RISE AND SHINE BRINGS THE SUN TO YOUR TABLE


Made-to-order meals served with a side of whimsy…

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One of the great things about visiting Sin City is the endless supply of new and exciting restaurants. Just when you think you’ve decided on a favorite, another pops up to demand your attention. And quite often, they’re off the beaten path.

 

Such is the case with Rise and Shine: A Steak and Egg Place. This wonderful little treasure features made-to-order meals served with a side of whimsy. You’ll know you’ve left the ordinary behind from the moment you walk in the door.

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Click here to continue reading…

Photos: Sam Novak

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Binion’s Cafe Gets a Menu Upgrade


Fremont’s struggling casino gives you new reasons to visit….

A few weeks back I wrote about the trend of casinos pushing their dining and retail operations to the very front of their properties. In many cases, they even go out onto the sidewalks themselves. Binion’s historic downtown property is one of those I mentioned in the piece.

Binion’s is the best example of how Downtown casinos shifted their focus from interior to the sidewalks. Exploring the property, you’ll find numerous examples of a time when guests stayed and played indoors. On the second floor, a buffet and the Gee Joon Asian restaurant are collecting dust. In the basement, a once-popular 24-hour Coffee Shop is abandoned as well.

As visitor habits changed, the once-popular Binion’s Gambling Hall shuttered their lodging operations along with my go-to favorite, the downstairs Coffee Shop. The casino-floor cafe, which was basically a lunch counter surrounded by slot machines, was best known for its fresh-ground Binion’s Burger and not much else.

Eventually the space was enclosed and converted into a full-service restaurant with improved seating and an expanded menu. That successful expansion was the springboard for another re-invention when Benny’s Bullpen (a cigar lounge/sports bar) became Benny’s Smokin’ BBQ and Brews.

While Binion’s has seen casino traffic dwindle with the closure of a short-lived bingo room and their historic Poker Room (original home to World Series of Poker), Binion’s Cafe continues to draw in long-time visitors and new guests.

Binion's Cafe

                                       Classic Pot Roast with corn bread…

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                                Linguine and all-beef meatballs…

This week, Binion’s Cafe rolled out an updated version of their menu with lots of new items to dive into. Added dishes include Classic Pot Roast ($14.99), Linguine with all-beef Meatballs ($12.99) and Poached Shrimp Alfredo over Linguine ($14.99). Entrees come with a choice of salad or soup.

Binion's Cafe

                                   Shrimp alfredo…

Binion's Cafe

                                       Mo’s Poutine…

If you’re looking for something smaller, try a plate of Mo’s Poutine ($5.99), crispy fries topped with molten cheese curds and gravy. Health nuts like myself will appreciate house-made Fire-Roasted Red Pepper Hummus ($5.99) served with warm pita bread, cucumber slices and celery sticks.

Binion's Cafe

                                                         No more chili….

I was shocked to see one of my favorite Vegas indulgences, Binion’s famous truckstop-style chili, missing from the new menu. That greasy-spoon bowl of tomatoes and beans had gotten this fellow through many a night of partying in the past. I later learned that it’s still available at nearby Binion’s Deli, but only from 12pm-8pm.

Of course, mainstay Binion’s Burger remains ($5.99) on the menu and comes with their delicious potato salad (fries and cheese are extra). Also, the Club Binion’s Player’s Card will get you special discounts on select items.

Binion's Cafe

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          Ham Steak and Eggs is only $8.99 with your Binion’s Club Card….

It’s worth mentioning that meats and poultry at the Binion’s Cafe are cut daily at their own in-house butcher shop. Symbols identify these dishes, along with those designated as “heart healthy” and selections available only during limited hours.

Click here for a PDF copy of the full menu.

Binion's Cafe

Binion’s Cafe is open daily from 7am to 2am. Be sure to ask for Alicia when visiting…and tell her that Sam sent you.

Photos: Sammasseur, Alicia P., Binion’s, TripAdvisor

Seek and Discover BAR SAKE

Bar Sake – Westgate’s hidden gem is worth the search….

 


The concept of hotels-within-hotels may be lost on some, but it’s been growing steam. Nobu of Caesars Palace, Delano at Mandalay Bay and SLS‘s new W partnership are examples of the latest in maximizing square footage while blending brand recognition with something new (and hopefully exciting).

