongside a pair of poached eggs.

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Designating round two as ‘the sandwich course,’ it was on the advice of EatingLV that ‘the city’s best Cuban’ was ordered, and served with fries on a silver tray one would be hard pressed to argue with such an assessment, particularly as relates to authenticity, as each ingredient melded nicely between layers of toasty pressed bread, the ‘Monte Cristo’ equally tasty and loaded with ham despite missing an opportunity to be the only deep-fried version currently offered in Sin City while the ‘Carolina’ pulled pork was unfortunately quite dreadful, a total lack of vinegar in either the pig or the slaw not at all resembling the stuff served in the Southeast while the bun was a soggy mess mere seconds after arrival.

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Receiving repeat apologies for a delay that stretched just under forty minutes at the midpoint of the meal, it was almost as though the extra time only served to confuse the kitchen since the aforementioned mistakes were sent out despite being correctly listed on the ticket, but thankfully not meeting any harboring a distaste for animal flesh as the enormous chicken parmesan was an exceedingly high quality rendition with light breading and good sauce while meatballs were unfortunately a bit dry and almost entirely devoid of spice, the pot pie undoubtedly proving a far more worthwhile bite as golden puff pastry formed a buttery dome over a creamy potage chockablock full of chicken and vegetables that outdid many more expensive versions found elsewhere in Sin City.

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Not yet dialing in the dessert menu, and as such unable to offer the Strawberry Ice Box Pie while also admitting that breakfast pastries are currently brought in from an outside source, the meal conclude with a duo of Bread Pudding and Turtle Pie, the former a dense block of brioche swimming in bourbon infused sauce beneath slowly melting ice cream while the later was an absolute must-order for those fancying caramel or chocolate, the filling a spot-on rendition of the inspirational candy with a graham cracker crust crisp too the tooth and heavy with spice.

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THREE AND A HALF STARS: Already rivaling anything downtown for 24-hour fare, and only likely to get better with time, Siegel’s 1941 is the sort of retro-rebrand that places such Roxy’s at the Stratosphere have long aspired to emulate – a place where tourists and locals alike can get a good meal at a fair price, all while experiencing the old-school Vegas vibe that flows throughout its longest continuously running hotel and gaming space.

RECOMMENDED: Chicken Pot Pie, Miami Cuban, Chicken Parmesan, Salted Caramel Turtle Pie, Fat Irish Corned Beef Hash.

AVOID: Carolina Pulled Pork Sandwich, Meatballs.

TIP: Parking is available for free within the El Cortez Parking Garage for those with a player’s card, something to consider with the recent $2/hr monetization of all downtown meters.

http://elcortezhotelcasino.com/dining/siegels-1941/

WHAT THE STARS MEAN: 5 World Class, 4 Excellent, 3 Good, 2 Fair, 1 Poor

Posted in Bread Basket, Bread Pudding, Breakfast, Coffee, Dessert, Food, French Toast, Ice Cream, Las Vegas, Nevada, Pancakes, Pork, Siegel's 1941, Waffles

Chocolate and Spice Bakery [2,] Las Vegas NV

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Chocolate and Spice

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Crème Brulee French Toast

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Red Velvet Cake

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Chocolate Chip and Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

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Chocolate Salted Caramel Brownie

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Blueberry Scone

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Owned and operated by Las Vegas Boulevard veteran Megan Romano, last seen during a December 2012 trip with friends before relocating to Las Vegas, Chocolate and Spice had long been on the ‘to return’ list, and when absolutely atrocious customer service from the new team at Bonjour Bakery quickly turned me off to ever recommending their goods again the timing proved fortuitous, though the simple pairing of the words “Aunt” and “Jemima” soon left me wondering just how ‘artisan’ anything else could be from a pastry chef so bold as to peddle her goods at the Downtown Summerlin “Farmer’s Market.”

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Admittedly a hit and miss experience during the previous visit, some items shining while others were texturally compromised or simply over sugared, trip two to the cute West Sahara space saw little changed in terms of décor or execution, the oft-raved scones still as delicious as ever with blueberries in place of cherries while two cookies fared quite well as crisp rims encircled buttery centers that avoided the common pitfall of trending too sweet.

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Tempted by a half-dozen cakes, even at the early hour of 7:30am, it was unfortunate that the brightly colored red velvet was fairly faint with cocoa considering cream cheese frosting that was appropriately tangy with a texture smooth as silk, and although the brownie upped the chocolate content plenty there was something strange about the brownie’s overall texture – neither salt nor caramel really prevalent, instead replaced by a cloying sweetness and ‘coating’ sort of mouthfeel that leads one to question the presence of paraffin amongst the ingredients used.

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Moving last to one of the restaurant’s prepped-to-order signatures, a “Crème Brulee” French Toast that proves a bit of a misnomer as the bread is never actually torched after being dredged in custard and pan fried crisp, it is here that the main source of my complaints truly came to light – the answer to a question of whether the maple syrup was 100% pure answered with the name of Monsanto’s favorite racially tinged pseudo-syrup making me thankful I always carry my own while putting into question the quality of every single item I’d earlier consumed.

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TWO AND A HALF STARS: Considered by some to be one of the city’s best locally owned bakeries, but clearly willing to cut corners despite prices that that certainly aren’t “cheap,” one is left to wonder how Chef Romano has gotten so far with such a business model, an Trotter alumni who would no doubt disappoint her former employer if he were able to walk into Chocolate and Spice today.

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RECOMMENDED: Scones, Oatmeal Cookie.

AVOID: Aunt Jemima Syrup, Brownies of equally questionable ingredient sourcing, Red Velvet Cake.

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TIP: Open at 7:00am Monday through Saturday and closed on Sundays.

WHAT THE STARS MEAN: 5 World Class, 4 Excellent, 3 Good, 2 Fair, 1 Poor

http://chocolatenspice.com/

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Posted in Breakfast, Chocolate and Spice, Chocolate and Spice Bakery, Dessert, Food, French Toast, Las Vegas, Nevada

Bartolotta Ristorante di Mare [2,] Las Vegas NV

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Bartolotta Ristorante di Mare

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The Dream – Perrier-Jouet Grand Brut Champagne, St. Germain Elderflower Liqueur, Preserved Hibiscus

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Iced Tea

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Wheat, Ciabatta, Baguette with Salted Butter from Normandy

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Calamaretti Wild Caught with Lemon

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Red Mullet with Caper and Olives over Frisee, Sicilian Amberjack with Roasted Radicchio and Anchovy Sauce

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Pasticcio di Fegatini d’Anatra – Silky Duck Liver Mousse, Brandy, Marsala, Bay Leaf, Butter with Brioche Points

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Crustacean Duo – Imperial Langoustine and Slipper Lobster with Roasted Garlic Butter

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Raviolo di Ricotta con Caciotta Toscana – Sheep’s Milk Ricotta Ravioli, Tuscan Pecorino Cheese, Marsala Wine Glaze / Gnocchi di Patate con Fonduta di Pomodoro – Potato Gnocchi, Creamy Tomato Sauce, Butter, Parmigiano-Reggiano

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Risotto ai Frutti di Mare – Risotto, Scallops, Shrimp, Lobster, Clams, Crab, Cuttlefish, Octopus / Lasagnette con Ragu di Crostacei – Rags of Pasta, Lobster, Shrimp, Crab, White Wine, Tomato

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San Pietro – Roasted over Zucchini with Salmoriglio (Olive Oil, Garlic, Parsley, Oregano, Lemon,) Cruda (Tomatoes, Arugula, Garlic, Red Onion, Olive Oil, Red Wine Vinegar,) Agrumi (Sicilian Citrus, Orange, Lemon, Olive Oil)

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Tasting of Gelati, Sorbetti, Granita – Moscato, Pineapple, Blood Orange, Raspberry, Lemon, Apricot, Black Currant, Coconut, Mango, Zabaglione, Chocolate, Pistachio, Amarena Cherry, Giaduja, Torrone, Dark Chocolate, Vanilla, Espresso

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Double Espresso on Ice and Moscato

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Tahitian Vanilla Bean Semifreddo, Dried Figs in Red Wine, Bitter Chocolate Shavings

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Ligurian Lemon Cake, Rosemary Gelato, Sweet Balsamic Syrup

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Warm Chocolate Banana Budino, Passion Fruit Pearls, Banana Gelato

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Chocolate-Olive Oil Spuma

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Baba Al Rhum with White Chocolate Cream

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Last visited in 2005, under unique circumstances with people who’d rarely splurge in such a space, the only thing that had precluded a return to Paul Bartolotta’s eponymous Ristorante di Mare was the continuous onslaught of newer or ‘trendier’ options, but returning with friend who, shockingly, also had overlooked the restaurant for more than two years one simply wonders why such a gem is so infrequently cited as one of the city’s true destinations to dine.

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Recently renovated, now with light whites brightening spaces that once felt more formal, and managed by a gentleman named Warren Richards who went so far as to set up an unannounced Skype with Chef Bartolotta, who was visiting in Italy, for my friend, dining at the Ristorante di Mare still revolves around a selection of fishes and crustaceans sold by price per 100grams and although a la carte pricing is admittedly quite daunting, the option is also available for one of three ‘family style’ tastings – the journey presented to our table a slightly augmented nine-course affair in part selected by Mr. Richards and partly on request, a few fine wines as well as a cocktail, tea, and coffee rounding out an experience that stretched just over three hours.

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Beginning almost entirely empty, and perhaps half-full when the meal ended at 9PM, it was largely with tableside service from Warren plus one of his captains that dinner at Bartolotta progressed and after opening bites of lightly fried squid plus bread that proved absolutely irresistible across several rounds it would not be long before the first of several stunners arrived, the duo of Italian Mullet and roasted Ricciola each simply presented with light saucing over vegetables, the brine of anchovies and bitter radicchio particularly inspiring when paired to the sweet, buttery Amberjack.

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Diverting from sea-life momentarily on request, plate three featured a dollop of foie gras rendered almost incomparably light through the utilization of butter, booze, plus plenty of technique and slowly savoring each bite trying to recall a better presentation of duck liver in recent memory it was in the subsequent course that the restaurant’s tableside treasure chest truly showed its importance to the experience, both the enormous langoustines and slipper lobster that had been alive just moments prior showing the sort of quality rarely seen on either coast, let alone at the center of a valley without a drop of saltwater in sight.

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Again venturing back to the bounty of land for the first of two pasta duos, Bartolotta certainly lived up to its Italian inspirations with both the delicate potato dumplings as well as the cheese ravioli draped in a veil of Pecorino and buttery wine glaze, yet as good as both the small portions were, neither could live up to the quality of a subsequent course of seafood slanted primi, the inky risotto a briny yet creamy composition while the signature ‘rags’ tasted like a textbook cioppino with just enough acid from the tomatoes to balance the fresh crustaceans with hints of herbs and wine lingering on the finish.

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Self-selecting a still-blinking San Pietro from the glass case as the culmination of savories, course seven saw the roasted John Dory deftly plated tableside over lightly roasted zucchini and although edges proved ever so slightly parched the center was rich, moist, and absolutely indulgent while a trio of sauces served to silence any talk of over-cooking, the Cruda and Agrumi equally well adapted to the white flesh with the later equally delectable drizzled on wheat bread of which far too much had already been had.

