In the mid-1970s, Campbell’s Soup introduced the slogan “Soup Is Good Food.” In 1975, the Dead Kennedys opened their landmark album Frankenchrist with a song called “Soup Is Good Food.” As someone whose grandmother worked for Campbell’s and who idolizes Jello Biafra, I’m not one to argue with that simple sentiment. So in recognition of Grandmom and Biafra, I recently set out to explore the Valley’s most intriguing bowls. (In order not to overstate the obvious, I skipped the truffle artichoke soup at Guy Savoy, which is considered by most serious foodies to be the gold standard of soup.) Here are a few of my favorite new discoveries.
Crossing the Bridge
José Andrés’ SLS noodle shop has several great soups. But for the best overall experience, I recommend Crossing the Bridge. The simple chicken stock arrives at your table unadorned. But your server quickly rectifies that by adding raw striped bass, slices of Virginia ham and a freshly cracked egg. It’s then topped with bean sprouts, scallions and rice noodle vermicelli. The meat provides hints of salt, while the fish gives a nice seafood touch and the other items offer great texture. If you want some heat, toss in a dash of chili paste. According to one story, this soup got its name from a woman who would take soup to her husband, who was studying for an exam on an island. Frustrated that by the time she crossed a winding footbridge, his meal would be cold and soggy, she used a layer of oil and fat to keep the broth warm, so she could then add noodles and meat on her arrival, cooking them to perfection. $19.88, in SLS, 702-761-7615.
Newcastle Brown Ale and Cheddar Soup
This soup isn’t much to look at. But how can you go wrong with anything that includes both beer and cheese? The chef also tosses in some potatoes and broccoli, so you can pretend it’s nutritious. With more than 100 beers with which to pair it, and whatever game you want to watch on one of the many big screens, this is comfort food to the max! $9, 702-730-7420.
When the Chef of the Century does soup, you know he’s not messing around. What arrives at your table is a helping of Paris mushrooms stuffed with veal in ravioli style, topped with shaved black truffles. The veal and matsutake mushroom broth is added tableside, producing one of the most sensational soups in this town or any other. The broth itself is simple and delicate, but the meat, mushrooms and truffles are packed with earthy flavor, while providing strikingly different textures. $50, in MGM Grand, 702-891-7125.
Chef Carlos’ Gumbo
Las Vegas is blessed to have several great Louisiana chefs cooking in our kitchens. And Wynn is fortunate to have one of the best. Carlos Guia is a veteran of New Orleans’ famed Commander’s Palace. So if you’re looking for quality gumbo, this is your spot. His version is packed with flavor, thanks to generous portions of house-smoked Andouille sausage, shrimp and crawfish—and just the right amount of New Orleans heat. Between that and the chef’s equally excellent shrimp and grits, every day is Mardi Gras at Wynn. $18, in Wynn, 702- 770-3315.
Chilled Vichyssoise and Tomato Soup
If you like your soup cold, André Rochat is offering an elegant two-for-one bowl atop the Palms. The left side of the bowl is chilled tomato. The right is chilled potato. They’re both topped with crispy bits of potato, minced chive and a touch of truffle oil. Either of these soups could stand alone as perfect representations of familiar classics. Together, they’re a smooth and rich feast for all the senses, served in a dining room with one of the best views in the city. $14, in the Palms, 702-951-7000.