Come for the View, and Stay and Return Time and Time Again for the Cuisine
Photo courtesy Americana
You are seated at a table overlooking a beautiful lake with ducks and turtles swimming past with the gentle lapping of water while enjoying a gourmet meal. Sound like you are in Las Vegas? It sure does if you are dining at Americana.
A visit to Americana is worth seeking out for the view alone, which offers a tranquil environment while looking out upon Lake Jacqueline at the southern end of Desert Shores’ waterfront retail strip. The space has seen several previous tenants, including Garfield’s and more recently Isabella’s, and the aforementioned waterfront makes it prime real estate. A remodel to the restaurant space before opening now allows for more tables offering unobstructed views of the lake via floor-to-ceiling windows and there is the option to dine al fresco with seats located just a few feet from the water’s edge.
Art lovers or anyone who likes intriguing visuals will appreciate the work of renowned artist Vladimir Kush, whose prints are scattered throughout the restaurant’s interior. Foodies will relate to his art as all of them involve food in some way and tell a story. Although not a room with a view, the Library media room is equipped with access to audiovisual services for meetings and has a rich feel with dark wood and shelves lined with books, and can be your choice of seating when it’s not in use for private events. Adding to the overall ambience is a grand piano, which is used for live performances from time to time.
You may come for the view, but you’ll stay and return time and time again for the culinary mastery of acclaimed Chef/Owner Stephen Blandino. The Staten Island-native is a Culinary Institute of America-Hyde Park graduate who was a protégé of Charlie Palmer, working with the celebrity chef for 18 years. Chef Stephen worked first at Aureole in NYC before Chef Charlie brought him out west to open the new Vegas location in Mandalay Bay in 1999. Stephen later moved over to Charlie Palmer Steak where he served as executive chef before leaving last summer to go out on his own and open his first restaurant. Chef chose to go with fine dining, and his restaurant is one of the most upscale restaurants anyone has attempted outside of the city’s resorts in recent years. There are really no restaurants offering the level of dining that his restaurant does in the area.
An ideal way to experience Chef’s cuisine is to select the Five Course Menu, which is a good value at $95 plus $30 for wine pairings, which is exactly what we did during our visit. Our tasting began with amuse-bouche of Washington farm-raised Kumamoto oyster encased in a Champagne Mignonette. The first course was the best of sea and land—Big Eye Tuna wrapped in Japanese A-5 Wagyu atop avocado mouse topped with pixie tangerine and ponzu caviar. The salad course was Golden Beet Salad comprised of oak lettuces and edible flowers atop a California goat cheese/golden beets mouse amidst balsamic/chocolate splashes on the plate. Grilled Octopus was enhanced with purees of celery root and poblano pepper. The main course featured Smoked New York Strip with pickled ramps, garlic pureed potato and bone marrow that dramatically arrived inside a smoke-filled cloche. The finale was Tangerine Scented Cheese Cake with blueberry coulis and blood orange sorbet all made in-house.
Other examples of Chef Stephen’s mastery are his Calabrian Spiced Petaluma Chicken brined for eight hours and pan seared, incredibly moist and tender served with sunchokes, broccolini and lemon vinaigrette; and the Fois Gras Terrine with blueberry gelee, fig and chocolate dust, which comes with a brioche perfect for spreading the rich ingredients on.
Another worthy option is the Weekly Harvest, a great value at $42 per person, which includes a salad, entrée, dessert and unlimited wine pairing. The week we visited the pairings were Mozzarella Salad with arugula, Cabernet tomatoes and white balsamic paired with Century Cellars Chardonnay; Whole Roasted Ribeye Steak with spring vegetables matched with Oak Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon; and dessert of Meyer Lemon Tart with toasted meringue and raspberry.
It’s important to note that each and every dish, like the prints on the walls, is a veritable work of art, with artistic multi-hued splashes of color on the plate and a mix of textures. You will definitely want to bring your camera and snap a shot of each dish before diving in.
