Each week Neon spotlights a different cuisine in the Dining Guide, with New American restaurants this week. Restaurants are rated on a letter-grade scale, from A to F. Opinions by R-J critic Heidi Knapp Rinella (H.K.R.) are indicated by initials. Price symbols are based on the cost of an average entree: $ = entrees between $10 and $20; $$ = entrees between $10 and $20; $$$ = entrees between $20 and $30; and $$$$ = entrees more than $30.
B.B. KING'S BLUES RESTAURANT & CLUB
The Mirage, 3400 Las Vegas Blvd. South, 242-5464
The atmosphere at B.B. King's evokes the hallowed 'cue halls of Memphis, but the barbecue doesn't quite measure up; while the sauce was good, the ribs were on the dry side -- and we're not talking about a rub. Still, it has a certain charm, and we loved the fried pickles and liked the chicken-fried chicken (and especially its caramelized-onion gravy), coleslaw and baked beans. (8/27/10 H.K.R.)
1050 S. Rampart Blvd.; 463-5200
Timing was a bit off at Baja California; our soup and salad arrived before our cocktails, our starter shortly after, and our entrees a long time after that -- but we mostly liked the food. Queso fundido was a little bland but nice and creamy; beef fajitas and a mushroom suiza enchilada were great; and we loved the cilantro rice and mixed beans and the smooth black-bean soup. (8/26/11 H.K.R.)
BAR + BISTRO
107 E. Charleston Blvd.; 202-6060
Bar + Bistro's menu has it all -- tapas, tapas-style bocadillos (which are sliders) and entrees. What the restaurant doesn't have is a crowd, which is disappointing but not really surprising for the Arts District. What the crowd is missing: tomato gazpacho with the flavor of summer, rich and gooey four-cheese campanelle pasta, sweet baby clams with tomato-saffron broth, sweet plantains, garlic chicken and a fillet-steak bocadillo. (7/15/11 H.K.R.)
Caesars Palace, 3570 Las Vegas Blvd. South; 731-7410
Signature dishes: braised short rib, twice-baked Maytag blue cheese.
CENTRAL MICHEL RICHARD
Caesars Palace, 3570 Las Vegas Blvd. South; 650-5921
Signature dishes: burger, 72-hour short rib.
DOUBLE HELIX WINE & WHISKEY LOUNGE
Town Square, 6605 Las Vegas Blvd. South; 735-9463
I was mostly confused by the menu at Double Helix, which is pretty much limited to small plates but isn't extensive enough to allow for the creation of a tapaslike feast. On the other hand, the place is a cozy spot for a glass of wine before or after a movie right across the street, and we liked the our arancini, Brie in a Blanket and the cleverly named Shrimp Hailing a Cab. (1/20/12 H.K.R.)
6115 S. Fort Apache Road; 527-5200
Food by a Jamaican native who grew up in New Mexico and features aspects of both cuisines in his menu might sound like a bad mash-up, but the chef at DW Bistro is smart enough to avoid fusion confusion. Jerk chicken lollipops were well-seasoned without pouring on the heat, New Mexico-style slow-cooked pork was braised with earthy, peppery undertones, and a soy-sage marinade on grilled lamb chops flavored the meat to advantage. (7/30/10 H.K.R.)
ELEMENTS KITCHEN & MARTINI BAR
4950 S. Rainbow Blvd.; 750-2991
That Elements obviously has a lot of regulars didn't really surprise us once we had experienced the great food at this cozy little place. We liked the goat-cheese plate, addictive and irresistible portabella ravioli, flank steak with chimichurrri and Mount Etna lava cake. (3/5/10 H.K.R.)
Bellagio, 3600 Las Vegas Blvd. South; 693-8300
Signature dishes: Bobby Baldwin Burgers, Very Adult Mac & Cheese
2620 Regatta Drive; 925-8333
We had quibbles (but yes, only quibbles) with most of the dishes we had at Garfield's, but the soothing atmosphere -- complete with the view of the lake in Desert Shores -- and smooth, efficient service helped us overlook them. Worthy choices: a grilled artichoke with green-garlic aioli, pan-fried sand dabs, a Niman Ranch double pork chop and a chocolate souffle with classic Creme Anglaise. (5/6/11 H.K.R.)
Caesars Palace, 3570 Las Vegas Blvd. South; 731-7778
Signature dishes: Colors of Caviar, Crispy Veal Sweetbreads.
HERBS & RYE
3713 W. Sahara Ave.; 982-8036
We were disappointed by the absence of the pork-and-figs dish but not by the presence of the carpaccio with arugula, the stacked caprese salad and the 12-ounce Kansas City strip, which was half-off before 8 p.m. Such a deal! And while the gnocchi was a little on the doughy side, we loved its meaty sauce with the chewy texture of pancetta. (3/11/11 H.K.R.)
Four Queens, 202 Fremont St.; 385-4011
Signature dishes: Hot Rock Specialty, Cellars Champion Chateaubriand and Lobster for Two.
MGM Grand, 3799 Las Vegas Blvd. South; 891-7925
Signature dishes: truffle langoustine ravioli, pan-fried sea bass.
