At a Glance
What is it?
High end food for refined palettes.
Where is it?
At Aria Las Vegas on the South Strip.
What kind of food is served?
Eclectic without a real connective thread.
What is the atmosphere like?
Beautiful and moody in a good way.
How is the service?
What are the prices like?
Dear costs for dear food.
What else do I need to know?
Foodies love this place.
What’s the bottom line?
Those who are not true Foodies may have better options.
Maybe it’s just me. I have stated many times in this space before that I am not what is known as a Foodie – one who swoons over delicately twee constructions of esoteric tastes. I like food. Food, good. And I even like creativity in food presentation and preparation. But a Foodie, a gastronome, an epicurean, I am not.
Sage at Aria Las Vegas seems to be designed for people that are.
Chef Shawn McLain has been pulling in the plaudits and amassing awards at an astonishing rate for his innovative American cuisine at three Chicago restaurants, Spring, Custom House, and Green Zebra. Sage is his first Vegas endeavor and is already getting the kind of critical acclaim that most restaurants can only dream of.
So again, I state, maybe it’s just me.
The first issue I had was trying to find a connective thread in the menu. It is described as “New American laced with Mediterranean subtexts.” What I saw was a limited list of offerings that were virtually impossible to categorize or define. I’m not suggesting that every restaurant has to be as obvious as “Mexican” or “Italian” or “Hard Rock Café” but fine dining should provide a roadmap of sorts – a pathway to get from start to finish in a satisfying and, hopefully, simple manner. The menu at Sage just didn’t provide one and so I spent a lot of time staring at, trying to decide where to go first, next, and last.
Starters run the gamut from oysters in a pepper and tobasco sorbet to an heirloom beet salad with duck prosciutto with stops at Hawaiian blue prawns, Maine lobster, roasted sweetbreads, and octopus salad along the way. The foie gras custard brulee with black mission figs and salted brioche is an in-demand specialty of the house but we went with the creamy green garlic soup with dungeness crab and horseradish. Although the garlic was strong the entire dish came across as muted somehow, a word that kept coming to mind as we delved into the main courses.
The roasted scallops with wild mushrooms is served in a salted caramel reduction, all of which was fine and obviously fresh, but none of it jumped off the plate and demanded attention. Ditto the Kobe flat iron with truffled burrata cheese in a red wine reduction. The meat was tender and the reduction offered a welcome bit of energy, but as a package it failed to create a lasting impression.
Other options included braised veal cheeks, ale-braised short ribs, roasted pork loin, and roasted John Dory with shaved Iberico ham. Again, I have to stress the notion that it all came across as diverse but without any kind of encompassing notion that made it make sense. At least not to me.
Prices are on the high side with starters in $12-25 range and main courses $32-50, but note that unlike many upscale eateries the entrees come with sides. That’s both good and bad. Good in that you don’t have to pay extra, bad in that you are going to eat what the chef has chosen to accompany the course whether you like it or not.
The dining room is gorgeous – all moody dark woods and deep gold and purple accents. And the service was impeccable, so certainly no faults there.
Fine dining is an acquired taste, to be sure, and perhaps to true Foodies Sage is a taste worth indulging in. But there are better options for the casual diner looking to venture into gourmet territory.
Or maybe it was just me.