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Review: The only thing not master-planned in Anthem is Vic Vegas’ poorly managed restaurant

Driving past Anthem’s golf courses, shuffleboard courts and entitled denizens, I had to remind myself again what I was doing in this neighborhood. Clearly, this is not my scene, and few people could command my presence this far out of my element. One of them is Vic Vegas.

The bald, tattooed Vegas (real name Vic Moea) endeared himself to America with his third-place finish on Food Network Star. But I’ve been a fan since he opened his short-lived High Roller Deli on South Maryland Parkway in 2009. I followed his career through Johnny Smalls at Hard Rock Hotel and Addiction at Rumor, and while he was on Food Network Star, he made numerous appearances on my webcast. Vic’s a great chef, and a friend — so I’ll even travel to Anthem to try his food. Unfortunately, friendship isn’t enough to make me overlook some of my disappointments while I was there.

Vic’s is located in Anthem’s community center, which boasts an amazing view of the valley but feels like an airport terminal. The chef, however, has managed to make his space much more inviting.

Anyone who knows Vegas’ cooking knows he believes in going big or going home. He revels in mixing up flavors and piling as many decadent ingredients onto a dish as possible. At Vic’s, you’ll find his most over-the-top creations in the section of the menu labeled “tapatizers.” That collection of small plates includes things like pastrami potato sliders ($8), scallops and prosciutto hash with butter corn sauce ($12) and truffle mushroom raviolis with burnt butter sage orange sauce, toasted pistachios and shaved parmesan ($9). On the flip side, entrees such as orange roughy and shrimp scampi ($28), mint chimichurri rack of lamb ($39) and a pair of steaks ($34 and $38) are a bit more restrained, and clearly aimed at the country club crowd.

My party of three decided to split some starters: something called lobster and chips ($17), fried corn, Vic’s take on French onion soup ($8) and the most Vegas-esque dish on the menu — meatloaf spring rolls with pan gravy and ketchup aioli ($8). Shortly after we ordered, however, our waiter told us they were out of spring rolls. (They generously comped our corn to apologize for the inconvenience.)

The most ridiculously delicious thing we tried all night was the soup. The broth itself was a bit salty. But that’s easy to overlook when the mad genius chef tops it with a slice of white bread and a heaping mound of creamy Havarti macaroni and cheese. The ear of corn, quartered and fried, was pretty basic, but the duo of butters that accompanied it provided some nice flavor. Unfortunately, I can only guess that one was maple butter and the other, herb, since the menu didn’t specify and my waiter didn’t know. (He offered to find out but never returned with that info.)

The most disastrous thing we tried was the lobster and chips, which are basically fish and chips made with a whole lobster tail. In the dish’s defense, the batter was delicious — one friend said it would make shoe leather taste good. Unfortunately, the over-cooked lobster was sadly reminiscent of just that. Furthermore, the crinkle-cut fries were clearly frozen rather than house-made. At half the price, this would have been a bad dish, but at 17 bucks, it was outrageous!

Still hungry, we decided to sample the Italian chef’s spin on spaghetti and meatballs ($16). Unfortunately, they were out of meatballs. So we went with a caramel apple pork chop ($28), which didn’t arrive for more than 30 minutes. Shortly before delivering it, our waiter explained that it always takes that long — a fact I doubt, and which, if true, should have been explained when we ordered it. Still, it was delicious. The cider-infused chop was cooked perfectly, the stuffing was wonderful and the sweet gravy that coated it was a typical Vic Vegas touch. By this time, however, we were so frustrated by the wait, the lack of information from our server and the restaurant’s inability to keep ground beef in stock, we had a hard time enjoying it.

The food at Vic’s is exactly what I expected: inspired, outrageous and risky, with more hits than misses. I just hope the restaurant works out a few more kinks before I head back out to Anthem for those spring rolls.

VIC’S, 2450 Hampton Drive, 522-7200. Read more about the Las Vegas dining scene on Al Mancini’s blog, and follow him on Twitter @almancinivegas.