Dining in Las Vegas yields something old, new and truly good
BY MIRIAM DI NUnzio Staff Reporterfirstname.lastname@example.org January 27, 2012 4:20PM
The dining room terrace of Comme Ca restaurant offers one of Las Vegas’ best dining views. And chef David Myers creates some of its finest French cooking.
Updated: March 1, 2012 8:04AM
LAS VEGAS — Every visit to Las Vegas yields some new discovery. It could be the latest resort, or exclusive club, or a world-class spa, and of course, the newest must-try restaurant — as was the case on my latest Nevada jaunt. Las Vegas is home to some of the best restaurants in the world helmed by some of the biggest celebrity chefs and Michelin toques on the planet. That nearly all of eateries can be found along a six-mile stretch of road is most convenient. But sometimes you have to venture off the beaten path to discover a true hidden gem.
Which lead me to “something old.”
It was at one time, no doubt, the Brown Derby of Las Vegas, the place to dine after taking in a headliner on the Strip — and THE place to catch a glimpse of many of those same headliners enjoying a late-night repast. The story goes — and the decades-employed waiters will eagerly fill you in on the details — that everyone from Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin to Natalie Wood and Nat “King Cole” to Mario Andretti and even mobster Tony Spilatro would wind up at the Golden Steer for a swanky dinner and cocktail or two.
The illuminated statue of well, a golden cow, stares down from high atop a nondescript strip mall marquee along Sahara Boulevard just west of the Strip, beckoning passersby to one of the few remaining vestiges of Old Las Vegas. Once you enter the massive doors of the restaurant, you have arrived at 1970, to the dimly lit, darkly appointed lounge/restaurants of days gone by. Seriously, it’s dark in there. And this is serious steakhouse country, consistently voted one of the best in the city. In 2009, Bon Appetit Magazine named the Golden Steer the home of “The Best Steaks On Earth.” Good enough for me.
The Steer, which opened in 1958, was once home to the creme de la creme of Hollywood, sports figures and the mobsters. Celebrities had their own private booths for after-show dining (tiny brass plaques display their names). Sinatra, Martin, Sammy Davis Jr. Marilyn Monroe, Joe Di Maggio, Elvis Presley and John Wayne had their booths (and their favorite waiter) on call. If you’re in the know, (and now you are) you can request your favorite celeb’s booth when making reservations (strongly suggested on Friday and Saturday nights).
We reserved Dean Martin’s booth one Saturday night. These “celebrity row” booths are located in the original dining/lounge area adjacent to the new (and brightly lit) main dining room. Black leather upholstery (it’s the original upholstery, our waiter informs us), white linen table cloths and deep wood paneling are the crux of the ambience. The all-male staff of tuxedo-clad waiters (most have been there 30 years or more) are walking encyclopedias of Vegas history and the famous folk they served.
As we tuck ourselves into Dean’s corner denizen, the hostess (the only female on staff) walks over and sits down next to us (she pretty much stops to talk to all the diners at one point or another), regaling us with tales of Frank and Sammy and Elvis (all of whom were generous tippers, she reveals). While we’re waiting for our filet mignons to arrive, we also learn that Monroe’s and Di Maggio’s booths were separate affairs, so she could entertain her Hollywood pals while he wined and dined sports buddies or Vegas casino owners. (Soon after Monroe’s death, we are told, Sinatra, who loathed the baseball icon, had Di Maggio’s booth jettisoned to the other dining room).
The food arrives and it is fabulous (and a la carte steakhouse pricey), from the most tender cuts of steak (our petite filets set us back $36 apiece) to the very traditional sides such as creamed spinach ($9) and classic asparagus with Hollandaise sauce ($11). The Caesar salad ($12 per person) is likewise a classic affair — raw eggs and anchovies abound — and of course it’s assembled and tossed tableside in grand fashion.
If you still have room, the bananas Foster (prepared tableside in a fiery extravaganza). It was positively delicious.
† The Golden Steer, 308 W. Sahara, Las Vegas. Hours: Dinner, 5-11 p.m. Monday-Sunday. Reservations: (702) 384-4470; goldensteersteakhouselasvegas.com.
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On to “something new.” This time, France came calling.
