HERBS & RYE – reviewed in Las Vegas Weekly

(ELV note: what follows is our review of Herbs & Rye — published yesterday in the Las Vegas Weekly. Last night we received a call from owner Nectaly Mendoza informing us that the he and his chef had parted company a few days earlier, and that he was eager to find a new direction for his kitchen. We are going to meet him tomorrow to discuss the review and ideas for improving the menu. Would that all restaurateurs were so mature and level-headed… In any event, despite the negativity of the review, we are rooting for Mendoza, and intend to give H & R a second chance, once his new kitchen crew gets squared away.)

When Nectaly Mendoza opened Herbs & Rye late last year—on a forlorn stretch of west Sahara near Valley View—I was a bit put off by its name, which tells you nothing; my hopes took another small plunge when I first entered the place, redone with an on-the-cheap speakeasy look.

Herbs and Rye's rendition of the classic Moscow Mule made with vodka, lime juice and ginger beer.

Herbs and Rye’s rendition of the classic Moscow Mule made with vodka, lime juice and ginger beer.

Herbs and Rye's well-crafted Hemingway Daquiri made with rum, maraschino liqueur, lime and grapefruit.

Herbs and Rye’s well-crafted Hemingway Daquiri made with rum, maraschino liqueur, lime and grapefruit.

But confidence was restored when Mendoza and his bartenders poured us an array of old-fashioned cocktails, done with a purist’s hand and top-of-the-line ingredients (fresh-squeezed juices, house-made garnishes, etc.).

Mendoza is a passionate fellow who knows his way around a liquor bottle. As the former beverage director for the Light Group, his take on lip-smacking, well-constructed drinks are a libation-lover’s dream come true—especially if your tastes run to such classic concoctions as a Pegu Club or a perfect Manhattan, milk punch or gimlet.

Perhaps the bar is set so high here that the food couldn’t hope to measure up. The sad fact is it doesn’t even try. After two dinners and a number of bites at the bar, all I can say: Keep drinking if you want to enjoy yourself.

The first thing you’ll notice is how cheap the bread is. Light, white and slightly toasted, it’s your first sign the food is not chosen with the same care as the booze. Another misstep: honey-sweetened butter—something that only makes sense in a breakfast joint.

Then comes the calamari fritti, and you notice that the hot banana peppers and crispy prosciutto are barely there. The staff then steers you to the sausage bombes—a great idea until a thick, fried-wonton wrapper appears, stuffed with a fennel-flecked paste of peppery mush that is “sausage” in name only.

Next comes tomato “caprese,” a salad of cherry tomatoes of various colors atop a few large basil leaves, onto which sliced mozzarella balls have been sprinkled. Nothing is really wrong with it, but it’s nothing even a bad cook couldn’t make at home for a lot less than its $11 tariff.

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Herbs and Rye
3 3731 W. Sahara Ave., 982-8036.
Daily, 5 p.m.-4 a.m.
Suggested dishes: lasagna con funghi ($19); all cocktails.
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Everyone’s doing pizzas (or flatbreads as they’re called here), but no one is doing them with such a surfeit of ingredients. The “Alsatian” is the simplest of the bunch, but still manages to insult the spirit of the real thing by shaving potato “coins” onto bread with sliced onions, bacon bits and rosemary goat-cheese crema. It stands (or rather stoops) as a classic example of why less is more when it comes to the classics.

Things improve not a bit when you opt for the cappicola (an unholy, heavy mess of red cabbage, deep-fried shrimp bits and swirls of heavy mayonnaise that this kitchen is far too fond of), or the Mediterranean (goat cheese, artichoke hearts, tomato, kalamata olives and spinach puree). Whew!

The linguine with clams is serviceable enough, but not as clammy (or in the same league) as either Ferraro’s or Battista’s version. Gnocchi alla Bolognese are done with a heavy hand, in a heavy meat sauce, and aren’t something you’d find in Bologna. That same meat sauce turns up in the huge portion of lasagna con funghi that is, by far, your safest bet among the pastas. Of the entrees, the pollo Arrosto—a boneless breast and thigh—is glazed with some kind of tepid orange sauce and comes on a plate loaded with boiled, small potatoes.

I’m hardly the only one who’s noticed the mediocrity of this kitchen. People are staying away in droves, as they say, and at our last meal (this past Saturday night), we were one of only two occupied tables at 8 p.m. Matters weren’t helped by a lounge act singing old show tunes in the dining room. On the plus side, the singer’s rendition of “Can’t Help Lovin’ Dat Man” was pretty darn good.

14 thoughts on “HERBS & RYE – reviewed in Las Vegas Weekly

  1. the day an owner consults a “critic” as to the direction of a menu is a sad sad day! hire a good chef and let he/she create a direction, then ELV can come back in for a freebie and tell you what he thinks!!

  2. Good for Mendoza. Here’s hoping they find a superb chef to match the quality drinks they pour!

  3. I will have to disagree with has a clue-ELV is more than qualified to sit down with the owner of the restaurant and give his input and provide some constructive criticism that could improve the menu. The owner is open and honest about listening to someone who knows food and that’s a huge step forward in making things better for the customer. Wouldn’t the restaurant trade be better if more owners were so open?

    Hiring a great chef is only one piece of a much larger puzzle.

    The “critic” as it were, is more than what most people see on the surface. As we’ve discussed on these pages before, the voice of the informed critic isn’t just to be “critical”–it’s to inform the public of a dining experience based on years of the critics knowledge of food, culinary history, tradition and wines. Then the customer can choose to dine at that restaurant after reading the critics review.