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At this point declining an inquiry as to whether anything else was desired to be added a la carte, it was undoubtedly a bit of showing off that saw eighteen of the restaurant’s twenty-four housemade iced delicacies delivered as a palate cleanser to trump any experienced to date, and although I’d like to say restraint was shown the fact of the matter is that little more than a few puddles returned to the kitchen – only the mango proving less than a spot on interpretation of the ingredient’s natural flavor while the Coconut, Amarena Cherry, Black Currant, Pistachio, and Dark Chocolate were all amongst the city’s best frozen bites.

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Sipping a sweet Moscato while desserts were readied, and later ordering up an iced Americano to pair with the sweets, it was largely a Chef’s selection that rounded out the evening and having previously been underwhelmed by Italian desserts throughout much of the city the quality of the quintet at Bartolotta proved every bit as inspired as the savorites, the Lemon Cake and Semifreddo each a great option for those favoring fruit-based flavors while the baba and spuma were rich and traditional with bold flavors amidst exceptionally light textures, the budino undoubtedly the heaviest of the finale with rich chocolate pudding finding its foil in sweet passion fruit plus one more quenelle of gelato.

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FOUR AND A HALF STARS: Self assured that its patrons are willing to pay a premium for the sort of seafood and exquisite execution rarely seen anywhere outside of the gastronomic temples located in coastal cities, Bartolotta Ristorante di Mare is every bit as memorable today as any restaurant in Las Vegas and taking into account the sourcing, setting, and service should undoubtedly be talked about more than it is as one of the city’s very best.

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RECOMMENDED: Imperial Langoustines, Slipper Lobster, Pasticcio di Fegatini d’Anatra, Baba al Rhum, Warm Chocolate Banana Budino.

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AVOID: Filling up on Bread, and perhaps the Mango Sorbet.

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TIP: Offering the fishes and shellfish on a rotating basis depending on what is most fresh with prices ranging $18-$30 per 3-oz, bone-in/shell on, those interested in specific selections or preparations are encouraged to call in advance, though the langoustines – whose source remains a well guarded secret – are always available in various sizes with costs ranging $30-$45 each.

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WHAT THE STARS MEAN: 5 World Class, 4 Excellent, 3 Good, 2 Fair, 1 Poor

http://www.wynnlasvegas.com/Dining/FineDining/Bartolotta

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Posted in Bartolotta, Bartolotta Ristorante di Mare, Bread Basket, Coffee, Crab, Dessert, Foie, Food, Gnocchi, Ice Cream, Italian, Las Vegas, Lobster, Nevada

Echo & Rig, Las Vegas NV

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Echo and Rig

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Steez Knees – Aviation Gin, Honey Syrup, Amaretto, Fresh Lemon Juice, Steigl Radler

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Warm Bread and Butter

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Coppa, Lonza, Chorizo Sausage, Country Pate, House cured Pastrami, Cornichons, Mustard

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Grilled Cheese short ribs, gruyère,parmesan & white cheddar

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Roasted Heirloom Carrots

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Pumpkin Squash, Maple & Rosemary

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Corned Beef Sausage with Roasted Corn

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Ricotta, Dried Fruit Compote & Desert Honey

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Cauliflower, Chili de Arbol, Crispy Shallots & Onions

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Portobello Fries and Herb Aioli

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Roasted Garlic Mashed Potatoes & White Cheddar

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Grilled Corn & Fresh Marjoram

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Mac & Cheese

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Tri-Tip: Santa Maria Rub, Niman Ranch “All Natural”

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Rib-Eye Cap: “Double RR Ranch”

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The Spencer Steak: “Double RR Ranch”

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Tomahawk Pork Chop Schnitzel arugula, radicchio, tomatoes & grana padana

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Sauces: Blue Cheese – Red Wine Demi – Brandied Mushroom – Bearnaise – Charred Onion – Horseradish Cream – Lemon Chimichurri

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Berry Shortcake Sundae – Berries Cut & Macerated, Citrus Shortcake, Hibiscus Syrup, Candied Flower, Whipped Cream, Vanilla Ice Cream

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Caramel Turtle Sundae – Peanut Brittle Pieces, Bourbon Sauce, Bittersweet Chocolate Chunks, Whipped Cream, Salted Caramel Ice Cream

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Considered to be one of the best Steakhouses in the Las Vegas suburbs, and undeniably one of the true success stories at much-maligned Tivoli Village, it was with three friends that dinner at Echo & Rig was enjoyed on Saturday, and although Chef Sam Marvin was preoccupied following his televised win over Bobby Flay the experience, none-the-less, was one of exquisite service and top quality ingredients prepared in a manner no different than some of the area’s best – at a mere fraction of the cost.

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Now approaching its third year in business, and outlasting concepts from several more ‘celebrated’ chefs with nearly universal accolades arriving from locals since opening its doors, Echo & Rig pairs the all-too-common farm-to-table concept with in-house butchery in the style of a steakhouse and leveraging the later knowledge of sourcing and artisan cuts to curtail costs the restaurant happily outstrips the likes of nearby Flemming’s while retaining a local sort of feel, the two-story building upscale yet extremely comfortable with a feel that is welcoming whether one is seated in a jacket inside or sporting sandals with a glass of wine in hand under misters on the second-floor patio outdoors.

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Admittedly known to the restaurant as a result of reaching out to management with questions regarding the concept and thoughts pertaining to the Echo & Rig’s longterm success in a complex where little else has thrived, it was on arrival that the party was escorted to a sizeable four-top at the top of the stairs and greeted by a handful of the restaurant’s sizable staff the evening started out with a comprehensive rundown of the menu followed by a complimentary plate of housemade charcuterie joining warm bread and butter as cocktails were sipped and an order was put forth.

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Served largely by a man named Brian, first described as the restaurant’s best waiter and later as a ‘brand ambassador,’ it was not long after ordering a first course of food that the plates began to arrive and treated to a bowl of crispy cauliflower tinged in spice along with the items that we’d ordered one would be hard pressed to name a single bite that did not shine, the signature Portobello fries probably the weakest of the items as seasoning seemed to obscure more earthy notes while both the housemade sausage and ricotta with fruit and honey were entirely irresistible, the same to be said of vegetables that were simple yet satisfying while the ‘grilled cheese’ was every bit the crowd pleaser that rumors would contend.

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Already questioning an order that proved quite large when accounting for portion sizes and enticing presentations that made it difficult to resist finishing each plate, entrees saw four prime proteins paired to a trio of sides and although the “Santa Maria Rub” unfortunately served only to overwhelm one friend’s tri-tip, the quality of an enormous pounded pork cutlet and both the Spencer as well as the Cap were undeniable, the sides a bit of a mixed bag with both corn and potatoes pleasant amidst their accoutrements while the Mac & Cheese featuring “Seven Cheeses” was nothing more than run of the mill.

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Unfortunately short-selling on desserts, an odd choice for a place going so far as to bake their own bread, it was in a duo of sundaes that final bites were invested and although both were well comprised of high quality ingredients one can’t help but wonder how much better the experience could be with a dedicated pastry chef, or even a cheese board considering the fact that baked brie is featured amongst the side plates while candied fruits served with the ricotta were also quite good.

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THREE AND A HALF STARS: Undeniably a bargain in the Steakhouse genre, and a rare gem in a complex that has seen more than its fair share of closures since originally opening its gates, Echo & Rig excels when sticking to its artisan roots without trying to get too fancy, and with great service in an environment far from stuffy it should be celebrated not just for what it is, but also as the Summerlin destination that pre-dated so many concepts to come.

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RECCOMMENDED: Corned Beef Sausage with Roasted Corn / Housemade Pastrami / Country Pate / Ricotta, Dried Fruit Compote & Desert Honey / Rib-Eye Cap.

AVOID: Tri-Tip / Mac & Cheese.

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TIP: Offering the same menu at lunch and dinner during the week, plus a truncated Brunch beginning at 9:00am on weekends, those interested in specific items are advised to check out the online menus or call in advance to inquire about specials, another option potentially being to just pop-in and take a look while perusing the downstairs butcher shop where any number of artisan cuts and house cured meats can be found throughout normal business hours.

WHAT THE STARS MEAN: 5 World Class, 4 Excellent, 3 Good, 2 Fair, 1 Poor

http://echoandrig.com

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Posted in Bread Basket, Coffee, Dessert, Echo & Rig, Echo and Rig, Food, Ice Cream, Las Vegas, Nevada, Pork

Carson Kitchen [2,] Las Vegas NV

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Carson Kitchen

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Iced Tea

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Pineapple Express – Absolut elyx vodka, grassroot’s cold pressed pineapple, orange, carrot and turmeric

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Watermelon and Feta – cucumber,white balsamic

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Veal Meatballs – sherry foie gras cream

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Tempura Green Beans – pepper jelly, cream cheese

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Cheddar Crab Fondue – assorted bread

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Strawberry Salad – manchego,candied pecans

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Jerk Turkey Burger – mango chutney slaw with spicy tator tots

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Pork Belly Cuban – Tasso ham, manchego with spicy tator tots

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Seared Scallops – mango habanero beurre blane

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Cocoa-Espresso NY Strip Steak – red wine demi

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Baked Mac & Cheese – shhhh, it’s a secret

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Bourbon Fudge Brownie – brown butter bacon ice cream

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Banoffee Pie – organic wheat beer, mandarin orange coulis

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Originally visiting Carson Kitchen a few months after its opening to a mixed experience that left me wondering exactly why every critic in town was acting as though the restaurant somehow reinvented American cuisine, or even downtown dining, it was on the invitation of Simon partner Cory Harwell that I returned to 124 S. 6th Street on Saturday, the service far finer tuned on its first anniversary while food continues to mind its upscale and whimsical groove.

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Taking into account that the August 2014 visit was likely colored by expectations of something transcendent, a tale propagated by the media moreso than by Kerry Simon’s team themselves, it was with a clearer picture of the restaurant’s place in the evolving local environment that this second experience was had, and although little in the space has changed with regard to decor or denizens the soon-to-evolve spring menu showed flashes of brilliance to go along with plates that have routinely received raves since the concept was debuted.

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Allowing Cory, an extremely pleasant man whose passion for the project and heartfelt comments about his friend’s health were on full display throughout the meal, to serve us whatever he felt best exemplified the current menu, it was with a brisk cocktail and natural juice and vodka that the meal began and soon treated to a summer salad similar to that at Hearthstone a few weeks prior the “gateway” dish of supple meatballs with foie gras cream proved the meal’s first true triumph – the descriptive nomenclature offered up by Cory when describing his hopes to use esoteric ingredients not as an upsell or hook, but rather as a means to introduce less adventurous diners to something they may never have otherwise opted to order.

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Clearly trying to focus on items not tasted during visit one, while also eyeing balanced courses that would not overwhelm our palates too early on, round two featured Kerry’s personal favorite fried green beans paired with a surprisingly sweet pepper jelly and cream cheese spread inspired by Harwell’s Southern roots, and moving past a strawberry salad that unfortunately fell a bit flat as a result of berries a bit less ripe than one would hope it was here that another exemplary dish arrived, the cast iron crock of creamy crab dip proving absolutely decadent with sharp notes of cheddar carefully melded to the sweet chunks of crustacean spread throughout.

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Perhaps overdoing it on the salted pretzel batons served alongside the dip, but admittedly unaware of how much was to come, course three featured two of Carson Kitchen’s seasonal sandwiches and although the turkey burger was pleasant enough with spice offset by housemade chutney it was undoubtedly the Cuban that proved the better of the two, a significant upgrade over several watery versions found elsewhere offered through the use of savory pork shoulder topped with pickles, mustard, and Spanish Cheese – even the bread not far off from the crispy pressed paninis served in Miami, Tampa, and other highly praised locations throughout the American Southeast.

