It is not an uncommon sight on menus at some of the ritzier places to have a list of dishes accommodating some hip diets. Some time ago, plenty of places were touting some carbohydrate-free items. Now we have gluten-free for our celiac-afflicted friends.
I’m sure there are/were places that catered to “Paleo,” the diet that people bought into when they heard you could pretend vegetables were bad for you. Those places were probably attached to the similarly ridiculous CrossFit places, both of which are fads likely to land you in a hospital if followed with some measure of accuracy.
But vegans! Oh, but what of the vegan? They have some success when the destination is a Thai or Indian place, and can at least avoid products with one or two degrees of separation from animals in Japanese joints.
Outside of that, occidental cuisines have benefited from being in a culture with just too much success in the field of animal husbandry.
There are a couple of places that have the magic mix of being accommodating enough to create a vegan menu and hip enough to necessitate one to exist.
Astute readers may be saying, “Mitchell, my handsome fellow, did you not write an article hotly writing off vegan food? (CityLife, Nov. 7) You some kinda’ HIPPO-CRIT?”
Cool it, hot heads, and consider this: Panevino has quietly garnered a following for being a surprisingly stunning restaurant. Whatever change that happens in a person for them to choose a vegan diet happened in General Manager Vincenzo Granata, a classic Vegas consummate gentleman. So he and Executive Chef Mario Andreoni set to including some of his recipes into a fully animal-free menu called the “Healthful Plant Based Vegan” lunch and dinner menus.
Don’t worry, meat and seafood are still available. But think about it, how do you make a good vegan menu, if given the chance? Take someone who already is a great lover of food, and then you turn HIM vegan.
Wholly original dishes, like the hummus rolls ($13), can put thin grilled eggplant, house made garlic hummus, and red wine braised spiced cabbage together in a way that would entice any meat-eater.
Or take their brown rice, mushroom and pesto risotto ($28), substituting the creamy starch-broth created by slow cooking arborio with a puree of avocado, adding to that a spicy, fresh pesto. This is invention outside of necessity; it’s just inspired and creative.
Their ricotta and spinach gnocchi ($21) is a real special item. A creamy ball of some crazy mix of proteins and spinach, in what I think may be the best vodka crème sauce I’ve had. Lord knows how they made all that happen without a cow involved, but they pulled off some seriously satisfying dishes.
Perhaps my favorite, the artichokes and zucchini ($13), had so much fresh vegetable flavor to it. Corn meal dusted artichoke, grilled zucchini, thin and quickly cooked tomato, and a terrific extra-virgin olive oil made for a beautiful and complex dish.
Now here is the place in the article where you’d expect me to say “It was kind of bland and unappealing, but for what it is, it was pretty good.” I hear this term all the time, “For what it is,” and I don’t believe in using it. I think “for what it is” is the food version of “I’m not racist, but…”
Outside of the scope of vegan food, without the lens of whatever you consider vegans or what you THOUGHT you knew about vegan food, this menu at Panevino is definitely worth trying if you want an exiting and satisfying dining experience.
PANEVINO, 246 Via Antonio Ave., near corner of East Sunset Road and Gilespie Street. Phone 702-222-2400. MITCHELL WILBURN is a food and drink writer in Las Vegas. You can read his other food news and reviews on EatingLV.com.