Foray into Mexico with Cañonita
Who knew that some of the best Mexican food in Las Vegas would be found overlooking the canals of Venice? Yes, inside The Grand Canal Shoppes in The Venetian & The Palazzo, as gondoliers sing Italian love songs to canoodling couples riding through the man-made waterways, diners a mere few feet away are crunching down on some of the most flavorful south-of-the-border dishes in Sin City.
This is Cañonita, a restaurant that has been serving high-quality Mexican fare for so long that it’s easy to overlook it. The space is open, oblong and flows naturally into the mall. The best tables are at the edges of the canals, set with such a lovely view, it can almost trick you into believing you are eating outdoors. One of the coolest design elements is the recently added taco truck, where diners can grab assorted street tacos on the go. The full-sized truck serves as a small kitchen and is a great stop for late-night snacks or a quick bite on the run.
Executive chef Daniel Marquez recently returned to the operation after several years away. He is an expert at maximizing combinations of multiple items to get the most taste out of them. Look no further than oven-roasted mussels and shrimp. The seafood is cooked perfectly, but the real star is the broth, which pulls together the flavors of the shellfish along with chorizo, tequila and smoked pasilla Oaxaca chiles.
On the other end of the flavor profile from the starters is the Pátzcuaro duck relleno. This dish delivers a riff on the traditional chile relleno by stuffing the pepper with orange-canela duck confit, sweet and sour manchamantel sauce (a sweet mole), then topping it with crema and pico de gallo. The margarita flight also hits many notes on the flavor spectrum—the baseline margarita is The Classic, containing Monte Alban tequila and orange liqueur. Leaning sweet is The Pineapple, with the exotic fruit joined by Tahitian vanilla bean-infused Monte Alban Silver tequila, agave and Cointreau. Heat seekers are in for a treat with The Jalapeño, which uses pepper and orange to infuse Monte Alban Silver tequila and is mixed with cilantro and orange liqueur.
Main courses feature entrées influenced by the chef’s experiences throughout Mexico. Seared salmon is elevated by the accompanying mango salsa and cilantro mojo, which again hit on different areas of taste. Pork a la Michoacana is like a regional Mexican Thanksgiving plate. The juicy roasted tenderloin plays nicely with the tomato-roasted red pepper sauce and cranberry-tomatillo chutney it is served with. Manchego potatoes gratin have that crunchy, browned crust one desires in anything au gratin and roasted vegetables round out the plate.
Peach buñuelos from the dessert section will again feel familiar to the American palate. Crispy canela-sugar fritters are layered with caramelized peaches, pistachio mascarpone, vanilla bean ice cream and cajeta, a dulce de leche-type sauce. Altogether, it’s like an apple pie that’s been elevated, like, eight levels up. Flan de café takes the traditional custard and smacks it with coffee, Patron XO Café, piloncillo syrup and some brittle.
Sometimes, in Las Vegas, to get great Mexican food, you just have to go to Italy… kinda.
The Grand Canal Shoppes at The Venetian & The Palazzo, 8 a.m.-10 p.m. Sun.-Thurs., 8 a.m.-11 p.m. Fri.-Sat. 702.414.3773