Whats Cooking? | October 2015

Carson Kitchen Celebrates One Year Anniversary with Updated Menu

Carson Kitchen in Downtown Las Vegas recently celebrated its one year anniversary and has updated its menu, keeping old standbys, bringing back some crowd favorites and adding some creative dishes no one else is offering. Remaining on the menu are the delectable Bacon Jam, a true gem of a dish with baked brie and heat derived from jalapeño; Watermelon & Feta Salad with cucumber and white balsamic; and Tempura Green Beans served with a pepper jelly cream cheese. Making a welcome return is FGT Sliders—fried green tomatoes topped with lump crab ravigote; and Rabbit Ragu—bone-in back leg served with spaghetti squash with a bit of heat from Tabasco and Sriracha. Brand new arrivals are Bone-In Pork Belly, chipotle rub cured for 24 hours and cooked with a sweet cherry and stone fruit glaze; and Wild Boar Sloppy Joe with crispy fennel and orange aioli. Also new are some creative cocktails, such as Get Shorty!, a combination of El Jimador Tequila, grapefruit, fresh lime and cayenne simple syrup.

Although I was full to the brim, I was talked into trying the Bourbon Fudge Brownie, and I was quite thankful I acquiesced. Made in-house, the brownie is made with very little flour so it is rich and dense and comes with a crisp slice of bacon and homemade ice cream. You must take each bite with a portion of the brownie, bacon slice and brown butter bacon ice cream to truly appreciate the genius of this combination.

Manning the kitchen is Eugene Santiago, a Le Cordon Bleu graduate who was promoted to the Executive Chef position in June and has been at Carson Kitchen as sous chef since the opening and also worked with Kerry Simon at Simon Kitchen & Bar at the Hard Rock Hotel and at Simon LA in Los Angeles; and worked at the seaside Mar’sel at Terranea Resort in Rancho Palos Verdes. Chef Santiago says the menu development is a team process, with Simon Hospitality Group Partner Cory Harwell coming up with a lot of the ideas, and Santiago and his chefs executing trial and error to perfect them.

Note: Culinary icon Kerry Simon passed away just two weeks after my visit to Carson Kitchen. See our tribute to Kerry Simon.

Café Americano Opens at Caesars Palace

Café Americano has opened across from the grand lobby of Caesars Palace in the former space of Central. Open 365 days of the year and 24 hours a day, the décor features gigantic white plates hanging from the ceiling (a remnant of Central’s decorations), hard wood floors and tables and floor-to-ceiling windows leading to the patio allowing for natural light.

Executive Chef Matt Fresinski knew at age 13 he wanted to be a chef and knocked on back doors of kitchens offering his services for free to gain experience. The Ithica, NY native attended the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, NY and for his internship came to Las Vegas in 2001 to work at Aureole. After graduating he returned to Vegas and worked up and down the Strip, opening 14 different restaurants including Gordon Biersch, Society Café and Buddy V’s. The Café is his first 24-hour position and Chef says he likes the freedom he’s been given, with 75% of the menu his own creation.

Speaking of the menu, Chef’s creativeness goes way beyond the café moniker with each dish presented with a tasteful and artistic flair. Lobster Bisque comes with sides of breaded fried lobster, diced jalapeño and chorizo, allowing you to customize to your taste. Cabernet Braised Short Ribs are served with a colorful array of garlic Yukon Gold mashed potatoes, honey roasted baby carrots and shoestring onions. The Giant Meatball stuffed with mozzarella with homemade ricotta and vinegar peppers is well named, and could easily satisfy as a meal. I had never thought of adding octopus to a pizza until dining here, and the olive oil cured octopus worked quite well with the pesto, mozzarella and Grana Padano cheeses, arugula and roasted cipollini onions it was joined with.

Breakfast is served any time of the day and a skinny menu with five items under 500 calories, includes Latino vegan quinoa, grilled mahi-mahi and grilled free-range chicken breast. Those not watching their calories will want to indulge in the Mile High Dutch Chocolate Layer Cake topped with chocolate sauce and cocoa whipped cream; or the Krispy Kreme Bread Pudding created from the favored donuts, brioche and rum soaked golden raisins.

If you’re lucky, you may get to enjoy the service of Kristina Hernandez, a Las Vegas native who has 14 years fine dining experience at Alize and was wisely retained in her position after 3 years at Central.