Photo courtesy Station Casinos

Christopher Hall Appointed Room Chef at Sonoma Cellar

Christopher Hall has been appointed room chef at Sonoma Cellar inside Sunset Station. The native Las Vegan grew up in the restaurant business, as his father and brother are both chefs. He began cooking at age 14 when his brother gave him his first cooking job at the Hot Rod Grille in Henderson and began working for Station Casinos in 2008, when he was only 17 years old. During the past 10 years he has worked at Sunset Station’s Capri (now named Pasta Cucina); as a broiler cook at Hank’s Fine Steaks and Martinis at Green Valley Ranch Resort; and as assistant room chef at Boulder Station’s specialty rooms: Cabo Mexican Restaurant, Pasta Cucina and The Broiler. Just more than two years ago, he transferred back to Sunset Station as assistant room chef at Sonoma Cellar Steakhouse; and in February 2017 was promoted to room chef at Pasta Cucina before moving back to Sonoma Cellar as room chef.

Commenting on working in a steakhouse setting Chef said, “I enjoy the simplicity and quality of the product; that’s what steakhouses are all about.” Along with a new chef come some new menu items and dishes Chef has added to the menu, which include crab avocado tower with jumbo lump crab, heirloom tomato, cucumber, smoked paprika and vinaigrette; jumbo lump crab cake with fried capers and red bell pepper aioli; and short rib grilled cheese with smoked gouda on brioche toast (on the bar bites menu). After trying all three, I highly recommend checking them out, and a visit to this classic steakhouse is not complete without experiencing something you don’t see very often these days: the tableside bananas Foster, complete with pyrotechnics. 

Photo by Mike Amidei

Attention Beer, Burger and Dessert Lovers: bBd’s Is Now Open at Palace Station

Station Casinos’ $192 million revamp of the 32-year-old Palace Station is switching out the railroad theme to a more contemporary design with upgrades including adding a 27-story hotel tower, boutique movie theater, bowling alley, new pool and new restaurants. An improvement worth taking special note of is the opening of bBd’s, a Rocky Point, Long Island, NY transplant whose initials stand for what it does best: beers, burgers and desserts.

When I met Chef/Owner Ralph Perrazzo (a CIA graduate who was formerly at Bradley Ogden at Caesars Palace, Jean-George in Manhattan and Clio in Boston) and GM Mike Amidei back in June, they promised the restaurant would open Labor Day weekend, and they were true to their word. During my visit a week after the opening, I was impressed as soon as I walked into the 200-seat restaurant, as the first thing I saw was a butcher room fully visible through a window, where you can view the Prime beef being prepared for the gourmet burgers on the menu. Inside, the restaurant is bedecked with wooden arched ceiling, custom chandeliers, full-length windows bringing natural light, an open kitchen and long bar. 

The restaurant’s motto is “Craftsmanship You Can Taste,” which is evident in their attention to detail and quality. USDA Certified Prime beef is used, a superior grade with amazing tenderness, juiciness, flavor and fine texture based on fat marbling and maturity that accounts for only 2% of all beef produced in the US. It is shipped in weekly from New York and after it is hand-butchered and pattied, three different cooking methods are used: fired over embers of cherrywood and charcoal, on a griddle creating a crispy brown crust or steamed over chopped onions. The quality of the product comes through in the flavor, and I proclaim the gigantic 12-oz PRIME Steakhouse Burger, which I chose to top with smoked gouda, to be my new go-to burger. It also happened to be so large I could only manage to eat a quarter of it!

There are also non-beef options including turkey burger, duck ramen, lamb gyro tacos, a variety of chicken wings and chicken sandwiches. Non-meat eaters aren’t left out, as there is a vegetarian/vegan section of the menu with falafel burger; impossible burgers made with the protein-rich, soy-free seitan; vegan Philly cheese fake; vegan BBQ nachos; and vegan wings. 

Of course the D in the name suggests desserts are taken seriously here, and six options include some unique choices like sableuse crusted cheesecake with preserved berries, lemongrass champagne sherbet, cranberry & lime; passion fruit sunflower with elderflower, black sesame meringue and pastry cream; and Valrhona liquid chocolate cake served with vanilla ice cream, chocolate crunchies and salted caramel drizzle. 

