Olive Oil Soaked Focaccia
Caprese Salad – Heirloom Tomatoes, Bufala Mozzarella, Basil
Meatballs – Fried Squash Blossom, Goat Cheese, San Marzano Tomatoes
Grilled Octopus – Calabrian Peperonata, Fingerling Crisps, Salsa Verde
Crab Cake Arancini – Lemon Saffton Risotto, Pesto Aioli, Fresno Pickles
Beet Salad – Goat Cheese Panna Cotta, Candied Pistachios, Orchard Apples
Burrata Agnolotti – Lobster, Chanterelle Mushroom, Roasted Corn Butter
Pot Roast Raviolini – Baby Root Vegetables, Celery, Potato Confit, Pickled Pearl Onions
Chicken Foie-Fredo – Hand-cut Fettucine, Herb Roasted Chicken, Chicken Cracklins’, Foie Gras Alfredo
Ripatelli – Wild Boar Bolognese, Roadted Tomato Sauce, Goat Cheese Pesto
Pumpkin Spice Gnocchi – Braised Venison, Candy Cane Beets, Gingerbread Crumble
Day Boat Scallops – Cauliflower Textures, Smoked Prosciutto, Mascarpone Polenta, Pimenton Popcorn
Rack of Lamb – Creamed Kohlrabi, Savory Bread Pudding, Honey Rosemary Figs
The $65 Veal Parmesan for $55 – Melted Mozzarella, Housemade Marinara
Veal Osso Bucco – Saffron Risotto, Bone Marrow, Gremolata
Nutella Crème Brulee – Shortbread, Crystalized Sugar
Traditional Tiramisu – Cognac Crème, Lady Fingers
Chocolate Cake – Fudge, Vanilla Ice Cream
Sorbetti – Market Berries, Lemon, Raspberry
Gelato – Strawberry Cheesecake, Double Chocolate, Vanilla Milkshake
A new menu, slightly ‘updated’ name and the same outstanding results recently defined another visit to Portofino Ristorante at The Mirage Hotel and Casino, Chef Michael LaPlaca and GM Chris Zadie continuing their reign as Las Vegas premier Italian Fine Dining Restaurant even though the executives overseeing the space have undergone a substantial change.
Once again failing to update the interior from Onda, even though consistent accolades and in-the-know diner’s recommendations acknowledge Portofino to have completely reinvented the space under the toque of its Ohio-born Chef, it was just past six that five friends were led to a rounded table on the restaurant’s lower level, the “Ristorante” not making the concept any more “Italian,” though the music overhead did seem somewhat louder from this vantage point.
Requesting the same Carte Blanche service as always, a four-course family style tasting comprised of nineteen plates soon to follow with three paired Wines, it was with slick pillows of soft Focaccia that the meal got started, the only change amongst appetizers a pleasant Beet Salad with balled Melon and Goat Cheese Panna Cotta shimmering amidst a bright Vinaigrette.
Impressed as always by the rest of the starters, the Crab Cakes seemingly sweeter than the past – perhaps as a result of the season – it was with the Chef standing tableside that a five-piece pasta course was presented, smoothness exemplified by Burrata Agnolotti offering perfect little pockets mixed with big chunks of Lobster while last year’s Chicken Foie-Fredo saw a big textural upgrade by way of crispy Chicken Chicharones tossed with Hand-cut Fettucine and strips of tender white Meat glistening in unctuous Alfredo.
Transitioning the wide-ribboned Ripatelli to winter by way of Wild Boar Bolognese while making a hearty pass at the Midwestern slow-cooker classic inside of tiny Ravioli, a tongue-in-cheek swipe at the “Official flavor of Fall” came across in LaPlaca’s ever-light Dumplings, a Ragu of braised Reindeer offering a slight bit of grassy funk that found its foil in thin slices of Beets along with charred Brussels Sprout Leaves and housemade Gingerbread Crumble.
Always happy to see Portofino’s Veal Osso Bucco, perhaps not Sin City’s most famous but arguably the best, new secondi offered Day Boat Scallops amidst Cauliflower Florets and smoked Pork with spicy Popcorn on a bed of smooth Polenta, the Rack of Lamb perfectly roasted medium with a round of smooth Stuffing plus Figs added for sweetness, the Strauss Brands Veal served slightly different from last visit’s “Veal Pacino” with a lower price, similar size and better flavor than the one jokingly referenced in the unofficial off-menu-only title.
Disappointed to see that desserts have regressed, the pastry department once again undergoing change as a result of the shared nature with other restaurants within the Casino, both the Tiramisu and Crème Brûlée remain competent closers, though the loss of Cassata Cake and the Cookie-based Souffle trio are issues that management should look into remedying as soon as possible.
FOUR AND A HALF STARS: As innovative as ever, the Pastas and Entrees continuing to shine on a nation-wide level despite the constraints of playing to The Mirage clientele, it seems shortsighted that management would invest time in changing the name when a fresh coat of paint and good pastry Chef could offer exponential improvement at nominal cost, though as long as Chef LaPlaca and Chris Zadie are involved there is no doubt the restaurant will continue to impress.
RECOMMENDED: Meatballs, Crab Cake Arancini, Pumpkin Spice Gnocchi, Chicken Foie-Fredo, Rack of Lamb, Veal Osso Bucco, Nutella Crème Brulee.
AVOID: Those shy about Celery may want to reconsider the Pot Roast Raviolini.
TIP: Both the Veal Parm and Lobster Milanese are available as off-menu requests only.
WHAT THE STARS MEAN: 5 World Class, 4 Excellent, 3 Good, 2 Fair, 1 Poor.