Is Angelo Sosa the next Wolfgang Puck? Ol’ Wolfy started a Vegas revolution when he opened Spago back in ’92 and other celebrity chefs followed. Sosa is one of the first TV celeb chefs to open a spot in the Vegas ‘burbs and hopefully more will follow (it’s great to hear Bradley Ogden has plans to open a new restaurant in Tivoli soon, too). Comparing Sosa’s culinary chops to Puck’s might be premature right now, but there’s no doubt that his food is a welcome addition for Vegas’s west side.

Taking over the space formerly occupied by Petra in Tivoli Village, the narrow two-story space is intimate and chic. There are subtle hints that allude to the restaurant’s asian gastropub concept without making the place look too cliched with asian flair. The food showcases a wide range of eastern flavors in dishes that are still familiar and approachable to the restaurant’s target audience.

Items I’ve tried include:

Jarred tuna ($12) – A unique presentation with the tuna tartar in a square glass dish and accompanied by several pieces of grilled bread. The quality of the tuna was silken smooth with enough heat to separate it from most other tartars. This was a dish we tried on both visits. The second time the level of spiciness was considerably higher and the bread burnt and stale.

Watermelon and goat cheese ($8) – The cubed watermelon made for a simple and elegant presentation and the candied wasabi added a variety of textures to the wonderful mix of flavors.

Pork pot stickers ($9) – This traditional dish came as an order of five dumplings sitting in a shallow bowl with a sweet, thick sauce underneath.

Tuna deviled eggs ($12) – It was a pleasant surprise to see this atypical plating of deviled eggs. The eggs were cut up in pieces and sitting next to a mound of diced tuna. The eggs and tuna were an odd combination that worked deliciously well.

Korean BBQ short ribs ($11) – Five small pieces of short ribs were stacked on a saucer. The typical sweetness and spicy depth of Korean ribs was replaced with a more mild profile that was dominated mainly by the charred exterior.

Steak and potatoes ($23) – It may not be one of my favorite cuts of beef, but the skirt steak was full of flavor and the sauce — a mixture of sesame oil and soy sauce possibly — lent a wonderful sweetness to the otherwise savory dish.

Pork belly ($21) – A very interesting dish with a large strip of pork belly with a thick tempura-like exterior topped with cabbage, pears, etc. I loved the different sweet and sour notes of the dish and the bold, savory flavors. Biggest issue is that the thick crust takes away from the best part of pork belly —  taking a bite and experiencing the crispiness of the crust, the lusciousness of the fat, and the tenderness of the meat. The crust dominated the textures and while it was a delicious dish, it doesn’t beat eating a more simple version of pork belly.

Chocolate cake ($7) – Baked in a tea cup, the delicate and airy cake was accompanied by miso ice cream and caramel popcorn.

Strawberry shortcake ($7) – I thought it was supposed to be soaked in sake?! I didn’t taste it. A decent dessert with it’s miso ice cream, but I preferred the richness of the chocolate cake to the subtleness of the shortcake.

They also have a kid’s menu for those that want to dine early with the little ones. It’s a smart move considering it’s the suburbs. Another smart move is the pricing. Way cheaper than eating on the Strip, meaning my wallet won’t take as much of a beating when i dine out. There were some inconsistencies in food and service between our two visits, with our second trip leaving us slightly less enthused than our first. But, Poppy Den will undoubtedly remain a hot spot in the Summerlin/West side area and hopefully signals the start of a more interesting and mature dining scene.

4 Stars

Tivoli Village
440 S Rampart
Las Vegas, NV 89145
(702) 802-2480

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