Sunday, December 6, 2009

Postrio

I believe Wolfgang Puck to be an exceptional chef. I also believe his restaurant empire has become a little too large and unwieldy to be properly managed. On visits to a few of his outlets in Vegas and elsewhere (Wolfgang Puck Cafe and Chinois to name a couple) I have found the food to be widely inconsistent and just above average at best. But, he makes boatloads of money off of numerous sub-par outlets and the occasional gem, so I don't see a decline coming in the near future. Postrio, however, happens to be one sparkling gem in this restaurant king's crown.

Taking up its fair share of Saint Mark's Square in The Venetian, Postrio has two Italian dining options to compete with that are within 100 feet of its front desk. One of those two, Enoteca San Marco, is one of my favorite lunch spots on the strip, but if I'm there at dinner time Postrio will definitely be the place.

The menu here is fairly new. Wolfgang Puck's corporate site still lists this outpost as a "bar and grill" serving California cuisine with Mediterranean influences. They need to update their site to let people know that this place has come to play with the big boys of authentic Italian cuisine here in Las Vegas. While it does still hold on to some California influences, like a Shrimp Louis or a lobster club sandwich, the more classical Italian dishes truly shine here.

It isn't the menu that impresses me most here, or even the very accessible and good wine list, it's the execution of the dishes. Just like a significant other, a restaurant can look great on paper but not be worth the price of admission if the execution isn't there. Pastas are cooked perfectly as are meats, and flavors are bold yet balanced. The Ricotta Gnocchi with Wild Mushrooms and Truffle essence is my new favorite way to eat gnocchi, and that's saying something. My girlfriend has been talking about going back just for the Pumpkin Ravioli with butternut squash and whatever the amazing sauce was that made the whole dish that much better. But the Veal Osso Bucco takes top honors in my book. Served with root vegetables (carrots were a little undercooked, the only slight misstep from a rock solid kitchen) and an amazing rendition of a creamy polenta, the meat and the marrow were perfectly seasoned and cooked.

The menu shows seasonal changes but seems to keep around many of the basic dishes with tweaks to ingredients based on the time of year. This is another positive. And, it means if my girlfriend wants that pumpkin ravioli again she should probably get back soon. If you're smart, you'll get there ASAP too.

Brian William Waddell is a foodie, beer geek, and author. His numerous blog posts range from food to politics. He also has a book of poetry, Fractured Prose, available here, and is ready to publish his second poetic endeavor.