The Kitchen at Atomic
Foie Gras Toast – Toasted Bread, Fruit Compote, Roasted Seeds and Nuts
Urban Seed Salad – Mizuna, Tatsoi, Baby Romaine, Fennel, Whiskey Barrel Aged Shoyu Cherry Blossom Vinaigrette, Butter Braised Tokyo Turnips, Wood Fired Matsutake Mushrooms, Chives, Cilantro
Harissa Carrots – Wood chip roasted Thumbelina Carrots, Harissa, Sunflower Seeds, Mint Leaves, Toasted Coriander Cream
MMM – Mocha Oatmeal Stout Mole, Beef Cheek, Seasonal Pickles, Brown Butter Masa Dumplings
Boneless Hot Pig in Winter – Crispy Pork in Afghan Stew, Peppers, Garlic, Greens, Cilantro, Onions
Cornmeal Fried Sea Bream – Creamer Potatoes, Clams, Smoked Sea Salt, Garlic Oil, Sambal Remoulade
Whiskey Bread Pudding – Griddled Whiskey Bread Pudding, Smoked Sea Salt Caramel, Cardamom Whipped Cream
Not a drinker and unmoved by praise from Anthony Bourdain it was not until Justin Kingsley Hall took over the kitchen that Las Vegas’ oldest freestanding Bar was of any real interest, a low-slung building on East Fremont that was previously just another flashing sign between free parking and the rest of DTLV suddenly becoming a dining destination spawning accolades from both trusted and questionable patrons, but a dinner-party of seven on Saturday confirming the gossip.
Known simply as The Kitchen at Atomic, an April addition to the 65+ year-old Bar that has seen a recent boom in popularity thanks to a rejuvenated Downtown, it was just prior to Halloween 2017 that former SLO-Boy and Sparrow & Wolf Chef Hall took over the reins from Josh Horton, the menu quickly saying goodbye to Fries, Hot Dogs and Pretzels that were replaced by Justin’s unique style of layered flavors and inspiration from San Luis Obispo.
No doubt a busy man, the new Restaurant plus recent events such as Whiskey in The Wilderness plus Harvest’s Snack Wagon balanced with fatherhood, it was shortly after entering the space next to Atomic Liquors that Justin was seen slicing Vegetables through glass dividing kitchen from an immense dining room, a modest soundtrack and dim lights giving the room a pleasant feel though oversized booths with lazy-Susans proved difficult to navigate for guests who needed to slide in.
Presenting a menu divided into six sections, The Butcher and The Farmer featured prominently along with Entrees intended for solos or sharing, it was after drinks were ordered and ample descriptions of Specials were presented by a sever also named Justin that things got underway, the young man who formerly worked at Glutton outperforming many on-Strip Captains with his knowledge of the offerings and ability to articulate them in a manner appropriate to both well-traveled diners and novices.
Dining in four-courses with a total of seven plates, doubles of each save for one entrée plenty to go around without leaving anyone hungry, it was atop a slice of Toast from Chris Decker and John Arena that Chef Hall perched a piece of Foie Gras accompanied by poached Strawberries plus savory Streusel, the flavors and textures coming across distinct yet complimentary with a large salad of locally grown Greens from Urban Seed even more complex but tied together by fragrant and fermented Vinaigrette.
Often internationally inspired in his cooking, a bounty of seasonal markets and the Spanish-stylings of his California hometown giving Chef Hall a gift with Vegetables and Herbs that few local Chefs can claim, course two featured Thumbelina Carrots with tops still attached roasted and painted in Harissa alongside an impeccable plate of Cornmeal Dumplings atop Mole every bit as dirty as one might find south of the border, both plates offering up-front heat but the former cooled by Coriander Cream while the later accomplishes the same by way of housemade Pickles.
Allowing plenty of time for conversation between courses, the Restaurant at Standing-Room-Only capacity from 7:30pm until the meal ended past nine, Entrees included a slightly modified version of Atomic’s “Hot Pig in Winter” featuring Crispy Pork in a deeply colored Stew with bold aromatics, the daily special in anticipation of Mardi Gras raising the bar even further in terms of taste and presentation as Chef Hall sent out two whole Sea Bream gutted and fried on the Bones with Clams, Potatoes and spicy Remoulade.
Rounding out the meal with one of the two Desserts, Justin’s Whiskey Bread Pudding from SLO-Boy resurrected for good reason, it was with admitted envy that two servings of the dish had to be shared with anyone else, recent comments about the version at The Palms A.Y.C.E. now modified to suggest theirs is the best *on a Buffet* as this $8 wedge is worth every penny thanks to the toasty edges around Custard with plenty of booze playing off a big quenelle of Cream perfumed by Cardamom.
FIVE STARS: Exiting The Kitchen at Atomic more than two-and-a-half hours after arrival, though everything about the evening felt far quicker, it was with others off to movies or concerts that a walk back to the car left one to reflect on what they’d just tasted, and that is some of the most unique and confident cooking being offered in Las Vegas today with service to match.
RECOMMENDED: Urban Seed Salad, MMM, Harissa Carrots, Whiskey Bread Pudding.
AVOID: Booths in the corners are tight for anyone required to slide in, but if it is the only thing available then it is a sacrifice worth making.
TIP: Thursday through Saturday 5pm to 2am, Sunday and Wednesday 5pm till midnight. 21+ only.
WHAT THE STARS MEAN: 5 World Class, 4 Excellent, 3 Good, 2 Fair, 1 Poor.