Gaston Chiquet Tradition 1er Cru Champagne
Baguette and Bacon Brioche, Butter and Sea Salt
Caviar Brioche – Confit Egg Yolk, Onion, Crème Fraiche
Ora King Salmon Crudo – Lemon Strawberry Spuma, Ikura, Basil
Hamachi Crudo Salad – Ginger Soy, Smoked Coconut, Radish
Roasted Heirloom Carrots – Avocado, Cumin, Tarragon, Chicharones
Heirloom Tomato Salad – Grilled Peach, Belotta Ham, Feta, Black Garlic
Brandade Croquette – Pimenton Pepper, Baby Radish, Lemon Aioli
Foie Gras Brulee – Strawberry Compote, Toasted Cocoa Nib, Toasted Salted Brioche
Wagyu Beef Tartare – Crushed Caper Aioli, Slow Poached Egg, Crispy Chocolate, Pickled Mustard Seed, Toasted Bread
Foie Gras Torchon – Blueberry, Caramelized Sugar, Brioche
Langoustine Bisque – Langoustine, Beech Mushroom, Buckwheat
Black Bass – Cue Ball Squash, Almonds, Cucumbers, Market Tomato, Coriander Sauce
Loin of Spring Lamb – Crispy Lamb Neck, Sugar Snap Peas, Watercress, Shishito Peppers
Iberico Secreto Pork – Ancho Romesco, Apricot, Lacinato Kale, Pumpkin Seeds
Veal Cheeks – Picked Onions, Herb Spatzle, Roasted Turnips, Paprika Jus
Double Espresso – Ice
Raspberry Soda – Greek Yogurt Sherbet, Basil Pearls, Raspberry Marshmallow
Baba Au Rhum – Vanilla Poached Rhubarb, Strawberries, Elderflower Bavaroise
Black Forrest Torte – Dark Chocolate Ganache, Devil’s Food Cake, Cherry Kirsch Gelee, Milk Chocolate Ice Cream
Foie Gras Candy Bar – Salt and Pepper Peanut Butter Cream, Bourbon Caramel, Single-Origin Milk Chocolate
It was just one day after Aria’s first anniversary that a solo dinner was enjoyed at Shawn McClain’s Sage, the subsequent six and three-quarter years seeing a cross-country move and travels around the globe but inexplicably no return to the Restaurant despite fond memories, a long-planned night out with a friend and his mother recently showing both the cuisine and service to have matured under the guidance of Executive Chef Chris Heisinger and General Manager Nathan Grates.
By many standards an unlikely “Celebrity Chef” restaurant for Las Vegas, McClain making a name for himself at Vegetable-centric Spring and Green Zebra in Chicago before opening the first of what has since become a total of three Casino restaurants spanning two properties, Sage was originally opened alongside Bar Masa as one of Aria’s fine-dining crown jewels, the ‘farm to table’ concept outlasting Michael Mina’s American Fish and Serio Italian with its neighbor rumored soon to close, as well.
Without a doubt one of the city’s most striking rooms, a high-ceilinged lounge with enormous murals and an immense Bar found just beyond luminous Wine racks en route to the first of two dining rooms featuring sensual shades of purple and spot lighting with dramatic pockets of darkness in-between, diners sitting down to dinner at Sage will find themselves offered one of several banquets or tables with plenty of padding and dark wood, the music overhead creating a pulse though occasionally too loud throughout the evening.
Served in a team-style similar to many of Las Vegas’ larger restaurants, the runners well-educated and more than capable of presenting a plate with ample description of ingredients and technique involved, it was with Carte Blanche given to the kitchen that the meal began with a small glass of Champagne, the amuse to follow not dissimilar to Jean George Steakhouse’s Egg and Brioche with Caviar and traditional Condiments packed into a neat Sandwich from just a few weeks prior.
Halfway between a ‘small plates’ concept and one where each diner is encouraged to order her or his own three-course meal, the offering of a Bar Menu as well as Vegan, Vegetarian, Seasonal and Chef’s Tasting menus providing a wide variety of dining styles to accommodate several tastes, timeframes and budgets, it was with two styles of Bread plus good Butter and Sea Salt that dinner progressed into individually plated Ora King Salmon slicked in Olive Oil with Citrus, Salmon Roe and Herbs, the flavors far too ‘fishy’ for one at the table while the textures were smooth and luxurious with plenty of balance in the eyes of the others.
