Few off-Strip restaurant openings this year have been as eagerly anticipated as that of Andiron Steak & Sea in Downtown Summerlin. The restaurant is the brainchild of culinary power-couple Elizabeth Blau and Kim Canteenwalla, who have helped shape the casino dining scene for more than 16 years. Neither is a stranger to the world of white tablecloths. Blau created the restaurant programs for Bellagio, Wynn Las Vegas and Encore, while Canteenwalla served as executive chef at the MGM Grand. But over the past few years they’ve concentrated on opening more casual spots, such as Honey Salt and the Tivoli Village tavern Made L.V. But Andiron—which takes its name from the metal pieces that hold logs in a fireplace—is a return to the couple’s fine-dining roots.
The restaurant itself is large and stunning. The compartmentalized main dining room is awash in white, from the tablecloths to wood ceiling panels that only partially conceal the industrial ductwork. The glass wall between that room and the bar area sparkles. Tables are dressed with steak knives inlaid with mother-of-pearl. And there’s a sprawling outdoor patio for al fresco dining when the weather is fine.
This is primarily a steak and seafood house, so the menu emphasis is on quality cuts of beef. Options include a grass-fed filet, a dry-aged New York strip and a wagyu skirt steak. There’s also a raw bar selection and four cooked seafood options. But Canteenwalla gets especially creative with three vegetarian entrées, including a whole roasted cauliflower steak, and sides, such as oversize Tater Tots with sweet ketchup and a mac and cheese waffle.
If you’re a fan of foie gras don’t miss the torchon in the starter section, served with huckleberry jam and toasted brioche. The classic French onion soup is delicate and sweet. And the not-so-kosher matzo balls, which are wrapped in bacon, are accompanied by a wonderfully pungent horseradish crème fraîche. From the raw bar, check out the sea urchin toast, with radish, scallion, kaffir lime dust and chervil. But get it soon, since the quality of uni declines dramatically as we enter the warm-weather months.
I’ve only tried one steak at Andiron: an 8-ounce rib-eye cap. It was cooked to an exact medium rare, and had a tenderness that rivaled a good filet, but a flavor more reminiscent of a New York strip. And I was blown away by an order of farro risotto with mushrooms, asparagus, pea shoots, black garlic and pine nuts, plus a mild sweetness derived from a hint of dates.
If there’s a dish on the menu I’d advise you to avoid, it’s a side of mustard spätzle, which was dry and tasteless. I also found the steak tartare to be inconsistent. Service, on the other hand, has been consistently outstanding. I recognize many of the staff from other quality restaurants. Bartenders remember what I was drinking a week earlier. And Blau and Canteenwalla are seemingly always on hand tending to the details.
I have to admit that as much as I love nearly everything about this restaurant, and as much as foodies have been buzzing about it, I was slightly worried about its ability to find enough of an audience to fill the room. The prices are a bit high, with apps topping out at $20 and steak-and-lobster combos running from $57 to $90 —a lot compared to neighbors MTO Café and Wolfgang Puck Bar & Grill. And while the Summerlin crowd generally has money, they tend to prefer chain restaurants such as P.F. Chang’s, saving their fine-dining splurges for trips to the Strip. Moreover, the location—tucked all the way in a back corner of the sprawling Downtown Summerlin—is not conducive to foot traffic.
But my fears appear to be unfounded. Over the course of three visits (including one of their two packed grand opening parties), the crowds have been impressive. There’s certainly no sign the pre-opening buzz is dying down. As a result, Blau and Canteenwalla could very well be changing the way Summerlin dines.
Al’s Menu Picks
- Hudson Valley foie gras ($20)
- sea urchin toast ($20)
- farro risotto ($22) and
- 8-ounce rib-eye cap ($33)
Andiron Steak & Sea
1720 Festival Plaza Dr., in Downtown Summerlin, 702-685-8002. Open for dinner 5–10 p.m. Dinner for two $80–$250.