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Taking it easy on the tots as the table was told three more savories were soon to come, it was admittedly to rolled eyes that Cory told a tale of Carson Kitchen’s lauded Mac & Cheese, yet despite the genuine ennui of a dish omnipresent on every American menu in the city Harwell’s version achieved the rare feat of truly wowing with both texture and nuance, a similar statement applicable to the seared scallops bathed in citrus and heat though less so to a medium rare piece of beef that seemed to get lost amidst a rich-rub and equally strong sauce.

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Somewhat disappointed by the O-Face Bread Pudding and overly-citrus Twinkies from August, but hoping to see Springtime sweets show the same sort of evolution seen in the service, it was with a duo of desserts that the meal would end and again impressed by the richness of a boozed up brownie kept in check by bacon and brown butter ice cream it was unsurprisingly Cory’s accented version of banana pudding that immediately stole my heart, the flavors of both the Southern Classic and toffee-tinged English pie suggested through the use of ingredients one rarely associates to either with a texture that eventually saw full bellies making room to scrape the jar clean.

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FOUR STARS: Having finally lost some of the hype as more and more restaurants have opened in DTLV, but still making good on a mission to offer a creative menu of well sourced ingredients at a great price, there is little doubt Carson Kitchen has earned its place amongst must-visit lists for locals and tourists alike – the “Keep Calm and Kerry On” mantra as appropriate now as the day it opened and likely to greet patrons for many years to come.

RECOMMENDED: Cheddar Crab Fondue, Mac & Cheese, Veal Meatballs, Banoffee Pie.

AVOID: Strawberry Salad, Cocoa-Espresso NY Strip Steak.

TIP: Soon transitioning to a summer menu that Cory promises to feature even more interesting twists, along with several Carson Kitchen staples, those interested in the current options are advised to visit soon.

WHAT THE STARS MEAN: 5 World Class, 4 Excellent, 3 Good, 2 Fair, 1 Poor

http://carsonkitchen.com

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Posted in Bread Basket, Carson Kitchen, Crab, Dessert, Foie, Food, Ice Cream, Las Vegas, Nevada, Pork, Tasting Menu

Bronze Café, Las Vegas NV

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The Bronze Café

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Vegan Kale Apple Banana Blended Shot

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Double Espresso on Ice

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The Fruity Pebbles Treat

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The Bacon Jam Scone

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The Peanut Butter Snickerdoodle Cookie

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The Strawberry Cookie

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The Oatmeal Craisin Cookie

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The Chocolate Banana Zucchini Muffin

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The Loving v. Virginia – the legal marriage between a cookie and a brownie

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The Banana Flax Cake

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Located within the Gay and Lesbian Community Center of Southern Nevada, a space more commonly referred to simply as “The Center,” Bronze Café had long been on my list of places to visit and seeking coffee plus free WiFi near downtown on Saturday I finally decided to drop in, the smiling staff greeting me warmly as I entered while several patrons sat throughout the atrium using a bank of supplied computers or looking through literature supplied in a small library toward the back of the room.

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Admittedly located in a rough part of Las Vegas, the surrounding environs largely comprised of rundown housing with no shortage of panhandlers to be found on the streets, the interior of The Center seems to act as a sort of sanctuary to those in the community and with free services available ranging from HIV-testing to prevention and sex education the environment is both open and inviting, the electronic music overhead perhaps a bit of a distracter but certainly not so loud that it cannot be ignored.

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Offering a selection of soups, salads, sandwiches, baked goods, and smoothies running the gamut from mundane to esoteric with options for vegetarians, vegans, and those dining gluten free in addition to several options featuring meat, it was entirely in the pastries that my investigation of the café’s goods was undertaken and treated to a vegan smoothie shot as I waited for coffee to be brewed I’ll admit I was pleasantly surprised, the apple and banana with light vanilla doing an admirable job of offsetting the bitterness oft associated with the greens.

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Sipping the espresso over ice, a bold brew with a nutty finish at less than half what one would pay for Starbucks on the Strip, it was with seven items plus a gifted Fruity Pebbles Treat from owner David Mozes that the tasting took place and beginning the rainbow treat a theme of strong flavors and excellent textures quickly arose, any ‘artificalness’ associated with the commercial cereal completely lacking in a vegan strawberry cookie with a jam center that ranks amongst the best in the city with a pudding smooth mouthfeel and light creamy top-notes.

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Trying best to progress light-to-rich it was next in the slightly dry oatmeal cookie that I partook and setting this aside in favor of hopefully better things a bite of the bacon-jam scone proved to be far softer than one might expect from the British tea-time staple, though the savory jam and ample use of butter was none-the-less quite delicious beneath a light sprinkling of sugar with subtle sweetness dispersed beneath.

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Entirely impressed by the peanut butter riff on a Snickerdoodle with ample cinnamon and sugar helping to mellow the otherwise rich base it was with equal balance that fruits and vegetables interacted to create the ultra-moist chocolate zucchini bread with the sort of richness that spoke to high quality cocoa, the similarly soft banana-flax cake perhaps a better choice for those desiring something more subtle with a light nuttiness from the fractured seeds coming through on the finish but not a bit of oil or bitterness to be found.

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At this point seeing the soundtrack transition to upbeat Spanish dance music as a large group of teens plus a young family with grandparents in-tow sat down to breakfast it was finally in “The Loving v. Virginia” that I indulged and having previously tasted no fewer than a dozen takes on the cookie-meets-brownie including Brooklyn’s famous “Brookie” from Baked I’m confident to say that the version at Bronze Café may be the very best of them all – the chocolate base reminiscing of my childhood afternoon snack while the dollop of dough at the center was just seconds short of fully set, the whole far greater than the sum of its parts and something probably best shared, or at least enjoyed with a cup of coffee, milk…or in the case of Bronze Café, perhaps some almond mylk.

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FOUR STARS: Setting aside a location that some may find a bit intimidating for any number of personal misperceptions, Bronze Café is the sort of place that is likely to go overlooked by all but those who walk through the doors of The Center, but with strong sourcing, friendly service, and a menu as inclusive as the building in which it is housed it can only be said that there is a whole lot more here than meets the eye, and a whole lot of things to tantalize the tastebuds as well.

RECOMMENDED: The Loving v. Virginia, The Strawberry Cookie, The Peanut Butter Snickerdoodle Cookie.

AVOID: The Oatmeal Craisin Cookie comes off quite dry and the scone, although quite tasty, is unlikely to amuse those looking for something more traditionally textured.

TIP: Already offering low prices considering the quality of the goods, those looking for an even better deal are encouraged to check in via social media for 10% off, or to look into restaurant.com for $10 off $20 coupons.

WHAT THE STARS MEAN: 5 World Class, 4 Excellent, 3 Good, 2 Fair, 1 Poor

https://www.facebook.com/bronzecafelv

Click to add a blog post for Bronze Cafe at the Center on Zomato

Posted in Breakfast, Bronze Cafe, Coffee, Dessert, Food, Las Vegas, Nevada, Pork

La Rue Marche Cafe, Las Vegas NV

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La Rue Marche Café

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Cinnamon Bun

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Pecan Roll

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Almond Croissant

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Cream Cheese Danish

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Biscuits and Honey

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Chicken and Waffle Sliders – Maple Blazin’ Red Gravy, Sweet Pommes Frites

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Chef’s French Toast – Thick Sliced Bread Dipped in homemade Batter

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Cherries Jubilee Pancakes

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Stuffed French Toast – Brioche bread stuffed with Strawberry Cream Cheese

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Marche Bread Pudding – Sweet and Savory Breads and Pastries garnished with chocolate and vanilla bean sauce

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Not yet celebrating its Grand Opening, but offering full service from 7am until dinner on East Desert Inn, it was with two friends and two children that breakfast was had at La Rue Marche Café, and although the long history of husband and wife team Leslie and Jesus Cirbrian is an impressive one the wide ranging menu rooted in their previous years of catering shows as much room for improvement as does the touched up location, an immense space shuttered since 2009 that previously housed a Chinese restaurant.

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Eventually intended to be a market, bakery, coffee roaster, and caterer in addition to the restaurant itself, one’s first impression on entering La Rue Marche Café is that despite a name that sounds ‘fancy’ the space itself is actually as simple as the location’s literal translation and although clean and well presented the overall feel is quite sterile with a lack of decoration, charm, or even music to help give it a lift.

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Seated near a window where an elderly woman and two youngsters would provide pleasant service and copious refills with a smile even when the youngest diner cast a full glass of water to the floor it was with a tray of pastries that dining began and with two served warm from the oven while the others were cool to touch the results were unfortunately rather underwhelming, the cinnamon roll and croissant both far too doughy with a lack of exterior contrast while the pecan bun and cream cheese danish were far more enjoyable, though certainly not on par with any of Sin City’s best.

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At this point temporarily turning savory, round two featured biscuits that, despite being described as made ‘in-house,’ seemed far closer to those cut from a roll featuring the Pillsbury Dough Boy, and paired with little packets of honey instead of something a bit better sourced one quickly wondered about the rest of the restaurants ingredients, an answer to be found later after dissecting a plate of soft waffles and fried chicken tenders that were on their own good enough, but a bit obscured under thick gravy that purported maple but instead tasted almost identical to Krystal or Frank’s Red Hot.

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Hoping for improvement as the meal moved back to sweets, it did not take long to cast aside “50/50” Maple Syrup in favor of the good stuff brought from home before indulging in pancakes and French Toast, and with the latter a mistaken delivery since the stuffed version had actually been ordered it was unfortunate that neither version was all that impressive as the bread came off soggy while cream cheese stuffing tasted exceedingly artificial, the fluffy pancakes and warm cherries proving the first memorable dish of the morning with a light crumb and good rise surrounding bursting pockets of stewed fruit.

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Waiting for late arriving friends to finish their entrees, but enjoying the quiet conversation as the space was largely empty throughout much of the morning, it was with a small bowl of bread pudding that the meal concluded and perhaps a sign of good things found outside the proper breakfast menu suffice it to say that this was the lone item for which a return trip to La Rue Marche would be considered, the blend of several day-old breads reinvigorated by custard with a surrounding pool vanilla bean sauce that far outpaced any other sauce, spread, or topping experienced throughout the rest of the meal.

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TWO AND A HALF STARS: Certainly a place with potential, particularly given the team’s pedigree, the experience currently feels far more ‘catering company’ than restaurant quality and considering the challenges of the restaurant’s size, location, and scope there is a whole lot of room to improve. Obviously still new, but apparently not yet willing to invest in proper ingredients or technique to really make the product shine, one wonders whether it may have been the better part of valor for La Rue Marche to wait until they were 100% ready before opening up their doors.

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RECOMMENDED: Bread Pudding, Pancakes.

AVOID: Almond Croissant, Cinnamon Roll, Biscuits, Stuffed French Toast…and the restrooms.

TIP: Currently selling ‘shares’ in the business for $3,000 per unit, those interested would be advised to check out the website and business plan, or to contact Leslie directly via the restaurant’s listed E-mail.

