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A guide to holiday caviar offerings in Las Vegas

The holidays, especially in Las Vegas, call for caviar. This indulgence — costly, delicate, perishable, painstaking to produce, typically imported — is justly famed but often misunderstood. In the interest of caviar correctness (and to help gift givers and celebrants navigate holiday caviar offerings), let’s dispense with some caviar myths.

First, not all fish eggs are caviar. In the U.S., the legal definition of caviar is limited to the salt-cured roe of a certain family of sturgeon. Salmon, trout, lumpfish or paddlefish eggs? As delicious as they might be, they’re not caviar, no matter what the menu says.

Second, not all caviar is black. In fact, depending on the type of sturgeon, the color ranges from light gray to charcoal, amber to dark green, golden to dark brown.

Third, not all caviar is highly salty. While some are quite briny, others have nutty, buttery, even citrusy flavors.

And finally, legal caviar no longer comes from wild-caught sturgeon. Today’s caviar is farmed, like the outfit in the mountains of Bulgaria that supplies The Caviar Collective, a Vegas retailer and wholesaler founded by Nina Manchev (who also owns Forte Tapas).

“You have better control over the product,” Manchev (who is Bulgarian) said of farming. “You’re not taking the wild sturgeons away from the ecology.”

Farming is expensive, and sturgeon are slow to produce eggs (which contributes to caviar’s priciness).

“You’re raising this animal from start to finish, for 10 to 12 years. The electricity to house it, the feed, ensuring the proper temperatures, the staffing to make sure the animal is healthy — all that only produces a couple of kilos of product that are perishable.”

Manchev sources mainly osetra caviar from the osetra sturgeon. This nutty buttery caviar, in golds and browns, is widely available on restaurant menus and a good introduction to roe.

“A lot of people don’t know much about caviar, and they think there’s an air about it,” Manchev said. “I like to make it relatable to people.”

Sourcing from Belgium and China

In October, Bjørk Caviar, previously only a wholesaler, launched its retail service on South Casino Center Boulevard in downtown Vegas. The chief supplier is a farm in Belgium where male Siberian sturgeons are crossed with female osetra sturgeons.

The resulting caviar “retains the flavor of the Siberian but gets the size and the quality of the egg of the osetra,” said Christian Sandefeldt, owner of Bjørk.

The majority of the caviar in the U.S. comes from China, Sandefeldt said. “That does not mean it is in any way bad. We buy from a farm in Yunnan Province.”

Chinese caviar typically comes from a hybrid kaluga sturgeon. This roe is popular because of the size of the pearls, its low salinity, high oil content and creamy texture.

“It has a really firm egg. You can take it in and out of the fridge during evening service. It won’t get mushy. It’s a workhorse caviar,” Sandefeldt said. “The kaluga hybrid is the vanilla of caviar. No one dislikes it.”

Kaluga and other caviar seem to be everywhere in Vegas these days, even beyond the holidays, and even in places not usually associated with caviar service.

“There is a larger trend for restaurants to take caviar where we took Champagne 25 years ago,” Sandefeldt said. “It’s more relaxed. An ambitious restaurant but not stuffy might serve caviar now. The kind of restaurant where you might just say, ‘Let’s go there for a bite.’ ”

When the caviar tin touches down, be sure to flip it over, Sandefeldt said, and look for the CITES code. CITES, an international convention, regulates the global trade in sturgeon and sturgeon products to combat unsustainable harvesting and illegal sales.

The sturgeon, Sandefeldt noted, has remained mostly unchanged for 300 million years. Which means when you’re spooning up caviar from the tin or troweling it across house blini, you’re enjoying a bit of the Paleozoic.

Here are some holiday caviar options:

The Caviar Collective

The Caviar Collective offers caviar, mainly osetra, in small batches and at wholesale. Osetra begins at $98 for 30 grams, with pricing lower for larger orders. Visit thecaviarcollective.com for inquiries. Follow the purveyor on Instagram and Facebook at thecaviarcollective.

Forte Tapas, 4180 S. Rainbow Blvd., Suite 806

For Manchev, the handy thing about owning The Caviar Collective is that caviar service and dishes graced with caviar can easily be added to the menu or be served as specials at Forte Tapas The off-menu Secret Service features caviar (1, 2, 4 or 8 ounces or a half kilogram) with house blini, chopped egg whites and yolk, chopped onion and dill.

