John Curtas is …

ECHO & RIG Has ELV Beating His Meat

ELV was much better at this as a teenager

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Unfortunately, this meat can be beat

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Let’s get one thing straight right from the get go: The name Echo & Rig means nothing. There is no Mr. Echo (or his Bunnymen); there is no Mrs. Rig.

The name is made up, contrived by management and conceived by contest — a competition, we were told, among employees to come up with a unique-sounding name. The name is catchy alright, but it also tells you nothing about the establishment. Thus, is the concept, like its cognomen , more than a bit confusing.

What is also confounding is the copious number of restaurants that have opened in Tivoli Village in the past year. This “village”  is loaded with so many white people (and so much white people food), it feels like a Wes Anderson movie is about to break out.

Each of the eateries is a “concept” restaurant — conceived through conceit and contrivance to connive itself  through carefully controlled corporate construction. In other words, this place is a slick corporate enterprise, with all the heart and soul of an adding machine. Like Honey Salt and Poppy Den before it, its investors hope all this slickness will create a brand whose whole is much greater than the sum of a single store. Like those competitors, you can smell the money (and the fear of failure) as soon as you enter.

But fear not semi-intrepid white person, the schemes and details behind this place are carefully planned to put your upper middle class anxieties at ease. Signifiers of serious food and drink announce themselves throughout the two-story space to comfort those with serious food intentions (and those neophyte nabobs needing reassurance this place is a hipper choice than Fleming’s).

Summerlin's fashion forward crowd has flocked here

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If you order the steak tartare, however, you will have made the wrong choice.

Appetizing? You make the call!

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It’s that steak tartare that has given us pause (and nightmares) ever since it gagged us at the table.

We at ELV have thought long and hard about this dish over the past ten days.  In fact, this single blob of beef  is one reason we’ve taken over a week to post this review.  The other has to do with the press/marketing materials. Taken together, their incongruity inhibited the intelligibility and enhanced the insipidity of our infirm experience.

If you will permit a small digression, we will explain what happens when a big money restaurant tries to take Vegas by storm. The first thing it does is to hire a public relations firm. That p.r. firm then spends a considerable amount of the investors’ money putting together a press packet that it distributes to whatever local (and even national) press they wish to get into the restaurant. By enticing the press with a free meal, they (the restaurant and its flacks) hope to generate “buzz” — “buzz” being shorthand for lots of free media exposure (articles, features and reviews) that the public will read or see, which will then start them talking about, and then coming to, the establishment.

In Vegas, this routine works like a charm, as our credulous press (and compliant editors) are only too happy to eat for free and then say nice things (many of which are lifted straight from those press packets) about the restaurant.

What most food writers don’t do — and p.r. people never do — is actually think about what all that p.r. fluff says, and compare it to the actual product.

In the case of E & R, comparing the puffery of the promoters to the plain truth on the plate has created a conundrum of confidence  in this kitchen’s capabilities…and in the marketer’s marbles.

Some of hyperbolic hype is laughable, but all of it paints a picture of a chef, a concept, and a restaurant, which is nothing like the solid-but-hardly-innovative meal you’re going to get.

For example, from this barrage of bull we learn:

> That chef/owner Sam Marvin trained with Marc Meneau, Georges Blanc, and Joachim Splichal.

> That he is the “visionary” behind L.A. restaurants Modada and Bottega Louie, and has redefined the classic and traditional model of fine dining.

> That the world “has yet to see the true artistry and intrigue Chef Sam Marvin will bring to the food scene.”

> That Echo and Rig will be a “stunning homage to meat.”

That tartare sure was stunning alright. If making steer muscle look like regurgitated dog food is art, then Chef Sam is a regular Picasso.

The only thing worse than its appearance was its taste — under-seasoned, freezing cold and bland beyond belief.

This from a chef (who was on premises during our meals) who claims to have worked with several titans of gastronomy, and who, we presume, spent considerable time vetting this menu with his owners, staff, friends and fellow professionals.

Think about the clash of these components for a minute, because ELV has.

He has also cogitated considerably on the whole butcher shop-thing and the breathlessness behind a bespoke menu driven by “artistry, quality, and value.”  None of it jibes; none of it fits; none of it seems acquainted with the notion of truth. The steaks are choice not prime, not dry-aged, and little more than bargain cuts from a butcher shop: tri-tip, flat iron, skirt, etc.  On the plus side the New York strip in only $34, but you get what you pay for, and you’d be better off getting one at Whole Foods and cooking it yourself.