WHAT THE STARS MEAN: 5 World Class, 4 Excellent, 3 Good, 2 Fair, 1 Poor

http://www.laruemarchecafe.com

Posted in Breakfast, Dessert, Food, French Toast, La Rue Marche Cafe, Las Vegas, Nevada, Pancakes, Waffles

Carnevino [5] – The 19th Hole for The Mario Batali Foundation, Las Vegas NV

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Carnevino – The 19th Hole for The Mario Batali Foundation

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Charcuterie Station

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Salad Station

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Bone-In Ribeye Station

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Roasted Beets – horseradish, dijon, and arugula / Arugula Salad – goat cheese, mushrooms, and pickled onion / Lobster Salad Sandwich / Mixed Spring Vegetables with lemon and mint

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Bresaola, Prosciutto, Lomo, Finocchiona, Head Cheese, Mortadella, Carne Cruda Crostini

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Bone in Ribeye with Gorgonzola Mascarpone and Caramelized Onions, Rosemary Focaccia

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Creamy Polenta and Shortribs

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Tagliatelle Bolognese

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Bombolini with Cream and Berries

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Chocolate & Peanut Butter Torte – peanut brittle, salted caramel

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Graciously invited to Carnevino as the guest of a friend for the $250 per person 19th Hole benefitting the Mario Batali Foundation it can only be said that while the stakes were a little too high for the silent auction the *steaks* were as impressive as ever, much like everything else within the standing-room only space featuring plenty of Italian wines and signature bites from Chef Nicole Brisson and her talented culinary team.

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Now an annual experience of “a little golf, and a lot of food and wine” according to Mario himself, the 19th Hole marks the culmination of the chef’s Celebrity Swing Session and pulling out all the stops with several dining stations and a soundtrack of Led Zeppelin’s Physical Graffiti played beginning to end one would be hard pressed to name a more exemplary bit of ‘event dining,’ even polenta and pasta from chafing dishes showing great texture when paired to their respective braised short ribs and meaty ragu.

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Perhaps a bit short on celebrities outside the culinary ranks, but still featuring the smiling faces of a slightly buzzed Batali plus Ming Tsai, Elizabeth Falkner, and more it should come as no surprise that although I did not win the raffle for which I purchased a pair of $50 tickets the experience was still quite memorable with great music, food, and friends all to the benefit of a truly meaningful cause.

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http://carnevino.com

http://www.mariobatalifoundation.org/

Posted in Bread Basket, Carnevino, Dessert, Food, Italian, Las Vegas, Nevada, Pork, The 19th Hole, The 19th Hole for The Mario Batali Foundation

Portofino [2,] Las Vegas NV

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Portofino

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Iced Tea

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Rosemary Focaccia with Olive Oil and Balsamic

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Fig Salad – gorgonzola panna cotta, candied walnuts, banana vinaigrette (tasting portion)

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Calamari – house made marinara, pepperoncini, parmesan (tasting portion)

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Truffle Raviolo – asparagus, poached egg, smoked prosciutto, mascarpone

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Chicken Foiefredo – pappardelle, roasted chicken, foie gras alfredo(tasting portion)

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Gnocchi – forest mushrooms, morels, sweetbreads, fava beans (tasting portion)

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Ripatelli – house made lamb sausage and peppers, grilled ramps, san marzano tomatoes (tasting portion)

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Salmon – sweet peas, porcini mushroom polenta, buttered radish (tasting portion)

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Day Boat Scallops – roasted gem lettuce, caramelized spring onion, Applewood smoked bacon (tasting portion)

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Mangalitsa Milanese – sweet and sour eggplant caponata, lemon (tasting portion)

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Branzino – grilled asparagus, potato leek gratin, hen-of-the-woods mushrooms (tasting portion)

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Double Espresso over Ice

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Nutella Crème Brulee – twisted disaronna whipped cream, fudge, crystallized almonds

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Cassata Cheesecake – Harry’s berries, Italian wedding cake croutons

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Cookie Souffle Trio – chocolate chip, sugar, oreo, vanilla anglaise

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More than a touch impressed by the quality of sourcing, service, and execution during a family-style meal at Portofino earlier this year it was without question that the newly launched Spring menu was more than enough an impetus to return, and opting to enjoy the finely crafted flavors in tasting menu format while watching Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Finals in the lounge the ten new savories and three desserts sent forth by Michael LaPlaca again proved to be some of the city’s most dazzling, not one less than meticulously crafted from some of the very best ingredients around.

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Having previously discussed the restaurant’s design, and as such left here to focus only on the cuisine, suffice it to say that service at the bar was bolstered by the Chef himself presenting each dish with full description straight from the kitchen and starting off with a fig salad marrying the flavors of roasted banana to creamy gorgonzola while cutting the fruit’s sweetness with acid a high bar was set, the follow-up of wild caught squid snappy beneath light breading with a melt-in-the-mouth texture discovered just as tooth broke skin.

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Enthralled with the housemade pastas during visit one, and as such treated to one each of the new creations over the course of the next hour, it was entirely as a result of the dish’s primary ingredient that a full portion of the decadent raviolo draped in truffle and speck was presented, and precisely as rich as one expect from a dish of its constituents it was predictably still a tossup as to whether the rest were any less exquisite – the signature ripatelli and ribbons of pappardelle in a sauce of foie gras and cream each boiled to a perfect al dente while potato gnocchi were feather light alongside crispy offal in a gravy of earthy aromatics amongst butter and tender beans.

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Onward to secondi, the majority of the new plates featuring a seasonally appropriate seafood slant, it was admittedly a surprise that a supple cut of salmon atop a polenta cake found such an amicable partnership with fresh peas in two forms, and although perhaps a bit overcooked with the center just past raw a duo of seared scallops proved equally well accompanied, the lightly cooked lettuce reminiscing the flavors of chow mein while crisp bits of caramelized onion helped meld the otherwise robust savory tones.

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Thankfully spared a ‘steak and potatoes’ dish that Michael teased was requisite for a boy from Cleveland as such a thing would have undoubtedly cut short later indulgence at dessert, course nine featured a pounded cut of pork beneath zesty caponata and although the golden breading over soft flesh undoubtedly shined in its own right, it simply couldn’t compare to the crisp scales overlying Branzino – each flaky bite rivaling the signature Sea Bass at Guy Savoy at half the price with a baton of creamy potatoes one would be hesitant to have to share.

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Admittedly finding desserts during the first visit a bit blasé when compared to that which came before, suffice it to say that spring has seen a substantial upgrade in Portofino’s sweets and although the Tiramisu still remains for those fancying a classic the better decision is to take the paths less traveled, a trio of soufflés themed in American cookies standing proud, fluffy, and perfect for sharing while a Nutella crème brûlée was expectedly rich beneath caramelized nuts and lightly boozed cream, the ‘cake within a cake’ undeniably the most interesting of the group with seasonal berries and a delicate ricotta sponge wrapped in a thin wall of New York style cream cheese.

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FOUR AND A HALF STARS: Still a hidden gem in a world of celebrity chefs one would be foolish to overlook the confidence of Portofino in putting forth “by Michael LaPlaca” as part of its name, and without the fanfare of Batali, Conant, or that guy from “Cake Boss” the restaurant at Mirage is arguably putting out Las Vegas’ best Italian fare at a pricepoint every bit as favorable with equal or better sourcing, service, and creativity, plus the name on the door standing over the stove.

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RECOMMENDED: Every Single Pasta on the menu is special, and so too is the Pork, Branzino, and Cassata Cheesecake.

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AVOID: Generally preferring my scallops as close to raw as possible the sear was simply too much for my taste, though other’s impressions may vary. I also did not fancy the reinterpreted cannoli during visit one, the only dessert remaining save for the Tiramisu from the previous season’s sweets.

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TIP: Neither the family style nor tasting menu are officially listed as dining options at Portofino, but both are easily accommodated by reaching out to the restaurant where GM Chris Zadie has twice proven to be amongst the city’s best hosts.

WHAT THE STARS MEAN: 5 World Class, 4 Excellent, 3 Good, 2 Fair, 1 Poor

http://www.mirage.com/restaurants/portofino-by-chef-michael-laplaca.aspx

Click to add a blog post for Portofino on Zomato

Posted in Bread Basket, Coffee, Dessert, Foie, Food, Gnocchi, Italian, Las Vegas, Nevada, Pork, Portofino, Souffle, Sweetbreads, Tasting Menu, Truffle

Glutton, Las Vegas NV

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Glutton

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Coffee

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GLUTTON MARY – kim chee bloody mary, American Harvest Vodka, shrimp, pickled mushrooms, celery, togarashi chili

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MORNINGSHADE – chilled coffee, Patron Cafe tequila, milk, cinnamon, orange, vanilla

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PIG ROAST – bacon infused Xicaru mezcal, Giffard creme de peche, pineapple, lime, Hawaiian li hing

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BOURBON MISCHIEF – ???

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MI VIDA ROCA – Roca Patron silver, ginger ale, lemon, cucumber soda

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FREMONT FLIP – Selvarey rum, St. George spiced pear liqueur, lemon, egg white, cardamon bitters

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DEER IN HEADLIGHTS – Glenfiddich 15 yr Solera, Lustau Pedro Ximenez sherry, benedictine, Angostura

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Cinnamon Bun – Vanilla Cream Cheese Frosting, Vietnamese Cinnamon

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Coffee and Doughnuts – French Crullers, Espresso Cream

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Spicy Pork Rinds – Cayenne, Cheddar

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Salmon Chips – Pastrami Cured Salmon, Tomato Caper Relish, Cracked Mustard Cream Cheese, Red Onion

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Baked Tomatoes and Eggs – Tomato & Piquillo Pepper Sauce, Two Eggs, Parmesan, Tuscan Kale, Grilled Ciabatta

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Yeast Risen Pancakes – Cultured Butter, Maple Cider Syrup

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Steak and Eggs – Kalbi Marinated Rib Eye, Kimchee Fried Rice, Poached Egg

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Benedict – Braised Pork Cheek, Poached Eggs, Crispy Speck, Focaccia, Roasted Garlic Hollandaise

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Charcuterie Panini – Finocchiona Salumi, Bresaola, Cappicola, Manchego Cheese, Fig Preserves

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Belgian Waffle – Wood Roasted Peaches, Bourbon Butterscotch, Whipped Cream

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Caramel Corn Profiteroles – Salted Caramel, Popcorn Ice Cream, Peanuts

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Rice Pudding Arancini – Milk Chocolate, Cinnamon Infused Wild Honey, Sea Salt

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Peach Cobbler – Wood Roasted Peaches, Bourbon Butterscotch, Pecan Streusel, Ginger & Ricotta Ice Cream

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Located directly across from nearby Container Park, and featuring a name as well as signage that has drawn disapproval from many since even before opening its doors, Glutton from Chef Bradley Manchester has no less received quite a bit of praise from those who’ve actually indulged in the cuisine and taking a look at the newly hatched brunch menu with a baker’s dozen plates plus several cocktails on Saturday morning it seems that not only is the name at least partially appropriate, but so too are the accolades.

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Perhaps an unknown commodity to many in Las Vegas, the young chef having sharpened his teeth at several hotels including a recent stint at Green Valley Ranch, Chef Manchester describes Glutton as offering ‘urban neighborhood cuisine’ and although he himself was not present during an 11:00am visit the kitchen showed few signs of vacating the concept while execution was nearly spot on, the service performing a rare feat of being both professional and whimsical while treating every diner from pre-teen to elderly with attentiveness and respect.