Moving next to a round of shared Salads, two signature and the other seasonal, it was again with raw Fish dissuading one guest that this round exemplified what diners can expect from Sage as a whole, each plate presenting a bold compellation of ingredients whose flavors and textures complement one another without anything seeming out of place or unnecessary, the smoked Coconut and Ginger giving Hamachi a Thai-tinge while both the roasted Carrots and crispy Pig Skins as well as the Heirloom Tomato Salad with curls of Ham and briny Feta in Black Garlic confidently presented protein as a garnish with light sweetness helping to tie everything on the plate together.
Next offering an off-menu Salt Cod Croquette with bright spices and a bit of cooling aioli, though the placing proved to be a bit strange with several delicate courses to follow, it was here that Chef Heisinger sent forth two Sage-classics that predate his arrival, the aged-Wagyu Tartare using a Chocolate Tuille to perfume raw Beef in a subtle manner similar to the Cocoa Nibs found in caramelized Foie Gras Custard, without a doubt one of Sin City’s true ‘destination’ dishes and nearly matched by the tasting menu’s Sugar-shellacked Torchon with rounds of Brioche and three tastes of Blueberries.
Individually pouring three-bowls of umami-rich Bisque next, the broth forgivingly light and thus allowing the flavors of Lemongrass and aromatic oils to highlight a snappy Langoustine and raw slices of Beech Mushroom, it was with a quartet of entrees served family style that savories came to a conclusion, the Black Bass moist and flaky beneath crispy Skin that played well off seasonal Vegetables in an almost Curry-like bath while the Spring Lamb and Veal Cheeks each put a bit of heat in the mix to help balance the fat, the former doing so with Peppers amidst the Snap Peas while the latter hinted toward cooler weather ahead with Paprika Jus and Dumplings in a hearty Stew.
Savoring the Iberico Pork until the end, a smoky Sauce beautifully matching tender flesh to sweet Apricots, Pepitas and toasted Kale, it was with an $8 Double Espresso that the palate was cleared in preparation for Dessert, the “Raspberry Soda” prepared tableside light but a bit too “Marshmallow Salad” in terms of its texture while the tasting menu’s Baba Au Rhum did justice to the French classic with Rhubarb predictably complimenting Strawberries despite the fact that the “Elderflower” Bavaroise was fairly underflavored.
At this point fairly full, but unable to resist requesting one last dish that has been garnering acclaim ever since it was added to the menu, it was with last bites of the deconstructed Black Forrest Torte finished that Mr. Grates presented the Foie Gras Candy Bar, a good choice for those who do not want something ‘too sweet’ at meal’s end and truly exemplary in its ability to both highlight and harness liver’s unctuousness with Salt, Nuts, bitter-sweet Chocolate and oaky Caramel.
FOUR STARS: Perhaps flawed a bit by giving the kitchen so much flexibility in Carte Blanche on a busy Friday, the Brandade Fritter certainly better served elsewhere in the progression and the “Soda” not on par with what one would expect from fine dining in terms of visuals or texture, Sage is nonetheless a worthy restaurant amidst Las Vegas upper echelon, though dollar-for-dollar the a la carte courses are similar in cost to places that are a bit more rarified in their environment with ingredients and execution that are on par, or better.
RECOMMENDED: Roasted Heirloom Carrots, Foie Gras Brulee, Foie Gras Torchon, Iberico Secreto Pork, Black Bass, Foie Gras Candy Bar, Black Forrest Torte.
AVOID: $8 double Espresso is an outright scam, the Raspberry Soda is a lot like eating holiday Marshmallow Salad, no matter how ‘fancy’ they try to make it with the tableside iSi treatment, and seats closest to the lounge get a double wallop of the overhead music and a lounge act as the night goes on.
TIP: 6pm onward Monday through Saturday. Vegan Tasting Menu available on request with 5-courses for $75.
WHAT THE STARS MEAN: 5 World Class, 4 Excellent, 3 Good, 2 Fair, 1 Poor.