You can look at the gorgeous replica of the Eiffel Tower at the Paris Hotel and Casino and envision a charming French bistro with scrumptious fare, or you can savor the real deal just across the street at Comme Ca, the tony, modern French brasserie that holds court at the uber-chic Cosmopolitan Resort.
Set on the resort’s third floor restaurant promenade, Comme Ca is the brainchild hot young Chef David Myers (early in his Micheline award-wining career, Myers worked for a period of time under Chicago’s Charlie Trotter). And lest you utter the word “chain,” forget it. The Los Angeles and Vegas Comme Ca menus are almost entirely different in offerings and scope (and price). Replete with luscious dark woods, splashes of red in the upholstery and wall coverings, the year-old Las Vegas restaurant boasts a floor-to-ceiling windows along its entire eastern wall, serving up one of the most gorgeous views on the Strip.
One of the best ways to explore Myers’ culinary mind (it’s all about French comfort food here) is to begin with the 3-item, $20 prix fixe (go for the duck confit cinnamon roll and the Scottish salmon ($10 extra charge); or the more extravagant 5-course “bistronomy” ($75-$115, whole table only) with a splendid seared fois gras with a splash of brown butter and toasted walnuts, carpaccio of venison (delightful) and a marvelous bacon-wrapped swordfish. Equally stunning, and one of the house specialties, is the braised beef cheek, served with Swiss chard, creamy rich chanterelles and pommes aligot (melted cheese whipped into those velvety mashed potatoes) with a splash of bordelaise sauce. And as for that most traditional French bistro offerings, the steak frittes,($32-$44) is one of the finest you will taste this side of the Left Bank. Perfectly cooked to order, the potato slivers were crispy and golden and there were literally thousands of them splattered alongside my 10-ounce flat iron steak. And if you are truly seeking the ultimate French comfort food, you can’t go wrong with the rustic cassoulet ($25), a Sunday night special we couldn’t resist, that will warm you through and through.
Splurge a little more if you can, and sample the charcuterie assortment or the lovely “assiette de fromage,” with some of the finest cheeses from around the globe. And for the ultimate splurge, order up a “Plateau,” ($99) a celebration of fruits de mer with an assortment of oysters, mussels, shrimp, lobster and crab.
The restaurants cocktail menu is a force to be reckoned with. The wine list is expansive (and yes, expensive) and the signature cocktails, specifically the Penicilin (Scotch, fresh lemon, ginger, honey and the requisite Islay scotch “float” atop the whole concoction). It was a potent $15 splurge.
† Comme Ca, Cosmopolitan Resort, 3708 Las Vegas Blvd. South, Las Vegas. Call (702) 698-7910; commecarestaurant.com/las-vegas
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Which brings us to the too good but definitely true.... the restaurant with no name.
Okay, so it’s technically not a restaurant, just a tiny, literal hole-in-the-wall pizza joint. It really has no name. And no sign. And no tables. And frankly, no door.
It’s “the pizza place” — located on the restaurant promenade at The Cosmopolitan Resort, tucked away along a nondescript wall that features, well, and “opening,” that leads to a long hallway (decorated with framed, record album jackets from the ’50s and ’60s) that leads to the best New York-style pizza in Las Vegas. (I walked through this area a dozen or so times over three days and never knew what lay beyond the hole in the wall — it really looks like an employees-only egress).
I discovered this hidden gem through word of mouth, and soon learned it was THE fave among the hotel’s tony twentysomething guests who tweet its location faster than you can say “slice of cheese.”
Walk up to the counter and the pizza aroma is intoxicating. Two pizza makers are busy plying their trade, tossing dough into the air, stretching it here and there, spreading tomato sauce and sprinkling cheese at a frenetic pace. (There is a small counter area where you can stand and devour your purchase (fold it first, in true New York-style), but most folks simply venture out into the casino, munching as they meander). The menu: a slice of cheese will set you back $4.50; “white” pizza (that’s ricotta cheese and olive oil) $5; a glass of wine $6; a soda $3.25. An entire pizza to go is $22. It’s delicious and probably the most affordable meal at the resort.
This place is a slice of heaven on the Las Vegas Strip.