John Curtas is …

In the MOOD

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.

ELV and his staff just hope that, no matter what you do or who you do it with at the Artisan, you don’t do so much of it as to deprive yourself of your precious bodily fluids.

MOOD

In the Artisan Hotel

1501 West Sahara Ave.

Las Vegas, NV 89102

702.214.4000

www.ArtisanHotel.com

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7 Responses to In the MOOD

  • “Nuff said. We’re going to go back to eating good (we hope), overpriced Strip food for a while…and concentrate on being the high-brow, elitist, condescending, imperious, omnipresent and omniscient food critic for which we are known.”

    ELV- youre as low brow as they get, you just have been fortuante enough to have a great job that pays your excessive habit, which is eating. And the fact that Las Vegas has blossomed quite nicely allowing you to enchant yourself with many different ingredients served on your plate.

    Now, that being said; high brow/low brow? How about Artisan equals no brow, just home to quickies, STD’s and food born illinesses.

    That food looked terrible, calamari with canned peppers? If not, the prep job was lazy, considering all the seeds you have to make your way through.
    And that glumpy risotto made a joke of that nicely seared scallop.
    the saganaki looked tasty, but who wants it served with red sauce and garnished with dried oregano. nice take on cheese sticks.
    Hey chef, if you read this, maybe try deglazing your saganaki pan with a little bourbon, hit with honey, reduce, finish with plugra, season lightly and add fresh herbs; for your dipping pleasure. Delicate cheese deserves delicate sauce.
    Ohh and that dessert plate, horrible culinary school action in place. And all the vegetables on the plate looked sad. Placed as though they’re rag dolls in a childs closet; better yet, placed by some pissed mexican guy making way less than his union buddies on the strip.
    Well artisan hotel, still trapped in a time warp, serving upscale bar food. I’m sure we will see you soon enough on Eye witness news, “You ask, we investigate”. Watch those roaches, and make sure your chefs are keeping their mise en place in the safe zone.

  • lobster mashed potatoes at Mastro’s? Ordered them at Mastro’s in the OC once. Kraft has more lobster in their mac and cheese…yes, non existent!! I know lobster is expensive, but its not like they charge $5 for the thing either. Go to Costco, buy a big ass 2lb bad boy for $30, chop it up and make 5 servings (with killer profit to spare). but I digress.

  • Artisan Hotel restaurant, 1501 W. Sahara Ave., received 44 demerits June 9. Violations included 10-drawer refrigerator unit not working. GRADE: Closed.

    http://bestoflasvegas.com/2010/news/news/restaurant-report-6/

  • Wow,thanks for the information.

  • WOW sounds like whoever is “Its summertime in Vegas” is quite the HATER! Dont be upset that you work in the kitchen at Dottys 24hr Bar because you were fired from Marie Callenders. You really took alot of time to bash a real chef who gets a great review from a respectable critic. Have you ever cooked for the mayor of Las Vegas? Any of your food reviewed online with color spread? Yeah, I bet not. And you seem to know a whole lot about the Artisan…..hmmm? Must have picked your drunken mother up a few times from there huh? (ALONE im sure) Chef Eric has a kick ass reputation and backs it up with some very creative and tasteful food. Stop hating because you arent at the level he is at. If you were, you wouldnt be stalking him online reading his reviews! We love you Eric, keep doing what youre doing! S&J

  • Recently I had the privelage of Dining at the New Mood Restaurant in the Re-vamped Artisan. It was tremendous and Chef Eric even came out and spoke with my wife and I who are in the industry as well. Hearing through the grape vine that the OLD Sous Chef Billy Ward (a recovering heroin addict) was solely the cause for any negativity regarding the restaurant. Maybe if he wasn’t sleeping on the job (his reason for termination among others I hear) and took the initiative to have some pride for the kitchen, none of this “hater” mentality would exist. To combat the haters lets look at some positive facts. For one this reveiw is a great sign!! Props to Chef Eric who seemed to impress one of the top food critics in town and a hard ass at that. A thanks and shout out should also should go to the following young ladies I heard also recently enjoyed there experience at Mood. Celena Haas PR Director for Harra’s, Andrea Roqueni PR Director for Planet Hollywood, Erika Pope PR Director for Bon Appetit’s Uncork’d, Hannah Allen also from Harrah’s, Sandy Zanella PR Director for MGM, AliciaMalone PR Manager for LVCVA, Dawn Britt PR Director for Venetian/Palazzo, Alyssa Bushey PR Director for Mandarin Oriental, Amy Carlton PR Manager for Venetian/Palazzo and last but certainly not least, Michelle Loosbrock and Marina Nicola from WJ Agency. These are all VERY influencial people who know a good meal when they taste it. So I’m sure all of you haters out there will be seeing some more rave reveiws and positive success. Keep up the Good work Chef Eric!!! We know we’ll be back along with others

  • I agree with “we love chef eric”..haters get nowhere. I heard that Chef Eric worked for Wolfgang Puck. Yeah that takes major skills to do that. I traveled over 300 miles from California with my husband and best friend. Beyond words how AMAZING his food was. I was quite literally stuffed. I have never had better chicken in my LIFE. He even came out to talk to us during our meal. Sweetest nicest most humble man I have ever met. I mean if the Kardashians take the whole family there it must BE great food. We will definately be coming back soon and are sending a bachlor party out there next week. Hats off to the CHEF!!! You are ridiculously amazing at what you do and keep it up. You will be going places fast and others will be left in the dust!!

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