Venetian (last visit: May 2009).
Named after owner and chef Mario Batali, and co-owner and winemaker Joseph Bastianich, B&B Ristorante is a fairly new restaurant in The Venetian Hotel. Part of Batali's New York based empire, B&B is the more formal of his two Las Vegas restaurants (Enoteca San Marco is the other).
Anyone who has eaten at Babbo in New York will recognize most of the entries on the menu. In addition to more usual meats and seafood, there are a number of dishes featuring offal or less usual meats. Pasta is of course featured as well.
The meal is organized in the traditional Italian manner. The meal starts with an appetizer (antipasto), followed by a primo (which is often, but not necessarily, a pasta), then a secondo, along with side dishes (contorni). Of course, let us not forget dessert. I thought the servings were generous but not huge. However, if you're a modest eater, you may wish to order either a primo or secondo, but not both.
There is a lot of wood, both light and dark. Lighting is low.Tables are simply adorned, including a plain white table cloth. With so many hard surfaces, the room is noisy when full. However, I didn't find the music nearly as loud as I had expected, given the number of reviews emphasizing this.
Service has been reasonable, but with a couple of rough edges. On my first visit, service started out a little slow. The server delivered a menu, explained it, then disappeared for an overly long time. However, he was very pleasant, and the meal itself was timed well. On my second visit, things went smoother, but the server needed a little polish: he tried so hard to please as to be obsequious.
The meal started with an amuse bouche of chickpeas and olive oil on crisp rounds of bread. Maybe I was hungry, but I thought it had very good flavor. The chickpeas were soft but not mushy, and the bread's crunchiness was a pleasing contrast.
My first course was warm lamb's tongue with chanterelle mushrooms and a poached egg. I was a little hesitant to order this, as my only exposure to tongue has been delicatessen style cow's tongue, of which I'm not too fond. However, this dish was excellent. The lamb's tongue was fine grained, with a very rich meaty flavor. A marinade added just the right amount of sourness. Sweet tomato and wonderful chanterelles added to the dish, and the three minute egg added rich liquid to the dish. I used the crusty, slightly charred bread to sop it up.
For my primo, the server recommend orecchiette with sweet sausage and rapini. Good recommendation. Orecchiette translates to something like "little ear", and is a lot like what U.S. supermarkets sell as macaroni shells. The pasta was cooked perfectly - very firm but still cooked through - and the flavors went well together. This dish wasn't quite as good as the lamb's tongue, but it was still very good indeed.
My secondo was fennel dusted sweetbreads. If you've never tried sweetbreads, or have tried them but aren't sure you like them, this is the place to order them. Served with sweet and sour onions and duck bacon, the very crispy outside contrasted with the smooth but firm insides. Some sort of mushroom juice was poured into the bottom of the bowl. Its moisture and its flavor were just right. Another very good dish, perhaps just a hair behind the lamb's tongue.
At this point, it's worth commenting on a point I've heard made by some other reviewers - that Batali has too heavy a hand on the salt shaker. At home I tend to use little salt, yet I didn't find Batali's use of salt objectionable - more than I'd use, but not objectionable. However, I did end up drinking a lot of water throughout the meal, especially during the pasta course, so your mileage may vary.
Finally, dessert: warm chocolate budino with peppermint gelato. It was, fortunately, a very small portion: rich chocolate cake with dense chocolate ganache, served warm. The gelato was wonderful! Make sure to order gelato in some form or other. If you can't arrange a visit here, go to the more casual Enoteca San Marco, where you can sit at the bar and just order gelato; it seems to be the same as at B&B.
The meal started with the same amuse bouche as last time: chickpeas and olive oil on crisp rounds of bread. Still good.
I began my meal with Crispy Rabbit Leg with Bitter Greens and Horseradish. It consisted of a crispy (even crunchy) leg, bone in. The meat was soft and tasty; the grated horseradish on top was very good; the bitter greens were also a good foil, both in flavor and texture. All in all, a good combination of textures and flavors; it was nearly as good as last meal's lamb's tongue.
My primo: Beef Cheek Ravioli with Black Truffles and Crushed Duck Liver. Seven triangular ravioli filled the plate. The pasta was thin, very firm and not salty. The filling was a puree with a strong liver flavor. I like it.
Next came a daily special: Pig Tail Milanese. The pig tail was boned, spread flat, breaded and fried. To this was added pesto, a little mint, roasted tomatoes, two types of beans and arugula. This was a rich dish; the fatty tail, made oilier still by frying, might not be appreciated by all. Call it good.
Dessert would be another special. B&B has excellent gelato. This night they offered banana. I went for it, although it was a tough decision, because they also offered chocolate brownie chunk. It was a good choice. As before, the gelato base was very creamy and smooth. The banana flavor was strong without being too sweet. Just right.
I've read a number of very complimentary reviews - and some not so complimentary reviews. Based on my meals, I side with the very complimentary camp. However, my choices were on the more unusual side, so it's hard to say what this means with respect to more normal dishes. Nonetheless, this restaurant is definitely on my repeat list.
Both meals were about $80, plus drinks and tip.
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