"This is so curious!" says a sultry brunette in a little black dress at the next table, lifting a bite of caramelized scallop to her lips. "This is a theme restaurant – in a Las Vegas casino. Yet the cuisine rivals the best I’ve had in Manhattan!"
I, too, was rather surprised when Sinatra, Theo Schoenegger’s new restaurant at Steve Wynn’s Encore Resort, turned out to be a fine dining destination in the fullest sense of the word. A skeptic by nature, I was under the belief that the more gold records, Grammy awards, and Oscars a restaurant had on display, the more mediocre the food. Yet the restaurant was packed, and the young, trendy crowd, like me, was not of a generation to have known Mr. Sinatra.
Once seated and presented with our appetizers, I could see that Mr. Sinatra’s spirit has found a talented young partner in Chef Theo, who had been the Executive Chef at the award-winning Patina in Los Angeles. The room is buzzing with excitement and anticipation of the delights to come while Ol’ Blue Eyes softly croons in the background.
I exchange a few words with Jonathan, the helpful sommelier (who is aspiring to Master Sommelier status) in the hopes of choosing good vintages from the manageable wine list. Yes, you can find Chateau Petrus 2000 on the list for $10,000, and if you have a favorite region or producer, you can be assured it is on this list. Yet foodies who like to find affordable, hidden gems can find good offerings on this list, such as the delicious Tuscan Testamatta Casa Mata 2005 (from Tuscany, $56).
Sipping our wine, we survey the fashionably dressed crowd speaking a babel of languages. Three expensively and dramatically dressed women, sporting micro-miniskirts and the latest plastic surgery techniques, swoop down on a group of friends, all Russians, enjoying dinner. Near the garden, a young couple is oblivious to all around them in this ultra romantic setting with its open, airy room soft lighting, and mirrors. Floor to ceiling windows highlight the gorgeous, flower strewn Tuscan garden available for al fresco dining in warm weather.
Chef Theo’s cuisine is Italian, with a New York and yes, Los Angeles edge. "I create flavor combinations in my sleep," he tells me when I compliment him on the food and explain my surprise. We order the Cappesante, seared Maine diver scallop, celery, and kumquats, and are impressed by the freshness and flavor. We also share the lobster salad – a special, made up of hearts of palm and candied bits of citrus, and Tonnato, Blue Fin tuna chopped, seasoned, and served in an elaborate square configuration.
Appetizers are small yet intense, with ultra fresh, perfectly seasoned flavors that do whet the appetite for more. As this is an Italian restaurant, select a delicious looking pasta from the menu, such as agnolotti (small pockets filled with ricotta and herbs, parmesan sauce and chives), and rigatoni (shrimp, fresh tomato, basil). For entrees I enjoy my cioppino, a very light presentation of bass, lobster, shrimp, clams, and fennel in a tomato saffron broth. "This dry aged steak is great," says my friend, of the 14oz dry aged New York strip with cipolin onions he ordered. "And I love this mushroom!" he says of the king trumpet mushroom by his steak.
We could not stay for dessert, but the cuisine and service here are first rate. You will definitely want to order many courses here, including pasta and the many delectable side dishes to fully experience Chef Theo’s cuisine. If you visit during the warmer months, be sure to book a table in the patio. It is like you are in Florence all over again.
Sinatra Wynn Encore Resort 3131 Las Vegas Blvd S Las Vegas, NV 89109 (702) 770-7000