Something fun for the kids is a cotton candy machine, which churns out flavors of grape, blueberry, cherry and vanilla, but GM Samantha Jones tells me as many adults as children partake and are given an opportunity to revisit a happy time of their youth.
Complementing the culinary fare are equally refined selections of wine, with the likes of the French Bertrand Senecourt Beau Joie Special Cuvee Brut Champagne; Chateau de Sancerre Blanc—a fruity, pineapple and citrus-flavored wine; and The Prisoner, a mix of Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Petite Sirah and Charbono. An extensive spirits collection includes more than 50 choices of bourbon, whiskey and rye, such as the High West Double Rye and Baker’s ultra-premium small batch bourbon.
Chef Stephen is backed up with experienced and professional front-of-the-house staff, such as Captain Marcin Sobczak, whose previous fine dining experience includes serving at Rose.Rabbit.Lie. and Carbone. Marcin, who has been at Americana since it opened in late October, says, “This is a great opportunity for me and I fell in love with Chef Stephen’s food. I like the view and that this restaurant is a destination.”
A Chat with Chef/Owner Stephen Blandino
When did you decide you wanted to make cooking your profession and what led to you attending the CIA in Hyde Park?
I was going to college pursuing a degree in economics, but wasn’t in love with it. I tried out for a restaurant in the Hamptons and fell in love with cooking and thought, wow, this is exciting, this is cool. I then decided I needed some schooling, needed to learn more, and after doing some research decided the CIA was the way to go. That’s the whole thing about culinary, you are constantly learning.
In 1999 Charlie Palmer asked you to leave New York and come to Las Vegas to open Aureole. Had you been to Las Vegas before?
I had never been to Vegas. I jumped on an airplane and literally when I got here and saw the wine tower and the angels it was really cool. I was the executive sous and then when the executive chef left Charlie Palmer Steak I took over that position. I loved it and stayed there for 13 years.
What was it like working for Chef Charlie and what did you learn from him?
He’s multi-talented, has done a lot of different things and is always doing new stuff. He was a great mentor. He’s got a keen eye, his knowledge of food is amazing and he is both a chef and a great businessman.
What made you decide to pick this location?
I was looking in Henderson, but nothing caught my eye. I had no clue Desert Shores even existed and a buddy of mine told me to check it out. I got here and saw all the wildlife and water and said this is an oasis. I have to have this spot.
Why did you name your restaurant Americana?
Cooking for so many years and picking up on so many styles, I thought Americana was the perfect name because there is no set definition for American food. We are using blends from different cultures that have come into America that have become our own. I like to have a lot of different things and play.
Does your menu change with the seasons? What are some menu items that remain on the menu all the time?
The menu changes constantly, but the Golden Truffled Egg Salad with spinach and Iberico ham is very popular. The short ribs, which are slow braised for about eight hours, and the octopus, which we sous vide or slow poach to soften, sell like wildfire.
What are some of your menu items you enjoy eating?
I love a good West Coast oyster and I’m a bone-in rib-eye guy. I love the fat. A lot of people cut away the fat, but to me it’s dessert.
What do you see as an advantage and disadvantage of this location?
A disadvantage is it’s secluded, and an advantage is the water. Where else can you go where there’s water other than the Strip, but people are telling me they don’t want to go to the Strip anymore and pay $10 for parking.
Tell us about your clientele. Do you have many regulars and how often do they visit your restaurant?
We have a lot of regulars and they visit every couple days. I have one woman that came a whole week straight. We get tourists from the Strip because of posts on Trip Advisor and Yelp. I even get people from Henderson, and that’s a great compliment that they drive 45 minutes to eat here.
What is something you like to do when you’re not working?
I love fishing and hiking with my two dogs.
Americana is open Tuesday-Sunday from 11:30 a.m.-10 p.m. for lunch and dinner and Sunday Brunch, which includes items such as Cheesecake Filled Crepes, California Fish Ceviche and Shrimp-n-Grits, is served from 11 to 3 p.m.
2620 Regatta Dr. Suite 118