Purple Haze – George Dickel Rye, St. Elder Liquor, Fresh Lemon, Mint, Blueberry Preserves
Turkey Day – Orzo, Acorn Squash, Stuffing Croutons
Crispy Chicken Skins – Smoked Honey
BBQ Burnt Ends – House Pickles, Highbrow Ranch
Pig in a Duvet – Chorizo, Tajin Mustard
Project Idaho – St. George Citrus Vodka, Licor 43, Fresh Lime, Angostura & Fennel Bitters, Fernet Vittone Menta, Ginger Ale
Winter Squash Flatbread – Eggplant Ragu, House Ricotta, Sage
Green, Eggs & Ham Flatbread – No-Nut Pesto, Smoked Mozz, Tasso
The Magarian – Aviation Gin, Thyme & Honey Syrup,Fresh Lemon, Mr. Q Cucumber Soda
Short Rib Grilled Cheese – Sourdough, Gouda / Tomato Bisque – Roma Tomato, Micro Basil, Harissa
Squid Ink Spaghetti – Calamari, Calabrian Butter, Tapenade
Pork Chop – Red Wine Poached Pear, Pomegranate
Baked Mac & Cheese – Shhh, it’s a secret
Olive Oil Potatoes – Capers, Kalamata, Scallion
Butter Burger – Boursin, Cheddar, Lettuce, Tomato, Spicy Tater Tots
Pair of Pear – Whistling Andy Pink Peppercorn & Pear Gin, St. George Spice Pear Liquor, Charred Rosemary, Fresh Lemon, Vanilla
Bourbon Fudge Brownie – Brown Butter Bacon Ice Cream
Glazed Donut Bread Pudding – Three Rum Caramel, Vanilla Crème Anglaise
Bartlett Pear Tart – St. George Spiced Pear Meringue
The best restaurants are those that keep us coming back for more, and so it was on Saturday night when a party of five sat down besides the bar at Carson Kitchen, Chef John Courtney showing off a few modern classics alongside what the late-Fall/Winter 2016 menu has to offer.
Bustling during the afternoon and still as vibrant a nighttime scene as ever, Matthew Harwell overseeing a cocktail program that excels by way of bright flavors with the sort of complexity that costs $4-8 more on The Strip, it was with warm greetings from severs as well as the Chef himself that a carte blanche tasting got started, Radiohead making the first of several overhead appearances as all partook in the elegant Purple Haze that somehow manages to turn a hefty pour of Whisky into something accessible and fruit forward.
Making a few requests for favorite plates, more than half the table marking this as their first visit to 124 South 6th Street, there is no denying that Cory Harwell and the late Kerry Simon’s Fried Chicken Skins are a best of their kind rendition after recently experiencing inferior takes in both Belgium and New Orleans, the BBQ Burnt Ends a carryover from Summer that continues to stand out no matter what season while “Turkey Day” Pasta Salad eats far lighter than one might expect considering the Stuffing and Holiday inspiration.
Impressed by the clever “Pig in a Duvet,” the spicy Pork Sausage with a snappy casing complimented by puff pastry atop housemade Mustard infused by Chiles and Citrus, it was with share plates replaced that herbaceous Project Idaho landed to pair with two of Carson Kitchen’s oft-lamented Flatbreads, both options this time showing far better than the majority prior as forest green Pesto exuded freshness beneath a blend of Mozzarella, Taso and three Egg Yolks while the Eggplant Ragu and Housemade Ricotta better allowed diners to notice a Crust that comes through with enhanced smoke and flexibility, the result of a less overworked dough that allows for improved leavening.
Happy to see one of Carson Kitchen’s classic Cocktails for the first time in several visits, the gin-based Magarian an ideal sipping beverage for refreshing the palate between heavier bites, Chefs Courtney and Harwell next introduced the restaurants first soup, a Tomato Bisque that likens the sort of Sauce described as “Fra Diavolo” in its flavor with a creamy base that seems almost *too* obvious as the gooey Short Rib Grilled Cheese’s dipping counterpart.
Telling the table of a Calabrian Chile harvest that will likely see both Carson Kitchen and another upcoming Simon Hospitality Group project steeped in spice for months to come, housemade Black Spaghetti with Calamari and Olive Tapenade was a briny burst of flavor not recommendable for the timid – those sorts still not cheated for flavor in any way with other menu choices including Mediterranean Mashed Potatoes, an extra Cheesy Burger or a bone-in Pear and Pomegranate piece if Pork that rivals the city’s best despite its modest cost.
Unable to finish the hearty Mac n’ Cheese if room was to be saved for dessert, it was with about 1/3 reluctantly returned to the kitchen that the “Pair of Pear” transitioned palates to something sweeter, the cocktail’s combination of Fruit, fragrance and spice conspiring with the Meringue-topped Pear Tart in every manner imaginable, Coffee the more natural go-to for those choosing the classic Bourbon Fudge Brownie or the Glazed Donut Bread Pudding that seems to get better with each visit.
FIVE STARS: Not content to let the DTLV landmark rest on its laurels, even with the menu at Standard & Pour taking on similar concepts in a far more challenging part of town, Carson Kitchen continues to succeed where many others struggle by never doing anything the ‘easy’ way or taking their customers for granted, a strong testament to the passion its ownership as well as the talent filling both the kitchen and front of house.
RECOMMENDED: The Classics are there for a reason, so for now focus on Turkey Day, Green Eggs & Ham Flatbread, Pork Chop, Squid Ink Spaghetti and the Bartlett Pear Tart.
AVOID: Some in the group felt the Butter Burger to have “too much” cheese while others called Purple Haze “too sweet.” I do not understand either phrase, but considered it worth mentioning for lack of any other complaints amongst five people from a wide range of ages and birthplaces.
TIP: Look for more news in early 2017 from Simon Hospitality Group and once you’ve made your way though Carson Kitchen’s current season grab a designated driver and head down to Henderson to see what Standard & Pour has to offer.
WHAT THE STARS MEAN: 5 World Class, 4 Excellent, 3 Good, 2 Fair, 1 Poor.