LAWRY'S THE PRIME RIB
4043 Howard Hughes Parkway; 893-2223
Lawry's the Prime Rib has a limited menu -- mostly prime rib cut at the table by a guy pushing a domed silver cart, with a couple of seafood selections and a rib-eye steak tossed in -- but maybe it's just that stick-to-what-you-know philosophy that has made the company so consistently reliable for 70-plus years. We love the prime rib (both the California cut and the slightly larger Lawry cut) and also the crisp-crusted sourdough bread, Spinning Bowl Salad, mashed potatoes, creamed corn and lovely Yorkshire pudding. (12/15/11 H.K.R.)
LOLA'S A LOUISIANA KITCHEN
241 W. Charleston Blvd.; 227-5652
When it opened, Lola's faced a triple threat the dismal economy, a location where others failed and a New Orleans theme that failed still others -- but things are looking good. And no wonder, with such skillfully prepared grilled oysters, bronzed catfish, chicken and sausage jambalaya with shrimp and an oh-so-rich custardy bread pudding with rum sauce. (4/9/10 H.K.R.)
Forum Shops at Caesars, 3500 Las Vegas Blvd. South; 434-7900
No, P.J. Clarke's doesn't have the atmosphere of the New York original -- and no surprise there -- but it does have good food in a comfortable, casual atmosphere. That the legendary burgers still are good is proven by The Cadillac with its bacon and cheese, and we also liked the local bacon-wrapped dates, the sweet-potato fries and the skirt steak with Roquefort. (4/15/11 H.K.R.)
The Forum Shops at Caesars, 3500 Las Vegas Blvd. South; 732-7256
The Palm isn't what you'd normally consider a bargain-level restaurant, but it has one of the best deals in town -- but only if you go during Prime Time, or happy hour to you and us. That's when a number of appetizers, which the chain has organized onto its Prime Bites menu, are $3.50 each. For the all-lump-crab-and-no-filler crabcakes that's a downright steal, but we also liked the veal Parmigian sliders, filet mignon capri sandwiches and Kobe beef sliders. (8/20/10 H.K.R.)
$ at happy hour, $$$$ the rest of the time
Bellagio, 3600 Las Vegas Blvd. South; 693-8865
Signature dishes: warm quail salad, sauteed medallions of fallow deer.
6435 S. Decatur Blvd.; 767-8438
We chose from the "Cajun Classics" section of the menu and the dishes served met the standards for both words, with a crawfish etouffee possessed of the deep flavor of a dark roux, a nice kick and lots and lots of crawfish, and the blackened chicken served up atop a pasta dish carrying plenty of fire, to be tempered by the creamy sauce. There were a few service snags, but we'd still go back for those dishes and the chargrilled oysters, which were way zippier than the norm, and the rich bread pudding. (6/4/10 H.K.R.)
Aria at CityCenter, 3730 Las Vegas Blvd. South; (877) 230-2742
At the Zen-evoking Sage, celebrity chef Shawn McClain has filled his menu with surprises -- of only the best kind. There's lavender butter for the rolls, crispy chocolate on the excellent Wagyu beef tartare, charred baby leeks with the bluenose grouper and smoked dates (and shoulder confit) with the Iberico pork loin. (2/25/11 H.K.R.)
THE STERLING BRUNCH
Bally's Steakhouse, Bally's, 3645 Las Vegas Blvd. South; 967-7999
We thought the food at the venerable Sterling Brunch was as good as ever but were more than a little turned off by the clumsily engineered seating system differentiating high-rollers from those who are not. But if you like roasted half-lobsters, lobster bisque, pepper-and-mint-crusted rack of lamb, desserts, salads, fruits and pastries, you'll probably feel right at home. (8/17/10 H.K.R.)
600 E. Warm Springs Road; 263-0034
Game isn't exactly easy to find in these parts, so we were mighty pleased to find wild boar as a special on the evening of our visit to Table 34. It was divine -- wild, even -- and we also liked the fried artichoke heads with lemon aioli, sauteed Idaho golden trout and some particularly tasty breads, including black olive. (5/13/11 H.K.R.)
Las Vegas Club, 18 E. Fremont St.; 464-5008
Signature dishes: Chilean sea bass with lobster sauce, Tinoco's Triloggia mixed grill.
TODD ENGLISH P.U.B.
Crystals at CityCenter, 3720 Las Vegas Blvd. South; 489-8080
Todd English's skill at preparing meat definitely is showcased at his Public Urban Bar (but don't take it from us; try the impossibly tender brisket), but somebody's quite the bread baker, too, which showed in the thick rye served with our brisket. Soft hot pretzels were another treat, and the Grisebactom, a grilled brie, tomato and pancetta, is one of the best sandwiches in town. The peanut-butter-and-marshmallow Chocolate Rendezvous was only gilding the lily. (12/24/10 H.K.R.)
9510 S. Eastern Ave.; 432-3200
This is fusion philosophy done right -- when a restaurant can take something from one cuisine and something else from another and bring them together in a creation that's new, novel and special. At Urban Grill it took the form of crispy asparagus rolls with kalua pork and cream cheese, a smooth and thyme-spiked beef-and-bean soup, Pacific salmon with mushroom risotto and Korean short ribs. (12/23/11 H.K.R.)