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FALL FLAVORS

<p>Pork terrines at Aria.</p>

Pork terrines at Aria.

Starting in mid-October, most restaurants switch over their menu to dishes inspired by the fall cornucopia of flavors. Painting with a palate of winter vegetables and meats, these chefs express themselves through in-season taste. Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve researched and sampled around, finding who is doing the most exiting stuff for these menu changeovers.

As we become more and more of a “Food City,” these menu changeovers will become the spark that sets a change in our local – and national – food scene. Every one of these dishes (arranged in no particular order) I would recommend with the highest enthusiasm, and every chef responsible is definitely worth keeping an eye on.

L’Œuf Poché et Caviar (Le Cirque inside The Bellagio)

An interesting turn on the “egg with caviar” trope, they take a poached one of those “super eggs” (fed tons of Omega-3 rich foods), and crust lightly in panko, with a large dollop of Oscetra sturgeon caviar. The richness of the egg contrasts the strong salty/fatty flavor of the caviar, and is complimented well by squares of Scottish smoked salmon, creamy fingerling potato, and all lightly drizzled with a pepper (I think it was espelette) mignonette. This is one of the unique dishes on the new Le Cirque menu, keeping in with their trend of “less is more.”

Steak Oscar (Aquanox inside The Venetian)

Enjoying a real surge of creativity, Aquanox has been going in a ton of directions. There is no shortage of very interesting fish items, but I was really struck by their rendition of steak Oscar ($69): good filet of prime, a bit of wild crab béarnaise, and thinly shaved asparagus. Simple, satisfying, this is yet another great example of classic dishes coming back in a big way, which I’m absolutely loving. When you go, be sure to try the “Absinthe root beer float,” using locally-grown house-made basil ice cream. Built tableside, flaming of course.

Lobster and Rock Shrimp Risotto (Marché Bacchus, 2620 Regatta Dr., Suite #106)

Using almost exclusively fall items to make this risotto ($26), the two shellfish stand out beautifully on a complex backdrop of turnip, carrot, and parsnips. This confetti is joined by wonderfully aromatic tarragon oil, and left with a scoop of crème fraiche in the center. A unique and stand-out risotto dish, leaving most of the Strip in the dust, just another great reason to make the trek to one of the city’s best French restaurants.

Bacon Wrapped Sous-Vide Pork Tenderloin (Comme Ça at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas)

At what I’m calling the “most interesting” restaurant on the list, Executive Chef Brian Howard is doing everything in a very cool way. While I love their house-made charcuterie program, and was very impressed with nearly everything I had there, there was something about a sous-vide pork tenderloin ($34). Seared to at a beautiful med-rare, on top of this smoky caramelized wedge of romaine, dotted with tomato and black garlic ranch, this dish really plays with your expectations for pork. Pork cooked this well with regularity could put the steak game out of business.

Basil-Fed Escargot Rockefeller (Tender Steak & Seafood at the Luxor)

Often the most overlooked of steakhouses (certainly not enjoying the same novelty as Circus Circus Steak for its juxtaposition of casino property), Tender’s “in-crowd” clientele of MGM big-wigs are enjoying some truly interesting dishes. One of the first twinklings of a Las Vegas “classic dish” trend, their escargot Rockefeller ($18) adds an interesting twist. Spinach, tomato basil cream, and a roasted garlic hollandaise round this little escargot shot perfectly, and certainly more interestingly than the obligatory garlic/lemon/herb butter.

Pork Terrines with Tail (Sage at Aria)

If I had to choose a restaurant that really blew me away this season, it would be this one. Even disregarding the near-perfect foie brûlée, items like their wonderful yellowtail kampachi (the Buddah’s hand/black tea gelée was inspired) and these terrines just fit the bill perfectly. It combined a pretty rustic pork terrine, dotted with mustard seeds, with a kind of haute plating. It was paired with white beans and cubes of winter squash, and each slice was topped with a little house-made “salsa verde.” The dish also included a segment of crispy pig tail, the fattiness of which was cut perfectly by the tangy dressing of the vegetables. An honorable mention goes to their Absinthe Eggnog ($16), a recreation of a rare Swiss delight from their pasty chef, absolutely beautiful for a dessert cocktail. CL