If you’re a foodie and/or a regular reader of this space, you’re no doubt aware that the Wynn Las Vegas/Encore complex is home to a number of top-notch New American restaurants where the food is adventurous and innovative, the service excellent and the atmosphere artistic and, while not stuffy, a bit on the formal side.
None of which is a bad thing; quite the contrary. But sometimes you don’t want adventurous and innovative. Sometimes you want not to be challenged but to be cosseted, to just settle in with the familiar and feed body and soul without having to think about it too much. And that’s Sinatra’s niche.
By now you might be thinking this is one big back-handed compliment, but that’s not the intention. Every casino-hotel, no matter the size or the market, must fit all of its restaurants together like a puzzle to form a picture pleasing to the majority of its guests. There’s almost always a steakhouse for this nation of carnivores, a coffee shop, an Italian restaurant, plus whatever else fills the gaps. Sinatra is Encore’s Italian restaurant — one of the most popular genres in the country — with a suitably accessible menu but enough polish for almost an old Vegas feel.
Which is, of course, in keeping with the man. Representatives of Wynn worked with those of the late Frank Sinatra to enable Ol’ Blue Eyes’ name to be used on the door, his images throughout the restaurant. There’s even a photo of the chairman of the board (Sinatra) with the chairman of the board (Steve Wynn) on the menu, and in the aptly named Boardroom dining room.
The food maintains that traditional feel. Lasagna ($28) is a dish served in nearly every red-sauce joint in the country, but there are few who still make it, as Sinatra does, with a mix of veal, pork and beef for a more interesting layering of flavors. There are few who team it with pasta this delicate and a sauce with this depth and serve it in an individual portion, baked in a small handled pan. I’ve had lasagnas that were cheesier (not necessarily an attribute) and meatier (ditto), but I don’t remember having one that was this perfectly executed.
Carpaccio ($19) is another of those menu staples, though its fortunes tend to wax and wane. This one was likewise very nicely prepared, the wafer-thin beef tenderloin served with a tangle of endive and watercress for crunch and flavor counterpoints, the austerity of the greens balancing the richness of the beef. And while I won’t claim to have been able to detect clear truffle flavor in the listed truffle vinaigrette, I was pleasantly surprised by the addition of a couple of hard-cooked quail eggs to the plate.
There’s a generous listing of seafood on the menu, including Cioppino ($49). This San Francisco native is traditionally a sort of seafood soup with more seafood than soup, and tradition was honored in this case. Chunks of sea bass, lobster, whole scallops and delicate clams in the shell — all of it fresh, and just sufficiently evocative of the sea — had been simmered with fennel and bathed in a tomato-saffron broth for a satisfying, warming dish just right for a damp evening.
Continuing a theme, we finished with a suitably traditional dessert, delicate panna cotta ($12) served in ovals flavored vanilla and pistachio, accompanied by raspberries and Italian sour cherries.
Yes, I’d say Sinatra fills an Encore niche — and fills it very well.
Las Vegas Review-Journal reviews are done anonymously at Review-Journal expense. Contact Heidi Knapp Rinella at 383-0474 or e-mail her at hrinella@ reviewjournal.com.Review
Encore, 3131 Las Vegas Blvd. South; 248-3463
Pluses: Classical renditions of traditional Italian dishes.
Minuses: Maybe a little too classical.