Friday, August 8, 2014

Sage in Vegas: A Worthy Splurge

From France to Lebanon to South Africa, a fascinating vinous journey to begin our Vegas vacation. Enhancing the experience, the wines accompanied compelling dishes, creating a superb culinary evening.

Dinner at the Sage restaurant in the Aria Hotel.

While deciding on which restaurants to patronize while in Vegas, my good friend Adam recommended Sage. He had dined there previously and couldn't rave about his experience enough. I trust his palate and had also read some other very positive reviews of Sage, so we decided to dine there one evening. Due to scheduling issues, we ended up going to Sage on our first evening in Vegas, and the experience set a high bar for the rest of the trip. It was a top notch dinner, with excellent wines and attentive service. A perfect choice.

Sage serves "contemporary American cuisine spiced with global influences" and includes "farm-to-table produce, artisanal meats and sustainable seafood.." Chef Shawn McClain, who also owns the Green Zebra in Chicago, is originally from San Diego. He has spent much of his culinary career in Chicago, and opened Sage in Vegas in 2009. This is a high-end restaurant, with an elegant ambiance that avoids being pretentious. The restaurant's initial dining area, which is a bit more casual, also has a lengthy bar, while the second dining area is the more elegant.

The food menu has several options, from a la carte choices to a few different tasting menus. There is a three-course Early Evening Menu ($59), a four-course Signature Tasting Menu ($89) and an eight-course Chef's Tasting Menu ($150). On the a la carte menu, you will find Starters (9 choices at $16-$27), Salads (3 choices at $18-$24), Steaks & Braises (4 choices at $41-59), Lighter Meats (3 choices at $37-$44), and Pasta & Seafood (4 choices at $41-$44). There were no Specials on the evening we dined, but the menu has plenty of interesting choices.

The wine list at Sage was intriguing and diverse, and the prices were not outrageous. We spoke with the Master Sommelier, Nick Hetzel, and he was knowledgeable, personable and passionate. The list he composed has some big names, but also some intriguing, lesser known, but still excellent, wines. This is clearly a restaurant which has a passion for wine, and which wine lovers will cherish.

We started off with the Catherine et Pierre Breton "Le Dilettante" Vouvray Brut, a sparkling wine from the Loire. The winery is certified organic and is also seeking Biodynamic certification. Made in the méthode traditionnelle, this wine is produced from 100% Chenin Blanc, the vines which are about 40 years old. Dry and compelling, there were delicious tastes of peach and apple, with hints of citrus, spice and an underlying minerality. It was clean and refreshing, an excellent way to begin our meal, and a wine I would recommend to any lover of bubbly.

I began my dinner with the Roasted Veal Sweetbreads ($18), which come with glazed bacon, creamy white polenta and trumpet mushrooms. Who wouldn't love that large, thick slab of glazed bacon atop the dish? Tender and flavorful, it went well with the slightly crunchy coating of the sweetbreads and their moist interior. Everything in this dish was delicious and worked well together, such a delight of textures and flavors. Highly recommended.

Our second wine was the unique 2001 Chateau Musar Blanc, a Lebanese white wine. I've previously enjoyed red wines from Chateau Musar but never had one of their whites before. This wine is made from two indigenous grapes, Obaideh and Merwah, and is fermented in French oak barriques for 9 months. It is then bottled but not released until 7 years after harvest, so this wine was not released until 2008. It is a slightly oxidized style, and I loved it. More full bodied, it possessed a complex melange of flavors which intrigued my palate. Notes of honey and apricot, smoke and caramel, citrus and pear. Each sip seemed to bring new flavors to mind, and it evolved over the course of the dinner, getting more intriguing as the night went on. Highly recommended, and this wine appears to be available in Massachusetts through Ruby Wines.

For my second course, I chose a Melon Salad (which is not listed on their online menu) with thin strips of pork belly as well as strips of ricotta cheese. A nice combination of flavors and textures, with the fresh fruit of the melon and the saltiness of the pork belly and ricottta. A refreshing palate cleanser after the heavier dish of sweetbreads.

Our next wine was the 2012 Sadie Family Die Ouwingerdreeks Soldaat, a South African wine from the Swartland region. "Soldaat" means "soldiers" and this wine is made from 100% Grenache Noir, reminding me of some Rhône wines. The bold fruit flavors, from cherry to strawberry, were enhanced by spicy & earthy notes. It seemed both fresh and mature, an interesting dichotomy which made this a fascinating and delicious wine. Restrained tannins, a lengthy finish, and nice acidity make this another wine I highly recommend.

And a perfect pairing for the Soldaat was the Bacon-Wrapped Iberico Pork Loin ($44), with smoked apple, asparagus, and celery root panna cotta. The pork alone was wonderful, tender and rich in flavor, and the bacon only made it more hedonistic. This is one of their signature dishes and I understand its popularity. A fine entree which is going to satisfy any pork lover.

The Dessert menu has 8 choices, priced $14-$20, and I opted for a Watermelon Mousse dish (which is not listed on their online menu).  As I wasn't taking formal notes, I am unsure what else what on this dish. I do recall though that it was tasty, with a variety of textures, from creamy to crunchy, with some savory elements too.

Overall, this was an excellent dining experience and I highly recommend Sage. Service was professional and attentive, the food was well-presented and delicious, and the wines were killer. If you are going to splurge on dinner in Vegas, Sage would be a great choice.

Sage on Urbanspoon

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