Heraea might be hard to pronounce for those of us who are not up on ancient Greek (say “ha-RAY-ah”), but the new upscale sports bar/restaurant at the Palms isn’t hard to swallow.
The name was inspired by what the Greeks called the Heraean Games—sort of an Olympiad for female athletes—and this clubby, soaring room (formerly the Mexican restaurant Garduño’s, now an indoor/outdoor space abutting the Palms Pool) is impressive on every level. It’s an important part of the massive makeover at this iconic casino, frequented by basketball star (and part-time Las Vegan) Paul Pierce, boxer Floyd Mayweather and sports figures of every shape, size and gender.
The design is intelligent, with an upstairs area for DJs, private rooms and lots of hardwoods and glass. Giant TV screens mounted overhead, just under the 50-foot ceiling, bring you the latest NFL, NBA, MLB and NHL action. A team of comely runners will help you place sports bets, if that’s what floats your boat.
But even if you’re not a sports lover, the real draw here is chef Doug Bell’s food. Bell, who was mentored by celebrity chef Michael Mina, demonstrates that he’s ready for prime time with a slew of dishes that bring glory to the games. Let’s face it, sports-bar cuisine doesn’t have to be good, and it definitely doesn’t have to be this good. So let’s get ready to rrrruuumbbble.
Starters command attention before the first pitch is thrown. Pretzel-wrapped dogs—little beef weenies accompanied by two mustards, honey and whole grain—use buttery, delicate wrappers that taste faintly of baking soda. Crispy green beans with sea salt are elevated by a sweet chili dipping sauce, and a texture like top-grade Japanese tempura. I’m not much for taro, but the tuna tartare tacos, presented in taco-like shells fashioned from the starchy tuber, are almost magically light and crisp.
I began a dinner here with a half-dozen Kusshi oysters, jewel-like oysters from the northwest, available as Bloody Mary shooters, Rockefeller-style or just plain, which is the best way, in my opinion, to slurp them from their shells. Chopped vegetable salad is like a Greek salad with avocado added—a smart idea that gives the other components a richness that a garden-variety Greek salad lacks. If you fancy an entrée salad, you can’t lose with steak salad, marinated Prime skirt steak, pickled carrots, peanuts, cucumber and a ginger miso dressing, all of which adds up to Asian fusion that makes sense.
Bell seems equally at home with entrées, many of which are conceived in the mold of Heraea’s distant-but-successful cousin, STK at the Cosmopolitan. (Both are owned by the ONE Group.) What would any sports bar be without a burger? This one is an 8-ounce stack with cheddar cheese and bacon marmalade, plus a pile of hand-cut fries.
Pepper tuna steak is fat and moist, on a celeriac puree that seems rather daring in this context. There are two steaks on the menu, but I took the server’s suggestion and tried the boneless baked ribs instead, which have a wicked, crunchy barbecue-sauce glaze, a side of equally crunchy corn bread and an oddball apple fennel slaw. Brick chicken, its skin rendered crisp, is one more winner, drizzled with a garlic jus.
Make sure to try the Brussels sprout and fingerling hash as a side dish, and a lovely baked-to-order apple pie for dessert. Oh, and the happy hour from 4-8 p.m. offers $4 drafts and $8 appetizers. Play ball!
In the Palms. 701-0201. Open 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Mon, 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Tue-Thu, 11 a.m.-midnight Fri, 10 a.m.-midnight Sat, 10 a.m.-10 p.m. Sun. Dinner for two, $59-$86.