Lively and fun gourmet lunch at Las Vegas’ Lago by Julian Serrano

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I have a hand-written letter that sits on top of my desk. It was written by my late father, many years ago. In it, he rhapsodized about how a meal at Las Vegas’ Bellagio hotel was . . . “worth it”. Lago by Julian Serrano — 2 time James Beard Award winner and Top Chef team winner — is just the type of place that delighted him. He would have appreciated the clean white background with sharp, bright color accents, reminiscent of Chihuly’s work. He would have loved the up-close views of the fountains. And, of course, he would have loved the artistry and quality of Julian Serrano’s take on light and refreshing Mediterranean cuisine. I was happy to be hosted to experience it!

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I started with a dramatically presented cocktail, the Sgroppino: Pallini Limoncell “Sgroppino” with a golden cocoa butter sphere, Pallini Limoncello sorbet and Nino Frano Prosecco with orange zest. The bubbly wine is poured over the sphere, table-side. It’s a sweet drink, but like a fine ice wine, the acidity of the citrus balances the flavors. The cocoa butter is an unusual touch, but is a fun, rich mouthful.

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Las Vegas is a town known for indulgence. So, even with a charcuterie starter, you can order some of the finest in the world: imported Iberico ham de Bellota “pata negra”. The famous “black footed” ham had two favor and texture aspects. The meat was aged, but not gamy. There was a hint of salt, earthy and musty flavors. The fat was clean creaminess, like butter. It was sliced impossibly thing, served with a tomato crudo, enhanced by garlic and herbs, along with broken pieces of flat breads. The sweet, bright tomato well complimented the rich meat.

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For the main course, they had a special offering that day: lobster with linguini and pomodoro sauce. The lobster was super fresh and sweet, delicate, with the whole tail being the focus of the dish — not overwhelmed by strands of pasta. Orange and yellow cocktail tomatoes added juicy bites. I was given the option of ordering it on the spicy side, which added further intense flavor. Cippolini — baby onions — added natural sweet depth to the sauce. This was a perfect lunch main course: satisfying, without being heavy.

I sampled a couple of desserts, both decadent in a proper mid-day way. Cannolini with candied orange peel, pistachios and chocolate chips was a more flavorful, interesting version of the classic dessert. Chocolate hazelnut rich mousse is topped with edible gold! Will it bring you luck at the gaming tables outside? I daresay so!

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