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Making a few menu selections while letting the kitchen send out a few plates for which they felt most proud, it was my dining companion’s focus on cocktails that saw seven drinks spanning both brunch and dinner menus arrive, and tasting each in limited quantity I was particularly impressed by the smooth fruit and coffee tones of Morningshade while the Deer in the Headlights riff on a Manhattan proved refined despite being amply boozed up, the Lemon Drop leaning Fremont Flip another dangerous sip with a frothy head and citrusy finish that might make it way too easy for even the most restrained to quickly end up soused.

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Turning attention to the food, suffice it to say that baked goods and pastries were expected to be strong in a place with a logo suggesting a stretched waistline, and although the choux-based crullers resting in bitter cream were decidedly an adult taste well suited for one or two the cinnamon roll with crackling caramel was a decadent block of curled brioche beneath a lacquer of vanilla frosting well suited for diners of all-ages with a portion more than ample for a whole four-top to share.

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Onward to more, the kitchen coursing everything out so that the table was never overburdened, round two showed the kitchen’s strength in sourcing with snappy crisps draped in smoked salmon spiced like pastrami amidst several bold accoutrements before sending forth a casserole of baked eggs with spice and acidity deftly cut by crispy kale, and although the eve- hip pork skins would only be served on request a bit later, these too were nothing short of a twisted inspiration as the flavors of Cheetos were shortly reminisced with a light bit of heat then left to linger on the lips.

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Transitioning here to entrees, a duo of savories meeting with the menu’s unexpected star, it was to what I consider to be the city’s new standard for pancakes that course three began, and with an ethereal crumb generated by leavening beneath butter and syrup the texture was such that a whole stack still would not weigh too heavily on the belly, a good thing as the duo of smoky Pork Benedict with crispy duck fat potatoes and “Steak and Eggs” that unfortunately trended a bit too sour by pairing kimchee to kalbi were each quite hearty, the eggs of the former notably a bit overpoached and the only real flaw in execution found throughout the course of our two-hour stay.

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Rounding out savories with a toasty Panini composed of three types of cured meat beneath a veil of Spanish cheese and housemade fig jam it was here that eyes proved in excess to capacity, a trio of desserts and the daily special of a Belgian Waffle each thwarting any intention to not overeat, the creamy arancini a mature sort of finale featuring fried cinnamon risotto with a milk chocolate center while the profiteroles harkened my favorite dessert of 2014, the milk steeped in buttered popcorn providing an adept frozen foil to the sweet n’ savory flavors of Cracker Jack while the ginger tinged ice cream proved equally impressive as it swiftly melted over roasted peaches and a caramelized pecan crust.

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FOUR STARS: Already executing at a very high level from the kitchen to the front of the house one would be hard pressed to name a more interesting spot for brunch in DTLV than Glutton, and with all due respect to the lines of folks waiting in lines at eat. a quick glimpse at each menu should make one rethink such follies…or at least consider the bar raised when looking for a top tier morning meal worth the hassles of finding parking and feeding downtown meters.

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RECOMMENDED: Yeast Risen Pancakes, Salmon Chips, Cinnamon Roll, Charcuterie Panini, Caramel Corn Profiteroles, Deer in Headlights, Fremont Flip.

AVOID: Steak and Eggs, Pig Roast, Reading too much into the online menu, and seating too close to the room’s corners where tables seem a bit crowded.

TIP: Although the online menu during our visit indicated that Lunch is offered from 11L00-2:30 Monday through Saturday, this was in fact incorrect and has since been remedied to indicate 11:00-2:30 Monday through Friday with Brunch offered 9am-3pm on Saturday and Sunday. Menu selections are also notably subject to change, a few items such as the uni toast not present during our visit while the Waffle was offered as an off-menu special.

WHAT THE STARS MEAN: 5 World Class, 4 Excellent, 3 Good, 2 Fair, 1 Poor

http://www.gluttonlv.com/

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Posted in Breakfast, Coffee, Dessert, Food, Glutton, Ice Cream, Las Vegas, Nevada, Pancakes, Pork, Tasting Menu, Waffles

Las Vegas Donut House, Las Vegas NV

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Las Vegas Donut House

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Apple Fritter

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Strawberry Glazed Cake

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Blueberry Cake

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Raised Cinnamon Crumb

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Old Fashioned

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Open from 10pm until 10am, at least according to the sign on the door, Las Vegas Donut House is unfortunately far less predictable than signage would suggest and having twice visited during the aforementioned hours to find doors locked and lights out it was entirely a matter of location that saw a visit chanced on Saturday – the “Open” neon illuminated though the space behind the counter was entirely abandoned as I stepped through the doors.

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Decidedly divey, with two small tables juxtaposing a case containing several familiar varieties of donuts ranging from raised and cake to fritters and crullers that were unfortunately sold-out, it was perhaps two minutes after entering that an elderly Asian man emerged from the back and nodding politely as if to ask what I desired an order was decided upon, a request for whatever was most fresh leading me to select three warm rings plus two personal favorites, the results largely impressive at a tally of just under five bucks.

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Electing not to stay in store to indulge, instead driving a short distance to somewhere that coffee and Free Wi-Fi could be had, a first taste of Donut House’s goods found pleasantly soft yeastiness beneath messy bits of cinnamon crumb and moving onward to bites of glazed blueberry the quality of the glaze and the mix were surprisingly quite high, a compliment paid equally to the soft crumb topped in Strawberry that was unfortunately far too sweet.

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At this point moving onward to favorites that, admittedly, were not described as ‘fresh’ when I asked, it was into the sour cream old fashioned that I first sank teeth and with a nice kick of sour and generally smooth melt the results were on par with many of Sin City’s best, an exact opposite discovered in the greasy fritter that was not only undercooked and doughy, but virtually devoid of fruit leaving more than 80% in the garbage and a rather bad taste in my mouth.

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TWO AND A HALF STARS: Well priced and seemingly able to please when items are fresh, Las Vegas Donut House is a “your mileage may vary” experience at best, and with several similar spots in the city offering superior goods with more predictable hours a visit here should be more a matter of convenience than a matter of choice.

RECOMMENDED: Raised Cinnamon Crumb, Old Fashioned.

AVOID: Apple Fritter, Strawberry Glaze.

TIP: Sold at prices varying by selection, signage indicates that ‘mixed dozens’ are available at $9 for any 12 donuts. Cash only.

WHAT THE STARS MEAN: 5 World Class, 4 Excellent, 3 Good, 2 Fair, 1 Poor

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Las-Vegas-Donut-House

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Posted in Breakfast, Dessert, Food, Las Vegas, Las Vegas Donut House, Nevada, Vacation

Omelet House and More – 50’s Diner, Las Vegas NV

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Omelet House and More – 50’s Diner

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Pumpkin Nut Bread

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Sweet Cream Pancakes

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French Toast

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Chocolate Marquise Cake

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Coffee

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Long on my breakfast to-do list, though not particularly close to home, Saturday breakfast at a space known by some as Omelet House and More, but by others as simply “50’s Diner” saw the sort of food and scene that speaks of an era long past, and with the sounds of Chuck Berry and The King playing overhead it seems like no matter the name there are a whole lot of locals well aware that this place exists.

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Owned and operated by the same family for many years, and located just down the way from Boulder City Station, 50’s diner is decidedly a lowkey operation that thrusts patrons back in time with décor as well as smiley service as ‘Please seat yourself’ signage belies a sort of effortlessness that never seems put on, the dog-eared laminated menus speaking to oft ordered classics while specials rotate daily depending on ingredients and chef’s whim.

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Open 7a-3p Seven-Days a week, it was with a few questions answered that an order was formed, and omitting biscuits and compotes that were admittedly frozen or canned in order to focus on scratch made selections the first bites of the morning paired to repeat pours of coffee were of the restaurant’s “signature” banana bread, the flavor extremely natural and none-too-sweet with the sort of flavor that spoke to lots of butter, nuts, and fruit plus just a pinch of cinnamon and nutmeg.

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Unable to resist pancakes that some have said to be some of the better ones in the city, but happy to set aside the pseudo-syrup in favor of 100% pure stuff from Indiana brought from home, the decision between sweet cream and buttermilk led to an order of the former and with a thinness that makes three a not-unreasonable portion for just $5.99 the light flavors and soft tooth are undeniably pleasant, the French Toast of white bread with just a bit of cinnamon egg wash and confectioner’s sugar far less interesting and, as such, best passed.

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Offering any number of shakes, floats, malts, and sodas the dessert menu at 50’s Diner is unfortunately limited to only two options and informed that the apple pie is bought from “a local bakery,” but assured the Marquise is made each night in house, a small rectangle of the graham cracker and chocolate compilation was ordered and with dots of whipped cream serving as garnish the flavor proved to be quite rich with a texture not unlike tiramisu, a nice way to end for just $2.99.

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THREE STARS: Friendly without seeming fake and offering good food at an extremely fair price 50’s Diner is certainly not a destination, but worth checking out if one is in the area looking for good pancakes and a whole bunch of omelets, the later seemingly quite popular with those at surrounding tables.

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RECOMMENDED: Sweet Cream Pancakes, Chocolate Marquise.

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AVOID: French Toast.

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TIP: $10 off $20 coupons are available on restaurant.com for those looking to save a few bucks.

WHAT THE STARS MEAN: 5 World Class, 4 Excellent, 3 Good, 2 Fair, 1 Poor

http://fiftiesdinervegas.com/

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Posted in 50’s Diner, Breakfast, Coffee, Dessert, Food, French Toast, Las Vegas, Nevada, Omelet House and More, Omelet House and More - 50’s Diner, Pancakes

Hearthstone Kitchen & Cellar [5,] Las Vegas NV

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Hearthstone Kitchen & Cellar

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Heirloom Watermelon Salad – Greek Feta, Avocado, Red Onion, Mint Vinaigrette

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Tuna Poke – Hazelnuts, Apple, Citrus

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Ceviche – Halibut, Compressed Watermelon, Avocado, Basil

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Grilled Calamari – Marinated Chickpeas, Roasted Zucchini, Bulgur Wheat

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Tomato Toast – Heirloom Tomatoes, Stracciatella, Garlic Toast

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John Church’s Figs – Buratta, Duck, Greens, Honey

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House Made Sausage – Roasted Apple, Pork and Wild Rice, Lemon

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Meatball Flatbread – Short Rib Meatballs, Ricotta, Mozzarella

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Wild Caught Halibut – Grain and Legume Salad, Roasted Carrot Puree, Preserved Lemon

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Black Truffle Hanger Steak – Truffle Aioli, Crispy Potatoes

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Pork Shoulder – Stone Fruit, Pork Jus

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Wood Roasted Spring Onions – Sea Salt, Olive Oil

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White Asparagus – Bread Crumbs, Soft Poached Egg

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Whole Braised Carrot – Beef Fat, Horseradish, Pistachios

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Blue Foot Mushrooms – Lima Beans, Lima Bean Puree, Mint

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Milk Chocolate Souffle – Almonds, Chocolate Chip, Coffee Crème Anglaise

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Hearthstone ‘Secret’ Dessert – Huckleberries, Myer Lemon Curd, Sweet Ricotta, Amoretti Crumbs

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Dark Chocolate Birthday Cake – Dark Chocolate Ganache, Sweet and Salty Frosting, American Buttercream

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Double Espresso over Ice

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Delaying a fifth visit to Chef Brian Massie’s Hearthstone until the Spring menu launch, dinner on Saturday night saw six persons sit down in the spacious restaurant at a table overlooking the pass, and with the restaurant now free from lightgroup after the Hakkasan buyout the cooking has found a whole new level of creativity while the experience is more mature, the kitchen ever diligent in sourcing and preparation while service under newly appointed GM Peter Varela has improved substantially, easily outperforming several Las Vegas Boulevard locations purporting a more ‘upscale’ environment.

