Memo to the management of MTO (which stands for “made to order”) Cafe: I think you should work on your menu descriptions just a bit.
And servers’ descriptions, too. Asked what the soup of the day was, our waiter said, “potato.” Sounded kind of blah but I said I’d take a cup ($4). And yes, it was potato, but it also had quite a bit of cheese in it, along with some bacon, and more crisp bacon on top. It was, as my friend said, “a bowl of cheesy potato goodness with bacon on top.” And yeah, I don’t expect the servers to describe it quite that way, but something other than “potato” ought to sell a few more bowls considering that the soup was so good.
The Spam Madame ($10) was a similar situation. I got this one out of curiosity more than anything else; the menu described it as “Spam, Swiss, arugula, mornay sauce on brioche + fries.” What we actually were served was a fairly thick (that’s a good thing) slice of lightly grilled brioche (ditto), with an egg in the middle in a kind of toad-in-the-hole configuration, and the mornay sauce around it. The Spam had been cut into thin sticks, which were sauteed lightly and scattered across the bread along with a profusion of arugula. (No fries, and no Swiss that we could discern, although there was a little skewer of berries.)
As it turned out, I loved it and would get it again; the bitter arugula played nicely against the richness of the egg, bread and mornay. But where did the egg come from? I figured the “madame” in the name referred to Croque Madame, but didn’t analyze it any further before ordering. And then my memory banks recalled that a Croque Madame is a gilded version of the classic grilled-ham-and-cheese Croque Monsieur, with the addition of a fried egg. Correct me if I’m wrong, but that seems like kind of an obscure reference.
Eggs played a role in another bit of menu confusion. Skuna Bay Salmon ($12) was listed under the category “Made to order breakfast,” with the subtext “available as a wrap, omelet or skillet.” The further description, “citrus house cured, cream cheese, chives, dill” led us to think that if we ordered a wrap, we’d get a salmon wrap. We were surprised, then, when the nice whole-wheat-tortilla wrap we were served was chockfull of scrambled eggs, with the salmon and cream cheese in the middle. An absolute profusion of scrambled eggs it was, with the salmon kind of buried, although that turned out to be a good thing because it was definitely on the strong side. Berry skewer with this one, too.
The one exception: A sort of two-handled crock of French onion soup ($7) was what we expected, a classic version with deeply caramelized onions (that’s a good thing) in a broth that was more oniony than beefy (ditto) and not nearly as salty as many (ditto ditto). The advertised Gruyere, Parmesan and provolone tasted too mild to be the first two of the above, but that’s just a quibble.
Although we were confused about a lot at MTO Cafe, we liked it, for the most part. We had wondered what to expect from a restaurant in a city parking garage (which is across the street from Las Vegas City Hall), but it was extremely attractive, with accents of burnt orange and wood, lots of art and collectibles to look at and a flatscreen that flashed some entertaining food- (and beer-) related signage. Service was pretty good until the restaurant got crazy busy with a big contingent that walked across the street.
And with the exception of the salmon, we really liked the food. We’d just encourage, if you go there, a bit of a sense of adventure.
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.