Anthem Center at Anthem Sun City isn’t where one would expect to find a dude who damned near won the title of Next Food Network Star, but then, Vic Moea—also known as Vic Vegas—always has a surprise or two up the sleeves of his chef’s coat.
Vic, like his partner—the restaurant’s owner, Scott Soulliere—hails from Staten Island, which has its own quirky character much in the way better-known boroughs such as the Bronx and Brooklyn do. I first met him at Rumor, where he cooked up a storm at that boutique hotel’s restaurant, Addiction, impressing me with oddball sandwiches and several creative dishes, a few of which grace the lunch menu at his new restaurant, Vic’s New American Cuisine. And he has a long résumé—15 years on the Las Vegas food scene—thus the chops and personality to make this attempt. But does the concept actually work?
The jury is still out. At first blush, Anthem Center is a huge undefined space that serves as both a community center for the complex’s senior residents, and a recreational facility. You’ll see retirement-age people participating in various activities before you find the restaurant, which is located on the left, after you cross the lobby.
Vic’s is a two-level affair offering one of the Valley’s best Strip views—and what else?—a golf course. The room faces northwest, with floor-to-ceiling windows, industrial carpeting and white tablecloths, a pleasant but lounge-lizard-like room that could use a shot of soul. Happily, Vic’s cooking provides a good dose of that, in part thanks to the assistance of talented chef Jason Tepper, a constant presence in the kitchen.
Maybe Vic’s mother told him not to play with his food, because he does that a lot here. Meatloaf spring rolls have a tasty filling wrapped in a wonton skin, served with a delicious pan gravy and ketchup aioli. I love something he calls Uncle Joe’s fried corn, served loose with a duo of tangy butters in a large side dish.
So as you’ve guessed, this isn’t light fare, and I’m wondering if the older folks who crowd this place can eat this stuff. Take the pastrami potato sliders, for example, one of three slider choices on the appetizer menu (merciful heavens, will there never be a respite?!),with a soft potato roll and Havarti cheese enrobing the grilled meat. “Mozzarella and Caroza” [sic], or “mozzarella in carrozza” in Italian (carrozza is Italian for “carriage”), is rounds of crusty bread rolled in egg wash and breadcrumbs, the cheese oozing out of the middle when the spheres are cut open. The idea is to slather them with Vic’s thick, sweet marinara sauce—a total gut bomb.
Soups and salads show the chef’s rampant creativity. His seafood chowder is more like a corn chowder with half the creatures of the sea—among them lobster, shrimp, mussels and seared scallops—dotted artfully inside the bowl. Watermelon salad makes use of fresh mozzarella, adding watercress and the novelty of toasted pistachios to a tangy vinaigrette. I won’t yell too loud about the excess dressing on my Caesar, a nicely nuanced suspension.
The chef also works for the giant U.S. Foods as their corporate executive chef, which supplies most of our restaurants in one way or another. This means you’re not going to get many boutique products, as we might expect to find in more exclusive Strip venues. So expect the salmon to be the Atlantic variety, not wild caught, and the lamb to be from Australia, not Sonoma County, California, or Colorado.
Rak-o-lamb, an herb-crusted rack, is done extremely well, however, and even the house-made mint vinaigrette is a winner. It reminds me of an Argentine chimichurri, thick and grainy, and is far more inviting than the artificial-looking mint jelly some chefs still insist on using.
Vic’s pan-seared scallops with risotto are especially good, and so is the spaghetti and meatballs—a giant meatball smeared with ricotta, Staten Island-style. Some rave about his caramel-apple pork chop, but for me, it’s overly sweet and heavy, like many items here.
If you must have dessert then, the Belgian waffle sundae is the best choice. I’ll leave Nuttabutta—orange soda-battered Nutter Butters with a Chambord-Welch’s grape juice reduction—for our friends on the Food Network. “Vic Vegas.” Who could forget the name?
Location, Location … Location?
Anthem and Vic Moea—I just don’t get it. When first I heard that Vic’s was opening near Anthem, I assumed it was in the space once home to Viaggio and the Hilltop Café, and that its most recent tenant, Firefly, had fallen victim. (Note: It didn’t.) Or maybe Bratalian (formerly Chef’s Palate and before that a wing joint) had quietly closed? (It hasn’t.) So when my GPS sent this confirmed Downtown/Strip-dweller to the wilds of Anthem, I was utterly perplexed. It only got worse when I had to tiptoe past senior game night in the community center to (finally!) find the restaurant. And things really took a turn when I saw the dining room: a drab marriage of airport lounge and convention center. Of the Vic’s experience, chef Vic Moea has surmised it would feel like “being seated in the rear of a Bentley while cranking up ‘Welcome to the Jungle’ with someone like The Rock as your chauffeur.” Are the mahjong-playing ladies just outside Vic’s doors ready for that? But if you do decide to go to the ends of the earth (or Vegas) for meatloaf spring rolls with a view, you should know that you can’t eat the view. – Xania Woodman, Senior Editor, Dining, Beverage & Nightlife