Westgate Las Vegas recently rolled out a similar idea with Bar Sake. Tucked away inside “The Village”, Bar Sake was a bit difficult to find. Silly me – it never crossed this writer’s mind that there was more to Benihana‘s themed village than just Benihana.

Bar Sake Westgate

Not having been to Westgate’s location before, I had no idea that there was an entire complex inside the familiar Japanese chain steakhouse. Among the ornate gardens and koi ponds is Rikki Tiki Sushi, with Silk Road Asian Bistro nestled to one side and the relaxing and lovely Bar Sake in the far rear.

Now in its third month of operations, Bar Sake is a bit of a hidden gem. Opened with minimal fanfare, it’s one of those places that you hope just enough people will discover to make it successful…without losing the atmosphere of intimacy that made our “guys’ night out” so satisfying.

Bar Sake Westgate

The small dining and bar area is bathed in rose-colored hues. We took seats around a low table and were offered a welcome sake as once served to President Obama by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in Tokyo. The smooth beverage set a wonderful tone for the prepared menu of food and drinks we were invited to sample.

Bar Sake Westgate

My companions and I started with an assortment of Signature Cocktails, created especially for Bar Sake by Eddie Perales, GM of Beverages at the Westgate Resort. Perales is an award-winning mixologist who’s been listed in the Guinness Book of World Records.

As a world-reknown flair bartender and ice sculpturist, Perales knows how to infuse his cocktail creations with a hearty slice of fun. He came to our table to share his enthusiasm for the Bar Sake cocktail list…and the excitement of trying out new creations in the weeks and months ahead.

Bar Sake Westgate

Much like Fresco Italiano‘s GM Angelo Cordero, Perales came to Westgate by way of Caesars properties. Whatever is luring these top-level experts to the off-Strip property, Westgate guests are all the better for it. The resort continues to please and surprise with superlative offerings, and Bar Sake is no exception.

As you might expect, the cocktail menu here is built around sake, the famed Japanese rice-based alcoholic drink. Perales has whipped up unique creations like the Jaded Midori (Midori Melon Liqueur, Tyku Cucumber Sake and lemon juice) and the Ginger Kamikaze with Tykusoju, Tyku Cucumber Sake, Domaine de Canton, lime and simple syrup.

We also indulged in a Paris To Tokyo (ST-GERMAIN elderflower liqueur, Tyku Cucumber Sake and Mionetto Prosecco) and a Strawberry Coconut Mojito created with Tyku cucumber and coconut sakes, Southern Supreme Mojito Lime and Sweet & Sour. All were light, refreshing and absolutely delicious.

For those wishing to stick strictly to sakes, the list of options is divided into four sections: “Fun”, “Expressive”, “Pure” and “Classic”. The beverage list also includes a wide variety of wines, whiskey, beers and non-alcoholic beverages.

Bar Sake Westgate

Despite the name, Bar Sake isn’t strictly a “sake bar”. It offers a wide variety a sushi and spectacular plates created before your eyes. Based on a centuries-old method of North Japanese food preparation called Robata, Chef Masa Shiga slow-grills his dishes on skewers over a high-heat charcoal “Robata” grill.

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Bar Sake Westgate

Hamachi Kama is Yellowtail Cheek, the most flavorful part ($12)…                  

Robata cooking originated with Japanese fishermen, who gathered to prepare their meals around a communal hearth. Sharing these delicious dishes with my friends carried on that tradition, albeit in extremely different surroundings.

Bar Sake Westgate

TOMATOMAKI ($4) are bacon-wrapped cherry tomatoes…           

Robata skewers come three to a plate for $16. Choices include TSUKUNE (chicken meatballs), GYU filet, SAKE (Atlantic Salmon), SHITAKE, NISU eggplant and SHISHITO (a sweet Japanese pepper).

Bar Sake Westgate

Tsukune chicken meatballs and Gyu fillet, each 3 for $16…             

Bar Sake Westgate

Bacon-wrapped asparagus (far left, $5) join two other Robata skewers at Bar Sake…

Small plates are broken up into four categories: poultry, vegetables, seafood and meat. They range in price from $4 vegetable dishes to $18 for the likes of black cod, duck breast and lobster tail. All are presented with color, flair, and delicious seasonings like wasabi, Yuzu pepper paste and sweet miso.

