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The Country Club

Having a room with a view is almost always a plus in the restaurant world (and the only reason I say “almost” is that sometimes location-location-location poses a whole set of logistical/operational problems). A view alone isn’t enough to guarantee a restaurant’s success, but it sure helps.

In Las Vegas, restaurant views tend to be those that wow the tourists, usually involving the lights of the Strip and the valley beyond. But for us locals, no matter how much we love the desert and its own unique beauty, sometimes a swath of verdant green is a refreshing change.

Which brings us to Wynn Las Vegas. Remember the stories about how Steve Wynn designed this one so that it would be focused inward, instead of outward? Remember all those trees that were brought in? Remember the old Desert Inn golf course, a rare emerald among an oversupply of diamonds? Well, it’s all there, right beyond the glass of The Country Club — the restaurant, not the golf course.

The Country Club is subtitled “A New American Steakhouse,” and indeed it is, with a list of New American dishes at least equal to that of the steaks. But let’s address the latter first: $54 for a steak? Yes, it’s a big steak — 16 ounces — but we’d actually prefer more small options, and again, $54 for a steak?

Perversely, we actually liked that no claims were attached — no “32.78-day-wet-aged Prime” — especially since the “Prime” label seems to be the current justification for ever-climbing steak prices around town and since, as only 1 percent to 2 percent of the beef produced in this country is actually judged Prime, it seems to me that a lot of the allegedly Prime steaks in our fair city are more likely Choice.

But I digress.

It was a good steak. It was maybe even a great steak. But $54?

Since, as at most upscale steakhouses, the steaks at The Country Club come with steak and steak alone, we ordered the creamed corn with bacon ($10), which was quite nice as the bacon flavor was subtle and the dish had a nice crunch.

From the steakhouse side of the ledger, we also had a salad of baby field greens with a sherry vinaigrette ($11) that was a great warm-weather starter, though the real star of this one was the component of oven-roasted tomatoes sprinkled throughout, their concentrated flavor providing summery punch.

From the New American side: blackened ahi ($42) was perfect, the coating of blackening seasoning just kicky enough, the medium-rare tuna blessedly tender and absent the strands of connective tissue that can plague this dish. Marinated roasted vegetables and baby spinach on the side rounded things out nicely.

And a starter of Kobe beef carpaccio ($21) was such a perfect melding of its parts that we found ourselves absent-mindedly shoveling away as we sat nearly mesmerized by the view of the golf course. The rich, paper-thin beef was velvety, the sprinkle of pine nuts added a little textural contrast and, with the arugula and shaved Parmesan, the earthy, ascetic notes showed the beef to advantage.

Service was particularly impressive. A sommelier stopped by as we were contemplating the menu and asked if we were ready to order wine, and when we demurred, he asked if we wanted to order our food. This in no way felt like an attempt to rush us, but merely to serve us in a timely manner, since our waiter had been given several tables at once (having the fortune or misfortune of the section with all of the window tables). A staff that’s working as a team is a sign of effective management.

And so is attention to detail, as evidenced by the bread basket, which was much more than an afterthought. It contained an appealing variety including pretzel rolls, French bread, walnut bread and little muffins, with rich, ultra-high-fat (which is a good thing) butter on the side.

Despite the fact that The Country Club isn’t one of the showpiece restaurants at Wynn, it shouldn’t be overlooked as a special-occasion spot, which is what it will have to be for most of us.

Just remember to go early, because this is one view that’s far better before the sun goes down.

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.

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