Restaurant aficionados know the initials B&B stand for Batali and Bastianich—the stalwart duo of chef Mario Batali and his partner, winemaker and hospitality expert Joe Bastianich. The two men bring you B&B Ristorante, Carnevino, Otto Enoteca Pizzeria and an empire in New York City that includes the one-stop Italian food emporium, Eataly. So when one ventures into B&B Burger & Beer—their new burger concept in the Venetian—one does so with expectations.
On the subject of expectations, a wag once told me the key to happiness in life is to keep them low. It’s an amusing conceit, but it’s one that happens to apply here. Surely, Las Vegas is overflowing with celebrity-chef burger joints, but at least Gordon Ramsay BurGR gives a fair picture of the chef, thanks to Devonshire butter basting and exotic toppings, and the place that began the trend here, Hubert Keller’s Burger Bar, has a style all its own.
No such luck at B&B Burger & Beer, in spite of food that generally passes muster.
Batali’s corporate executive chef Jason Neve is a competent enough craftsman to bring off this menu of snacks, salads, burgers, hero sandwiches and thick, creamy milk shakes. But if you’re expecting the imprimatur of Batali, or anything that resembles regional Italian fare, head upstairs or down the hall to one of his other restaurants.
For B&B Burger & Beer, the resort has redone the space formerly home (for about 50 days) to Sam DeMarco’s eccentrically decorated burger restaurant, Rattlecan. The new décor is simple, pleasant and functional, with little, if any, of Batali’s personality outside of a soundtrack chosen personally by the chef. Designer Lisa Eaton employs variations in a theme of gold and orange in this L-shaped space, where the best tables are slick wood booths and the heated outdoor patio abuts the Strip.
You could also sit at the 15-seat bar watching seven TV screens, generally tuned to sports channels. That’s probably the best place to sip good brew such as Big Dog’s Line Cook Ale, made locally and on draft, or a premium bottle such as Belgium’s Triple Karmeliet.
At any rate, everything I tasted, (other than fries that needed to be more crisp, served in a paper cone), was up to speed, and a few items actually drew raves. The Caesar salad is one of the best on the Strip—Romaine and radicchio with fat, crunchy croutons and light on the anchovy dressing, perfectly applied.
The biggest seller, the Drive-Thru burger, is respectable for being only $9: two griddled patties on a sesame-seed bun procured from Bon Breads, with American cheese and house-made pickles. But my choice is The Morning After, with sautéed mushrooms, a sunny-side-up egg, Fontina cheese, frisee and truffled aioli. OK, so it isn’t Italian, but since it is European, we’ll give the boys a pass.
I also enjoyed my Pastrami hero, thinly shaved brisket on marble rye with Swiss cheese and sauerkraut, even if it had about as much deli soul as a corned beef on white with lettuce and tomato. The kosher hot dog, though—made in the kitchen with a grainy texture and a natural sheep casing—is terrific, served on a challah-style bun, and the Crispy Cod hero has a light, crackling batter with almost no grease, a commendable effort.
Of course, you’ll make up for those lost calories if you order a shake. Two hard-to-resist choices include Nutella (topped with whipped cream and candied hazelnuts) and Bourbon Cherry, which comes spiked and gushing with dark, tart Amarena cherries imported from Italy.
Hey, we didn’t say Italy had totally vanished from the concept.
B&B Burger & Beer
In the Venetian, Open 11:30 a.m.-1 a.m. daily, 414-2220, Lunch for two, $27-$45.