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Admittedly having contacted the restaurant in advance in order to concoct a tasting menu focused on seasonal items felt to best exemplify the kitchen’s ever evolving approach it was with frequent check-ins by both Chef Massie and Executive Chef Jordan Hoffman that the evening progressed and as everything from Pearl Jam to Fleetwood Mac played overhead the meal started light, an heirloom watermelon salad with feta and creamy avocado undoubtedly listing summer in its influences while a duo of poke and silky ceviche saw similar ingredients juxtaposing freshly sliced fish with a balance of aromatic flavors that acted to highlight the protein without once becoming overcomplicated or fussy in the least.

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Transitioning next to a plate of warm calamari married to buttery chickpeas beneath a red pepper and sautéed zucchini veil it was again to the vibrancy of simple tomatoes on toast that we were treated, the stretchy stracciatella providing a deft balance for light smoke and acidity while a pool of creamy burrata proved no less competent at balancing out the flavors of cured duck and greens paired to sliced figs from MTO Café Chef Johnny Church’s back yard, a light touch on honey almost making me wish I was dining alone so I could enjoy the whole bowl.

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Having recently begun to make their own sausage in house, a logical next-step considering the quality of Brian’s housemade meatballs of past meals, it was with good fortune that the next two plates featured both of these items with the spicy beef meatball sliced atop lightly blistered flatbread straight from the oven of Enrico Sautto and the sausage presented seared alongside lightly dressed greens and house mustard, the sapor of pork finding its foil in tender rice and simmered apples plus a diverse spice profile that tiptoed a fine line between savory and sweet.

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Told that the collar of the halibut featured in the ceviche is occasionally offered as a wood roasted special well worth coming out for it was with two filets from the same fish that entrees began and with sweet carrot pudding serving to highlight the subtle yet meaty fish the whole grain salad was both nutty and aromatic, the same to be said of black truffle butter served atop a juicy hanger steak that unfortunately had spent just a bit too long on the grill for some of our tastes.

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Rounding out savories with an off-menu special of smoky stonefruits surrounding tender pork shoulder that ate like ham beneath a lightly caramelized crust it was additionally to a quartet of sides that the table was treated, and running the gamut from simple grilled onions to carrots cooked soft in cow fat it was the tender mushrooms amidst legumes that provided the most elegant of bites, the natural earthy flavors brought to a peak on the palate through the faintest hints of mint.

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Admittedly more than sated it was with espresso and tea served that a short wait would thankfully precede desserts and yet when the items finally did arrive it was almost without question that stomach space would located, the “secret dessert” of Aebleskivers topped with fruits and sweet ricotta an absolutely inspired riff on the classic Danish pancake while the lightly sweetened soufflé itself was itself quite well prepared with a proud and proper rise, a pair of Chef Massie’s “personal favorite” Birthday Cakes rich with bitter chocolate but brightened by buttercream and lightly salinity proving every bit as whimsical as the name would suggest, and entirely worth the indulgence even as buttons threatened to burst.

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FIVE STARS: Setting aside the location across from my home and the fact that the Hearthstone family has always treated myself and my friends quite well I feel objectively fair stating that the new spring menu at Hearthstone marks a whole new era for the restaurant, the ingredients and execution reaching new heights of boldness while service has evolved in awareness as well as flow. Not yet a year old and recently hiring a new GM I look forward to seeing where the experience trends next and only hope that the evolution continues as Chef Massie and his team open Salute later this year.

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RECOMMENDED: Heirloom Watermelon Salad, Wild Caught Halibut, Whole Braised Carrot, Blue Foot Mushrooms, Hearthstone ‘Secret’ Dessert, and provided one is dining with a group both the Birthday Cake and anything the kitchen is doing with Pork.

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AVOID: Fans of the Hanger or steaks prepared more ‘medium’ will likely enjoy the version at Hearthstone, but for my dollar a thicker cut more easily prepared rare would probably prove a better choice.

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TIP: Now featuring a DJ during late evenings on Friday and Saturday those interested in such things will find both the patio and lounge area of the restaurant quite lively with both locals and Red Rock Resort guests until well past our 10pm departure while those seeking a more subdued affair would be best served to request a seat closer to the kitchen, or to consider the soon to be shifting menu offered during Saturday and Sunday Brunch.

WHAT THE STARS MEAN: 5 World Class, 4 Excellent, 3 Good, 2 Fair, 1 Poor

http://hearthstonelv.com/

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Posted in Dessert, Food, Hearthstone, Hearthstone Kitchen, Hearthstone Kitchen & Cellar, Las Vegas, Nevada, Pork, Souffle, Tasting Menu, Truffle

Yardbird Southern Table & Bar [7,] Las Vegas NV

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Yardbird Southern Table & Bar

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Cornmeal Chess Pie – Sorghum Chantilly, Caramel Sauce, Caramel Pretzel, Popcorn

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Deep Fried Oreos – Rice Crispy Doughnut Dough Fried Oreos, Oreo Ice Cream, Chocolate Sauce

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Bacon Butterscotch Cake – Pecan Filling, Bourbon Ice Cream, Butterscotch Sauce

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Bonuts – Yardbird Biscuits, Apple Butter, Slice Apples, Bourbon Ice Cream, Caramel

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Having tweeted a picture of Biscuit Love Brunch’s famous ‘bonuts’ while dining in Nashville just two weeks prior it really wasn’t surprising when Yardbird Chef Todd Harrington tagged me in a post showing their own ‘take one’ of fried balls of buttermilk, and essentially inviting myself over to the restaurant after lunch at Delmonico the creativity and generosity Pastry Chef Vivian Chang and the restaurant itself were once again on display; a quartet of desserts arriving after a bit of chat during late-brunch hours that still saw the room more filled than all of its “Restaurant Row” neighbors combined.

Having already experienced the other three options, but always happy to indulge in what I personally believe to be the best Chess Pie in America even after recent trips to Georgia, Florida, Tennessee, and the Carolinas, it should go without saying that Fried Oreos and the restaurant’s signature cake were also well received, and turning finally to the true piece de resistance each of the four golden orbs showed quite well for a rough draft – the greaseless exterior giving way to a center that was significantly more dense and buttery than those served down South while housemade apple filling and ice cream both working in expected harmony beneath thinly sliced fruit and a drizzle of caramel that reminisced of autumn, the perfected item hopefully ready to roll out far sooner with just a few small tweaks.

http://runchickenrun.com/

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Posted in Dessert, Food, Ice Cream, Las Vegas, Nevada, Pork, Yardbird, Yardbird Southern Table & Bar, Yardbird Southern Table and Bar

Delmonico Steakhouse [2,] Las Vegas NV

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Delmonico Steakhouse

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Popovers with Butter

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Truffle Parmesan Potato Chips

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Apple Cured Kurobuta Bone-In Bacon with Pickled Watermelon Rind and Abita Rootbeer Glaze

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Pan Seared Foie Gras with Local Honey Glazed Apples and Brioche Toast

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Delmonico’s Steak Burger on Toasted Brioche Roll with Fries, Cheddar, and Bacon

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“Emeril’s” BBQ Shrimp with Fresh Baked Rosemary Biscuit

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Organic Baby Mixed Greens Salad – Creole Spiced Croutons, Sherry Vinaigrette, Manchego Cheese, Teardrop Tomatoes, Red Onions

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Grilled Ricotta Cheese Sandwich with Local Basil and Heirloom Tomato Soup

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Crispy Fried Young Chicken with Warm Black-Eyed Pea Salad and Spicy Creole Tomato Glaze

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Dry Aged Bone-In Ribeye with Creole Seasoning and Maitre d’ Butter

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Certified Piedmontese New York Strip with Olive Oil, Sea Salted, Roasted Garlic, Rosemary

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Baked Anson Mills Grits with Vermont White Cheddar and Bacon

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Creamed Corn Gratinee

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Sweet Potato Doughnuts with Espresso Foam

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Caramel Butter Cake with Vanilla Double Cream

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Duck Egg Crème Brulee with Berries and Orange Tuile

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Pecan Pie with Oatmeal Shortbread Crust, French Vanilla Ice Cream, and Caramel Sauce

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Key Lime Pie with Candied Lime and Strawberry Sauce

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Located within Restaurant Row at The Venetian, and still flying the banner of Chef Emeril Lagasse under the direction of Ronnie Rainwater, it was at the behest of a friend that I returned to Delmonico Steakhouse on Saturday afternoon and having contacted the kitchen in advance to be sure some dinner selections could be ordered during lunch the meal that followed was the sort of experience that left me scratching my head wondering why I’d not sat down at the restaurant in more than a half-dozen years, let alone why the space does not get the accolades it most certainly deserves.

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Admitting up front a fondness for Emeril that stems from my first fine dining experience many years ago at his eponymous restaurant in Orlando, not to mention several equally impressive visits to the celebrity chef’s kitchens in Las Vegas and New Orleans, it was mere moments after the restaurant’s 11:30am opening that I checked in at the hostess stand and quickly led to a seat in the vast main dining area it was with exquisite service throughout that the afternoon would commence, visits from Chef Rainwater as well as the restaurant’s GM and Director of Culinary Operations Sean Roe helping to provide some background on sourcing, techniques, and their history with the man who made “BAM” as much an ingredient as a phrase.

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Recently reinventing their logo and constantly tweaking a menu that features no lack of diversity to compliment several signatures, it was to two small popovers and a large bowl of truffled chips that the table was treated as menu decisions were made, and acknowledging that I knew the meal to be hosted even before sitting down a total of eighteen items were received, most of them self-selected, though a few were simply sent out.

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Dining in an unfilled space as both the Venetian and Palazzo were without conventions on this rare weekend it was with somewhat jarring overhead tunes from the likes of the Black Keys, Strokes, and Arctic Monkeys that the air above was filled and within fifteen minutes of placing our order the table was soon crowded with plates, a juicy and sizable Steak Burger brought to satisfy the table’s youngest diner while the rest partook in silky duck liver with classic fruit and crispy bread accoutrements plus thick cuts of bacon that almost made the word look like a slight, each fork-tender bite supple without being fatty as brine was boldly balanced by root beer glaze reined in by pickled bits of watermelon rind.

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Deciding that a few seasonal plates as well as a classic would be best before progressing to entrees sure to be quite a bit more robust, it was with a light green salad alongside a fine riff on grilled cheese that round two began and with the tomato soup as deep and vibrant as any in recent memory it’s pairing to creamy ricotta on brioche was without doubt a hidden gem, the famous quartet of crustaceans every bit as snappy and smoky as remembered though the teensy biscuit still fails to make any sense.

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At this point ready and waiting for a Bone-In Ribeye aged on premises for just short of 60-days it was quite the surprise when not only it, but also a Piedmontese New York Strip arrived, and with the desired earthy funk of the former bullet-pointed through the addition of butter the grassy wet-aged flavor of the Piedmontese was a fork-tender study in bold contrast, both dinner-menu sides setting high standards for their respective ingredients as the crispy fried bird beneath finger-licking tomato glaze immediately stirred debate as to whether it was perhaps even better than that at nearby Yardbird – a question that would make a great throwdown if the two restaurants could get Sands Corporation to set up such an event.

