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SINATRA

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Encore Las Vegas

3121 Las Vegas Blvd. S.

Las Vegas, NV 89109

702-770-DINE

website

$75-$100

Daily 5:30-10pm

Italian

A

AT A GLANCE

What is it?

One of the best restaurants in Las Vegas.

Where is it?

At Encore Las Vegas on the North Strip.

What kind of food is served?

Northern Italian, all more fresh than it has any right to be..

What is the atmosphere like?

Beautiful, full of light, and Frank memorabilia.

How is the service?

Fantastic.

What are the prices like?

Expensive, but what isn't these days?.

What else do I need to know?

Be sure to look for the awards won by Old Blue Eyes.

What's the bottom line?

A destination restaurant if there ever was one.

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FULL REVIEW

Back in the day, Frank Sinatra did some TV commercials for Steve Wynn's Atlantic City Golden Nugget and the two formed a friendship that lasted until The Chairman went to that big Boardroom in the sky.

Fitting then that a Sinatra family blessed restaurant bearing Old Blue Eyes' name is at Wynn's ultra-luxurious Encore Las Vegas, complete with photos, memorabilia, awards (Oscar, Grammy, Emmy), and an endless soundtrack of Frank's songs playing in the background.

While interesting, the Sinatra décor is actually the least interesting thing about the restaurant, which transcends its theme to become one of the best restaurants on The Strip.

Start with the design scheme (aside from the gigantic painting of a 50s era Frank looking down on you). Done is a springtime palette of green, orange, tan, and white the high-ceilinged dining room and bar are filled with interesting furnishings - almost retro but not in a too-obvious way - and lots of interesting details to look at (check out the mirrored ship and obelisks over the bar and the funky lighting fixtures above the main room). But that's if you can tear your eyes away from the floor to ceiling windows that line the entire space, facing out to a lushly landscaped dining garden that was inviting on a warm late spring evening.

Then turn your attention to the menus. Start with one of their signature cocktails - the pomegranate margarita was strangely appealing ("alcohol and anti-oxidants!" said our server), and the raspberry limoncillo drop was as sweet/tart as it sounds. There's also a very extensive wine list that will be intimidating to most, but never fear, the sommelier is as close to a genius as you can come when you're talking about wine. His pairings with our various dinner courses were perfect and surprising - at first taste some of the selections didn't wow me, but taken with the food they were a faultless match.

Chef Theo Schoenegger was born and raised in Italy and gained prominence in the US as the former executive chef of Patina in Los Angeles. Here he takes classic Italian cuisine and puts a very fresh and modern spin on it. It's a relatively small menu - about a dozen hot and cold appetizers and an equal number of entrees - but this is one of those places where you can pretty much close your eyes and point and whatever they bring to the table will be amazing.

We sampled a variety of the appetizers - the buffalo mozzarella in the Caprese was silky smooth; the beef Carpaccio was sliced so thin you could almost see through it but still bursting with robust flavor; and the prosciutto - well, I hate to make statements like this but I'm going to anyway - it was the best I've ever had; delicate yet mouth wateringly satisfying with an almost sweet taste that blended perfectly with the fire roasted pepper accompaniment.

For pastas (all made by hand), I have to admit I was hoping Chef would send out the lasagna - Bolognese, layered with veal, pork, AND beef (I know, I need to lay down just thinking about it), but instead he sent out the Agnolotti, small ravioli style pockets stuffed with buffalo ricotta cheese and covered in a very light asparagus sauce. I am not a fan of asparagus, normally, but this was mind-blowing. It had just the right amount of tart and so fresh and summery tasting that you expected it to be growing naturally out of the ground like that. I'll go back another time for the lasagna.

Scallops, Alaskan halibut, filet of john dory, and Main lobster are the seafood options but Chef sent us selections from the "Carni" section including a smoky squab in a light mushroom sauce and cut of herb crusted lamb, served with a ratatouille stuffed roasted pepper and basil infused potato puree. The former was a little too dark for my taste while the latter was just perfect.

If you really want to go the whole Sinatra route, you should start with the Clams Possilipo and then head straight to the Ossobuco Milanese, both of which are based on some of Frank's favorite dishes.

I have to go back to the word fresh. Everything that came to the table tasted as if it was just harvested, caught, or corralled moments before it got to the table. It made a lasting impression.

As did the desserts. We sampled the tiramisu and the cannoli flavored cheesecake, both of which were perfect cappers to the evening. I'm going back to try to the warm doughnuts stuffed with chocolate ganache. (I need to lay down again).

Service throughout our meal was exceptional - friendly without being overly familiar and attentive without descending to the level of obsequiousness.

Prices are, as you'd expect, not cheap. Appetizers are mostly in the $17-19 range, pastas $22-36, and entrees are mostly in the $40-49 neighborhood. Throw in a glass of wine or two and one of those signature cocktails plus dessert (all $12), tax, and tip and you will easily be breaking the $100 per person range.

Here's the thing though: pretty much every nice restaurant on The Strip is going to cost you at least that and some more. While I don't normally think about spending that kind of cash on dinner, I will say that if you're going to, this is one of the places you can and totally feel like you got your money's worth.

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