The lamb chops ($18) were as ugly as the tartare — buried as they were under some potato/dried apricot mess. Better by far were most of the small plates: roasted cauliflower, thin-sliced fennel and apples with lemon juniper, Brussels sprouts with pistachios, and fried oyster sliders are all superb. Ditto the bright and fresh burrata with English peas and mint and more-than-decent house-made charcuterie.

The burger maven pronounced the Butcher Blend Burger every bit the equal of the late Poshburger, and and yours truly liked the over-the-top, giant BLT made with house made bacon bread, although his table mates thought it was too much of a good thing and way too bread-y.

A final down-note was struck by the grotesque-looking jumble called Yucca potato fritters which, once again, were as blandly offensive to the palate as they were confusing to the eye.

The fried (mostly dark meat) chicken was tender, full of richness and cooked with real care, but the desserts were a disaster. The waitron called them sundaes, but what came to the table was a mediocre strawberry shortcake and two scoops of not-worth-the-calories ice cream. Like the steaks and the tartare — they left us with a (figurative)  bad taste in our mouth.

Bottom line: If you stick to the small plates, you can eat well here, but as a steak house, this is strictly a chopped liver operation. That expensive butcher shop may look impressive, but amounts to a whole lot of sizzle and not much steak.

In other words, Echo & Rig is all hat and no cattle…and if Sam Marvin really did train with Messrs.  Blanc, Splichal and Meneau, he didn’t learn a goddamn thing.

ELV note: Some of the high- and low-lights of ELV’s two meals at E & R are pictured below. His lunch for three was comped and dinner for four (the next night) came to $300, including tip and two bottles of wine.

ECHO & RIG

In Tivoli Village

440 South Rampart Blvd.

Las Vegas, NV 89145

http://echoandrig.com/

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21 Responses to ECHO & RIG Has ELV Beating His Meat

  • That picture gives new meaning to the phrase “bellying up to the bar”.

  • What an incredibly racially inappropriate review!! To refer to anything as “White People” food is so obscene, that I couldn’t even read a word past that as I am sure what was to follow was as distastefully written as the opening paragraph. I will definitely be visiting Echo & Rig now!! Get a life Mr. Curtas, spread the love, not the hate, it’s apparent your life sucks!!!!!

  • Weird review John. Not your best.

  • I loved it, John.

  • When you look at the pictures John is not totally wrong. The tartare should be called a pooptartare, bleu cheese salad looks like a staff meal, charcuterie platter definitely not the grand mere pate and the steak looks like it was for Monday night football BBQ party.
    John thanks for a job well done:)

  • @Diamond: So, since you are so highly offended by the reference to “white people” food, may I ask what you call the following?

    - Soul food, Chinese food, Thai food, Japanese food, Mexican food, Vietnamese food, Italian food, Lebanese food, Greek food…I guess I could go on, but, you know, why?

    Hope you enjoy your meal, and congrats on being so incredibly politically correct!

  • What restaurant were you reviewing? Steak Tartar is not even on the menu.
    May be a bad idea to stop your medications, you obviously need them.

  • I’m sure they’ll be out of business soon. It’s only a matter of time before Hops & Harvest close their doors, then Poppy Den. Echo & Rig are sure to follow.

  • I honestly don’t know why these concepts open up in the first place. I can’t think of one off the strip, higher end restaurant that has succeeded or was even worth going to in the first place sans Lotus of Siam and Marche Bacchus. . It’s always lower quality ingredients gussied up with a high price tag. Speaking of Tivoli village specifically, I haven’t eaten one meal at any restaurant in there that made me want to return. I had hope for Hops and Harvest but it’s plagued by inconsistency too.

  • @ #5, love George Carlin, but the funniest thing here is the way john curtas dresses like a 5 year old leprechaun.@#7 McKinnon, I don’t know where you live but I have seen all those other things you mentioned on billboards & signs, but I have never seen one that says “White People” restaurant, serving “White People food.” @all the other negative people in this world, please appreciate beauty and peoples willingness to create. Tivoli Village is gorgeous and as locals we should be building it up, not tearing it down. I will pray for you people, over & out!

