Focaccia – Olive Oil and Balsamic
Caprese Salad – Heirloom Tomatoes, Bufala Mozzarella, Basil
Meatballs – Fried Squash Blossom, Goat Cheese, San Marzano Tomatoes
Crab Cake Arancini – Lemon Saffron Risotto, Pesto Aioli, Fresno Pickles
Beet Salad – Goat Cheese Panna Cotta, Candied Pistachios, Orchard Apples
Calamari – Housemade Marinara, Pepperoncini, Parmesan
Split Pea Tortellini – Iberico Pork, Spring Vegetables, Smoked Chicken Broth
Ripatelli – Housemade Italian Sausage and Peppers, Broccolini, Pesto Essence
Lamb Gnocchi – Minted Cucumber, Heirloom Tomato, Torpedo Onion, Ricotta Salata
Burrata Agnolotti – Lobster, Chanterelle Mushroom, Roasted Corn Butter
Chicken Foie-Fredo – Hand-cut Fettucine, Herb Roasted Chicken, Chicken Cracklins’, Foie Gras Alfredo
Veal Osso Bucco – Saffron Risotto, Bone Marrow, Gremolata
Chicken Rollatini Parmesan – Chicken Ripieno, Housemade Marinara, Melted Mozzarella
Salmon – Fava Beans, Buttered Radishes, Fiddlehead Ferns, Porcini Mushrooms, Polenta Cake
Dayboat Scallops – Grilled Corn, Pancetta, Roasted Peppers, Crimini Mushrooms, Potato Puree
Rack of Lamb – Eggplant Caponata, Fingerling Potatoes, Ramp Pesto
Skinny Pacino – Grilled Pounded Veal Breast, Farmer’s Market Greens, Baby Heirloom Tomatoes, Shallot Vinaigrette
Nutella Crème Brulee – Shortbread, Crystalized Sugar
Traditional Tiramisu – Cognac Crème, Lady Fingers
Chocolate Cake – Fudge, Vanilla Ice Cream
Sorbetti – Market Berries, Lemon, Blood Orange
Gelato – Strawberry Cheesecake, Double Chocolate, Vanilla Milkshake
Still getting used to the Portofino Ristorante naming, Chef Michael LaPlaca’s name unfortunately removed from the marquee as MGM looks to re-identify much of their Italian lineup across that nation, it was as a party of four that yet another fine meal was enjoyed inside The Mirage’s best restaurant on Sunday Night, the recently unveiled Spring Menu showing the same creativity fans have come to love and expect even as the restaurant has slowly transitioned to a more standardized format.
With capacity already low up-and-down Las Vegas Boulevard in Late April, several big conventions soon to kick off the 702’s busiest six months of the year, it was having passed by an empty Heritage Steak and echoing STACK that the group was greeted with smiles at Portofino’s hostess podium, General Manager Chris Zadie quickly escorting guests through a tidy bar still lined in cursive to a table in the room’s lower level, the early hour of 5:30pm seeing only one other couple present but the restaurant filling to approximately quarter capacity within an hour.
Always happy to give carte blanche to the kitchen, Chef LaPlaca’s food never in question and Chris’ team as professional as ever, it was with Ice Tea poured and the first of two baskets of warm Focaccia brought forth that the evening got started, a quintet of appetizers all longtime standards for good reason with the Caprese and Beet Salads both producing smiles from Midwestern guests who haven’t seen fresh produce since 2016 while the generously portioned Crab Cake and tender Veal Meatballs remain amongst the very best in the city.
Trying best not to overindulge early, the fact that several Pastas, Entrees and Desserts were yet to come still finding it difficult to pass on thick rings of Calamari, it was after a brief repose that the team emerged alongside Chef LaPlaca from the kitchen, a total of five plates including two old favorites and three new ones all as innovative as ever with the Agnolotti served almost 50/50 with chunks of Lobster and the hand-torn ‘Ripatelli’ standing up well to a ‘traditional’ topping of housemade Italian Sausage and Peppers.
Now making the Chicken Foie-Fredo a permanent fixture, even those not fond of Duck Liver bound to appreciate the way its smooth mouthfeel pairs to heavy Cream and Cheese on thick noodles with Chicken Skins added for crunch, those looking for something lighter would be well-advised to check out the new season’s Tortellini stuffed with Iberico Pork and bathed in a smoky Pork broth that bathes fresh Peas and other Crudites, the light-as-a-feather Potato Dumplings taking on the idea of a Gyro by way of sliced Lamb, Ricotta Salata and lightly minted Cucumbers.
Already seeing some lightweights throw in the towel, even though the meal was only halfway done, it was in a grand display that a total of *six* secondi were brought forth to thrill palates in the final savory course, the Osso Bucco and Chicken Parmesan all written about several times before and still hard to resist while the Salmon and Scallops took two proteins that are basically mandatory on every menu in Las Vegas to new heights, the former brightening the large filet by way of Buttered Radishes and Fiddleheads plus tender Fava Beans while the sweet ‘jewels of the sea’ were seared to caramelization on the outside with the center still translucent amidst Corn both grilled and Popped plus Peppers and Mushrooms atop Pommes Puree.
Also served the third iteration of Michael’s pounded Veal, this version lightly grilled and topped with Farmer’s Market Greens as a ‘skinny’ alternative to the fried Parm or Milanese named after a local Nightclub owner (rather than the famous Movie Star,) it was with Chef LaPlaca’s personal favorite Rack of Lamb with smoky Eggplant Caponata, Fingerling Potatoes and Ramp Pesto that the tipping point was hit – all five of the menu’s Desserts still unchanged, though the Nutella Crème Brulee and Tiramisu still remain well worth the calories as well as the dollars.
FOUR AND A HALF STARS: No doubt limited by its location, an off corner in The Mirage hardly a place most gourmands or even ‘foodies’ would ever wander unless it was inhabited by the likes of Robuchon, Michael and Chris continue to offer Las Vegas’ best Italian experience at Portofino no matter what the sign says, one’s only real complaint being the fact that the corporate heads at MGM won’t give the duo a proper Pastry Chef or the sort of marketing push that would let them do even more.
RECOMMENDED: Crab Cake Arancini, Meatballs, Lamb Gnocchi, Split Pea Tortellini, Burrata Agnolotti, Rack of Lamb, Veal Osso Bucco, Chicken Rollatini Parmesan, Nutella Crème Brulee.
AVOID: Dessert remains a bit of a let-down compared to the Cheesecake or Cookie Souffles of Old, though first time visitors and conventioneers will no doubt find comfort in old classics done well.
TIP: 5-10pm Thursday through Monday.
WHAT THE STARS MEAN: 5 World Class, 4 Excellent, 3 Good, 2 Fair, 1 Poor.