John Curtas is …

TODD ENGLISH P.U.B.

Times are tough. Even ELV — a man known for his carefree, spendthrift ways — is feeling the pinch. So when a restaurant opens on the Strip that is actually affordable, with good food to boot, we are deeply grateful.

When that place is the spawn of the ultimate absentee chef, calling us pleasantly surprised would be an understatement.

P.U.B. stands for “Public Urban Bar.” Todd English stands for a once great chef who has….umm….er….overextended his brand to the extent he’s become the poster dude for phoning it in. The problem with most of Todd English’s food — recipes that once sprung from an innovative, creative talent — is that it is a very personal cuisine, that doesn’t easily lend itself to rote duplication in multiple venues.

We wrote off Olives in the Bellagio years ago, and a few bites at Beso convinced us that mediocrity is still the mainstay from this Bostonian. But now he’s thrown us the culinary equivalent of a Curt Schilling curveball, and we have to give the devil his due.

If you’ve ever played baseball, you know that a great curve is a thing of beauty, and hitting one is, as Willie Stargell once said: “Like trying to drink coffee with a fork.”

But we digress.

We never pegged English for being able to change speeds. In his day his motion never varied — lots of mediocre fastballs to feast on with the occasional screwball concoction thrown in for “creativity’s sake.” (Alan Richman says he’s the world’s best chef when it comes to making something edible out of a gallimaufry of ill-matched ingredients.) But for the past ten years we figured him for an old timer who was content to pitch batting practice and pick up a big check.

With P.U.B. he’s thrown a changeup — and gone from being a Luis Tiant to an Eddie Lopat — and improved his game by simplifying his repertoire. P.U.B. (like First Food and Bar, Simon at Palms Place, Society et al) is pitching itself to the upscale bar food crowd. It combines the simple (a selection of rotisserie roasted meats) with crowd-pleasing cliches (a selection of sliders), and tosses in enough frou frou (brown butter lobster rolls, duck buns, smoked salmon) to entertain finicky gourmands as well as those who are just there to watch the game.

The chef behind the day-to-day operation is Issac Carter (an old English chap) who is taking real pride in doing simple things well. He sources his breads from Bon Breads (a wise choice that) and everything from the challah to the buttery little lobster rolls is ridiculously good.

The whole point of the “carvery” thing is to build (literally construct at table) your own sandwich from nine different meats. We loved the lamb (a bit well done for us, but perfect for tourists), found the duck addictive, and the beef flawless. Only the brisket seemed a touch dry, but that is quickly remedied by slathering on one of seven sauces — of which we were particularly taken with the pineapple mint jelly, te bbq, and salsa verde (all made in house).

ELV’s staff would’ve enjoyed those meats even more if they hadn’t stuffed themselves with “dirty chips” (fresh made kettle chips with blue cheese and Nueske bacon chunks – and we mean “chunks”!), duck buns (too sweet and saucy and not ducky enough for us), crazy good roast beef sliders, lobster rolls, and a mini-pastrami sandwiches on a rye parker house roll (another great idea).

Those lobster rolls came on little rectangular buns that are de rigueur for this sandwich on the New England shore, and, like the pastrami and roast beef sliders, they are perfectly proportioned and plenty pulchritudinous. The brie grilled cheese is likewise a thing of beauty.

Because these were so good (and filling), no room was left for what look to be some of the more interesting menus items; Welsh rarebit, bubble and squeek, bangers and mash(!), and shepard’s pot pie.

Has English gone English on us? We thinks yes, to great effect. Maybe cricket was his game all along? We will ponder no longer whether the Todd-ster is out of his league with Olives and his gazillion other ventures. With P.U.B., Big Head Todd has teed it up, and Carter is hitting it out of the park.

TODD ENGLISH P.U.B.

3270 Las Vegas Blvd. South

Las Vegas, NV 89109

702.489.8080

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8 Responses to TODD ENGLISH P.U.B.

  • I went in with low to no expectations and was really surprised at how much I liked it here. My favorite English restaurant will always be Figs in Boston, don’t care much for what he’s got here in terms of fine dining, but really enjoyed PUB. The staff was really friendly, the beers crisp and the food tasty. In addition to what is listed above – the fried bologna sandwich and the oysters on the half shell hit the spot!

  • looking at the photos makes my mouth water-again!!!! yummy

  • Interesting… I had a different reaction to the carvery and grilled cheese at a midweek lunchtime visit (carvery roast beef was overcooked and extremely fatty–pretty inexcusable in a city where hundreds of decent roasts are carved at buffets up and down the Strip every day. Also tried all the sauces and none made much of an impression); thought the lobster rolls were intriguingly seasoned, but not altogether satisfying; found the rye and sourdough breads both bland. Salmon cured in house (supposedly) could’ve been from almost anywhere. I liked the lettuce wedge with a chopped salad base, but my guest differed.

    I appreciated the reach of the menu, but at the same time–as with First Food–found it a bit befuddling. Took me more some 10 minutes to make decisions. And was wondering why we get sliders instead of meat pasties…why no corned beef…why no proper English chips…I mean, either do a theme, or don’t.

    Also, the large beer selection didn’t seem to have any particular direction (It’s far from a thorough British brew offering…or did I miss the Shandy? Watney’s? Babycham?) and the wine list, unnecessarily large, is printed in such small type as to be unreadable. Who are the geniuses that approved that menu design?

    A good mac n cheese, good cole slaw, good kettle chips and the bubble and squeak was almost a sublime melange. So I guess that means the sous or prep cook deserves a promotion? ;-)

  • I loved the food, but was really disappointed with the level of service that we experienced. The hostess’s were disorganized and slightly sloppy, the items we ordered from the raw bar came out after our carvery items, and when we let our waitress know that our red wine was much too cold, she told us that they kept it in the cellar, so we didn’t have anything to complain about. It was not just slightly cold, but chilled to the temp you would serve a chardonnay!

    The food was great, but I have had better service at an Outback Steakhouse!

  • I had a rough meal there yesterday. Love your posts but needs some help. Iced Tea was bad and pork buns and sliders were disappointing.

  • This restaurant had some of the best food I’ve ever eaten. The Vegetatable Muffelata sandwhich was awesome and you HAVE TO GET THE BREAD PUDDING FOR DESSERT. It is literally the best dessert I have ever had in my LIFE.

  • We ate here last night. We felt like munching, so 3 of us, starving, simply ordered 4 starters. Everything was cold. Everything looked like they put it together using a pitchfork. Dirty chips, sliders, fries, and corn dogs. 100% icy, sad, and pitiful. A sad turn considering I ate here 7 months ago and it was the complete opposite. Is the economy so bad that restaurants simply don’t give a s___?

  • NOT GOOD. Gave up on Olives a few yrs ago even tho I have the cookbook. LV friends insisted we go to P.U.B.: great beers, lousy popcorn (worse than Fenway!). My recollection as New Englander is not HOT lobster rolls. Nor are they served on thick doughy Parker rolls!!! What’s with that? Chef English has been around NE long enough to know better. Lousy service in restaurant. Surprised after reading other ELV reviews you actually recommend this place. Does that mean I should ? the reviews of JR, Sage and Sensi. I had so counted on you for the next Vegas trip.

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