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Desert Companion

Side Dish Awards 2015

More dishes and dining trends of 2015 that our critics savored

Brunch of the year

Bardot Brasserie

When Bardot Brasserie opened, its brunch got all the attention for a shocking rumor: the brunch “out-Bouchon’d Bouchon.” Bardot went head-to-head with the crown jewel of French-style brunch in Vegas — and won. Not only is this the kind of refined brunch that makes you want to wear a tie, but the work they put into it is massive. The pastry basket alone has both a canelle and a kougin aman, two of the most difficult pastries in the entirety of French baking. It’s just one instance of the passion for perfection Bardot pours into every item on the menu. MW
(in Aria at CityCenter, 877-230-2742, aria.com)

 

Service of the year

Le Cirque

There exists no level of service, class, and professionalism like that provided by the front-of-house staff at Le Cirque. Nearly the entire team has been there since the very beginning of Bellagio, 1998, including General Manager Ivo Angelov, who coordinates every aspect of the experience, from the silverware to the lighting, and can still make everyone who walks in feel like a VIP. At Le Cirque, the service itself is an art. MW

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(In the Bellagio, 702-693-8865, bellagio.com)

 

Surprise of the Year

Lunch at Artisanal Foods

The city’s best lunch is not on the Strip, nor is it Downtown. It’s in a makeshift dining room at a warehouse behind the airport. The Café at Artisanal Foods — a six-seat, lunch-only spot — is a brilliant collaboration between gourmet food purveyor Brett Ottolenghi and Chef Johnny Church. Expect unusual ingredients, sourced from Artisanal’s in-house retail shop, to be thoughtfully prepared and reasonably priced. (Ottolenghi will charismatically sell you on eating aquarium fish, but I’m partial to Church’s pancakes with seared foie gras.) DL
(2053 Pama Lane, 702-436-4252, artisanalfoods.com)

 

Bar food of the year

Five-course tasting plate at Andre’s

Even for those who love a refined, drawn-out, multi-course meal at a fine dining establishment such as Andre’s, the task can be daunting. Here, they’ve done something that was a long time coming: shrinking a five-course meal down onto one incredible plate for $50, letting the diner enjoy the symphony of flavors without dedicating hours to it, or an entire paycheck. The five courses follow the traditional script, but the specific dishes change daily: a salad, a charcuterie or terrine, a fish course, main course, and a little dessert make up this beautiful bargain of a dish. MW
(In the Monte Carlo, 702-798-7151, andrelv.com)

 

Appetizer we’ll really, really miss of the year

Crispy fried pig ears at Therapy

Pig ears may sound daunting — in the wrong hands, they can be a weapon of destruction to unsuspecting diners unfamiliar with their challenging texture — but at Therapy, the cartilage-laden snacks are cooked overnight to break down the characteristic chewiness. After being dredged in buttermilk and fried chicken flour, the result is pure porkiness with none of the difficulty; paired with a truffle honey mustard, it’s a dynamically addictive duo capable of delighting even the pickiest of diners. Word is the appetizer left with the departure of Executive Chef Daniel Ontiveros, but I’m hoping this little piggy comes all the way back home soon. JB
(518 Fremont St., 702-912-1622, therapylv.com)

 

Beer selection of the year

Atomic Liquors

This downtown spot quickly worked its way into the craft beer scene, dethroning Aces & Ales as the beer nerd’s night out. Just about every unique keg or bottling brought into Vegas gets a small allotment squirreled away for Atomic, often worked out months ahead of time with whatever inside sources conspire to keep the fine fizz flowing. Furthermore, the tap-takeovers, bottle shares and tasting events dominate the Atomic Liquor calendar, often bringing in brews that this town has never tasted before. MW
(917 E. Fremont St., 702-982-3000, atomicvegas.com)

 

Sandwich of the year

Elote and zucchini sandwich at Goodwich

The Goodwich doesn’t just make sandwiches; they’re more like artisanal dishes between bread. Each uses only the best seasonal ingredients and homemade components, but one sandwich on their summer menu really made a mark: the Street Corn. Basically Mexican corn-on-the-cob in a sandwich, it combines charred yellow corn, goat ricotta cheese, roasted summer squash, ancho chile and lime. This one made plenty of fans sad when summer vegetables went out of season, but let’s hope it makes a return rapido. MW

(1516 Las Vegas Blvd. S., 702-910-8681, the-goodwich.com)

 

Hidden gem of the year

Japanese Cuisine by Omae

In a small strip mall south of Spring Mountain on Decatur lies Japanese Cuisine by Omae, a precious experience we’re lucky to have. Why so precious? The eponymous restaurant is helmed by Takashi Omae, a Michelin-starred chef from Tokyo toiling away in our ’burbs. The tiny venue has only three seatings an evening during which the restaurant is completely yours. That means the whole restaurant. So whether you have a duo or a dozen diners, only you get to enjoy the omakase offerings driven by seasonal ingredients. Just hope the wagyu carpaccio-wrapped uni is being offered — that alone is worth the price of admission. JB

(3650 S. Decatur Blvd. #26, 702-966-8080, omaevegas.com)

 

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