The past decade has brought Las Vegas a flood of ethnic dining, and wonderful high-end restaurants where the check average soars to well above $100. Fine dining for less than $50 per person remains a challenge, though, a niche begging to be filled.
That’s mostly why renowned restaurant consultant Elizabeth Blau and her globetrotting chef and husband, Kim Canteenwalla, opened Honey Salt, an upscale restaurant in the Summerlin-adjacent Rampart Commons. The culinary power couple is gambling that casual fine dining is the wave of the future, and since part of Blau’s job is to predict trends in her industry, I’d say she is onto something.
Honey Salt is housed in a space formerly occupied by Nora’s Wine Bar. Blau had a hand in designing it, assisted by talented decorator Randy Apel. It’s a cheerful, eclectic concept: an interior brick wall gives the feel of the big city. Lime-green banquettes, a collection of funky mirrors, a chic bar and a candy display by the front entrance provide doses of hip, eccentric charm.
Manning the stoves is Joe Zanelli, an accomplished chef recently found at Lakeside Grill. Canteenwalla (who on Dec. 1 will step away from Society in Encore, the couple’s other restaurant, to focus full-time on Honey Salt) is on the line as well—not cooking, but expediting, making sure that the dishes meet his exacting specifications before being sent into the dining room. And that they do. Honey Salt is easily the best locals restaurant to open in years.
The menu is eclectic as well. You’re apt to find, for instance, New England Fry, lightly breaded Ipswich clams and calamari, a dish from Blau’s native Connecticut, but also a Nana’s Tiffin chicken curry, a delicious dish served in a stacked metal dish that is popular on the Indian subcontinent. (And they’re both terrific.)
The lunch and dinner menus are similar, but predictably there are more salads and sandwiches at lunch and more entrées for dinner. I would’ve liked more beans in the Tuscan cannellini bean soup, which is dominated by chunked tomato and laced with kale.
My favorite salad is HS Market, a strange, wonderful mix of turkey, Beehive cheddar, avocado, edamame, pepitas, carrot, radish and kale, all diced and lightly dressed with a house-made vinaigrette. (There’s a lot of kale on this menu. Antioxidants, you know—another hot trend.)
I can’t say why the kitchen left the crisp crusted Biloxi buttermilk-fried chicken off the dinner menu, but grab an order for lunch if you aren’t dieting. If you are, try an excellent yellowtail crudo, drizzled with Peruvian salsa and slices of shaved jicama and radish. I’d also give high marks to turkey meatballs, available at both lunch and dinner. It’s the only dish here also served at Society.
The rest of the menu reads like a greatest hits album cover: roast swordfish with sweet peppers and artichokes, Mary’s free-range chicken cooked under a brick, and Cedar River New York strip steak with yogurt creamed spinach, fries and a feather-light Béarnaise.
The best side might be a kale and Anaheim pepper mac ’n’ cheese, thanks to a bubbly top and a sneaky, peppery bite. For dessert, don’t miss the rustic, double-crusted apple pie with McConnell’s vanilla-bean ice cream, a premium brand from Santa Barbara, Calif.
Now take all that money you just saved and go to the movies.