In between telling me how great he is at Kung Fu, my portly, middle-aged cab driver who I totally don't believe is telling me how all none of the buildings we’re driving past existed a few years ago.
We’re driving out to Summerlin, about a 25 minute drive from the Las Vegas proper, and as the massage parlours and wedding chapels give way to strip malls, it’s beginning to feel more and more like suburbia.
After a week being bounced around in the joy-compulsory hustle of the mega-casinos and the neon-lit, ersatz hedonism of The Strip, it’s no bad thing, let me tell you. Oh, give me a home where the families just back from Timmy’s high school soccer game roam, just for an evening, PLEASE.
That said, we don’t need to go full Olive Garden just because we’re leaving the thick of things. The outer reaches of Las Vegas can still deliver interesting dining experiences and best of all, you don’t have to be elbow-wrestling with dozens of other people in an overhyped outpost of some famous chef’s brand, either.
On paper, Andiron is basically a steakhouse in a small retail/business park. If that doesn’t set your pulse racing, then fair enough, but look beyond that prosaic description, peep the kind of awards it’s bringing home (Eater’s Las Vegas Restaurant of the year AND chef of the year in 2015) and then check your preconceptions with your kung fu taxi driver, people.
Under the semi-domed ceilings, the largish dining room nods at you with understated class, whites and subtle greens providing a comforting sensory retreat after the jarring crassness of pretty much all the casino restaurants. A semi-transparent bar proves a natural break between the drinking and dining areas, and there’s space enough between the tables to not have to watch what you say too much.
My friend and I lined up some seafood starters and a fish/steak mains combo to get at least some taste of life beyond the beef list, leaving our server to suggest a wine that would thread the eye of that tricky culinary needle, which they did with aplomb (a nice, light red that somehow held its own despite the diverse claims on its flavour).
First out, the tuna poke and grilled octopus. I think the best way to classify them is by the amount of time they physically existed on the table as food, which would be “very little”, not due to small portions but to obvious irresistibility. Octopus especially is easy to do very badly, but the delicacy on display here was noteworthy.
For mains, my friend went with the perky, all-round crowd pleaser of the steak world, the classic, wholesome homecoming cut, the New York Strip. I, pescatarian philistine that I obviously am, went with the Grilled Branzino, simply because I had never heard of it before and I like adventure. Turns out it’s a delicious European Sea Bass with mild white flesh, but in good hands here, it elevates itself from that tepid description.
The NY Strip is no slouch either, and is reassuringly tender, with lovely melted fats and unapologetic juiciness. We throw in a side of Jalapeno Bacon Churros because why not and I kind of want to come back and just sit and eat two orders of those. And by ‘kind of’, I mean ‘ definitely’.
Dessert is a blur of their deconstructed Snickers (a delight) and some top notch tawny port and as we finish up, it’s good to know that the people that actually live in Vegas have places like this to eat at, where they don’t have to pay over the odds to cram into a noisy adult crèche.
It’s even better to discover these places as a visitor, and as long as you don’t get too rowdy, I don’t think they mind you being here. Just act like a respectful local and they won’t get too aggro. And if they do, I have the number of this taxi driver who’s great at Kung Fu.
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