Sunday, March 10, 2013

Scarpetta @ Cosmopolitan Casino and Resort Hotel

As much as I am critical regarding the outlandish folly that which is the Strip, there are, in my opinion, a few exceptional culinary experiences that you can only get here and nowhere else; with breathtaking, majestic feats of visionary engineering, the Strip personifies man's ability to create way beyond his present environment and envision a future filled with unlimited possibilities.  And when a night on the town includes that man-made wonderland, you get magic, an 'Umami' of all the senses.

Scarpetta by Chef Scott Conant encompasses that dining experience, and out of all his venues bearing the same name, I enjoy the Vegas restaurant by far.  Although all the restaurants are elegant with great food, this restaurant takes the Vegas experience and showcases style with understated design gestures.  'Scarpetta' means little shoe in Italian, a reference to the menu's 'soulfulness'...  Guess my mind wandered to other, the foot fetish variety - shrimping anyone?  No? Too far?

The design is deceptively tame; meaning that it's not drenched in the typical Vegas gaudy, interior so-five-seconds ago gimmicks that cause visual Norovirus.  But once you situate and settle down, you notice the lyrical design flow lending itself to a relaxing, calming evening. By then the Fountains at the Bellagio will have sprung into full effect, with sweeping side views of the Lake and the beautiful architecture as a backdrop for the dynamic geysers bursts - a stunning piece of visual entertainment lasting the night.

After dining at Scarpetta on numerous occasions, I've come to the conclusion that although everything on the menu is good, I naturally gravitate towards the Pasta section of the menu.  I enjoy all of the home made pastas and the balance with the ingredients that Chef Conant pairs with them.

And to be honest, I'm just tired of entrees, they've become burdensome, overpriced and unusually large with the same old formula: big ass protein with some creamy mush underneath it with a side of blah..yawn. It almost makes you wanna become a vegetarian.  If anything, I'd get some apps, but I've eaten most of them on the menu; I do recommend the Creamy Polenta + Fricassee of Truffled Mushrooms, The Heirloom Beet Salad and the Braised Shortribs of Beef. (They push the Yellowtail as their signature classic- really...if I wanted Sashimi, I'd go eat at a Japanese restaurant where it's served pure, you really don't need any heavy Onions or Olive Oil or Jalapeños to mask the flavor of this delicious protein.....TRUTH).  So in this post, the dishes will be comprised of Pasta...and Dessert.  Carbs and Sugar, deal with it.

Spaghetti + Tomato +Basil

An all time favorite of mine, this dish is as simple as it can get (it's up there with Spaghetti all' Aglio Olio e Pepperoncino) but so fresh and light with just a few ingredients, the Pasta shines through as the main character which, being the carb addict that I am, is harmonious!  It's presented as the first dish, based on its levity and absence of protein.  Great first dish, it can considered an App if you want.

Ricotta + Truffle Agnolotti

The second dish in the fete de pasta is a deep contrast to the acidity of the prior dish, the fluffy pillows filled with Ricotta and covered in a light Truffle Cream Sauce.  I love using the term 'pillows', it describes these soft chewy bite size packages of pasta like a metaphoric squishy rest to the head; that, "ahhh" moment when your cranium sinks into a downy cloud.....I love sleep..
The creamy Truffle white sauce has just enough weight to coat your palate without any buyer's remorse and the quantity is perfect for two.

Black Tonarelli + King Crab + Coddled Egg + Smoked Trout Roe

I'm always excited when I see Squid Ink Pasta on any menu - I relish the slightly briny noodle that goes well with all Seafood toppings.  With this dish, it's even more decadent with the introduction of the Coddled Egg, coating every strand with a sticky liquid goo. It's such oral satisfaction.  Oh, and there's Crab, you really can't go wrong when there's Crab.  Well, you can, but it's not worth mentioning in any review.  Needless to say, the Crab was sweet and delicious, moist flakes of flesh balanced well with the pasta.

Pici + Lobster +Preserved Tangerine + Bottarga

Pici is thick cut pasta, a fat spaghetti, akin to Udon.  It is hearty and appropriately the last pasta course of the evening.  The Pici is paired with Lobster, Preserved Tangerine and Bottarga, a cured fish roe.  The Bottarga amps up the salty briny element while the the juicy Lobster gives a sweet delicate flavor - all the ingredients manage to balance out with the Pasta, which never plays as a backdrop to these ingredients and maintaining the integrity of the noodle without fuss gets my respect.

Salted Caramel Budino + Pretzel Toffee

The Salted Caramel Budino is actually a dessert from D.O.C.G., but with a little pleading to our waiter, they were able to accommodate us with this off menu item.  I am in heaven with this lusciously creamy sweet concoction that leaves you in a sugar coma! Budino is an Italian pudding with a layer of Toffee gravy glaze and a thick whippy cream quenelle - this is a seriously dangerous dessert, not for beginners!

Caramella Milk Chocolate Mousse + Sautéed Yellow Peaches + Praline Crunch + Pistachio Bastoni

lotta crap, so little on the plate

Okay, this was a bit of a surprise-under our waiter guidance, we ordered this dessert for the first time (normally it's the Panna Cotta). But throwing caution to the wind, we ended up with this... this plate of what can only be described as a kindergarden art project with chocolate squares and pistachio logs....  I wonder if the chefs are so bored that they need to play with the food and at the same time give us less.  And in the end, it didn't really have much flavor as compact as it was- it was like a plate of Mignardises that usually come with a post-meal hot beverage.

Last dessert aside, I find myself wanting to come to Scarpetta when I feel like dining in a romantic atmosphere or find myself celebrating a special occasion. It's a beautiful space with a panoramic view, and I believe that this is the new direction that all Vegas restaurants should go, a Vegas 2.0!  

Scarpetta on UrbanspoonRatings (Out of Five Stars)
Food:            4.75
Ambience:    4.75
Service:         4.5

side note:  it's day three of renovations and they're still not finished. And with all the thunderous banging going on, the post may have perhaps, slightly become bitchier towards the end... thank the raging headache for that.....and these silly workmen...