Chef Nicole Brisson Showcasing Her Culinary Talents at Locale

Photo credit: Eugene Dela Cruz |

We’ve long been fans of our friend, the very talented Chef Nicole Brisson, and have observed her many accomplishments over the years. Her accolades include being the first female chef to become executive chef of an Eataly in the US, the first chef appointed to Southern Nevada Health District’s board of directors, serving as culinary director of the Batali Vegas restaurants and being a Dom Perignon Award of Excellence Honoree at the 2019 UNLVino. This past summer she teamed up with restaurateur Andy Hooper to open her first restaurant, Locale, in Mountain’s Edge on Blue Diamond Rd. just west of Buffalo. 

The new restaurant is an intimate 75-seat setting with hanging Edison lights, a decorative mirrored wall, copper accents throughout, an open kitchen and large slate-colored barn doors separating the bar/lounge from the dining room. Some other nice touches include a hardwood floor, black wood tables and chairs, which in addition to the barn doors add a rustic feel.

We first visited Locale to celebrate Chef Nicole’s new restaurant’s opening in late June, and recently made a return visit to experience Locale’s new brunch menu, which is now served daily.

One thing we found enticing was the variety of menu items, with several options well beyond the normal breakfast fare. Examples are Preserved Tuna Salad Genovese with heirloom tomato, Gaeta olives, egg, capers and red wine vinaigrette; house-made Ravioli stuffed with beef cheek and aceto manodori and served with a savory aged balsamic; and Pane Frattau Pizza with guanciale (pork jowl bacon), sunny side up eggs and a dough sweetened with honey. A dish that satisfies appetites wanting both breakfast and lunch is the House Smoked Fish Cakes: Arctic char with pickled ramp aioli and mixed greens served with scrambled eggs.

A handful of menu items, while not identified as dessert offerings, certainly do qualify. We enjoyed the Baked French Toast utilizing bread baked with vanilla and served with a fresh berry puree, whipped cream and cinnamon.

Liquid indulgences include cocktails such as Brunch in Milan made with Ketel One Peach, orange blossom botanical, Aperol and house-made apricot puree; a wine list with finds mainly from Italy and Napa like the Michele Chiarlo Langhe Nebbiolo Doc from Piedmont; and beer list including worthy selections such as Stillwater Stateside Saison, and locally brewed Big Dog’s Peace, Love & Hoppiness and CraftHaus Silver State Blonde Ale. 

Show up in the p.m. and you can find several Italian-influenced items from a menu divided into sections of Antipasti, Pasta, Contorni, Pizza and Secondi. Enticing choices include Charred Octopus, Fritto Misto with lightly battered calamari and shrimp; Rigatoni Bolognese with veal, beef and pork ragu; Ricotta & Mint Ravioli with braised rabbit ragu; and meaty items like braised oxtail, filet mignon, grilled lamb chops and Heritage Foods pork.   

In contrast to the restaurants on the Strip where Chef Nicole has worked the past 15+ years, the price points are quite reasonable, with the brunch/lunch menu ranging from $3-$19 and the dinner menu with starters from $5-$15, pastas $11-25, pizzas $14-17 and entrees from $18-$39. It’s actually quite extraordinary considering the quality of ingredients used and the talented chef team preparing your meal. This new meat-centric Italian eatery is more proof that great dining has become easy to find in the burbs while taking a much smaller dent from your pocketbook. 

Locale is open for brunch 11a.m.-2:30 p.m. Mon.-Fri. and 10:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. Sat.-Sun. and for dinner 4:30-10 p.m. daily.

7995 Blue Diamond Rd. #106, 702-330-0404

Ambra Italian Kitchen + Bar at MGM Grand Offering
Classic Italian Dishes and a Speakeasy Bar

Photo credit: Clint Jenkins

Since Fiamma closed last winter there has been a bit of a void in the MGM Grand’s The District in terms of an Italian fine dining option. Now that is no longer the case, with Ambra Italian Kitchen & Bar open in the same location. Named after the Italian translation of “amber,” the 7,500-square-foot space is said to be inspired by Milan at dusk and is situated across from Morimoto and steps from Emeril’s Fish House and Craftsteak. 

The restaurant is fronted with an attractive bar/lounge looking out onto The District walkway accentuated with a classy amber-ish honey-golden onyx countertop and curved metal artwork. Inside, the décor features jewel tones, earthy hues and dark wood in the dining room; and a “hidden” speakeasy dubbed Privata, inspired by luxury Italian sports cars with intricate detailing on sleek leather upholstery, which those in the know can enter (if you know where to look, there’s a door near the back of the dining room labeled Private). 

While the restaurant is described as classic Italian, there is a wide range of offerings, like Bluefin Tuna with cucumber, radish, and avocado; Crispy Squash Blossom with ricotta and cherry pepper; and high quality steaks including Japanese F1 Wagyu NY Strip and 45-day dry-aged bone-in Tomahawk Ribeye. If you came for the classics, there are choices of Cavatelli Pasta with sausage and kale, Calamari Fritto with pickled Fresno chile, Chicken Parm, Veal Chop Marsala and (vegan) Lasagna Al Forno. 

I was happily surprised to find a huge spirits menu with more than 100 choices, such as high-end selections like Macallan 10, 12, 15, 18, 25 and 30 year; and several MGM Properties signature barrel whiskies like Woodford Reserve Double Oaked. Wines are mainly sourced from Italy, France and the US and in addition to 18 wines by the glass, also offered are a rotating selection of four 3- or 6-oz Coravin pours not usually offered by the glass, such as 2013 Quintessa Napa Valley Magnum.

Excellent finales are the Tiramisu with mascarpone, ladyfingers and cocoa; Ambra Vanilla Cake with Italian meringue; and Housemade Gelato & Sorbet in flavors of Nutella, Pistachio, Vanilla Bean, Mango Passion and Mixed Berries.

Ambra is open 5-11 p.m. Fri.-Sat. and 5-10 p.m. Sun.-Thu. 

Chef Sammy D in the House at 7th & Carson

Photo credit: PR Plus

Last month I made my first visit to 7th & Carson and was quite impressed with the new menu of acclaimed and beloved Chef Sammy DeMarco (aka Sammy D), who after spending the past 2.5 years in Europe has returned and will be serving as Guest Chef at the Fremont East Downtown hotspot through the end of the year. I had the pleasure to enjoy highlights of the new menu including wood oven-roasted beet salad with kumquat vinaigrette, tarragon yogurt and candied walnuts; “Stove Top” turkey meatballs with sweet potato and cranberry drizzle (made with the actual stuffing!); grilled swordfish with wilted spinach salad; seared U-10 diver scallops with celery-root puree; strozzapreti pasta with chianti-braised duck leg ragu; and desserts of white chocolate French toast bread pudding and chocolate brownie with espresso ice cream.

7th & Carson just celebrated its 2nd anniversary and has introduced an Industry Night menu on Tuesdays from 8-10 p.m. with several menu items such as chicken & waffles, double house burger, jalapeno cheddar hot dog with kimchi and steamed mussels for $10; $5 well cocktails; and 50% off select wines. The eatery is offering the iconic Golden Gate Casino’s shrimp cocktail for $.99 with entrée purchase Thu.-Tue. 5-6 p.m. 7th & Carson is open Thu.-Tue. for lunch and dinner.