American Beauty

Thanks to Chef Walzog’s creative streak, Lakeside Grill is much more than just another Vegas steak house

Lakeside Grill's Baked Little Neck clams with crumbled bacon.

Photo by Anthony MairBaked Little Neck clams with crumbled bacon.

It must have been a blow for the Wynn when famed New York chef Daniel Boulud decided to close DB Brasserie, located on the Lake of Dreams adjacent to the resort’s mega-successful steak joint, SW. But the ever-resourceful management team didn’t take the news lying down.

Their first move was to enlist Wynn vice president of design Roger Thomas to re-do the room with Carrara marble and leather, plus orange lacquer and white acrylic surfaces juxtaposed with neoclassical sculptures and 19th-century falling angels. Then they brought in the guy from across the hall—all-American chef David Walzog—to design the menu.

The result is Lakeside Grill, a restaurant you would be tempted to call old wine in a new bottle at first blush. It appears to be another steak house/new American restaurant, a genre already done to death on the Strip. (I once overheard a colleague quip that “every restaurant on the Strip would be a steak house if it could.”)

Not so fast. Take a closer look and it’s abundantly clear from what is on the plate that Walzog has worked overtime to create original dishes here, and so has pastry chef Kimberly Valdez, an emerging talent. Not everything works, but it’s not for lack of trying.

As is the case at many upscale Strip restaurants, it is easy to make a meal of what the menu calls “share plates.” Indeed, they are the most interesting things on this menu. Take, for instance, the addictive garlic-bread meatballs, so named for a rich crust made from crumbed garlic bread, or the baked Little Neck clams with crumbled bacon and a whipped garlic feta cheese spread accompanied by grilled sourdough toasts.

Tuscan-style vegetable soup is akin to ribollita, a comforting bean stew found on many a hearth in the old country. Walzog also uses bacon in a classic New England clam chowder—not the library paste we have gotten used to in the West, but a rich, clam-intense broth.

There are pizzas, too, such as the White, which is really tarte flambée from Alsace that is a holdover from when Eric Klein (now at Spago) was in the SW kitchen. We opted for pasta instead; the trendy Piedmontese pasta pockets agnolotti were too sweet from a filling of roasted butternut squash and being overly doused with sage brown butter.

I couldn’t identify what flavored the stuffing—a rich crabmeat and breadcrumb mixture—in the spectacular two-and-a-half-pound Maine lobster. Chef Walzog told me it was vadouvan, a south Indian spice blend that is catching fire in American kitchens. I admire the creativity here, but … well, call me a traditionalist. And I wished my mesquite-smoked prime rib tasted smokier, instead of a flavor profile redolent of an herbal rub.

Nonetheless, the quality of the meat was impeccable, and ditto of the 20-ounce bone-in rib chop. This chef, who moved from the Country Club Grill to SW before adding Lakeside Grill to his résumé, definitely has a way with meat.

Saving room for dessert is a chore, but here it’s a must. A sweet-laden dessert cart is stocked with chocolate lollipops, truffles and s’mores—pure kid stuff. And there are grown-up desserts as well, such as the French-toast bread pudding you’d crawl across the casino floor to eat.

Daniel who?

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