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Never once disappointed by dessert in an Emeril establishment it was in one of those “I’ll take one of each” menus that sweets were presented, but keeping in mind the days later eating and the fact that there were only three diners present a bit of restraint brought forth only five, the hefty application of whipped cream unfortunately muting the impact of Key Lime Pie while both Butter Cake and Crème Brûlée were as rich as expected without doing much to challenge convention, the Pecan Pie and Sweet Potato Donuts thus stepping into the spotlight as absolute must orders with the former almost devoid of filler as candied nuts melded with ice cream and caramel and the latter shockingly light at the center despite a shell as robust as that of the chicken, an aromatic autumnal taste rising high on the palate whether enjoyed on their own or dipped in espresso tinged foam.

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FOUR STARS: Noting that, per request, our hosted dining experience was a compilation of both lunch and dinner selections it should simply be said that if Delmonico Steakhouse were willing and able to offer both menus simultaneously throughout the day it very well may be the most dynamic Steakhouse option in all of Las Vegas. Nailing the execution of nearly every dish presented over the course of two-and-a-half hours while offering an environment marred only by a soundtrack that would have seemed slightly less out of place across the hall at Batali’s B&B there is no doubt a reason why Delmonico has withstood the test of time in a city where rapid turnover is more often the norm, and although oft overlooked by both locals and visitors alike, those sitting down for a meal are almost assured to find not only the classics and great cuts of meat, but also some bites of brilliance that they never may have guessed.

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RECOMMENDED: Crispy Fried Young Chicken, Apple Cured Kurobuta Bone-In Bacon, Certified Piedmontese New York Strip. Baked Anson Mills Grits, Pecan Pie.

AVOID: Key Lime Pie, and that silly little Rosemary Biscuit.

TIP: Apparently tuning down the tunes during the evening, an idea that seems overdue in all but the lounge at lunch, those interested in novelty would be well advised to call Delmonico and inquire about upcoming ‘set menu’ dinners including massive cuts of their signature Prime Beef with sides including seasonal produce and novelties such as a proper spinach soufflé.

WHAT THE STARS MEAN: 5 World Class, 4 Excellent, 3 Good, 2 Fair, 1 Poor

www.emerilsrestaurants.com/delmonico-steakhouse/

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Posted in Bread Basket, Delmonico Steakhouse, Demonico, Dessert, Emeril's, Foie, Food, Ice Cream, Las Vegas, Nevada, Pork, Truffle

Grand Café at Santa Fe Station, Las Vegas NV

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Grand Café Santa Fe Station

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Blueberry Muffin

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Strawberry Donut

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Buttermilk Pancakes with Strawberries and Whipped Cream

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Chicken and Waffles

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Double Chocolate Cookie

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Chocolate Brownie

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Intrigued by not only the concept of ‘locals’ casinos, but more so by the early morning activity at such places, and twice impressed by the quality of the pancakes and pastries at Station Casinos Grand Café it was amidst Las Vegans and visitors that breakfast was enjoyed within the confines of Santa Fe Station and similar to its Strip adjacent brother and Red Rock location in Summerlin the breakfast fare was once again far superior to several more pricey competitors while the baked also proved by-and-large impressive shortly after emerging from the oven just after 6:30am.

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Lengthy but narrow, with a sort of ‘patio’ overlooking the gaming floor adjacent to the well stocked pastry case, it was on the right side of the restaurant with a view of the television showing Sportscenter that I asked to be sat and greeted by a friendly Hispanic man just about to go off-shift water was quickly filled and a pair of pastries delivered, my order of entrees transferred to a middle-aged Caucasian fellow who seemed to take a minute to get his bearings at the beginning of his day.

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Beginning with a simple donut, the $1.25 ring resembling those at Dunkin but not quite as soft in crumb, it seemed to me that while the baked goods were indeed fresh that this fried one might have been a bit old and moving on to the Blueberry Muffin a far better bite was found, the base quite buttery even before adding a little bit more while the top was speckled with pearls of sugar giving the whole thing a light crackle as several fresh berries burst in each bite.

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Eventually flagging down my original server for a water refill, even though I’m rather sure he was off the clock, it was not long before entrees arrived from the fellow who seemed to have finally woken up and setting aside “faple,” as in fake maple, syrup in favor of the good stuff the pancakes again proved light and fluffy with light topping of whipped cream and fresh strawberries while the waffle, too, was quite admirable with a good crunch and soft center, the crisply fried breast of chicken perhaps a little more greasy than some would prefer, but at the same time a whole lot better in its hand-battered herbal flavor than the previously-frozen fingers served at 24/7 spots elsewhere.

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Sated and happy, but also intrigued by a few novelties within the case of cupcakes and croissants, it was with two items boxed and bagged that I settled the tab and taking my leave to less smoky environs than the casino itself it was with coffee in hand that I partook in two chocolate concoctions that again proved quite pleasant, the rich double chocolate chip cookie with slivers of almonds rich and almost ‘brownie-like’ while the actual brownie was more like a slab of sheet cake with slick chocolate ganache and patriotic sprinkles that may not exactly justified the $4.50 tab, but would have been absolutely excellent warmed up beneath some ice cream as offered amongst the menu’s desserts.

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THREE AND A HALF STARS: Not the sort of place that is ever going to win any awards or critical praise, Grand Café remains a great option for an affordable breakfast with some of the best pancakes in town.

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RECOMMENDED: Pancakes, Cookies, Blueberry Muffin.

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AVOID: Donut.

TIP: Locals are encouraged to keep their eyes on mailers from the Casino and to sign up for the free Boarding Pass card as $15 off $30 coupons are frequently offered.

WHAT THE STARS MEAN: 5 World Class, 4 Excellent, 3 Good, 2 Fair, 1 Poor

http://santafestation.sclv.com/Dining/Grand-Cafe.aspx

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Posted in Breakfast, Dessert, Food, Grand Cafe, Grand Cafe at Santa Fe Station, Las Vegas, Nevada, Pancakes, Waffles

Cafe de Cebu, Las Vegas NV

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Café de Cebu

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Krispy Kang-Kong – Crispy battered water spinach with garlic mayo dip

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Ngo-yong – Cebu’s Chinese Fried Vegetable Lumpia made up of ubod, palm heart flavored with Chinese five-spice powder called Ngohiong

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Lechon Belly de Cebu – Slow roasted and seasoned boneless pork belly

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Chicken Skin BBQ – Chicken skin marinated and grilled in our special barbecue sauce

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Halo-Halo

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Ube Cheesecake

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Cookie Butter Pie

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Located in the cozy corner of a shopping plaza on West Flamingo, Filipino stalwart Café de Cebu had long been on my radar despite a brief October closure by the Health Department for questionable refrigeration practices, and recently reminded of the space by the words of a friend it was for dinner on the night before Memorial Day that I finally stopped in to find myself the only diner in the space, a pleasant experience had thanks to 1-on-1 service more than happy to educate me on a cuisine and culture of which I admittedly have much to learn.

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Proudly displaying accolades from the local press for a sizable menu filled with traditional fare straight out of proprietor Mary Villarante’s native Philippines, a meal at Café de Cebu is likely to find unprepared or timid at a bit of a loss, but with ample descriptions provided both in print and from the waitstaff the biggest question becomes one of portions and predilections, a whole lot of offal to be found amidst items slightly more familiar, the first timer encouraged to do their research and ask advice as ‘signatures’ proved to be not only accessible, but also quite good.

Told that no diner at Cebu should go without the Ngo-yong or highly praised pork belly it was with an order of the former that dining commenced and originally serenaded by a native cooking show with subcaptions I admittedly played the ‘dumb American’ in requesting *my* native Cavaliers be turned on instead, the crunchy fried cylinders of pork and hearts of palm rich in cloves as well as allspice proving a bit too heavy to be fully enjoyed in such quantity, though certainly something worth sharing amongst friends.

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Moving on to a substantial bowl of fried spinach that thankfully suffered from far less sog than did the aforementioned eggrolls, suffice it to say that this $3.99 dish easily justifies its cost despite falling just short of that at Nittaya’s in terms of delicacy while the barbeque chicken skins glazed in sweet sauce prove an equally impressive value for just two-dollars more, even if the crisp flesh isn’t exactly the easiest thing to liberate from a thin skewer of wood.

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At this point turning my full attention to the restaurant’s signature item, my order apparently amongst the last bits left from a fifty-pound roast to begin the day, there is no doubt a reason that many have called the Lechon de Cebu one of the city’s best pieces of pork, and costing just $1 an ounce with orders as small as a half-pound available the small bowl proved just enough for one as skin shattered like glass over supple flesh, a trio of sauces ranging from fermented and funky to sweet and saline each proving more than adequate to temper the fat.

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Unfortunately sold out of several traditional sweets, but offering a few specials in addition to the laminated menu’s offerings, it was with a large bowl of Halo-Halo that a sampling of desserts began and although the purple ube ice cream was a bit less flavorful that I’d have expected the amalgam of textures beneath it was more than happy to compensate – everything from melons to corn and gelatin dispersed amongst ice crystals and cream in a portion more than adequate to share, the same not to be said of tiny circles of inconsequential pie and cheesecake, though at $2 each both the quality and quantity here, too, seemed quite fair.

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THREE STARS: Admitting a lack of familiarity with Filipino food in general there is little doubt that Café de Cebu has a lot to offer those willing to explore the menu, but with servers quick to recommend signatures that often sell out well before closing one wonders whether other items stack up – a question surely requiring a repeat visit earlier in the day, or at least as part a larger group.

RECOMMENDED: Lechon Belly de Cebu, Krispy Kang-Kong.

AVOID: Ngo-Yong unless dining with a group, and arriving late when popular items are prone to be long gone.

TIP: Currently offering $15 off $30 dining vouchers through restaurants.com, those looking for a deal would be well advised to pick one up.