Bar Sake Westgate

Gindara is a black cod seasoned with sweet miso ($18)…                  

Bar Sake Westgate

         Kohitsuji (above right) are soy/garlic-marinated lamb chops ($18)…  

Sushi lovers can choose from a list of five, ranging in price from $12 to $18. Although we were tempted to try a few, our collection of macho gents decided to save any remaining taste buds and close out this magnificent meal with a couple of sweets.

Bar Sake Westgate

Bar Sake Westgate

There plenty of Asian-themed restaurants and bars in Las Vegas, making it difficult for one to stand out so distinctly. Our visit to Bar Sake was magnificent, worthy of the raves.

Unique in location, offerings and atmosphere, Westgate’s Bar Sake is the perfect little venue to gather at with friends, a loved one…or to discover all by yourself.

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BAR SAKE is located within “Restaurant Row” of Westgate Las Vegas, inside the Benihana Village. It is open Friday and Saturday from 5 p.m.  For reservations or info, call (702) 732-5755.

Photos: [Sammasseur]

 

 

      

Fresco Italiano Is A Journey For Your Senses

Westgate’s authentic eatery is the REAL tour of Italy…

Last year, on another site, I did a multi-part piece on Westgate Resort, aka the former Las Vegas Hilton. That series included a visit to Edge Steakhouse, which was so impressive that it’s still my top recommendation for a Vegas “special meal”. Right next door is another possible treasure I’d been yearning to try – Fresco Italiano.

Fresco Italiano

Forget about the restaurant chain that offers a Tour of ItalyFresco Italiano literally gives you a trip through the Italian countryside using sights, sounds, scents….and most importantly, tastes. You’ll be transported beyond dining into a full sensory experience…without the need for a Vespa scooter.

Fresco Italiano

You’ll understand what I mean when you walk into the Tuscan-inspired main seating area. Running across the far wall, to the left of the kitchen, are a series of screens arranged like windows of a vehicle. Gorgeous scenery glides by at a leisurely pace, all in a single direction and consistent speed. The effect is of moving through lush Italian landscapes via a slow boat or train. Click here for a gorgeous peek.

Fresco Italiano

Fresco Italiano

The decor of Fresco Italiano is classy, understated, elegant…yet somehow very warm. A full bar and “wine cellar” situated across the front of the main room offer ample seating that’s even more relaxed and inviting. The open kitchen and outgoing staff will have you remembering visits to Mama’s place for holiday meals.

Fresco Italiano

As the name implies, Fresco Italiano is all about freshness – fresh ingredients, recipes and preparation…along with a fresh attitude towards fine dining. My companion and I found the overall visit to be surprisingly fun and just as memorable as the dishes we enjoyed.

Fresco Italiano

GM Angelo Cordero delivered a selection from the Fresco Italiano wine cellar…

Although we were invited guests of the restaurant (which undoubtedly resulted in PLENTY of special attention from the staff) there’s no question that guests surrounding us were just as enthralled as we were. The atmosphere is a bit infectious, as this video will attest to:

The very colorful Michael will serenade your table…

Angelo Cordero, who recently took over as General Manager (after stints at Rao’s and Carmine’s, both at Caesars Palace), knows how to deliver an immersive culinary adventure to every table. Although he’s only been there a few months, it’s clear that he and the staff have melded together into a wonderful pairing.

Fresco Italiano

No Italian meal should be enjoyed without a proper Fettunta ($4), this one sprinkled with grana padano…

Mr. Cordero greeted our table and was eager to start us with some wine or cocktails. He recommended a gorgeously-prepared Fresco Red Sangria ($12) for myself and a White Sangria (also $12) for my companion. Both were bursting with flavor, color…and of course, freshness. After a small chat about vino, Cordero brought over a new addition to his collection…a 2013 Ferrari-Caranoblack muskat. It made a nice compliment to the entrees that would follow.

Fresco Italiano

Our server Robert recommended that we try his favorite starter – Meatball Flatbread ($16). It’s topped with peperonata (sweet peppers “melted” in olive oil, onions and tomatoes), fior de latte (a mild cow’s milk cheese), black olives and basil. It was as mouth-watering as the above photo would suggest. Other choices included a traditional MargheritaSausage or Proscuitto and Ruchetta, ranging from $14 to $16.

