— Originally posted on Yelp on 6/14/10 —

The “Off the Strip” location in Southern Highlands has gotten some great reviews not just from Yelp but from almost every other review site out there. So, when I found out that they have a new location close to my house I decided to finally check them out. It’s located on Tropicana a few blocks west of Fort Apache in a small strip mall. When you first walk in, the bar will be straight ahead, the dining area to the right, and a lounge area with pool tables and dart boards to the left. This is a gaming establishment so they’ve got all the usual bar-side games as well. I’m not sure how much redecorating they’ve done since they took over this space from the previous gaming tavern because there are some design elements that don’t exactly fit the Italian/New American cuisine they serve. The bar is covered with a tin roof and there’s a lot of fake wood lining the top sections of the walls (a la crown molding).

The customer service was fabulous. The second we walked in the bartender and manager (I think ?) welcomed us and acted like we were regulars there. We were seated in the dining area, where there was only one other party. Throughout our dinner we were served by the manager and a waiter. Drinks were brought out quickly, orders taken soon after, water was refilled often, and we didn’t have to wait long for the food to arrive. The manager stopped by a few times to check if we liked the food and chatted a bit. He talked about everything from  the fresh ingredients they use to wine in Germany compared to wine from California to being retired from the military and taking this job to help out his friends.

Our 2-year old son was with us and a few seconds after we sat down the waiter brought over a couple coloring books and crayons for him to play with. Very nice touch. They don’t have a kids menu but the manager offered to make him some boneless wings and fries after asking us what he likes/doesn’t like. Their menu isn’t very large and they said they don’t have everything that the Southern Highlands location offers. But, based on the items we tried the quality and execution of the dishes are excellent.

We started off with the NY Asparagus ($12.00) — thin slices of NY strip wrapped around asparagus and grilled. There are two per order and they come out in a mushroom sauce that is delicious. What a great concept — wrapping asparagus in meat. That’s a sure way to get me to eat vegetables.

For entrees, we ordered the Rigatoni alla Vodka ($17.00) and the Lobster Ravioli ($22.00). The sauces for both looked and tasted the same which, according to their menu, consists of a vodka cream sauce with tomatoes, mushrooms, asparagus, and shallots. Both dishes were very good, although I thought the lobster dish was too heavily sauced and took away from the flavor of the lobster and ricotta filling of the ravioli. The chunks of lobster could have been larger in my opinion, as well.

The entrees came with a side salad (choice of house or caesar). We tried both and enjoyed them. It was nice to see the salad served as small portions, like they should be, and NOT ridiculously huge Cheesecake Factory-sized portions. The entrees, however, were big. But, I’m not complaining because now we have dinner for the next night since we each only had half of our entree.

Even though we were stuffed, they brought out a complimentary slice of cheesecake. It was rich, creamy and smooth New York Style cheesecake with a few strawberries and a little whipped cream on the side. Between the three of us it didn’t last long.

I don’t think the food was perfect and the dishes we had probably rate closer to 4-star quality. But the service was so friendly, so excellent that I have to round up and give them 5-stars. It’s a great neighborhood hangout and a cheaper alternative to other Italian/American places on the strip.

They have $2 domestic drafts for happy hour and, from what we were told, on Mondays and Tuesdays the food is 25% off.

5 Stars

— Updated below: 8/29/10 —

I’m bumping them down to 4 stars. I still think this is a great local place, but their kitchen tends to be heavy handed with sauces.  The last time we went I got the panko crusted pork chop. It was a huge, tender cut but was drowning in a soy sauce-based sauce that was way too sweet. The service, as always, was excellent and they have Fat Tire on tap for 3 bucks. I’ll still come back, but their cooks really need to lighten up with the sauces.

4 Stars

9837 W Tropicana Ave
Las Vegas, NV 89147
(702) 876-3080

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