Chicken Parm Sandwich – Whipped Burrata, Organic Tomato Sauce, Basil with Root Vegetable Chips and Salad
Roasted Porchetta Sandwich – Cracklins, Spicy Rabe, Pickled Chilis with Root Vegetable Chips and Salad
Spaghetti – Bianco Pomodoro, Parmesan, Basil, Polpette
Rigatoni Carbonara – Guanciale, Pecorino, Egg Yolk
Rigatoni – Black Garlic, Lemon, Cream, Toasted Breadcrumbs
Margherita Pizza – Tomato, Basil, Fresh Mozzarella
Butterscotch Budino – Scotch Caramel, Whipped Cream, Honeycomb
Now open for three months and still doing big numbers in The Arts District it was with family in town that a half-day at work allowed four to sit down at Esther’s Kitchen for Lunch, the dining room bathed in sunlight and counter-style ordering offering a very different vibe than dinner but the Food continuing to tell of a Restaurant willing to go the extra mile to make sure everything lives up a high standard.
Chugging along with a full reservation book each evening, a good problem to have but one that can certainly be draining on a close-knit crew running 10 services weekly and making most everything from scratch, those arriving at 1130 S Casino Center Boulevard during daylight hours Tuesday through Friday will find themselves greeted at the door where menus are available, orders and payment taken up-front with a playing card handed out to alert an attentive yet abbreviated staff where to deliver each plate as it is fired.
Busy but not hectic at Lunch, the menu cutting back on Pastas, Appetizers and Entrees with Salads and Sandwiches served in their place, it was with Chef Trees busy in the kitchen and Baker Dylan making fresh Pasta in the prep room that six dishes were ordered in addition to one Dessert, the soundtrack overhead once again delighting with the likes of Led Zeppelin though the tempo and volume of song selections was slower and lower than at night.
Dining with one repeat customer plus two first-timers, the desire to order only novel items compromised slightly for the later, it was perhaps ten minutes after taking a seat that plates began to emerge from the kitchen, a Chicken Parm Sandwich quickly announcing that Chef Trees wasn’t about to mail it in just because something can be found cheap at almost any 24/7 bar in town, the crispy fried Bird itself a fine rendition with light spicing but the real star a topping of Whipped Burrata and bright Tomato Sauce plus the toasty housemade Roll.
Sold out of Radiatorre after another busy night, the Lunch menu’s only exclusive Pasta thus offered instead with Rigatoni, suffice it to say that those looking for something unique would be well-advised to invest $12 in a plate of Noodles topped in Lemon Cream and Garlic plus toasted Breadcrumbs, the Citrus adding levity one certainly won’t find in Trees’ textbook Carbonara though another good choice for those looking for something light is Esther’s simple yet stunning Spaghetti available with or without two well-seasoned Meatballs.
Waiting a few extra minutes for the rest, a flooded four-top soon to be a reward for ordering too much for most, those who’ve not had an opportunity to taste Esther’s limited-run Porchetta may wish to consider lunch as a good time to taste the same Meat in a more accessible format, the Roast Pork topped with crispy Skin and Bitter Rabe as good a Sandwich as one will find anywhere in DTLV while the Margherita Pizza represents another case of simple done right with good Mozz and crushed Tomatoes on housemade Sourdough Crust.
Further impressed by Taro and Sweet Potato Chips served with the Sandwiches, a few oily specimens only worth mentioning because everything else was so pristine, a lone “flaw” of counter-style ordering is that those unaware of Esther’s unlisted Dessert Menu may miss out on the Butterscotch Budino loaded with Butter and deglazed with Scotch and that would be a damned shame because it puts other versions in Las Vegas to shame at a price that is a few bucks lower.
FIVE STARS: A ‘surprise’ sensation regardless of James Trees, his talent never in question but the likelihood of Las Vegans seeing the value in $15 plates of handmade Pasta originally worrisome given long-lines at Olive Garden and Cheesecake Factory every day of the week, Esther’s Kitchen may just be what The Arts District has been lacking all along and that is a Restaurant where the owner put his passion, skill and money on the line to do something personal and genuine.
RECOMMENDED: Radiatorre (or Rigatoni) or whatever has the Lemon Cream Sauce that day, Roasted Porchetta Sandwich, Spaghetti with Meatballs, Rigatoni Carbonara, Butterscotch Budino.
AVOID: Expectations of available parking during peak hours.
TIP: Not yet confirmed, but it sounds like the current Lunch-only Pasta will soon be making its Dinner debut.
WHAT THE STARS MEAN: 5 World Class, 4 Excellent, 3 Good, 2 Fair, 1 Poor.