"Twenty-five dollars for a sandwich? Only on the Strip, where the gullible tourists will pay anything."
Yeah, not so fast.
I'll grant that $25 - or $23.99, to be exact - is a lot to pay for a sandwich, and I agree that in may cases, Strip restaurant prices can seem outrageous. But this definitely was not just any sandwich (and just as a side note, there are some less-expensive sandwiches on the menu).
The sandwich in question was a Reuben, and since the Carnegie Deli opened at The Mirage a few years back I've been wondering how the price of their Reuben (which has climbed gradually over the years) could possibly be justified. But I calmed my own doubts pretty much as soon as I started eating. As I said to the guy across the table, it's easy to forget that these foods could taste this good.
The Reuben was piled - extremely high, in the Carnegie tradition - with pastrami, tender and flavorful. It was served open-face, with a melted blanket of Swiss cheese. But in between was the piece de resistance in the form of sauerkraut - yes, sauerkraut - crisper and more bracing from a sharp tang of vinegar than I've had ...
Well, I was going to say ever, but in reality since an obscure great-uncle stopped making it in a crock in his basement. In fact, the only way I can imagine encountering sauerkraut this good again is maybe by making it myself.
Which, I'm guessing, is probably what Carnegie Deli does, because they cure, pickle and smoke their own meats, and if you're willing to do that, you're willing to do pretty much anything. The pickles we were served before dinner were wonderfully sour, and crisp and cold.
But back to that Reuben: Yes, the quality of the ingredients was formidable, but there was some good sense in play here as well, in that the pink Thousand Islandish stuff usually spread on this sandwich was instead brought to the table in a separate dish. We tasted it but definitely didn't need it for flavor or anything else.
Corned-beef hash with an egg ($18.99, or $17.99 without the egg) seemed simple enough but appealing, because I figured the hash would be housemade. And indeed it was, but with some pleasant surprises. For one thing, it was served on a platter that was literally covered with the hash, mounded high and crowned with the perfectly overeasy egg, which frankly looked a little lost. For another, it was pretty much all corned beef all the time; there were so few potatoes that at first I thought only green pepper and onion had been sauteed with the pieces of meat in various sizes.
Then there was the corned beef itself. It was as far from conventional corned beef as I could imagine, starting with the fact that it was neither overly salty nor overly fatty. But this was the best part: As I ate each chunk of meat, I could clearly taste - sometimes alternately, sometimes together - the spices, including allspice, bay, cinnamon and cloves that had been used to cure it. Wow.
Borscht is available at Carnegie Deli hot or cold ($6.99) and, since I've always adored chilled borscht in the summer, this was too good to pass up despite our server's warning that with the hash, it was a lot of food. I was glad I didn't miss it, as it was truly spectacular, appropriately sweet-sour, smooth but not overly so (with plenty of bits of beet) and with sour cream blended in.
And yes, it was a lot of food, so much of the hash went home for breakfast. Which is something else to consider if you're contemplating a meal at Carnegie Deli: It's really not one meal, but maybe two or three.
That should make it even more attractive to locals, since we have refrigerators.
Las Vegas Review-Journal restaurant reviews are done anonymously at Review-Journal expense. Contact Heidi Knapp Rinella at email@example.com or 383-0474.