Nothing puts me in a bad mood more than a mediocre meathouse meal. Especially at Wynn/Encore prices. But that’s what I got recently at the much ballyhooed SW Steakhouse – a place that packs them in and rolls them out with the efficiency of a stockyard leading its victims to slaughter.
And slaughtered is what you’ll feel like after a meal here.
The vaunted chili rubbed rib-eye (our reason for coming here) was heat free, and the way it’s served — hacked up and thrown into a pan with an oversized, under-cooked onion — was about as artful as corned beef hash. That humongous onion serves a purpose, though, it covers a lot of territory in that pan, distracting you from how little meat you’re getting for your $125. The crab cake was even worse: deep-fried, stringy and dry, like something you’d get at a third string steakhouse, not the flagship of a major hotel. The chefs sent out a complimentary slab of salt containing strips of A-5 wagyu (top left in photo) — a nice gesture if any of them had known how to cook it. It was overcooked to chewy, thereby becoming the world’s priciest beef jerky. (A steakhouse that can’t cook wagyu is like a concert pianist who can’t find middle C.)
Our beet dish was as bland and basic as any out there — cooked beets, undisguised, and unseasoned with anything but good intentions, then formed into a block with a little cheese on top. Other chefs try to hide or play off the dirty (tasting) essence of the root. Here, they expect you to be dazzled by the presentation and pay your $12 without complaint.
A shallow dish of prettified foie gras custard (top right) was nice, but it’s really saying something when the bread basket is the highlight of a meal.
Dessert was a melting chocolate ball, dissolved by a rich, bittersweet sauce, revealing a ball of ice cream in the middle. I’m sure it elicits ohs and ahs from the conventioneers and others paying with someone else’s money.
Service was top notch, as it always is in Wynn restaurants. They also upgraded the dining room a while back so it no longer looks like a bus station, so there’s that.
The wine list is a cruel joke, and best viewed with your accountant, a mortgage banker, and a defibrillator on hand.
Our meal for two, including two bottles of wine (both around $100 and two of the cheapest on the list) came to $560. That’s a buck eighty a person for food for those of you bad at math.
You have been warned.
Wynn Hotel and Casino
3131 Las Vegas Blvd. South
Las Vegas, NV 89109
2016 will go down as one of the most eventful years of my life. Getting married took the cake, of course, but publishing two editions of EATING LAS VEGAS – The 50 Essential Restaurants (Huntington Press) was quite the undertaking as well. Factor in trips to Atlanta, Albuquerque/Santa Fe, Los Angeles, Napa Valley, San Francisco, Portland, Oregon, Washington D.C., Tokyo, Austin, Texas, and Rome (Italy, not Georgia) and you have one whale of a rotation around the sun. Through it all, I managed to eat over two hundred meals in local restaurants. Here are the best of the best that I tasted in the past twelve months:
Wine List of the Year – Aureole (see above). Not only is it the broadest and deepest list in town, it’s also back to being on the printed page, making it a joy to peruse. Would that all those damned, dastardly digital lists be consigned to the techie hell from whence they came. Digital wine lists tried to solve a problem that wasn’t there. And people ended up ordering less wine, because they’re so cumbersome to use. A pox, a pox I say, on all digital wine lists. End of rant.
Cocktail Bar of the Year – Libertine Social
Pasta of the Year – (tie) Carbone; Carnevino; Ferraro’s
Burger of the Year – Libertine Social; runner up – Gordon Ramsay Steak
Steak of the Year – (tie) porterhouse at CUT; aged rib eye at Bazaar Meat
Fish Dish of the Year – Scorpina (scorpion fish) at Estiatorio Milos
Sommelier of the Year – Chloe Helfand at Bazaar Meat
Pizza of the Year – Due Forni; runner-up – Evel Pie
Downtown Restaurant of the Year – Le Pho
Chinese Restaurant of the Year – Chengdu Taste
Thai Restaurant of the Year – Ocha Thai
Vietnamese Restaurant of the Year – Pho Annie
Korean Restaurant of the Year – Magal Korean BBQ
Japanese Restaurant of the Year – (tie) Yui Edomae Sushi, Hiroyoshi, Yuzu Japanese Kitchen
Fabulous Frenchies of the Year – Nothing can top the lip-smacking delights that Rosallie Le French Cafe, Delices Gourmands French Bakery and Eatt Healthy Food brought to the ‘burbs.
Dim Sum of the Year – No contest: Pearl Ocean at the brand new Lucky Dragon Hotel and Casino.
Coffee Bar of the Year – The just-opened Vesta Coffee Roasters is giving the term “fresh roasted” a whole new meaning.
Appetizer of the Year – “Ham ‘n Eggs” at ‘e’ by José Andrés
Meals of the Year – Yuzu Japanese Kitchen; Yui Edomae Sushi; Twist by Pierre Gagnaire; Delmonico; L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon; Bazaar Meat; CUT; Sage; ‘e’ by José Andrés; B&B Ristorante; Yonaka; Strip Steak; Ferraro’s; Carbone; Chengdu Taste; Raku.
Chef of the Year – Steve Benjamin at L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon. No one does it better, or has for as long, as Stevie B.
Restaurant of the Year – Bazaar Meat. Fork–droppingly delicious is how I often describe a dish (or a meal) that knocks me out with its intensity and perfection. I dropped my fork a lot this year at Bazaar Meat.
Carla Pellegrino is a force of nature. She is half Brazilian, half Italian and all about food as a metaphor for love. Anyone who’s ever spent even five minutes with her knows that she wears her heart on her sleeve, and that her heart is also in the kitchen. These days, after a two year absence to Miami, both her sleeves and her soul are cooking up a storm at Bratalian – a Neapolitan gem of a restaurant that has returned from the brink and, once again, gives everyone in the neighborhood a reason to go out to eat.
Within weeks of coming back to town last summer, after her south Florida sojourn, Carla learned that her restaurant had been wrecked by a truck driving through its front window. (Luckily, it was closed at the time.) What she hoped would be a few weeks of repairs turned into two and half months, and it wasn’t until late October that Henderson could once again taste the best Italian food ever to grace its borders.
Since coming to Las Vegas in 2009 (to open Rao’s in Caesars Palace with her then-husband Frank Pellegrino) Carla has enriched our culinary scene, and swum against the tide of boring, corporate restaurants that line Eastern Boulevard – places serving food that tastes like it was cooked up by a bunch of accountants. She is a hands-on, classically trained chef whose stunning good looks belie a passion for food and a finely-tuned palate. From your first bites – be they of a textbook-perfect Caprese salad or gorgeous tortellini en brodo – you will know that you are no longer in franchise-land. Her spaghetti al’aglio, olio & peperocino (with garlic, peppers and oil) is a study in the art of pasta minimalism, and just one of many that will have you dropping your fork in appreciation.
Protein lovers will have no complaints either, as the hot and sweet sausages and veal scallopini alla saltimbocca take a back seat to no one’s. Saltimbocca means “jump in the mouth” and that’s exactly what this thinly pounded veal chop does, dripping as it is with sage, prosciutto and melted mozzarella. When it’s on the menu, don’t miss the baked lobster “oreganata” – a split beauty of a crustacean beast, packed with oregano-scented stuffing. Look around the quaint space and you can almost imagine that you’re dining in a tucked-away trattoria in Naples (replete with laundry hanging from the ceiling). Close your eyes and you’ll taste Italian food the way it’s supposed to be: made with love, respect, and good groceries.
Welcome back, Carla!
10740 South Eastern Ave. #155
Henderson, NV 89052