Palazzo (last visit: October 2009).
I keep swearing off steakhouses, yet I keep going to them. It seems there's always an excuse. This time, it was to try a steak that had been aged a long time. A long, long time. I have science projects in my refrigerator younger than this steak. Steaks in better restaurants may be aged 3 weeks...4 weeks...even 5 weeks. The Riserva steaks at Carnevino are aged 8 months, and sometimes even longer.
Carnevino is the third restaurant in Las Vegas run by Mario Batali and Joseph Bastianich (B&B Ristorante and Enoteca San Marco are the other two).
Pretty much what you'd expect - lots of meat (it's a steakhouse) and pasta (its name is Italian), with a smattering of everything else. Riserva beef is not on the menu; it's best to call ahead if you're interested, although they don't guarantee availability.
I'm having a little difficulty conveying the feeling of the place. Perhaps big? The ceiling is some 20 feet above; the room felt large, with large windows and well spaced tables. The noise level was low to moderate, with medium vocals and blues playing in the background.
The obligatory bread basket was accompanied by butter and lardo. A fan of foods of the cholesterol persuasion, I especially enjoyed the lardo (essentially spiced pork fat).
I started with grilled octopus: a nicely charred, slightly spicy, very flavorful portion, with pieces of citrus fruit and something else that was rich and meaty. If you like octopus, order it at Carnevino.
As mentioned above, I was there for a Riserva steak. The idea behind aging is to enhance and intensify the flavor of the meat. So, if 5 weeks is good, 8 months must be better, right? Well, maybe. It takes skill to prevent the meat from turning into a science project. There's also the question as to whether the flavor has been "enhanced" past the point of edibility. My verdict: the flavor was very odd. I agree with some of the terms I've seen applied to Riserva beef, such as "musty" and "blue cheese note." The meat was drier and chewier than a regular steak, and the strong flavors were a little off putting at first -- but in general I liked it. I say "in general" because my steak included a small portion of the tenderloin. This part was much softer, and extremely strong flavored; I just couldn't handle it. Overall, I enjoyed the Riserva steak. I prefer garden variety steaks to the Riserva version, but comparing the two is like comparing fresh pork to ham -- they're two different creatures.
A side dish of sauteed mixed mushrooms with cippolini onions was a good foil for the steak. It was a little oily, but no more so than I'd expect of such a dish. It had a strong enough flavor with work well with the entree.
Service was good. The waiter was efficient and friendly. He was a bit of a fast talker, but not pushy; perhaps he didn't feel the need, considering what I ordered.
If you want an 8 month old steak, Carnevino is the only place I know of that offers it. It's worth a try. I don't feel I can comment on the restaurant as a whole, other than to say that it was a pleasant place to eat, and I'm hopeful.
The meal was $125, plus wine, tax and tip.
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