White truffles are in full force in Las Vegas restaurants these days, as evidenced by the arrival earlier this month of one weighing nearly two pounds at Ferraro’s. Chef Mimmo Ferraro won’t say what he paid for it, simply telling me it was “enough.” But even in a year when the prized ingredient is plentiful, and relatively cheap (averaging $1,500 to $1,600 a pound), he presumably paid a significant premium to purchase what will likely be the largest of its kind to hit Las Vegas this year.
While all varieties of truffles are highly valued in the culinary world, none are as sought after as the whites. Harvested in Italy and Croatia, they’re only available a few months of the year. The first immature samples usually arrive in October. The season hits its stride in November. And by the end of December, they’re usually gone. (Some chefs reserve a few for New Year’s Eve, but finding them in any restaurant in January is rare.)
Because they only grow in the wild, underground near the roots of trees, harvesting any species of truffle is an arduous task involving pigs or specially trained dogs. Guy Savoy, whose Caesars Palace restaurant is offering a special white-truffle tasting menu, experienced that firsthand in Italy earlier this month. “I walked with a truffle hunter and two dogs. We walked for three hours and found nothing,” he says of the experience.
But for fans, the work and the expense are worth it, because no ingredient can compare to a white truffle. “A white truffle has a very intense perfume,” Savoy says. “It’s a little bit like garlic; it’s very strong. We have to cut it at the last second in front of every guest.” And when it’s shaved, every diner in the restaurant will likely catch a whiff of its beautiful scent.
Truffles can be shaved onto nearly any dish, from pastas to poultry to steaks. But dishes with high-fat content tend to work best. In many local restaurants, you can ask for the white-truffle treatment on any dish on their menu, for anywhere from $20-$60 for a few precious shavings. But for a true white-truffle indulgence, the following restaurants have created special tasting menus.
The Alba White Truffle Menu ($395) begins with an amuse-bouche of soft scrambled eggs with crème fraîche and brioche. That’s followed by four savory courses: scallop carpaccio, tarte Florentine, lobster tortellini and risotto with sweetbreads—each topped with a flurry of truffles. You’ll round out the meal with two dessert courses. In Bellagio, 693-8100.
Chef Julian Serrano’s five-course White Alba Truffle Menu ($250) pairs the tuber with egg poëllé, risotto, butternut squash ravioli and filet mignon. In Bellagio, 693-8105.
Restaurant Guy Savoy
The White Truffle Menu ($420) starts off deceptively, with a black-truffle dish. But the chef quickly switches to whites, pairing them with scallops, pumpkin soup, risotto, guinea hen and brie. The meal concludes with a pair of desserts. In Caesars Palace, 731-7110.
While Ferraro’s will offer truffles as a supplement to any dish all season long, the restaurant will host a one-night-only truffle tasting on December 15. The five-course Tartufi E Nebbiolo: Una Coppia Perfetta dinner ($250) will pair truffles from Alba with Batasiolo wines from Piedmont. 4480 Paradise Rd., 364-5300.
É by José Andrés
While the multicourse Holiday Menu ($325) available December 21-31 doesn’t include white truffles in every dish, it makes good use of them in courses including lamb shank with truffle, a truffle egg and a cocktail called Truffle Mist (see Page 61). In the Cosmopolitan, EByJoseAndres.com.
Nobu Caesars Palace
At his new Caesars Palace restaurant, Nobu Matsuhisa introduced an exclusive eight-course White Truffle Menu ($400) on November 27. Offered through December, it will include Maine lobster with white truffle foam, sea bass with a white truffle reduction, wagyu short rib with white truffle custard, and sushi with a white truffle seafood broth. In Caesars Palace, 731-7110.