Tips for restaurants to review come from all over the place. For this week, the tip came from a nagging staff photographer who loved the place and wouldn’t give up.
Not that there’s anything wrong with that. If he had, I wouldn’t have discovered Presto Neighborhood Cafe, and I wouldn’t be able to pass on the tip — well-deserved, as it turns out — to you.
Presto is easy to overlook because it doesn’t look like much more than a bright-but-spare strip-mall counter-service spot, and the name doesn’t tell you much except that it’s likely to be a bright-but-spare strip-mall counter-service spot. As it turns out, though, Presto’s food has a healthy (as in fresh fruits and vegetables) focus, and they specialize in a Turkish flatbread called a pide, which we haven’t spotted elsewhere in town.
First, the healthy part. When asked what the soup of the day was, the counter guy said mushroom and we said we’d take a bowl ($5.99). He said OK, but that he thought we ought to have a sample since they do have that healthy focus and it wasn’t a conventional cream of mushroom. But looking at the fresh sides on trays behind the counter (such as kale and quinoa with cranberries, cashews and feta cheese), I said no, I’d take a flier.
And wow. Wow, wow, wow. No, it wasn’t a conventional cream of mushroom; it was light-years beyond the gloppy, salty throwbacks we usually encounter. First and foremost: We could actually taste the mushrooms, the subtle flavor of which often is overwhelmed in soups. Second, it was flavored with a profusion of thyme and some rosemary, which only complemented the mushroom flavor. And there were tons of mushrooms, plus some shards of carrot; in all, the piping-hot soup was satisfying on a stellar level.
Considering that those pides Presto serves are such a rarity in these parts we’d have to try one, and so, the Italian ($8.99). First, it was gorgeous, in a leaf shape with the folded-over sides gently pleated, the ends artfully twisted, with black sesame seeds sprinkled across the border. The dough was exceptional, lighter and more delicate than pizza dough and without stretchiness, which we didn’t miss at all. It was spread with tomato sauce, strewn with sliced meatballs (with clear oregano flavor, which was a plus), and just enough mozzarella for a mellow touch and enough tapenade and fresh basil for flavor sparks.
To be honest, I wasn’t expecting much from the seared ahi tuna sliders ($13.99), because we haven’t encountered many strip-center counter-service spots that can do a whole lot with seared tuna, but here again, Presto impressed. The tuna was perfect in flavor and texture, both of which were balanced nicely by some cabbage slaw and a sesame-ginger sauce, the three slider buns substantial enough to handle it all.
Service was fine; you order at the counter and they bring it when it’s ready. Dishes were a mix of disposable and not, which was fine, although a soup of this quality deserves a proper soup spoon.
So. So I’m not sure about the health aspect; the sandwich of ham and Gruyere and — wait for it — Funyuns probably isn’t real healthful, the pickled blueberries and cranberries notwithstanding. And while Presto offers a number of smoothies and juices, I hope you’ll remember that liquefied fruits contain a lot of sugar and calories.
On the other hand, you can’t get fries with that, but you can get something like strawberries and arugula with apples and blue cheese, and I really don’t know what’s not to like about that.
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.