Photo credit: Shelley Stepanek & Mesa Grill at Caesars Palace

Sugarcane Raw Bar & Grill Continues to Shine

Sugarcane Raw Bar & Grill serving sushi, fire-grilled fare and small plates by award-winning Chef Partner Timon Balloo, just celebrated its 3rd anniversary at Restaurant Row at The Venetian. I’m very happy to see Assistant General Manager William Badillo is still there, as he exudes passion for hospitality and love for the restaurant he has chosen to call home. Based on my recent visit and the dishes William presented to us, Sugarcane is continuing to shine with brilliant, varied dishes served in a vibrant and fun atmosphere. We started with small plates of bacon-wrapped dates, goat cheese croquettes with guava jam, shrimp ceviche with passion fruit aji and smoked salmon pizza with lemon dill cream cheese. The main course was a magnificent full roasted chicken with truffled purple potatoes, wild mushrooms and half lemon wedges covered with rosemary. It was beautifully presented to the table whole to view, and then taken back to the kitchen to carve up for eating. Dessert was torrajas: dulce de leche soaked French toast with maple caramelized apples and cinnamon ice cream.

Throughout our meal William had us sample some of the cocktails he is most proud of, as he should be, as they are as well thought out, stunning and as creative as the food menu. Some of them spotlight the almost 300 rums in Sugarcane’s collection, such as the rum ‘n’ bramble made with Flor de Caña 7-yr Añejo rum, yuzu, dry vermouth, agave, blackberry purée, cardamom bitters and fresh basil. Another winner was the strawberry balsamic with premium vodka, lime juice, maple syrup, balsamic and fresh strawberries.

The original Sugarcane opened in Miami in 2010, now has locations in Brooklyn and Las Vegas and has received numerous awards including “Best New Restaurant” semi-finalist by the James Beard Foundation, “Best Restaurant” by Johnson & Wales, “Restaurant of the Year” by Eater, “Best New Restaurant” by Miami New Times and two three-star reviews from the Miami Herald. If you haven’t made your way to our Vegas version of this fine eatery, make yourself a New Year’s resolution to do so.

Mesa Grill Celebrates 15 Years

Celebrity Chef Bobby Flay’s Mesa Grill at Caesars Palace has certainly stood the test of time, as it just commemorated its 15th anniversary. Located on the casino floor, the attractive and inviting décor includes lots of vibrant color, with hues of yellow, blue, olive green and teal throughout and orange flames simulating fire-roasting on the ceiling. There’s also a wood lattice ceiling, wood floor, an open kitchen and tables dressed with classy white linen in the two-level dining room.

The cuisine is described as Southwestern fare and the menu is quite varied with an array of ingredients you won’t necessarily encounter elsewhere, and liberal use of spice, although we didn’t encounter anything overpowering. Examples on the appetizer menu are charred shishito peppers with pomegranate salt, cumin and mango agrodolce; and cremini mushroom quesadilla filled with fontina and ricotta and topped with a fried egg. The Entrees menu features interesting creations such as cascabel chile-crusted rabbit with wild mushrooms, Marcona almonds and smoked red pepper sauce; ancho chile-honey glazed salmon served with spicy black bean sauce and roasted jalapeno crema; and mango & spice crusted tuna steak with green peppercorn, toasted pine nut cous cous and green chile sauce. The desserts are equally creative and make good use of fine ingredients, like the deep dish banana cream pie with praline wafer and hazelnut brittle. 

Complementing the fare is a quite extensive wine list with wines mainly from France, Spain and California; more than 50 Tequilas and five single village Mescals; and margaritas like the all-organic Partida with Partida Blanco Tequila, Partida Organic Agave nectar and fresh squeezed lime.

Congrats to Mesa Grill on its 15th anniversary, which in this city of constant change is quite an accomplishment. Such longevity can only mean they are doing something, or rather a lot of things, right. Here’s cheers to 15 more years!       


Photo credit: Gin and Sake & Bill Bokelmann

The Cosmopolitan Introduces “Paired” Culinary Series

Celebrity chef Shirley Chung returned to Las Vegas to co-host a sold out collaborative dinner last month at Red Plate in The Cosmopolitan. Her return to Vegas was also a return to where she used to work, as the two-time alum of Bravo’s Top Chef previously was executive chef at Jose Andres’ China Poblano, which she helped open at The Cosmo nine years ago. The collaborative dinner featured eight courses from Chef Chung and Red Plate’s Yip Cheung: three from Chef Chung, three from Chef Cheung and two collaborations, all paired with cocktails and wine. Highlights of the menu included matsutake mushrooms with steamed egg custard and matsutake consommé; braised, pressed and roasted lamb belly with spiced sesame sauce; Australian lobster tail and foie gras; and coconut tapioca pudding. 