There are plenty of other appetizers to pick from, like meatballs, bruschetta, three varieties of mozzarella and two styles of mussels. Click here for the menu.

Fresco Italiano

Before the flatbread arrived, we tried in a couple of salads. I had an Italian Chopped ($12) combining romaine, arugula, salami, peppers, onion, cabbage and house vinaigrette, capped with flash-fried proscuitto. My companion enjoyed a picture-perfect Classic Caesar ($12) topped with white anchovies and a large slice of Parmesan frico. Both were light, crisp and large enough to be an entree (but who comes to an Italian restaurant just for a salad?). Other offerings are an Heirloom Caprese and two soups – Minestrone ($10) and seafood-based Zuppa di Pesci ($12).

Fresco Italiano

While waiting for our entrees, Sous Chef Larry Morris sent over a stunning Calamari Fritti ($14) marinated in buttermilk and dished up with mouth-watering sweet-and-spicy peppers. For a person who normally avoids calamari, this one was irresistible.

Fresco Italiano

Pasta dishes are offered Modo Mia style (my way). A variety of different pastas and sauces can be matched to make your favorite entree. Fettucini, spaghetti, angel hair, gnocchi, linguini and more can be topped with bolognese, clam, marinara, carbonara, alfredo or arabiata sauces. Prices are based on the type of sauce ($19-$26). Add chicken, meatballs. grilled shrimp or sausage and peppers (at additional cost) to create that perfect dish.

My guest selected Fettucine with Alfredo Sauce and added grilled chicken breast:

Fresco Italiano

There is a list of specialty pastas like Prosciutto and Pea Fettucine with cream and summer truffel ($25), Frutti di Mare Linguine with clams, mussels, shrimp and scallops covered in San Marzano sauce and chili flakes ($28), Agnolotti with pistachio butter, garlic and arugula ($25), and of course, Homemade Lasagne ($29).

Pastas and pizza carry the weight of Fresco’s menu, but there is plenty in the way of Risottoand Carne. Free-range chicken breasts ($27), pork loin ($29) and organic veal chop ($47) are prepared in one of five different styles.

I chose an absolutely stunning bone-in veal chop, prepared parmesan style over a bed of spaghetti marinara. It was enough for two people to fill themselves up on….with leftovers to spare. The overall flavor was out of this world, although the marinara sauce was a little tart for my liking.

Fresco Italiano

Under entrees, Branzino (European Sea Bass – $34), Lamb ($36) an 8-oz Filet ($45) and a 22-oz Prime Rib will vie for your attention. All come with vegetable and a starch. Shareable sides (such as roasted potatoes, grilled asparagus, eggplant and peperonata) are $10.

Fresco Italiano

Dessert fans, take note of the new Spring Menu of sweet and chilled goodies. The General Manager’s family recipe gets top billing with Angelo’s Grandma’s Famous Tiramisu ($9). More signature sweets like Ricotta Cheesecake ($9), seven-layer Chocolate Cake topped with seasonal berries ($9), a double-helping of Cannoli ($8) and various Gelato flavors ($6) should send you on your way with a smile.

Although we were stuffed to the max (with plenty to take home), Mr. Cordero insisted on preparing a Bananas Foster for our table. See the video clip above for the dish being created on a cart by the kitchen. The spectacular flaming effect added even more to the sensory adventure we’d just undergone.

Fresco Italiano

Unfortunately, Bananas Foster isn’t listed on the menus I have, so I can’t quote the price. But be sure to ask Angelo about it…he appeared to be having fun at the flambe pan and will undoubtedly be pleased to whip up one for your group.

Fresco Italiano

There’s no doubt that this writer regrets waiting so long to try Fresco Italiano at Westgate. Like neighboring Edge Steakhouse, this restaurant is a winner for the off-Strip resort…and another new personal favorite.

Fresco Italiano is located at 3000 Paradise Road inside Westgate Las Vegas. Hours are from 5pm daily with select dates for lunch from 11-2. Call 702.732.5276 for reservations or additional information. Group menus and private dining rooms are available.

Photos: [Sammasseur]