Attention to quality carries over to the beer department, and a superior beer program began with the hiring of Bar Manager Matt Alexander, a Certified Cicerone who has the beer knowledge to ensure the beer is served properly. Attention to detail can also be found in the keg room, which has three temperature zones for storing different beer styles and glycol lines to adjust the line temps; a high-tech, efficient line-cleaning system (that doesn’t waste beer!) that cleans after every keg blows; bBd’s is one of the few venues in Las Vegas where one can enjoy a cask beer, with two firkins available at all times; and a nitro-dedicated tap.

As for the heralded beer selection, I’ve been around the beer block more than a few times, and as I like to say, “It’s not my first rodeo,” so was quite pleased with the initial selection, 80% of which were beers I’d never heard of or tried. It was quite fun exploring the 35 taps and 60+ bottles and cans and adding to my delight was the fact that the list includes a large variety of beer styles including my favorites: imperial stout, barrel-aged, Belgians and wild/sour beer, such as the Evil Twin Aun Mas Café Jesus American imperial stout, Brouwerij 3 Fonteinen Oude Geuze Cuvee Armand & Gaston and Plan Bee Farm Pickleback wild ale aged in rye whiskey barrels with dill & cucumber. Further good news is that the majority of the selection will rotate constantly and while initially there was only one local beer on the list, I’ve been assured that will likely have been expanded by the time you read this.

As for the prices, burgers, which come with a side of fries, range from $8 for a single steam burger, $9 for a single griddle burger to $19 for the PRIME (about $21-25 with add-ons). Beer begins at $3.50 for a pint of a macro-brew and most of the craft drafts come in at around $7-8 with the option to order 6-oz for a reduced price as low as $4 and the opportunity to try more varieties. As the name implies, this new restaurant is a welcome breath of fresh air for beer, burger and dessert lovers; and convenient location right off the I-15, and ample free parking is another reason to revisit this iconic locals casino.   

photo courtesy Edge Steakhouse

Edge Steakhouse at Westgate Displays the Excellence of Its Young Chef and Its Dry Aging Steaks

Edge Steakhouse Executive Chef Steve Young never ceases to impress us with his talent and accomplishments at such a young age (34), having earned the Best New Chef/Rising Star award at the 2017 Silver State Awards and just recently being named to the Vegas Inc. 40 Under 40 list sponsored by the Greenspun Media Group. 

After a recent visit I can attest that the aforementioned accolades are well deserved. During our tasting Chef treated us to heirloom tomato gazpacho with King crab, pickled cucumber and lime crème fraiche; wagyu beef tartare with quail egg, caviar and truffle aioli; tomato avocado salad with pickled red onions, queso fresco and green goddess dressing; Hokkaido scallops with chorizo, jalapeño, creamed corn and piquillo pepper emulsion; and smashed fingerling potatoes with cheddar cheese curds and sundried tomato aioli. All featured a charming balance of textures, flavors and colors with stunning presentation.

Naturally the stars of the tasting were the steaks, which included NY wagyu and Prime rib-eye. Although they were served with four different steak sauces, I sampled them and found them to be quite tasty, but couldn’t bring myself to indulge in their use, as the steaks’ flavor was so rich I didn’t want to mess with perfection. The Prime meats are aged in-house, and in fact, are on display for all to see, visible through a window located just outside of the restaurant’s entrance with each cut labeled with the date its aging process began. Chef Young explained he has control of the whole process from start to finish and the 40-day dry-aging makes the meat super tender and concentrates its rich flavors, giving it a unique taste.

It’s worth pointing out that you don’t have to be a tourist to enjoy a meal at Edge. Nearly half of its clientele are locals, which is not surprising, as the steakhouse has prices well below some of the other top-rated steakhouses just a few blocks away on the Strip. Add to that free valet and self-parking, and if you join the Westgate’s WOW (World of Westgate) loyalty program, you can earn points on everything, including gaming and dining, and order from a special wine list with huge discounts on bottles.