If you missed the inaugural dinner, be on the lookout for future ones taking place in the coming months. Called “Paired,” and hosted at various restaurants within The Cosmo’s restaurant collection, the rotating culinary series features collaborative pop-up events and kitchen takeovers pairing guest chefs and industry personalities with members of The Cosmopolitan’s culinary team. 

Bottiglia Still Offering Great Value and Quality at Green Valley Ranch

Since its opening in 2016, Bottiglia (pronounced Bō tē yuh, Italian for bottle) Cucina & Enotica at Green Valley Ranch has been offering fine dining fare and beautiful decor at casual dining prices.  Situated between the casino and the south side parking lot, a bright, cheerful and airy ambience to mirror the Tuscan-style feel of Italy is accomplished with large plantation windows, an inviting outdoor patio (with fire pit) and a room awash in white with tile columns, wood floor and pillars and chairs with floral prints. A pair of Vespa scooters prominently on display at the entrance will likely catch your attention as you enter and should help put you in the mood for the Italian cuisine inside.

The restaurant is part of the Clique Hospitality group, which has several venues in Southern Nevada on and off the Strip, including Borracha Mexican Cantina situated next door, all under the tutelage of the legendary award-winning and CIA graduate Brian Massie. Executive Chef Anthony Ramirez has been in his position for 2.5 years and has been involved with quite a few menu changes in coordination and after doing tastings with Chef Masse. When asked about the use of the wood-fire oven in his dishes he said, “We start out with charcoal to get it really hot and then add oak, which burns hot and clean. The wood adds a kiss of smoke and caramelization.” About the team he works with, he added, “Usually there’s a separation between front of the house and back of the house, but that’s not the case here. I love the teamwork and how we’re a close knit family. We often have parties with staff to celebrate special occasions such as birthdays.” Chef’s welcoming personality extends to the restaurant’s guests, as he can be observed visiting with patrons in the dining room, checking on their satisfaction. You can also observe Chef and his team preparing your meal, as there is an open kitchen for all to see the action.

Worthy choices on the antipasti menu include wood-baked truffle ricotta with white truffle honey served with toasted rustic sourdough bread that exudes smoky goodness; zucchini flowers with lemon ricotta and aioli; char-grilled octopus with blood orange vinaigrette, black garlic yogurt and lemon bread crumbs; and arancini—risotto, fontina cheese and Bolognese sauce. 

House-made pastas are well represented by chicken fettuccine alfredo (one of Chef Anthony’s menu creations) with classic sauce and Parmigiana-Reggiano; and zucchini pesto with eggplant, sundried tomato and Marcona almonds, both of which can be made gluten-free upon request. 

Fish and meat entreés include a whole roasted chicken served with arugula, lemon and pepperoncini which I found to be incredibly, delightfully moist; Chilean sea bass accompanied with farro risotto, carrot purée and peas; and wood-grilled NY steak topped with crispy artichokes and served with a savory agro dolce steak sauce. 

Vegans and vegetarians aren’t left out, with several menu items offered as a vegan option, like the vegan eggplant “parm” with wood-baked eggplant and cherry tomato sauce; roasted spaghetti squash with San Marzano tomato sauce; and crispy Brussel sprouts with hazelnuts and pomegranate. 

The fare is complemented by several wines by the glass mainly from Napa/Sonoma, Italy and France; and specialty cocktails such as the fresca fizz made with Grey Goose Vodka or Bombay Saphire East Gin, raspberries, mint and prosecco. 

One of the most unique desserts I’ve ever encountered is the Tirami “Shoe”—coffee-infused lady fingers, mascarpone crème and espresso ganache scooped inside a high heel shoe fashioned from edible chocolate, which you’ll want to take a picture of as it is certainly Instagram-able. 

As mentioned in my opening, there is great value here on the regularly priced menu, but additional deals can be found every day of the week. A weekday happy hour from 5-7 p.m. offers $7 food and drinks; offered daily are bottomless Aperol Spritz and Mimosas for $18 and Rosé All Day (Da Luca Sparkling Rose´ or Seaglass Rosé) for $26; bottomless house wine is $20 Sunday-Thursday; on Tuesdays and during Sunday brunch you can get fresh shucked oysters for a buck apiece; the Vine & Dine deal on Thursdays offers 50% off all wine; and those of us lucky enough to be over 50 years of age can get a two-for-one entrée deal on Sundays from 5-7 p.m.

Bottiglia is open for dinner daily from 5-10 p.m. and for Sunday Brunch from 10 a.m.-3 p.m. For more info, to view the complete menus or to make a reservation, visit