I’ve never been much of a Mario Batali fan and after reading some of the reviews of Carnevino I was a little apprehensive about trying it. But, I decided to give it a shot anyway and I’m thrilled that I did. I think it was the best steak I’ve ever had. Now, I haven’t been to any of the other big name steak houses in Vegas, but from my limited experience at fine-dining steakhouses I do have to say that it was fabulous.

The restaurant looks very formal with it’s high ceilings, dark wood, white linens, and ornate interior. And the service started off as very formal and a little cold. But by the end it was an extremely enjoyable experience all around (maybe the wine had something to do with that).

The beef tasting menu looked impressive, but we decided to order a la carte:
- Tuna crudo: thinly sliced pieces of tuna and yellowtail adorned one side of the plate and a stack of potatoes and radishes (?) with pomegranate seeds on the other. We had to construct each bite by putting the separate ingredients together.  It was a playful dish that was delicious and different. I could have eaten 2 or three of those things.

- Pappardelle: fresh pasta and tasty mushrooms. It was a perfect size for a pasta dish to share

- Butternut squash, fregola, and parmigano reggiano: a perfect side dish with great flavor.

- Sauteed mixed mushrooms: this was probably my least favorite dish of the night. The mushrooms were a little too chewy for my liking and too oily and buttery.

- Filet w/lobster: As other review mention, steaks are brought out on a cart and sliced in front of you. Our server made the slicing and plating of it look effortless. They’re very formal in the way that they do it, making sure to pick up the sliced filet using one hand holding both a fork and spoon (kinda like chop sticks). After the filet was plated, our server finished it off with a touch of salt and a little bit of olive oil. The filet was cooked perfectly (medium to medium rare), seasoned just right, and was the most tender cut of beef I’ve ever had. The lobster tasted great but wasted mind-blowing.

- Desserts: We had two desserts. One was like a chocolate mousse… I don’t remember the description… it was good but not spectacular. However, the second dessert was. The pumpkin-filled donuts were unbelievable! I wanted to eat a whole bowl full of those little guys. The donuts were warm and moist and the pumpkin filling was like eating the best pumpkin pie ever.

Our server, Phoenix, was great. She gets high marks for not laughing at me as I mispronounced “Aragone” and “paperdelle.” What can I say… I’m asian not Italian. We ordered wine by the glass and she was a little heavy on the pour, which was an added bonus. It was a great experience all around… great food, service and wine. If you have left overs they’ll give you a ticket so you can pick them up at the hostess station on the way out. If you’re a local make sure you ask for the discount. We got 15% off our bill. woohoo!

5 Stars

— Updated below: 12/28/2010 —

The first time I went to Carnevino (last year) it was one of the best meals I’ve ever had. This time around the experience fell short.

To start we ordered the fried calamari and the big eye tuna crudo. The calamari was excellent and the hot peppers in the dish added a good amount of heat without dominating the flavor. The tuna came with approximately eight small slices and were arranged in order of leanest to fattiest. All were delicious, especially the fatty ones. Just don’t expect large chunks of fish to come out if you order this dish.

Next up was the black fettucine. Served as a small portion, this is meant to be the equivalent of an appetizer. It sounded good when our waiter recommended it, because it came with crab, jalapeños, and shallots. But the dish just didn’t deliver. There wasn’t much crab to speak of and the taste and overly-firm texture of the pasta was a turn off.

For our entrees, both couples ordered the dry aged bone-in ribeye for two. At $65 per person, it wasn’t cheap but if was more than enough meat for all of us. They wheel it out on a cart and slice it tableside. The dish is finished with a touch of sea salt and olive oil. Our ribeye was a slightly bloody medium rare as we ordered and absolutely delicious. They also leave the bone on the table which was one of the best parts of the meal. I wasn’t going to be shy about trying it either. I picked it up and gnawed on it for a while, cleaning off all the meat I could. And, I have to say that the meat from the bone was the most flavorful and memorable bites of the night. As good as that steak was however, I prefer the ribeye at CUT to this one. Not only is it cheaper (per person), but the smaller and thinner cut of beef allowed for more seasoning and more of the crust on each bite.

Our sides were the sauteed mixed mushrooms with spring onions, brussels sprouts with pancetta, and a butternut squash dish with pine nuts and capers. All were amazing and the brussels sprouts were some of the best I’ve ever had.

So, while I still think Carnevino is an excellent restaurant, I would recommend it for the appetizers and sides (you can’t go wrong with any of the ones we tried) but the pastas can be hit or miss. Their filet mignon, which I had my previous visit, is amazing and still ranks as the best filet I’ve ever had. I’m still tempted to go back and try their porterhouse for two or their riserva steak — aged for over a year.

4.5 Stars

— Updated below: 12/20/13 —

On a return trip to Carnevino I experienced the best steak tartare I’ve ever had. Too bad they don’t give out awards for that. This one would take the prize home every year. Made from freshly ground dry-aged porterhouse and their uber dry-aged riserva beef (aged for six months or more, I believe?), the dish was a collection of intense beef flavors accompanied by a minimal number of ingredients that only served to enhance the umami-ness (I’ll take credit for making that up) of it all. According to the bartender, the tartare is made differently each night based on the cuts of beef available. I hope that’s not true. I’d be devastated if this was a unique occurrence never to be replicated again.

5 Stars

The Palazzo
3325 Las Vegas Blvd S
Las Vegas, NV 89109
(702) 789-4141

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