Alex Stratta, the double threat at Wynn who runs the Alex and Stratta restaurants, has lost 80 pounds and looks incredible. What he hasn’t lost is his world-class technique, which he recently showed off in a dinner at Alex celebrating his Grand Award from Wine Spectator for the restaurant’s wine list. Stratta prepared waves of bite-size appetizers such as Peruvian-style ceviche subtly flavored with cumin, then dazzled our table with spiced duck breast with Black Mission figs and American Wagyu short ribs.
In honor of his boss Steve Wynn’s recent commitment to veganism, Stratta tells me he is working on a vegan menu. For a vegan, this must be as good as it gets—and may be as expensive.
I caught up with francncesco Lafranconi, the globe-trotting Southern Wine & Spirits director of spirits education, in his mixology laboratory between trips to New York and Shanghai so he could show me one of his new drinks, the Sorriso. The drink is super simple to make. Mix 1¼ ounces of Plymouth Gin, a half ounce each of Absolut Pear, Luxardo Cherry and Harveys Bristol Cream sherry, and a dash of bitters, preferably Angostura. Shake over ice and strain, then garnish with lemon or orange peel. It’s guaranteed to make you smile, because that’s what sorriso means in Italian. Look for the drink to surface soon in bars around the city.
Meanwhile, in Town Square, big things continue to happen. I enjoyed a wonderful family dinner at Nu Sanctuary, cooked by chef Brian Howard with assistance from Andre’s Gary LaMorte and RM Upstairs’ Adam Sobel, and checked out the new Miller’s Ale House, which features an eclectic menu, including a lobster clam bake, and 64-ounce pitchers of brews. (I’ll tell you more about that soon.)
But the real surprise came at Lolita’s Cantina and Tequila Bar, located in the space that housed the very good but ill-timed Louis’ Fish Camp. Owner Carlo Cavallo has a place in Sonoma, Calif., called Meritage Martini Oyster Bar & Grille and has been a chef for several prestigious wineries there. Chef Tacho Kneeland has translated the farm-to-table aesthetic that makes Northern California restaurants so good and does wonderful versions of street tacos, chiles rellenos and seviche, as well as a killer spice rubbed, spit-roasted chicken and amazing carnitas.
Follow Max Jacobson’s latest epicurean observations, reviews and tips at foodwinekitchen.com.