Communication Breakdown – Del Maguey Vida Mezcal, Fresh Sour, Bar Keep Lavender Bitters, Domaine de Canton Ginger & Contratto Bitter Liqueurs
Smoked Trout Rillette – Pickled Mustard Seed, Charred Bread
Killer Shrimp – Rocoto and Aji Amarillo Pepper Cream
Charred Octopus – Fingerlings, ‘Nduja, Saffron Aioli, Charred Lime
Strawberry & Cucumber – Honey Mint Vin, Parmesan Tuile
Tricky Vic – Gosling’s Black & Sugar Island Spiced Rums, Cointreau, Velvet Falernum, Fresh Lime & Pineapple, Fee Brothers Rhubarb Bitters
Wild Mushroom Flatbread – Spinach Pistou, Manchego, Tomatoes
Broccoli Crunch – Green Goddess, Sunflower & Pumpkin Seeds
Calabrian Flatbread – ‘Nduja, Cup & Char Pepperoni, Mozzarella
Salmon – Spinach Pistou, Charred Lemon
Tenaya Creek Bonanza Brown Ale
Mmm’ Rib – Ginger Barbecue, Vidalia Onion, Pickles, Tots
Spring Asparagus – Tarragon Gribiche, Hard Egg
Baked Mac & Cheese – Shhh It’s a Secret
Pork Chop – Rhubarb Chutney, Apple Butter Mustard
Chicken Thighs – Mint Chimichurri
Bourbon Fudge Brownie – Brown Butter Bacon Ice Cream
Glazed Donut Bread Pudding – Three Rum Caramel, Vanilla Crème Anglaise
Rhubarb Panna Cotta – Rhubarb Riesling Jam, Honey Almond Granola
With news recently breaking that Carson Kitchen is poised for expansion, location number two set for Cory Harrwell’s home state of Georgia, it was along with familiar dining companions that lunch was enjoyed at Downtown Las Vegas’ most important Restaurant, a baker’s dozen new or reprised plates representing one of the biggest menu changes to date.
For once catching the full team on-site, Cory and Matthew Harwell covering both the pass and floor while Scott Simon headed up the kitchen, it was just prior to noon that a low table in front of the chef’s counter was occupied, beverages filled quickly by a young woman wearing a Slayer T-shirt before Matthew presented the cleverly titled “Communication Breakdown” so-called for its international blend of Spirits that come across as crisp and unexpected as Led Zeppelin’s 1969 track of the same name.
Holding onto classics like the Rainbow Cauliflower, Bacon Jam and Chicken Skins, many rarely or never offered on a Las Vegas Menu prior to Kerry Simon and Cory’s downtown debut, Spring 2018 once again sees the staff at 124 South 6th Street putting novel ingredients in a more accessible context by way of Trout Rillette mixed with Mustard Seeds and Pistou intended to be spread atop bread while two types of Peruvian Peppers form the base of a vibrant Cream Sauce that gives Killer Shrimp v2.0 a texture not unlike Chinese Walnut Shrimp but with a whole lot more complexity.
Unafraid of bold flavors, the idea of umami not lost on Carson Kitchen’s plates but a degree of refinement preventing dishes from being one-note like so many other American “Gastro-Pubs,” it was once again embracing foreign spices that a dish titled Charred Octopus saw the team place tender Tentacles atop Potatoes like the Spanish before adding spreadable Italian Salami, a twist of Lime available to those looking to brighten things up though the better bet would seem to be pairing the dish to either the minty Strawberry & Cucumber Salad or “Broccoli Crunch” that features creamy Green Goddess Dressing marrying the Crucifer to toasted Seeds and dried Cranberries.
Taking on Tiki Drinks for Spring’s only other new Cocktail, Matt’s fondness for Velvet Falernum paying off with the fruity Tricky Vic that could easily see guests stumbling out the doors given its light drinking despite a lot of Alcohol, those looking for a good Vegetarian entree would do well to consider the seasonally inspired Wild Mushroom Flatbread while Omnivores will once again find ‘Nduja on the Calabrian Flatbread that looks a lot like typical Pepperoni Pizza but tastes more like “Meat Lovers” with extra Cheese and Peppers.
Rarely impressed by Salmon, the fact that Fish at Carson Kitchen usually performs well as a result of good ingredients presented simply notwithstanding, it was alongside local Beer that the crispy skinned Filet was presented and filled its role as a Pescetarian/Soccer Mom staple, though those looking for something a bit less “safe” would be wise to invest in golden-brown Chicken Thighs served with Mint Chimichurri or a $20 Pork Chop that is big enough to share…or perhaps not considering just how well the juicy grilled Meat goes along with a topping of Rhubarb Chutney and base of Apple Mostarda.
Rounding out savories with another riff on a famous Fast Food Sandwich, the Mmm’ Rib tangy and tasty despite its context being lost on diners who have not tasted the original in over two decades, it was only after finishing off an order of Cory’s famous Macaroni and Cheese plus briny Spring Asparagus that Dessert was presented, the Banoffee once again in hibernation while Donut Bread Pudding and the Bourbon Fudge Brownie are joined by smooth Panna Cotta topped in Granola and housemade Rhubarb Jam cooked down with Riesling.
FIVE STARS: While it is true that other Las Vegas concepts have managed to expand outside of Nevada there remains something special about Carson Kitchen’s place in the community that makes Cory’s success particularly important, Spring 2018 once again showing no signs of declining creativity or interest in changing a successful formula that has seen many imitators but none nearly as good.
RECOMMENDED: Communication Breakdown, Smoked Trout Rillette, Charred Octopus, Calabrian Flatbread, Broccoli Crunch, Pork Chop, Rhubarb Panna Cotta, Bourbon Fudge Brownie.
AVOID: Those shy about Capers should skip the Asparagus.
TIP: The Banoffee did not stick around as suggested in December…and I’m fairly sure that is why someone decided to break the toilet seat in the Men’s Room. : )
WHAT THE STARS MEAN: 5 World Class, 4 Excellent, 3 Good, 2 Fair, 1 Poor.