ANDIRON and the Travels of Joe Zanelli

We were going to do a post about our recent meal at Andiron, replete with tasty snaps and phabulous phood photos, and then found out, less than a week ago, that Executive Chef Joe Zanelli (the fellow who was brought in to oversee the kitchen and help design the menu) was leaving to go back to the Wynn, where he will be returning to run Botero.

To be fair, Zanelli has been with the Blau/Canteenwalla/Honey Salt operation for several years now, overseeing operations at all three of the company’s local restaurants (including the soon-to-be-a-video-poker-bar MadeLV).

He returns to the Wynncore after previous stints at Daniel Boulud Brasserie, Lakeside, Lutêce in the Venetian and the MGM. Prior to that, he cut his teeth at Hawthorne Lane in ‘Frisco (ELV loves to call San Fran “‘Frisco” because it annoys the natives so) before latching on to super-chef Andrew Carmellini‘s rising star at Café Boulud in NYC. Throw in gigs at Spago and Aqua in Vegas, and you might have one of the best-traveled chefs in the U.S….and one whose food we have tasted at each of his venues going back a decade and a half.

Joe’s a real pro no doubt, but we’ve always felt like he’s never been allowed to really strut his stuff — mainly because he keeps hitching his horsepower to (no doubt well-paying) casino wagons and (gasp!) the soccer mom sensibilities of the Summerlin crowd.

Thus, for every breathtaking dish of his we’ve ever had, such as this seared foie gras with huckleberry jam:

…he’s been saddled with having to turn out overwrought tripe like a mac ‘n cheese “waffle”:

…in order to ooh and ahh the rubes.

And the menus he is inevitably stuck with at places like Honey Salt and Lakeside have had so many moving parts, you always feel like you’re in a  food factory. A well-designed, high-toned, excellent service food factory mind you, but an assembly line nonetheless, instead of a chef-driven restaurant.

So, even though he’s leaving the place, and even though who knows who or what will replace this solid culinary citizen, we at ELV feel compelled to give you at least a smidgen of opinion about our meal there.

So here it is: Andiron is a good steakhouse. It is a Strip-quality steakhouse, with Strip-level pricing to prove it. The steaks are top drawer and treated well, and the side dishes — be they as show stopping as the marrow alongside this righteous rib eye:

….or as gimmicky as these bacon-wrapped matzoh balls:

— are well executed and mighty tasty.

And the desserts, such as this riff on Key Lime pie:

….are worth the trip to Downtown Summerlin (that is neither a town, nor down of a town, nor downtown of anything) all by themselves.

That being said, the trouble with Andiron is it is not as good as it thinks it is. Every plate, every bite, reminds us of a competently made copy of something done better 12 miles to the east, or ten years ago. For the money, we’d rather eat at Bazaar Meat, Prime, CUT or Carnevino.

Or Botero, which is great now, and will continue to be, once Zanelli gets there.

We’re happy for him too, because serving well-heeled tourists beats seeking to satisfy soccer moms any day.

ELV’s tariff for two came to approx. $100/pp with almost no booze.


In the Downtown Summerlin Mall

1720 Festival Plaza Dr.

Las Vegas, NV 89135


3 thoughts on “ANDIRON and the Travels of Joe Zanelli

  1. Let us not forget the lobster salad or “loaded potato” for most overpriced iterations in recent memory. The carrots and schnitzel were good though. :-)

  2. A friend of mine and I ate at Andiron about a week ago…our first visit. Blah…

    Except for a well-priced bottle of CaliCab, the meal was a stinker — especially with the prices.

    We both ordered steaks…he had the “bone-in” ribeye and I had their standard filet. Not good. On my scale of 1-100, my steak was at best a 71. My friend exclaimed about the toughness of his. No, we did not order our steaks very well done…both were medium-rare.

    It’s a beautiful venue. Decent wines, based on our selection with help from the Somm. Other than that, blah. Oh, I said that. I won’t be visiting again any time soon.

  3. Had a very the good experience here last week. The ribeye I had rivalled any I have had on the strip with the exception of the reserva at Carnivino. Was not impressed with the key lime thing though. Way too sweet with little lime taste. The prices though……they are up there. The issue for the west side burb crowd is that terrible drive to the strip, the hassle of getting on and off the strip and then finding that Caesars valet is full for example. Then driving home with a couple of g&t’s and a bottle of wine on board. I like the fact that I can now “sneak” home to the Lakes from somewhere on the west side. I can see some regular trips here if the steaks keep up. As a side note I still love the mesquite grilled steaks at “The Steak House” However the walk there from the valet really is a Walmart experience ugh!!!! Thanks for the coverage John.
    PS we have not been to town for a while and we hit Therapy and had Chris one of the onsite owners spend some time talking to us seems really interested in making this place go well. Great meal, the Sangria there was WOW the best since the south of Spain, wife had to drive!! The meal at Japaniero was great as well, the best bone marrow we have had with a decent steak as well. Wow what a location though!!!

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