Restaurants are the last refuge of civilization on the planet – Guy Savoy
“Ahhh civilization, ” is the first thing ELV utters whenever he finds himself on the streets of New York, Chicago, San Francisco, Hong Kong, London, Rome (Italy, not Georgia) or Paris (France, not Tennessee). Civilized folks in big cities take time for a proper lunch. Not a sandwich standing up or a shitty salad bar or a cattle call buffet. A proper lunch. In a res-taur-ant if you have the time and money, or a cafe, bistro, trattoria, noodle or dim sum shop if you don’t.
A proper lunch, in a restaurant restores you — that’s where the word restaurant comes from after all — and makes the rest of the day seem that much more pleasant. A stuff-your-pie-hole feeding frenzy just reminds us of the low-bred animals we really are. (Something ELV needs no reminders of.)
Unfortunately, because of these reminders all over Vegas, we are we continually depressed by Vegas’ paucity of decent lunch restaurants. Outside of Chinatown, there’s but a handful of them worth going to, and the number of decent, white tablecloth joints open for the midday meal is even rarer.
ELV has heard all the excuses: A small, cheap, geographically diverse white-collar community, a downtown devoted to the nickel beer crowd, conventioneers who are too busy and all other tourists too hung over to pay much attention to food until late-afternoon. Circo held out against this tide for several years, but 9-11 did its lunch service in, and among our hotels (even the fancy ones) you’re hard pressed to find a gastronomic restaurant with the slightest interest in serving food before 5 o’clock (steakhouses don’t count, although we’ll make an exception for Carnevino and P. J. Clarke’s). Until two days ago, the best lunches (meaning: the great food in swanky surroundings) were at Eiffel Tower Restaurant, Carnevino, Spago, Vintner Grill, P. J. Clarke’s, and MOzen. A few are served on a white tablecloth, NOT another Sandy Chilewich grody placemat holding the crumbs, dirt, refuse and precious bodily fluids of who knows how many prior diners.
These germ magnets are irresistible to restaurateurs for the savings and hip/casual vibe they represent, but at a certain level of gastronomy — meaning anyplace charging more than $40 an entree — they should be deep-sixed faster than a Gary Busey/David Carradine vehicle.
Which brings us back to Estiatorios Milos. Calling it the best Greek restaurant in town is the ultimate understatement. It’s like calling Celine Dion the best singer in town. Each is so good* it doesn’t matter who’s in second place.
Milos’ lunch started this past Wednesday and might be the best deal in fine food, in Las Vegas…ever. For a paltry twenty bucks, you get the whole white tablecloth treatment, top shelf service, a beautiful setting, our town’s prettiest patio, AND a choice of nine apps, six mains, and three, non-fattening desserts.
Since we generally hate salmon anywhere but the Pacific Northwest, we decided on an all-salmon lunch. (“That’s what professionals do,” we reminded The Food Gal®, “eat things they don’t like to see how if/how a restaurant can handle them.”) Adorning our beluga (large) lentil salad with bits of feta and red onions was the sweetest, freshest, richest smoked salmon we’ve ever experienced this side of Seattle. Thick and fat, those orange pink slices were a marvel alongside bites of the tender, earthy lentils (something else ELV generally deplores). All in all, a flat out winner with a taste we can still recall and can’t wait to try again. Just as stunning: Hortopita — house-made phyllo stuffed with wild greens tasting as if they were picked that morning — with a big dollop of herb-flecked, thick Greek yogurt and artisanal salumi, all equally fork-dropping in their intensity.
Our mains were none less impressive. Honjake (farm raised) salmon was a revelation. Thick, fat, bursting with flavor, we would’ve sworn it was wild. The lamb chop is the best in town (don’t argue with me Mancini), period, and just the right portion for the middle of the day. Most of the other dishes we’ve had as part of several dinners here, and are definitive versions of whatever is being served: be it a Greek meze platter, tomato salad, grilled octopi, shrimp saganaki or a Maryland crab cake that has no equal.
On second thought, forget the Greek thing. Milos is one of our town’s best restaurants, period. This lunch is so good, and so reasonable, it would be a bargain at twice the price. You ought to feel guilty for getting such a deal, but wethinks Costas Spiliadis would rather you sit back, order a nice glass from the all-Greek wines-by-the-glass list, and enjoy a little slice of civilization in our humble burg.
Because, as he will tell you, civilization is something Greeks invented.
And we’re sure a proper lunch wasn’t far behind.
Milos’ patio lunch is served Mon.-Fri.
In The Cosmopolitan Hotel and Casino
3708 Las Vegas Blvd. South
Las Vegas, NV 89109
* ELV is no fan of Celine’s breathy, overblown, melisma-infused, soccer-mom schmaltz-fests, but there’s no denying the gal’s got major chops.