There’s something intensely comforting about a restaurant that typifies the classic steakhouse, with the usual cuts of beef and shrimp cocktail and creamed spinach and so on.
Then again, there’s something intensely boring about it.
Tender Steak &Seafood at Luxor fills the slot that’s a given — almost a requirement — at any Las Vegas hotel-casino. And so there are, yes, steaks of every description, somewhere around 19 (including five filet mignons and five rib-eyes) ranging from slabs weighing in at 24 ounces to comparatively diminutive 8-ounce cuts.
If you look hard enough, you will indeed find shrimp cocktail and creamed spinach. For both of those, though, I’d have to qualify with “after a fashion,” because the shrimp cocktail, with its coconut-curry Greek yogurt sauce and cilantro-lime aioli in addition to cocktail sauce, and the creamed spinach, with roasted garlic and Parmesan cream, aren’t like the shrimp cocktail and creamed spinach you’d encounter in other local steakhouses.
And that’s because Tender Steak &Seafood isn’t like other local steakhouses. In fact, we didn’t even have steak, because the menu offered so many other interesting opportunities.
Lake Superior whitefish ($34), for one. I remember an uncle introducing me to Great Lakes fish many years ago, and this dish at Tender evoked memories of its simple pleasures. The snow-white fish with a delicate flavor and meaty texture had been sauteed and served with wild rice — an earthy delight if ever there was one — and a melange of tiny green beans and edamame.
Tender chef K.C. Fazel is big on game (although not big game, thankfully), so the Wild Game Tasting ($36) was clearly in order. Game, especially venison, can be a challenge to prepare well because its lean nature means it dries out very quickly. That wasn’t at all a problem with the axis venison medallion and wild boar loin, which both were quite moist as well as well-flavored in their own ways, the venison just slightly gamy, as it should be, the boar with suitably porky overtones. On the other hand, the nilgai antelope osso buco had been cooked until most of the connective tissue had melted away, rendering it (literally) dry. It was better with a bit of the platter’s fig chutney, which offered a sweet touch that always plays well off the flavors of game.
Something else you’ll find at Tender but rarely at other steakhouses is a variety of cheeses and charcuterie; cheeses, for example, can be individually chosen, priced in groups of three or five. We went for the charcuterie and deli meats platter ($14), which was a great assortment of flavors and textures, all of them praise-worthy. The only quibble here was that the server listed them so quickly — and only slightly slower when we asked him to repeat it — that we couldn’t keep track of what was what as we were tasting. (A little card or something would be quite useful.) The mustards and horseradish sauce served with them were all well-flavored, punchy and complementary to the meats, although they also were just fine without them.
Tender’s slightly offbeat touches even extended to the bread, or rather to the dip that accompanied it, which was olive oil with a pumpkin-seed pesto.
Service throughout was fine, although of course slightly less so as the evening wore on; Tender can be quite a bustling place.
And an extremely interesting one, at least in terms of the menu. If you’re looking for the offbeat in a familiar steakhouse atmosphere, Tender is one of the best games in town.
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.