Having now had my first full meal at Giada (in the Cromwell, 702-737-777), I can finally say this about the lemon spaghetti: I get it. (Extra points if you actually read that as “spah-geh-tee,” as spelled out on the menu). Light, bright and the perfect portion for one, it’s an easy winner. I’m also a huge fan of the antipasti spread, which you see when you walk in the door. Salumi and cheese did their jobs, but I was surprised at how much I liked the crostini. The vitello tonnato—a classic Piedmontese combination of veal and tuna—was shrunk down to an hors d’oeuvre. Normally this dish is too meaty in an unpleasant way for me, but at this size, it was just right, combining lean veal loin and just-seared tuna, dressed with a caper aioli that made each bite pop. Giada continues to be one of the hardest dinner reservations to get in town, but I’ve heard that lunch is easier. Worst comes to worst, belly up to the bar, order a glass of wine and snack your way through the antipasti and pizzette menu.
Speaking of bellying up to the bar, that is also one of the best perches at Carson Kitchen (124 S. Sixth St., 702-473-9523, CarsonKitchen.com). The wide butcher-block counter offers a view into the kitchen and the pass, where you can watch the well-oiled machine on the line. Chef Kerry Simon’s latest venture is following in a trend that I’m happy to see sticking around: the neighborhood restaurant. And this one has a casual setting, good cocktail list, bites to share with your table and some really solid mains. Everyone was right about the lamb gyro tacos, and of course there’s no going wrong with crispy chicken skin. But what really made me happy was the burger, topped with boursin and white cheddar, and, oh, a pat of butter right on top, Midwest style. The grown-up tater tots make a better accompaniment than the French fries, despite their being made from the same deep-fried ingredient. The other surprise winner was the rabbit ragu over spaghetti (pronounced the regular way) squash. The evenly spiced tomato sauce with tender rabbit is a great coating for the strands of squash. Paleo diners, rejoice!
Finally, SLS Las Vegas opens to the public this week with its arsenal of restaurants, led by hotel culinary director, chef José Andrés. The chic property features an eclectic range of dining offerings, from the casual-but-highly-anticipated Umami Burger and sexy Japanese from Katsuya by Starck to Los Angeles’ famous The Griddle and the carnivore-friendly Bazaar Meat. I, for one, am definitely looking forward to the new additions to the Strip, as well as giggling the first dozen times I have to say “Bazaar Meat” out loud.