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.
ANDIRON STEAK & SEA
In the Downtown Summerlin Mall
1720 Festival Plaza Dr.
Las Vegas, NV 89135