We were really looking forward to Echo &Rig. We’d heard good things and liked the concept of a restaurant and butcher shop as siblings. We also knew it was the hottest thing to hit Tivoli Village lately and so made sure to call for a reservation.
But the woman on the other end of the line told us they didn’t take reservations (a later call elicited the information that large parties need to email, which is just odd). We’d planned to arrive around 6:30 p.m.; there’d be no problem, she assured, because they didn’t usually get busy until 7. And, she added in a humorous and charming manner, if we did have to wait, they’d be more than willing to entertain us.
Well, all right, then.
Except that when we arrived around 6:15, we could barely get in the door. The hostess station didn’t look like one and we were unsure where to put in our name (well, actually, our assumed name; as an anonymous critic, I get the same treatment you do). When we did, the young woman told us there would be about a 25-minute wait.
Except … and yes, you see where this is going. When 25 minutes had turned into 45, and for the second time she’d popped into the bar to seat a couple who we felt sure had arrived after us, she said they were clearing our table. And I’m here to report that it takes at least 10 minutes for the employees at Echo &Rig to clear a table.
So what I want to ask Sam Marvin, a chef/restaurateur who has met some success in Los Angeles, is this: Why in the world would you want to put your customers in a testy mood before they even get to the table?
Maybe we’re spoiled in Las Vegas, where most restaurants — certainly, most restaurants in and around the tourism corridor, and certainly most of the more popular ones in the valley — do take reservations, with the exception of some of the chains. And it seemed that Echo &Rig’s management was attempting to practice good customer service. They took our (assumed) name and used it throughout our interactions at the restaurant. They did everything right as far as linen and glassware and all of those details. The service in the bar, where we lingered over a glass of wine, was both pleasant and efficient (although we couldn’t get near the charcuterie bar, the site of part of the promised entertainment). Once we got upstairs to the dining room, our waiter was a gem. And they had guys who looked like pit bosses strategically positioned around the dining room, presumably to ensure that things moved smoothly. Maybe they need to move those guys downstairs.
So how was the food? We found the menu creative — especially for a place that self-identifies as a steakhouse — and reasonably priced in this era and area where $45 steaks are far too common. And for the most part, the food was well executed.
Echo &Rig doesn’t have any designated “appetizers” or “starters”; what they have is a long list (actually, three lists, at three price points) of “vegetables and small plates,” which is a neat idea because it gives the customer the ability to graze and design their meal at will. Fried oyster sliders ($9.20) aren’t something we find much around here, and they sounded good to boot. And indeed they were — three plump oysters, gushing with the essence of the sea, enrobed in a light cornmeal crust and served on little rolls with shredded cabbage, a light white mayonnaise/vinaigrette dousing them. One quibble here: The dousing was sufficiently generous as to leave a pool on the plate, which meant that the sliders were sitting in it. That didn’t render them soggy, as we had feared (I’m thinking we may have grabbed them too quickly for that), but it did make them messier than they should have been.
Less messy than it should have been was the basket of bread that had been brought to our table as we waited for our sliders to arrive. It was a nice, crisp-crusted, peasanty bread, but there was nothing to spread on it or dip it in. We could maybe understand this if it had been a heavily flavored bread — walnut-raisin or garlic-cheese or something — but that wasn’t the case.
Colorado lamb porterhouse chops were quite lovely and certainly reasonably priced ($17.70). Medium-rare as ordered, they were nice and juicy, and we liked the “peewee potatoes” and plumped dried apricots served with them.
I have to credit our waiter (and maybe this came from management): He gave us the prices of the specials, and actually touted the $22.50 Butcher’s Cuts instead of the $25 Spencer Steak or the $34.40 Steakhouse Cuts. Still, this is a steakhouse (and one with its own butcher shop), so I opted for the classic rib-eye among the Steakhouse Cuts.
And you know how rib-eyes are so flavorful because of the proportion of fat? Yeah, let’s just say this one was more flavorful that most. It was perfectly prepared, and we absolutely loved the red wine demi we chose on the side (you get one sauce at no charge from a list of seven), but there seemed to be an abundance of fat, even for a rib-eye.
A woman’s got to know her limitations but we’d already asked for takeout boxes and besides, the all-sundae dessert menu ($6 each) was another novelty. Chocolate-cherry it would be, and we liked very much the pecan-toffee cookie pieces, the “extra-bitter” (that’s a good thing) fudge sauce and the bittersweet chocolate ice cream.
So we liked Echo &Rig, but there are some kinks to be worked out, and not all of them are downstairs. The menu, for example, trumpets “Complimentary water: still or sparkling,” which I appreciate in this era of pricey bottled waters because it showed they were paying attention, and I was pleased to see that I could order sparkling.
Except, of course, that the assistant filled our glasses with still water without asking us.
And I’m kind of guessing you saw that coming, too.
Las Vegas Review-Journal restaurant reviews are done anonymously at Review-Journal expense. Email Heidi Knapp Rinella at Hrinella@reviewjournal.com, or call 702-383-0474. Follow @HKRinella on Twitter.