Also, ask about dishes like a noble pie built with house dough, a little mozzarella, crème fraîche, dill and caviar, or the Euro trash fries uniting potato scoops, fried cheese curds, grated egg whites, crème fraîche and an ounce of caviar. “It’s like caviar poutine,” Manchev said.

Bjørk Caviar Co., 1130 S. Casino Center Blvd., Suite 140

Among the offerings at Bjørk are oscietra farmed in Belgium (from $85 for 30 grams), Select and Premium caviar from a kaluga hybrid (from $68 for 30 grams and from $80 for 30 grams, respectively), and caviar from a white sturgeon indigenous to, of all places, Sacramento, California (from $75 for 30 grams). Bjørk also does sparkling wine tastings with Garagiste Wine Merchant across the street. Bjørk hopes to import soon a mild creamy Belgian caviar from an albino sturgeon.

Ada’s Wine Bar at Tivoli Village

Sweet meets brine as lemon glazed donuts are spread with chive crème fraîche and spooned with osetra caviar ($60). House potato chips are ready for dredging in an ounce of osetra ($150). Bring the bubbles with a split of Gosset Grand Brut Rosé Champagne ($200).

Bardot Brasserie at Aria

To lead off the meal, there are four oeufs mimosa, the French version of deviled eggs, that are crowned by caviar ($22). The deviled filling and bits of egg yolk recall the color and fluffy texture of mimosa tree blossoms in Southern France.

The main caviar service features Imperial Baika ($96 for 30 grams), Royal Ossetra ($196 for 30 grams), and Michael Mina Reserve Kaluga ($296 for 30 grams). The Grand Caviar Tastings is market price.

At brunch only, there’s house-smoked salmon on brioche with a hard-cooked egg, a gust of dill and a white sturgeon caviar supplement ($36).

Bar Parasol at Wynn Las Vegas

Bar Parasol serves the best caviar deal in Vegas: a shot of Perrier-Jouët Champagne and a tiny spoonful (a bump) of Kolikof Premium Sturgeon Caviar, all for $10. If you want to bump up the experience (but keep the fun), there are fries with caviar, salmon roe, lemon aïoli and a flurry of herbs and shredded egg ($48).

Caviar Bar at Resorts World

Caspy Caviar stars here with osetra (50 grams for $300, 125 grams for $600), golden osetra (50 grams for $350, 125 grams for $700), and kaluga (50 grams for $275, 125 grams for $550) among the choices. The caviar is backed by traditional accompaniments: house blini, crème fraîche, chives.

Chef Shaun Hergatt’s menu tempts beyond caviar: brioche lobster rolls, hot oysters spiked with ginger, chicken roulade stuffed with foie gras. And based on extensive testing, the bar makes one of the best martinis in town.

Eataly at Park MGM

Toscana Ristorante & Bar serves piatto misto di caviale featuring 10 grams of Calvisius Caviar, house blini, egg whites and yolk, shallots and crème fraîche ($72).

La Pizza e La Pasta sends out burrata e caviale with Di Stefano Burrata, Calvisius Caviar, house crostini, chives and lemon zest ($42).

La Cucina Del Mercato showcases pan-seared scallops with Calvisius Caviar, fennel purée, fennel salad and celery root chips ($48), or blini with Calvisius Caviar, salmon, crème fraîche, dill and lemon zest ($37).

These Eataly dishes are offered Dec. 23 to 26.

Eiffel Tower Restaurant at Paris Las Vegas

The roe show at the restaurant’s Caviar Bar includes three imported varieties of osetra (Siberian, royal, imperial golden), as well as six composed dishes anointed with 15 grams of royal osetra per dish.

Imported caviars ($120-$480 for 28 grams) are served with blini, toast points and classic accoutrements.

The composed dishes ($59-$120) range from a half-dozen oysters, Dijon deviled eggs, and steak tartare with a grilled baguette to smoked salmon jabbed with horseradish cream, a smoked salmon and crème fraîche napoleon, and a farm egg nestled in a toasted brioche hole, with a frizz of frisée. The Caviar Bar overlooks the Strip and the Bellagio fountains.

Petrossian Bar at Bellagio

An opulent caviar taco features a thin crisp potato shell layered with hamachi, lemon, chives and olive oil, then topped by Daurenkie caviar ($20). A sphere of ice chills the vodka Bellagio Martini jabbed with citrus and paired with an osetra caviar cigar ($40).

Contact Johnathan L. Wright at jwright@reviewjournal.com. Follow @ItsJLW on Twitter.

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