    Another reach of the critic, albeit somewhat small, are the Chefs and Restatrateurs who choose to accept our informed criticism and to take it to learn and hone their craft and business. If they make that choice to listen, and we listen in return, hopefully everyone learns.

  4. I have eaten at this place. I read the review. The critic is right on the ball as to the food. The food is not only bad but overpriced. I got a good laugh at the idea of the owner getting together with the Critic. The best advise for the owner is to close it for good and reopen it as a taco stand.

  5. meeting the local food critic for restaurant advice is like parents of a gay child confiding in a catholic priest

  6. @sloppy seconds. Is that some “clever” saying you though up a couple weeks ago and finally figured you found a place it would work? I’ll wait and see if the next idea you throw against the wall sticks.


  8. Funny all these negative reviews on this page seem to sound like one person and one person only FABIAN BADILLO THE EX chef of Herbs and Rye. Well gentleman you live and you learn. I think people bashing for asking for advice is simply stupid. That is the same kind of person who would re-elect George Bush lol no clue .But hell i guess thats what you do with your free time when you get fired from your last 7 jobs The only thing i will shame on Nectaly is for Hiring this Joke in the First place.

  9. Mission Statement

    Here at Herbs & Rye we will continue to produce the very best beverage programs available. We will lead by example and set the precedence for all others to follow. Giving the utmost consideration to our customers needs is a core value and not a sales pitch. We will seek perfection in every aspect of the beverage industry. Our company will continue to grow and be supportive of others who want to grow with us. Herbs & Rye Inc. was created to offer a product and a service to our customers that most only wonder about. The approach is striking and the dedication is sincere. With the passion of Herbs & Rye and your commitment to delivering the finest libations to date, as a team we can achieve higher goals. Herbs & Rye believes strongly that nothing is impossible. We will also remember to thank those who have helped us with their kindness and patience and in turn will offer the same in kind. We will continue to advance confidently towards our goals and dreams, and then unexpectedly we will arrive at success in common hours. Knowledge is not a bag of information one carries on his back, he will soon find it far too heavy of a load to bear, we prefer to pass it onto others. We have dedicated ourselves to educating those who seek recognition.

    Says nothin about good food in their mission statement . Just another crappy restaurant using cheap ingredients off the standard playbook.

    how many ways can you make steamed mussels, caprese salad, calmari friti and flat iron steak. I can only imagine how digusting the gnocchi.

    Yeah, NY steak with creamy foraged mushrooms. Foraged crimini and button mushrooms. when I have foraged mushrooms such as oyster, porcini, chanterelles, lobster, black trumpets and cinnamon caps – I sure a’hell dont want them in cream. Advice for the owner. And I dont want cheese on my ribeye. I want that meat in its natural glory of seared melted FAT.

    And rosemary potatoes are just an old play from culinary student grads.

    the crabonara – Why crispy proscuitto? Bacon has far much more flavor and proscuitto cooked it just wrong and salty.

    altantic salmon – fllavorless

    Mushroom Panzerotti – truffle oil & rosemary?

    it seems to me that this menu got some consulting from a strip chef. Owner wanting to do strip style food. Probably using bottom of the barrel ingredients to maintain low food costs; which then was executed by a hack chef.

  10. First of all, the food is very good at Herbs and Rye…in my opinion, I think the food critic was quite harsh on the restaurant. I have read quite a few Weekly articles and none of them seemed to be as sarcastic and rude. I think people in Vegas have absolutely no clue what good food is…the flatbread is very good, and the calamari is fantastic. Obviously, there can be improvements but how many restaurants have you personally run Mr. Food Critic? Just curious…

  11. What’s with the bashing? This is supposed to be about the food not a place to bash and take out personal feelings on someone. What are you hoping to accomplish? That’s so big of you to bash a chef while hiding behind a psudo name. Way to go! From what I have heard the chef you guys are bashing was no longer working at Herb’s and Rye when the critique was done. So you are placing the blame on the wrong person. Restaurants have off days. So what. I have eaten at Herb’s and Rye several times and their flatbreads are amazing! And yeah cheese on a steak is unconventional but that’s what you do when you try to step out of the box— the menu isn’t conventional. You want a plain seared steak with the fat go to Sizzler. The cheese on the steak is phenominal!! Let’s stick to the topic of food and leave your personal feelings for people out of it. Herb’s and Rye has great food, killer drinks and an great atmosphere. I hope it stays around for a long time. Best of luck to you guys.

  12. Benny P… There is some amazing dialog taking place on this blog. Its creating community awareness; towns like NY, portland, seattle, SF already have. And even more so, it shows the subconscious affect food has on the human regardless good or bad.

    I wouldnt say people are expressing personal feelings as forms of bashing. They are expressing their experience and of eating and level of expectations. Food is very deep.

    One day you will be there, if you choose to dissect your pallette and understand flavor combos, when simplicity is best, and etc… Eating is an art.

  13. Food Guru. I completely agree with you. Food in itself can be a passion. It can bring on may emotions. Eating a perfectly cooked steak is almost erotic. I think that there is an art in all forms of cooking. So on that note I understand the emotions being played out here. What I consider personal feelings being expressed is calling a chef a hack or stating that he was fired from his last 7 jobs and stating that the negative comments must have ONLY come from him. That’s what I consider bashing and it sounds like defamation. But that’s just my thoughts you know. Can’t we all just get along??

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