Herringbone: Showcasing sea and farm
Recognized as a Vegas nightlife stalwart, Hakkasan Group has assembled a stable of high-quality restaurants up and down the Strip. Under the watchful eye of Top Chef alumnus Brian Malarkey, the entertainment group has acquired and opened numerous venues. Their latest is situated on the ever-popular second-level dining rotunda at Aria with Herringbone, a concept previously located only in California.
Since the endlessly energetic Malarkey has not yet found a way to clone himself, he has given the reins to returning Vegas chef Geno Bernardo, most recently at the helm of Nove at the Palms before embarking on an adventure south of the border. He brings not only his Italian roots, but also an expanded flair for world-cuisine deftly suited for showcasing the sea.
Begin with some cold fare such as seasonal oysters—Naked Cowboys were available on a recent visit—or salmon carpaccio highlighted with a spicy lemon caper dressing and adorned with shaved baby fennel. Hamachi crudo exudes a hint of heat from jalapeño salsa and is sprinkled with pomegranate seeds for texture, and his shrimp ceviche is oddly reminiscent of a ’70s soiree shrimp cocktail in the best possible way. The concoction is teeming with avocado and has hints of chile heat, while being served with saltines, further cementing its place in time. The grilled baby octopus is about as good a rendition of this delicacy as you'll find anywhere on the Strip.
Bernardo successfully explores elsewhere in the world with Asian influences. Nantucket Bay scallops are elevated with a sesame ponzu sauce, while chicken wings are laden with toasted garlic and served with a peanut dipping sauce as good as any you’ll find in nearby Chinatown. And his tuna poke is a fusion of poke recipes he’s gathered from peers, combining yellowtail tuna with slightly salty shoyu, sweet Maui onions and macadamia nuts for texture. Arriving with crisp green onion pancakes, the dish could only be more authentically Hawaiian if it were served with a side of Spam.
Bernardo’s meatballs and ricotta agnolotti were so widely revered in his last Vegas tour of duty, it’s apropos they found their way onto the Herringbone menu. But his grandmother’s meatballs are a superb combination of pork, veal and beef, served swimming in a robust pork neck gravy. And creamy ricotta agnolotti bask in a sweet brown butter sauce with prominent hints of sage. The dessert menu is huge, but the root beer float with hard root beer is a notable highlight.
With sofas surrounding low-top tables and a myriad of TVs, the room is comfortable like a welcoming family den. The outdoor dining area is a contemporary contrast. But Bernardo is certainly capable of making both shine as he returns to the spotlight in Vegas.
Aria, lunch 11:30 a.m.-3 p.m. daily, dinner 5-10 p.m. Sun.-Thurs., 5-11 p.m. Fri.-Sat. 702.590.9898