BESO-me Mucho, Eva
It’s no secret Beso has had a few problems over the past year. Owner/actress/former NBA fan Eva Longoria has done what she can to right the ship, even going so far as to do a super-glam photo shoot on the premises, but we at ELV think the better course would be to let Chef Matt Piekarski keep doing his thing in the kitchen, in hopes the food will soon match the (former, now faded) buzz of the place.
From a recent tasting, it looks like he’s off to a good start. The only two clinkers we had were strangely bland versions salmon carpaccio and beef tartare; neither coming forward with a single strong flavor with which to distinguish themselves.
But just about everything else showed a real commitment to quality that was sadly lacking when we dined here over a year ago. The beet and goat cheese salad demonstrated with precision why these two ingredients have an affinity for each other, as did a beautifully rich, lightly fried chile relleno. Herbed, elongated bricks of chickpea fries came with a dense, sweet tomato dip, and even something as banal as carrots were carved into beautiful nuggets before being tossed in butter, herbs and orange juice. The 20 oz. Kansas City strip was as good a steak as you’ll find at City Center (and came nicely garnished with house-pickled vegetables), and the gorgeous, crispy pork shank goes femur to femur with that being done at Social House a stone’s throw away.
One of our two spoon-dropping desserts seemed misnamed. On the menu it’s listed as vanilla crème brûlée with caramelized bananas, but all four of the experienced palates at ELV’s table would’ve sworn it was a banana custard — so strong was the taste of the tropical fruit. One of our companions went so far as to proclaim it: the best banana cream filling they’d ever tasted. If all that punch came from only the caramelized bananas on top, it would be a shocker.
Just as tasty was a chocolate fudge/caramel brownie of uncommon richness. One bite is all anyone really needs, but its chocolate-ty goodness (not to mention the little ribbons of caramel in the middle) means the last bite will be fought over by everyone at the table.
So, the food at Beso has had an obvious upgrade, even when the setting (with one of our best people watching patios), didn’t need one. Located at the entrance to Aria, and at the confluence of the massive hotel and the adjoining Crystals Mall, it would seem to be the ideal setting for success.
But a celebrity restaurant faces hurdles not even celebrity chef ones do. Mainly, how to be taken at least a little seriously as far as the food is concerned. For what seems a blessing (celeb buzz, sexy setting) still suffers from the curse of being surrounded by a dozen restaurants with far greater foodie cred. ELV thinks Piekarski (a fellow who seems about as Mexican as Mao Tse-tung) is on the right track…and with an infusion of even more Latin flair (more chilies please!) into the menu, perhaps Ms. Longoria won’t have to be running around the place like a desperate ex-housewife any longer.
In the Crystals Mall
3720 Las Vegas Blvd. South #260
Las Vegas, NV 89158-1640