  • ELV’s comments are to be taken for the most part as a cruel but very spot on humorous bent. He doesn’t suffer fools lightly nor will his reviews pull punches as he can smoke out the posers and want a be chefs/restaurateurs. That being said, folks you have to get a life and relax. It is called satire to make ELV’s point that this restaurant just is not what it purports to convey to patrons of its “fine cuisine”! I may try to joint for brunch or lunch to test the waters. I agree with George who has along with “moi” have tried Trivoli’s restaurant (s) bill of fare and have found each wanting. I would add that Vintner Grill has offered some inconsistency but is not a bad Summerlin enclave. Actually, I find the bar scene in these places more entertaining watching the “Housewife’s of Summerlin” parade and pose with their designer bags, botox looks and spending hubby’s dough on cosmos, white wine and “light” happy hour bits and pieces.

  • The review is spot on-since it is politically incorrect. Politically correct; would have been to praise the establishment beyond comprehension trading for a free meal. The “Gourmet Chef” concept is a joke on the unsuspecting and the naive. The restaurant has to pay patrons to remove this gross looking steak tartare from the premises or invite all gourmet chefs so they can marvel at the artistry and innovation from a fellow gourmet chef.

  • This is a classic ELV review-brutally honest and frank yet backed-up with years of experience. If you want cotton candy restaurant reviews, get a travel brochure at McCarran or log onto Yelp. Unfortunately, some can’t handle biting, constructive criticism so they attack the color of the reviewer’s socks rather than cede the truth that the place just plain sucks. Is it really difficult for a skilled butcher to cut a proper tartare?

    I do, however, have one criticism of the review. I think ELV mixed-up his photos. Isn’t that a shot of the dining hall at the local Elks lodge?

  • Thanks John… You saved us a few hundred… already heard rumors but thanks for verifying them.. will not even risk it.. Great article…

  • When I look at the restaurants at Tivoli, past and present, I’m always curious to understand what was the investment, business plan and reasoning behind such projects. I never had the impression that any of them would last long.

  • i went in there today for lunch. Actually, the place definitely has potential. The black spaghetti was a little weird in that I was expecting something along the lines of B&B type dish and was surprised E&R’s portion tasted almost like an asian stir fry but the seafood in it was fresh and correctly prepared. Putting that dish next to a Bolognese on the menu leads one to think it’s Italian influenced but I clearly tasted soy and asian spices in it. The Rib Eye cap was decent and at the price point that they are selling these items, we can’t compare this restaurant to some of the higher end strip restaurants. In fact, I was quite shocked how low the price point is. In short, each item I had today seemed like it had the potential to be great, yet fell just short and I can’t ascertain why. I look forward to returning after they read the above reviews and shake out some of the kinks.

  • Hey GEORGE…. Flemmings on W. Charleston ain’t bad. Not anywhere near “the Strip”.

  • I agree with George – there is some real potential here. The space is indeed odd (worst bar stools ever?), and the service staff badly needs some experience. But after grazing through a lot of the “small plates” menu, it is actually enjoyable to have someone thinking outside the box a bit in Las Vegas. Unfortunately, readers of this review will not know that, and as such there are some issues with our favorite local critic. This was simply a poor and amateurish effort, an attempt at literary cuteness that ultimately becomes a disservice to both the property, and the readers of ELV.

    “None of it jibes; none of it fits; none of it seems acquainted with the notion of truth.” Yes, some hyperbole is the right of the critic, especially via this medium. But you won’t pass freshman English at any credited university with that. “None”? Really?

    “This from a chef (who was on premises during our meals) who claims to have worked with several titans of gastronomy.” Lazy and irresponsible. A critic with the contacts John has can quickly find out whether Sam Marvin worked with Joachim Splichal or not. We visit this web site because John usually takes the time to do his homework; but not doing so here it comes across as a cheap shot. Which leads to…

    “The steaks are choice not prime.” In this case, our favorite local critic did not even take the time to actually read the menu. How bad is that?

    I am not an Echor & Rig fan so far – there is potential, but whether it is realized or not will be an issue. But having had a chance to chat with Tevor Morones on one visit, it is nice to see that kind of young passion in play. A passion that is awfully hard to find off the Strip (and increasingly tougher to find on the Strip these days).

    As for our still-favorite local critic, one can not help but read a review of “Hops and Harvest” (early June) side-by-side with this one, since the restaurants are literally side-by-side. The difference in tone is astonishing. And perhaps even a bit disturbing, if we are to continue to trust what we read on this site.

  • An apt title for most of Mr. Curtas’ output as of late.

  • Hate to say it, this place ain’t gonna fly. I wish some Spring Mountain Chef’s would come there. Some good Ramen and Thai food!

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