If you’ve never been to the Artisan Hotel, it is a hoot and a half. Designed…and we mean designed as a soft-porn, Gothic, baroque, roccoco hideaway, it single-handedly defines the term “overdecorated,” but somehow remains disarmingly charming regardless.
Throughout its checkered career, it has had a restaurant of dubious repute that has battled everything from musty-smelling putrefaction to health code violations to giving food poisoning to more than one friend of ELV.
The good news has always been: The bar is stocked with cougars on the prowl (of both hetero- and homosexual stripes), and the rooms come with free porn. How ELV knows these things is best left to the dustbin of history.
Further good news has come about in the past two months, as the Siegel Group has purchased the property, steam-cleaned and freshened things up without compromising the dark, brooding, louche character that defines this one-of-a-kind boutique. (No small mean feat that.)
The other good news is that the restaurant (now called Mood) is now being run by a real chef who is trying hard to put out solid, if unspectacular versions of steak, chicken and seafood standards that will be more than sufficient to soak up some booze, or help you close the deal with that special someone.
We wish that menu was a tad more inventive, because, like all hotel restaurants, it suffers from having to be all things to all people. But the cooking was spot on, and Chef Eric Nenneman (a veteran of the Wolfgang Puck Fine Dining Group), knows his way around a piece of fish, and a piece of flaming saganaki cheese. (Insert joke about flaming anything here) The cheese he uses is kasseri, which gives his version a nice, sharp tang. Speaking of cheese, his lobster mac ‘n cheese was chock full of cheesy lobster-ness, and puts those horrendous lobster mashed potatoes at Mastro’s to shame.
Just as good: The sauces accompanying our chicken and rolled short ribs were properly done and seasoned demi-glaces — one from a classic meat stock and the other given a nice, winy gravitas by the addition of Madeira. Our only complaint about these sauces was there wasn’t more of them. Nenneman gladly brought us extra, but ELV is distressed by what he sees as the increasingly common practice of ladling on savory sauces with a thimble. (FYI: Mesa Grill is a prime offender when it comes to this.) If a sauce is good, the less-is-more philosophy employed by many chefs (for budgetary reasons?) is absurd. There should be enough sauce to at least dapple every bite of your fish, meat or chicken in a bit of it, not just the first two or three.
Other than that complaint, and short ribs that were just a touch dry, we found little not to like about what’s going on here. The room is small and dark — as befits the whole libidinous image of the hotel — and the chairs are some of the most comfortable we’ve sat in — with real arm rests, firm-yet-soft cushions. (ELV note: This phenomenon — spacious, comfortable dining room chairs — is not nearly as common as you might think in our high end restaurants. Many places seem to choose their seats based upon how quickly guests are going to want to get out of them.)
Desserts seemed standard issue, but the prices are well-below Strip-gouging standards, i.e. most entrees are well below thirty buckaroonies, leaving plenty of simoleons to pay for whatever romantic urge happens to be lighting your fire at the moment.
In the Artisan Hotel
1501 West Sahara Ave.
Las Vegas, NV 89102