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Dinner at Herbs and Rye

Met a friend for dinner last night at Herbs and Rye on Sahara.  D. and I stopped here once after their soft opening in December and liked it so much we promised ourselves we’d come back, which we did last night.  I have to say that they did a phenomenal job with this space.  Long-time Vegas residents will remember this spot as the old Venetian.  Once the Venetian closed, the space went through an unfortunate string of kitschy theme places that lasted about as long as kitschy theme places usually do.  It’s nice to see an amazing, classic place back in that space.

The weather in Vegas was awful, so we were the first people in their when we showed up at about 6:30.  We grabbed seats at one of the hightops in the bar and were quickly served some fantastic champagne cocktails and the order of calamari we wanted to nibble on while waiting for our friend to arrive.

Herbs & Rye has a philosophy of fresh ingredients and classic cocktails.  Their menu plays with that ethic, spanning the classic and not-so-classic years of American drinking – grog, anyone?  All juices and syrups are made fresh and it shows in the drinks.  The champagne cocktails were, first of all, made with ACTUAL Champagne.  The sugar cubes were well-soaked in a flavorful bitters and the large lemon rinds were fresh cut (as in get a knife while I make the drink fresh-cut) and beautifully perched on the rim of the glass.

The calamari was, alas, good but not great.  The flavor was perfect, and it was served sans the usual cup of boring sauce in a jar.  Unfortunately, having the sauce spread all over the calamari made the rings soggy very quickly and there were some disturbing pools of oil at the bottom of the plate, a sign that the oil probably wasn’t hot enough to fully crisp the breading.  On the positive, the calamari wasn’t overcooked and rubbery the way so much deep fried food often is.

Everyone was hungry enough that we skipped the flatbreads and went straight for pasta entrees.  I had the lasagna, D. ordered the carbonara and dining companion T. ordered the ravioli.  They were missing the basil sauce that was promised, but the waiter disclosed that and T went for it anyway.  Props, though, for letting us know up front that something was going to be missing.

The carbonara was very good, with heaps of crisp and fresh bacon bits drifted over the top.  The lasagna was workmanlike, which is actually a plus for me with a dish like lasagna.  The red sauce was good, fresh and had a strong wine taste from the Chianti promised in the description.  The cheese was well-cooked and not stringy at all and the meat was seasoned, fresh and present in good quantity to lend a nice bite.  The only disappointment was the ravioli, which was a bit bland.

Service was fantastic.  The waiter struck the best balance between being attentive but not annoying and we didn’t have to wait to order, get refills or for the check.  The bartender also checked in with us a few times to make sure we weren’t waiting.  This was impressive because there appeared to be one server and one bartender on in a nod to the expected slowness of a very, very rainy Tuesday night.  Even with the small staff, the waiter did a great job at managing both the dining room and checking in with the bar tables, too.

The ambiance is definitely romantic and classic.  They use brick, wood and wallpaper that can only be described as Classy Bordello to fantastic effect.  The chandeliers are kept dim and the tvs over the bar are  tuned to the classic movie channel to give a sense of times gone by.  The bartender got a request from another table to turn one of the TVs over to Nancy Grace on headline news.  No accounting for taste, I guess.

In fact, the only real downside to dinner last night was that you can put a great restaurant in Vegas, but that means that people from Vegas are going to show up.  Not long before dinner was served a group of 4 um… highly classy… folks showed up.  Note to my fellow Las Vegans – restaurants here are no smoking and have been for several years.  The I was here before and it was okay last time bit might work on the Strip, but really, seriously, don’t be a douche.  Also, don’t go to nice places and have very loud conversations about your friends getting arrested and 86ed from some place for brawling and the price of cocaine.  It doesn’t make you look cool, hip, trendy or edgy… it just makes you sound like the loser you actually are. Kthanksbi.

Fortunately the skels didn’t stick around long because the bartender put the smack down on the smoking, didn’t buy the but last time nonsense and anyway they probably had to go find some more coke or something, so we were able to enjoy our dinner in peace and giggle at a few quiet jokes at their expense.  Aah, local color.

Since we were early, we got the happy-hour special, and all food was half off.  The total bill for 3 entrees, one appetizer and five drinks came to 94 dollars before tip.

Overall, good food, fantastic and classic cocktails, good ambiance and excellent service.

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2 Responses to "Dinner at Herbs and Rye"

  1. RT @bonne_vivante: Dinner at Herbs and Rye

  2. bonne-vivante says:

    RT @bonne_vivante: Dinner at Herbs and Rye