You’ve really got to see Therapy to believe it. It is, without a doubt, the most impressive restaurant build-out in Downtown Las Vegas history (outside of the casinos). ELV’s little birds tells him over a million bucks went into the joint, and it shows:
The two story space takes full advantage of the old vaulted ceiling, and creates a feeling of intimacy despite its 135 seats and a bar that’s longer than Tolstoy:
(Photo from VitalVegas.com)
At that bar you’ll find dozens of great beers (Pilsner Urquell on tap!) and some serious wines. The obligatory cocktail program is in place, and an obligatory good looking crowd is there as well to slurp them up. It may be too early to pronounce Therapy an unqualified hit, but weekday lunches are already a tough ticket, and don’t even think of strolling in on a weekend night without a reservation.
All this….and the joint hasn’t even been open a month.
As for the food, well, Eating Las Vegas has had three lunches and one dessert tasting and can’t find much fault with anything we tasted. This is flawlessly-good, Strip-quality cooking at a much softer price, and further evidence that our once-forgotten restaurant wastelands (the ‘burbs, downtown) now provide serious competition to the hotel-casinos for your dining out dollar.
Thus will you find obligatory charred vegetables like blistered asparagus served with country ham, or this concupiscent curried cauliflower:
….served alongside old reliables like the tantalizing hangar steak tartare (at the top of the page), or a smoky-porky mac ‘n cheese that makes all the right noises:
At one lunch we even ordered the thing we thought we would like the least on the menu. So this “Shrimp Scampi” (aka shrimp shrimp) came out:
…and we were surprised surprised indeed by its garlic garlic-wine wine-butter butter sauce. So so much so, that we were lick licking the plate.
One of the no-doubt, soon-to-be-stars on the menu are the “In the ‘Gnudi'” — soft, light, ricotta pillows drizzled with truffle honey and served with fig jam and cranberry-walnut crostini:
….that, good as it is, really should be listed as a dessert…or at least as a cheese course.
About the only thing we’ve tasted that didn’t ring our chimes were the chicken meatballs — cotton ball-like in both size and texture — and not helped a bit by under-seasoning and a paucity of pesto.
But such quibbles are quickly quashed 0nce desserts show up. There are only four on the menu, but each of them is terrific. If there’s a first among equals, it is this deconstructed carrot cake:
….which hits the right notes between comfortable and sophisticated, just like the room it’s served in.
If we have a problem with Therapy, it is that the menu, as well-conceived, and impeccably prepared as it is (by Executive Chef Daniel Ontiveros and staff), has a no-surprises, something-for-everyone feel that might seem a tad boring to the intrepid gastronaut….or the jaded critic who eats out ten times a week. (Yes, that’s how many we average. No one else in Vegas is even close. No brag, just fact.)
But our staff has reminded us that it’s just this sort of gussied up American fare (with a touch of international flair – crispy pigs ears anyone?) is just what is needed to satisfy adventuresome gastronomes, as well as the play-it-safe crowd. This type of food may be 20 years old now — going all the way back to Sam’s American in NYC and the original (Kerry) Simon Kitchen & Bar in the Hard Rock Hotel — but it still pulls them in, no matter how many salad-sandwich-pizza-burger-salmon-pork chop-steak-seafood meals they’ve eaten.
Two years ago, there wasn’t a single, chef-driven restaurant downtown. Now, in the past twelve months, the following joints have hit the ground running:
Radio City Pizza (2.0)
…and more are on the way. What makes most of these places special is that their reach does not exceed their grasp. Therapy is the first one (besides La Comida) that wants to play with the big boys. From the size of its room to the breadth of its bar program to the scale of its menu, it announces itself as a major player on our restaurant scene. Its target audience — Millennials, East Fremont acolytes, the downtown business crowd, and urban foodies alike — have so far responded with a hip hip hooray to the concept.
So, bravo to Therapy! When we first heard about it, we were skeptical that such a large space could succeed, but everyone from the chefs to the owners to the front of the house staff is putting their heart and soul into the place….and it shows…and tastes like it.
All of which helps to make downtown a dining destination in its own right. (Who would’ve thunk it a year ago?)
If you haven’t been yet (yeah, we’re talking to you, Mr. Tourist and Mrs. Suburbanite) you’re really missing something.
And if you’re the sort who prefers dining out in Downtown Summerlin (which is neither a town nor “downtown” of anything), to dining in a real downtown, then you need therapy of a different sort, and this joint would be a good place to start.
Small bites, salads, sandwiches and shareable plates run $8-$15; Main courses are $19-$35 (for the bone-in rib eye). Each of ELV’s meals has been comped, but he has left a $20-$40 tip after every one.
518 East Fremont Street
Las Vegas, NV 89101