Sage Restaurant, Las Vegas

After you lose a ton of money that you didn’t have in the first place by playing slot machines that clearly hate you…you really just want a delicious meal.
Reading Wandering Eater’s review of Sage, I knew I had to check it out when in Las Vegas. It was brand new, run by an award winning chef, and featured something called foie gras custard…
 I was there faster than you can say “heart attack.”
 The restaurant, located in the Aria hotel, was huge and upscale, done in dark purples and with traditional chandeliers and furniture offset by whimsical carpets and dishware. Formal yet inviting.
 There were many options on the menu, including a la carte and a 4 course option, but…when in Vegas…ONLY a tasting menu will do.
I suggest you start with the WORLD’S BEST BLOODY MARY…I called it that, they call it the 3-Day Mary. They call it that because the Bloody Mary mix marinates for 3 days before you drink it. When you do drink it, it is incredibly rich – almost as if it has beef broth in it, but the richness comes from the marinated vegetables intermingling with organic tomato vodka. It is spicy with horseradish, tangy with pickles, peppery, sweet and pleasantly bitter, perhaps from the pickles’ brine. Our server told us that the head mixologist grows much of the produce himself, and takes massive pride in this drink.  It is a meal in a glass, and I mean that in the best way possible. Oh…and just one will relax you after you realize that you have lost that unspeakable amount of money in the casino.
 Bacon bread.
 That’s right…soft bread studded with tiny bits of crispy, chewy, salty bacon.
Spread with lavender butter and sea salt, it was delicious. The butter is of particular mention, because the judicious use of lavender made it earthy instead of soapy as so much lavender scented food tastes. It was just a hint of the flower that made it interesting and a contrast to the creamy butter, versus an all-encompassing flavor.
 Market Oysters with Piquillo Pepper and Tabasco Sorbet with Aged Tequilla Migonette. A perfect amuse bouche, these briny bivalves were accented by sweet and spicy sorbet that was more liquid than solid – a great texture to compliment the slippery, salty oyster. The mignonette was totally lost here – there was none of the acidic bite of tequila, unfortunately. That would have really brought this to the next level. Regardless of that fact, this was still an excellent start to the meal.     
 Bigeye Tuna Belly with Oro Blanco Grapefruit, Preserved Lemon and Powdered Olive Oil. Sweet, mild tuna  was positively velvety in the mouth, thanks to the heavy fat content. The citrus taste was too mild for my palate, but the tuna was of such high quality that the lack of bitter or acidic flavors did not harm the dish. It did, however, alert me to the fact that seasonings were very sparingly used in this restaurant – not a downside nor an upside. Just a point.
 Foie Gras Custard Brulee with Rhubarb, Toasted Cocoa Nibs and Salted Brioche.
This BLEW my mind. I have previously had foie gras creme brulee at Eleven Madison Park, but that was richer in both texture and taste, tasting solely of  liver. This was more ethereal, with a lighter texture that disappeared on the heat of my tongue, leaving behind the deep, offally taste of the foie gras.
Buried under a sheath of crispy caramelized sugar and bitter cacao nibs, the foie gras custard was simultaneously unbearably rich and astonishingly light – resulting in the perfect dish. I don’t know how I could even eat it all, but I did. Every last shaving of creamy, rich foie gras disappeared into my mouth.
 I may have cleaned out the bowl with my fingers.
Side note – the brioche was some of the best i have had outside of France. Buttery but not greasy, it was light but had layers of wheaty, salty flavor. It was the perfect vehicle for openfaced foie gras sandwiches.
Scallop and Potato Ravioli with Porcini Mushrooms and Shaved Truffles. This was a very good dish, but not great. The scallops were well cooked, but a bit fishy They did not taste off at all, but they were just very…fishy. Now, I don’t mind that, but it could be offputting to others.
The potatoes was crispy and delicious and the mushroom broth was earthy and deep, but the truffles on top did not release their usual intoxicating smell and taste. That fishiness was just too overpowering.
Liberty Farms Duck Breast with Duck Leg Confit and Seville Sour Orange. Now, here was the stuff! Excellently cooked duck, medium rare and tender but with a crispy layer of fat surrounding the pleasantly gamy meat. The confit was deeply flavored, tasting woodsy and primal next to the rareness of the breast – it was a terrine and excellently prepared. The orange provided a bitter counterpart to the mild meat, and made the duck’s sweetness shine. It even pleased one of the members of our party who swore that she didn’t like duck.
48 Hour Beef Belly, Caramelized Onions, Morel Mushrooms and Pickled Ramps. Delicious – the favorite of some of the diners. The beef must have been cooked sous vide, because instead of being cooked all the way through like short ribs, it was medium rare and iron-y, tender enough to cut with a fork. The (lone) morel was funky and umami-licious – a perfect mushroom in any sense of the word. The onions were sweet and those pickled ramps were the best I have had since ABC Kitchen. They were tangy and piquant but not at all abrasive – somewhere between a cocktail onion and a Vidalia. So, so good and the vinegar cut through the richness of the beef.
An intermezzo of pineapple sorbet was tart and sweet – the perfect segue from main course to dessert. The berries served with it were of particular mention -each one was sweet and well rounded in flavor. Nothing ruins a meal like a bad berry.
Unless you remember how much money you lost at the casino.
ANYWAY…
Blackberry and Chocolate Cremeaux with Chocolate Fudge, Blackberry Mousse and Powdered Chocolate.
This was very good, not to say amazing.  The fudge was smooth and creamy, the mousse was sharp but sugary as well, and the crunchy cookie at the bottom was totally delightful. The only issue was…I just didn’t like the flavors together. The deepness of the chocolate and the assertive taste of the blackberry were just too discordant to me. They seemed to be competing rather than complimenting each other.
Luckily, this post-dessert cup of mint hot chocolate saved the day. Sweet and creamy with the sharp note of mint cutting through the considerable fat content, it was a childhood favorite grown up.My overall opinion of the meal is mixed. It was well prepared food for the price, the service and decor were excellent, and there were certainly some standouts (that foie gras custard still haunts my DREAMS).
But is it a destination restaurant? I would have to say…no. There are so many restaurants in Las Vegas that are wonderful – Guy Savoy, E by Jose Andres and Joel Robuchon (both the Mansion and L’Atelier) all offer more perfected cooking and a more memorable dining experience. If this were in another location, it would absolutely be a destination spot. But, in Las Vegas, this just fell short of the “wow” factor. I didn’t continue thinking about the meal the way that I should have after we were done eating.
BUT…that said…
I would ABSOLUTELY stop in here for a Bloody Mary and a Foie Gras Custard. Those were both delicious and unique enough to warrant a visit on their own.
After all…you might need some way to forget how much you lost in the casino.
Sage (Aria) on Urbanspoon

Comments

  1. Hungry says:

    I'm a huge fan of properly made Bloody Mary's. And that one looks awesome.

  2. Fritos and Foie Gras says:

    @Hungry – ditto, and these ROCKED!

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