WHAT THE STARS MEAN: 5 World Class, 4 Excellent, 3 Good, 2 Fair, 1 Poor

http://www.cafedecebuvegas.com/

Cafe de Cebu on Urbanspoon

Posted in Cafe de Cebu, Dessert, Food, Ice Cream, Las Vegas, Nevada, Pork

Bally’s Sterling Brunch, Las Vegas NV

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Bally’s Sterling Brunch

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Perrier Jouet Champagne

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BLT Steak Popover with Butter

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(Plate 1 Lobster, Cognac, and Boursin Cheese Omelet / Grilled Lobster Tail with Drawn Butter / American Amia Caviar with Blinis and condiments)

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(Plate 2 Jonah Crab Claws / Poached Jumbo Shrimp / Steamed Alaskan King Crab / Roasted Red Pepper Frittata / Grilled Lobster Tail / American Amia Caviar / Drawn Butter)

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(Plate 3 Prosciutto Eggs Benedict / Lobster Eggs Benedict)

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(Plate 4 Lobster Ravioli / Lobster Bisque / Roasted Slab Bacon)

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(Plate 5 Bread Pudding French Toast with Caramelized Bananas / Belgian Waffles, Fresh Whipped Cream, Macerated Berries with Lemon Zest, Pure Maple Syrup)

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(Plate 6 Grilled Filet Mignon with Rosemary / Lemon Rosemary Airline Chicken Breast / Applewood Smoked Bacon / Roasted Pork Sausage / Chimichurri Crusted Rack of Lamb / Cheddar and Bacon Yukon Gold Mashed Potatoes)

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(Plate 7 Lemon Tart / Chocolate Tart / Cheesecake / Pineapple Upside Down Cake / Milk Chocolate and Dark Chocolate Ganache Suckers)

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(Plate 8 Grilled Peaches, Bacon, and Burrata / Chocolate Covered Strawberries / Mixed Nuts / Dates and Apricots / Cheddar, Brie, Blue, Idiazabal Cheese / Yogurt and Granola Parfait)

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(Plate 9 Fruit Tart / Chocolate Caramel Crunch Bar / Peanut Butter Mousse with Chocolate Ganache / Hazelnut Chocolate Tart)

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(Plate 10 Raspberry Chocolate Tart / Passion Fruit Parfait / Strawberry Parfait)

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Heavily clad in silver when it opened its doors to high rollers in 1981, Bally’s Sterling Brunch has undergone a few changes in the last thirty-four years, including a brief closure that saw it reinvented within BLT-Steak in 2014, but still considered a piece of classic Las Vegas on the ‘you’ve got to do it once’ list for locals and tourists alike a visit on the Sunday preceding Memorial Day showed the place to be still going strong even despite a doubling in price across the three decades past.

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Undeniably a pricey experience, currently tallying $90 (or $85 for those presenting a Total Rewards card,) but justified by its boutique nature with all-you-can drink Champagne, Screwdrivers, Fresh Squeezed Orange Juice, or Coffee plus a spread including Grilled Lobsters, American Caviar, and King Crab Legs that far outshine the meager offerings at overwrought spots elsewhere, arrival at the doors of BLT Steak during service is likely to be met by a short line but with reservations the wait is minimal, my 9:30am arrival seeing me seated within five minutes by a GM who showed great skill in memorizing the names of diners at several tables where he checked in frequently to make sure all going according to plan.

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Doing my best to snap a few photos before the buffet was in full swing before returning to my table to find a young waitress that was soon to be overstretched in serving more than a dozen tables, it was with champagne and coffee glass filled that the details of the dining room were described and soon given an enormous cheesy pop-over plus whipped butter by a tall male back-server the experience was underway, the airy bread exceedingly wispy beneath a soft golden shell with cheesy top-notes so pronounced that it almost led me to request another – until I recalled what treasures were to come.

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Acknowledging my limitations as relates to alcohol, and as such imbibing in only two-and-a-half glasses of Perrier Jouet along with at least three-fold as many refills of coffee during the course of my 175 minute stay, it was with a deliberate pace and path that I worked my way through the buffet’s offerings, a first plate featuring the restaurant’s heralded omelet prepped to order with 2oz of caviar, a trio of blinis, and a nicely grilled lobster tail plus freshly drawn butter at its side.

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Generally underwhelmed by buffet seafood, but immediately impressed by both the lobster as well as the caviar, a second trip saw snappy shrimp set beside another tail, more roe, plus two types of crab and although the cold pre-cracked claws were a little more grainy than I’d have hoped the King Crab was as sweet and succulent as most found in fine dining establishments spanning the strip, a follow-up of benedicts from the kitchen taking far too long to prepare and meagerly decorated with protein when compared to what customers can just as easily gather themselves.

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Taken by the delicacy of noodles surrounding lobster ravioli topped in a sauce quite similar to the bisque, but richer when thickened by hot cast iron, and more than a little surprised at just how supple the slab bacon was when sliced to order, it was here that sweets would first be sampled and although the miniature waffles topped with whipped cream and macerated fruit plus a drizzle of maple syrup were a nice balance of crisp, pliable, and yeasty the laminated pastry given a custard bath before being baked into French Toast was an absolute show-stopper, easily amongst the best in the city and far superior to many that cost $17-20 at several 24-hour cafes.

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Spending some time admiring decorations fashioned from reappropriated utensils, the restaurant now nearing half-full with several inebriated patrons pushing the noise level to a dull roar, it was unfortunate that neither the flimsy bacon nor run-of-the-mill sausage were any better than that available at a neighborhood diner while the tiny slice of filet mignon was almost inedibly cooked past well – the tender lamb chops as well as stuffed chicken proving far better seasoned and prepared on my final plate of savories before rounding out the experience in to a quartet of plates featuring small desserts, fruits, cheeses, and nuts.

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At this point losing track of the server who seemed to be covering half the room, it was to the GM that I appealed for another cup of coffee and tasting through each of the sweets presented from the bar up front only two items really stood out – the hazelnut tart for its ability to reinvent Nutella into an ever-so-light mousse and the Cheesecake whose sour thickness was absolutely the opposite, a far better bite found in a small bowl of grilled peaches and candied bacon atop fresh pulled burrata that sat unannounced on the cold bar next to an equally fresh berry and yogurt parfait.

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THREE AND A HALF STARS: Without a doubt an experience, the quality of the cuisine and beverages easily justifying the cost for fans of shellfish and those capable of drinking their fair share of bubbly brut, Sterling Buffet lived up to its ‘bucket list’ billing as one of those places that everyone should try once, the impetus to return a matter of tastes and budget, particularly in a city where far more vast spreads can be found at a mere fraction of the cost.

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RECOMMENDED: Lobster Tails, Caviar and Blinis, Roasted Slab Bacon, Bread Pudding French Toast with Caramelized Bananas, Hazelnut Chocolate Tart, Grilled Peaches with Bacon and Burrata.

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AVOID: Benedicts, Filet Mignon, Jonah Crab Claws, Cheesecake.

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TIP: Aside from the obvious fact that the free Total Rewards program will save each diner $5, those gambling frequently within the Harrah’s properties would be well advised to inquire about comps, the two tables adjacent to mine clearly known to waiters who addressed each man by name and never presented them a bill.

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WHAT THE STARS MEAN: 5 World Class, 4 Excellent, 3 Good, 2 Fair, 1 Poor

https://www.caesars.com/ballys-las-vegas/restaurants/sterling-brunch#.VWaS0enbJ9A

Sterling Brunch on Urbanspoon

Posted in Bally's Sterling Brunch, Bread Basket, Breakfast, Coffee, Crab, Dessert, Food, French Toast, Las Vegas, Lobster, Nevada, Pancakes, Pork, Sterling Brunch

The Catbird Seat, Nashville TN

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The Catbird Seat

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White Verjus – Rose Water Soda

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Beef Tendon – Puffed with Mushroom and Tarragon

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Country Ham – 2013 from The Hammery, Charcoal Burned Sourdough, Arugula Blossoms

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Oyster – Moon Shoal, Green Strawberry Granita, Pickled Dulce, Lavender

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Razor Clam – Sweet Onion Puree, Charcoal Grilled Seaweed Oil / Irish Tea – Roasted Potato, Steeped Herbs

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Grapefruit Cocktail – Elderflower and Juniper

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Aged Beef Tartare – Liquid Nitrogen Frozen and Shaved Bear Creek Striploin Aged 50 Days, Snails Eggs, Quinoa, Puffed Rice, Edible Leaves

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Smoked Ginger Carrot Juice

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Potato Mash – Yazoo Beer Yeast, Smoked Bread Croutons, Herbs

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Steamed Romaine – Lightly Smoked Caviar, Sour Cream

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Hibiscus Tea – Thyme, Sage, Rosemary, Dill

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Pork Tail – Fennel Flowers, Cooking Liquor, Fennel Puree

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Strawberry Cake – Liquid Shortbread, Lemon Gel, Herbs, Chamomile Boba, Goat Yogurt Mousse

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Lemon Ice Box Pie Salad – French Sorrel, Pecan Butter, Candied Pecans, Bourbon

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Fresh Squeezed Green Apple – Tarragon, Salted Rim

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Potato Cake – Danish Toppel Pastry, Potato Cream, Marzipan, Black Mushroom, Chocolate Dirt

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Long ranking on my American dining bucket list it was almost serendipity that The Catbird Seat returned from a team vacation to noma during my final day in Nashville, and having contacted the restaurant directly when the online reservation system continued to show no seats for the whole week prior it was a true measure of generosity that saw a seat offered even before books opened for my coveted first seating, a 5:30 arrival finding just one other couple present as we watched the team work diligently preparing canapés while completing last minute mis en place.

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Reported by some to have slipped a notch since the departure of Chef Erik Anderson and promotion of Trevor Moran to top toque, it was immediately on downstairs entry that the experience began and treated to the a glass of bubbly verjus the quick ascent in an elevator soon saw me seated with a head-on view of the kitchen, potentially the best seat in the house with a beef tendon puffed like a chicharron ready in wait.

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Assuring the team of no allergies or intolerances, and opting for the $35 non-alcoholic pairing that generally lacked inspiration with not only redundant flavors but also a repeat of the floral soda at dessert, it was with great rapidity that the next four bites arrived and although the ham amidst aromatics and light smoke was truly delicious both the oyster and razor clam seemed strangely out of place, the herbal tea a clever enough concept when used to reinvigorate the grilled seaweed oil, but mostly just filler and a sign flavors to come.

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Undoubtedly taking on some of the terroir as plates progressed, the first proper course of the meal was perhaps the most intriguing of all, and although the pairing with sweetened grapefruit did not really do much to improve the silky beef topped in snail eggs and puffed rice both the flavors and textures were more than enough to tantalize the palate while also showing the kitchen’s ability to do more than just accent everything with smoke.

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At this point joined by several other diners, many regulars that saw gifted plates from the kitchen extend out their tasting while the rest of us stood by, it was with more smoke in hand that the next plate arrived, the puree of pommes not particularly photogenic but creamy and almost ethereal beneath foam from local brewer’s yeast and yet another top note of smoke.

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Settling in for what seemed destined to be a long meal of dynamic, if not entirely unique, bites it was next in almost comically smoked caviar that we indulged and although the dollop of eggs was quite generous I almost couldn’t believe my ears when the follow-up of crispy pork tail was presented as the ‘final savory’ – a mere sixty-five minutes passed as the hibiscus tea accented with dill proved a challenge to stomach, let alone understand.

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Sure enough transitioning here from savory to sweet without so much as cheese, sorbet, or even a new drink it was to an elegantly decorated cake of textures beneath light tang that the first few diners were treated and receiving another glass of the verjus just a few minutes later the pairing unfortunately proved a bit too floral when melding with pearls of hibiscus, a far better sip found in the blend of herbs and apples with which the last two courses would be had.

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At this point hoping that the menu had not entirely morphed from earlier days I was thankful that the penultimate plate was Catbird Seat’s famous “Ice Cream Salad,” and utilizing the gentle sweetness of sorrel with chilly citrus and southern staples of bourbon and pecan the flavor was as dynamic as the texture, a similar compliment paid to the potato shaped Toppel that spilled forth cream to create a sort dip-and-bite experience with ‘dirt’ that balanced out the sugar with careful bitterness, a final bit of whimsy that left me with a good taste in my mouth and a smile on my face despite walking out a mere 2-hours after entry still feeling hungry, perplexed by the hype, and wondering how, exactly, a place like this survives in Nashville at greater than $200 a head after tax and tip.

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http://thecatbirdseatrestaurant.com/

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Posted in Dessert, Food, Ice Cream, Nashville, Pork, Tasting Menu, Tennessee, The Catbird Seat, Vacation