Want to experiment with nose-to-tail cooking at home? It’s doable, but again, it requires a little extra work. This means skipping the bland, factory-farmed pork tenderloin from your nearest supermarket and supporting smaller butchers. At Echo & Rig, zampone, or stuffed pig’s feet, are available through the restaurant’s first-floor retail shop. The traditional Italian dish is not only impressive; it’s also said to bring good luck to those who eat it — an apropos incentive for the food lovers of Las Vegas.
Start with the fact that few steakhouses put this much care and creativity into their treatment of vegetables. The fried spinach salad — a mishmash of sweet/salty, fresh/fried, and tender/crunchy — is simply the best composition of plants I’ve ever tasted. Spinach leaves, plunged in hot oil until they take on a sheer, stained-glass quality, are tossed with sharp red onion and a flavorful chile-lime vinaigrette. Sure, a deep-fried salad is everything that’s wrong with America, but it’s not all bad for you — bits of raw cauliflower and broccoli help maintain the illusion of being virtuous.
Of the 30 options in the “Vegetables & Small Plates” section, gooey macaroni and cheese, tender grilled octopus and luscious, I-don’t-care-if-it-jumped-the-shark pork belly are beyond proper. But there are also a few misses. Yucca fritters have an off-putting sour flavor, and an order of bone marrow topped with carne asada may prompt the cliché, “Where’s the beef?” (At least it didn’t send us on a post-meal mission for Crunch Wrap Supremes.)
But now is really not the time to do the small plates thing, is it? A steakhouse dinner is not complete without primal chunks of flesh and glasses of gutsy red wine. Gorge on the restaurant’s 48-ounce tomahawk chop or experiment with a more moderately priced option from the unorthodox “Butcher’s Cuts” section. Depending on the type of steak you choose, the beef is labeled USDA prime, grass-fed or Wagyu. That’s as much detail as the restaurant provides — and perhaps that’s why I enjoy eating here. Despite being indoctrinated to inquire about Bessie’s origins, there are days when I want a solid meal without a side of politics. Echo & Rig meets that need.
The restaurant’s signature Spencer steak, requested medium, arrived in perfect form. On a separate visit, the flavorful bavette (known less flatteringly as flap meat) demonstrated none of the chewy resistance that comes with its kissing cousin, flank. My only complaint is that the steaks are served with potato chips as opposed to frites.
Not only can you dine on fine viands at Echo & Rig, you can learn how critters are transformed into cuts of meat. Monthly demonstrations by the eatery’s expert butchers explain the nuances of preparing cow, pig, lamb and chicken for the plate. It’s an enticing and mind-expanding show.