Carnevino – Palazzo Hotel, Las Vegas, NV

You know that you are going to get a great meal when you go to a restaurant owned by a fat guy.  Especially if that fat guy happens to be Mario Batali. Just thinking about him makes my mouth water.  If you doubt it, just imagine a restaurant owned by Chris Rock. Enough Said.

And being in Las Vegas, you would expect nothing less than going over the top. The Beef Tasting Menu was just too good to pass up.   Six courses, with 5 of them being beef.  Who else has a beef tasting menu? Exactly. No one.  Fortunately I had some casino winnings to shell out the $150 per person price tag. That’s a bargain compared to how much you would fork over at a strip club.  Actually, anything is a bargain compared to a strip club.  What I didn’t expect was to overdose on beef.  I have put down 24 oz steaks with no problem, and even a 42 oz one.  But I just couldn’t take it to the finish line on this one.  Towards the end I was sweating and on the verge of passing out.  It reminded me of the first time I had sex.

The meal started innocuously enough with the amuse bouche – 2 balls of Assagi Formaggio which is a sexy Italian way of saying deep fried cheese balls. They were cute being all tucked into the napkin. They gave me a strange feeling of familiarity like I was looking into the mirror.

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I was so hungry, I inhaled them like a Bangkok street prostitute. Delicious and cheesy. But not the type of cheesy that makes you gag when you try and swallow it hot.

Next came my drink and the bread.  The cocktail was a “La Serra Dolce”. I can’t remember the exact composition, but it was sweet and pretty tasty.  The bread was ciabatta-like and it came with a European pepper-rosemary butter and lardo.  That’s right, lard is now fashionable as a spread and isn’t just a cruel nickname they call you in elementary school.

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The first two courses are a nightmare for food inspectors who insist that you must cook your meat thoroughly.  The Carne Cruda is a chopped steak tartare, or what I like to call beef ceviche. Deliciously tender and moist. If you have never had steak tartare, it is a great dish when used with high quality beef.

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The Bresaola is a thinly sliced salted beef similar to Jamon Iberico.  It is salted and then aged. Served with parmigiano and baby artichokes, it was the closest I got to a salad that night.

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Next came the Tordelli di Toscana which in layman’s terms is a ravioli that is made in a semi-circular shape.  These were filled with a mixture of veal, ricotta, and winter greens. I couldn’t help but think about how they would taste with Chef Boyardee sauce.  I can be ghetto like that.

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At this point I was starting to get full and debated whether I should take a trip to the throne of the porcelain god and make an offering.  Each course was pretty substantial and not a couple of bites like most other tasting menus that I was used to.  But the Wagyu Beef Cheek arrived before I could make a decision.  How could I say no to anything Wagyu? There seems to be a Renaissance of beef cheeks as more and more chefs are leaning to it as their meat of choice to braise. It is a more flavorful piece of meat and holds up well to braising producing a nice tenderness.  The cheeks in this dish were served atop a celery root puree and parsnip “gremolata” on the side.

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Things got serious when the custom embossed steak knives arrived. That meant the ribeye was coming and I got all giddy just thinking about it.  I haven’t felt that since the Miss America Edition of Penthouse hit the newsstands.

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The star attraction was the BBL Dry-Aged Ribeye.  I am familiar with what BBW stands for but not BBL, so I had to ask. It represents Batali, Bastianich, and Lang who are the creators of the restaurant.  So the BBL moniker is supposed to designated a quality of beef even higher than USDA Prime. But at this point I was in serious hurt and couldn’t take another bite.  Is it too ghetto to ask for the remaining courses to be put into to-go containers? I hoped that ordering a glass of cabarnet would help me to prepare for what was to come.

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After eating two pieces, I officially overdosed on beef.  All of the dishes were so rich, I might have well just eaten a pound of butter. It didn’t help that they drizzled the meat with olive oil.  I became light-headed, dizzy, and almost passed out.  Again, similar to the symptoms I have during sex.  Well, at least the meal lasted 2 hours.  All I could do was lick the bone and whimper.

When the last course of dessert came, I viewed it with longing and disgust.  It was an olive oil semifreddo. It is best described as a whipped ice cream – very light and airy.  The pistachio paste they smeared on the side of the plate did not help things.  Even though it reminded me of a finger-painting job I once saw inside a men’s stall, I still ate it.

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If you find yourself at Carnevino I strongly recommend that you share plates with your table rather than do the tasting menu.   Then you can avoid the pain I endured.  Unless you are a glutton.  It was two weeks before I could touch anything beef again.

Bill total: 2 Tasting Menus, 1 cocktail, 1 glass of wine, 1 bottle sparkling water, tax and tip = $438 ($219 per person)

Carnevino – The Palazzo Hotel  Website: carnevino.com.  Reservations strongly recommended.

Carnevino on Urbanspoon

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