Ambra Italian Kitchen + Bar focuses on quality
The Italian dining scene continues to evolve in Las Vegas—and the Strip is no exception. Ambra Italian Kitchen + Bar brings new energy to the MGM Grand under the direction of Executive Chef Vic Casanova. It’s a sleek, contemporary space with an open dining room, curved ceilings and a long, dramatic bar facing the casino floor as the centerpiece. The most excitement, however, is on the menu.
Ambra works best when choosing pasta first—at least two dishes to share—and building a meal from there. Pasta is the heart of the menu, crafted with time and care by the kitchen team with four different kinds of dough to complement a variety of flavor profiles.
The triangular ravioli reflects Casanova’s obsession with ingredients, from bright orange California egg yolks to agrumato olive oil pressed with tangerine skin. Roman ricotta cheese is mixed with citrus zest and fennel pollen, producing a light filling that’s enhanced with sweet herbs like mint, basil and tarragon. Similar detailed compositions are seen in a robust, savory macaroni Bolognese, prepared with creste di gallo, and a vibrant lemon, kale and sausage cavatelli with the pasta mixed, rolled and shaped by hand.
The main entrées are simple and straightforward, but with inventive variations that might not be obvious at first glance. The chicken Parmesan, for example, is a familiar, common dish with preparation that is anything but routine. The chicken—either Jidori or Mary’s Organic—is brined for a day-and-a half for a juicy salinity that cuts through the fat. Tomato sauce, cooked slow and low with onions, garlic and carrots in place of sugar for sweetness, is plated underneath the breaded chicken.
In a sous-vide twist, steaks are soaked for three to four hours in a 129-degree butter-and-herb bath, breaking down the collagen and slowly cooking the meat from the inside out. When ordered, the cuts are enhanced with a porcini rub and olive oil—then grilled quickly at a high temperature for a robust char. The preparation works to full effect with a 40-ounce tomahawk ribeye for two, served with charred lemon and roasted garlic. Every bite is tender and flavorful, with a consistent red center from end to end.
Ambra’s affection for thoughtful recipes is also seen in the appetizers. A bluefin tuna crudo, brushed lightly in ginger and garlic, provides a crisp bite with diced Persian cucumbers, sea salt, radish and avocado. Even the Caesar salad feels reinvented with little gem lettuce in place of romaine and croutons made with large chunks of country bread from the MGM Grand pastry kitchen.
No trip to Ambra is complete without a visit inside Privata, a stylish speakeasy hidden behind a door near the host station. The menu is completely different from the one in the main dining room and includes a powerful lineup of classic cocktails. If you just want to stop by for a quick bite, the cacio e pepe is a hearty mix of noodles, pecorino cheese and cracked black pepper. It’s simple but works in an intimate setting. Much like Ambra itself, it’s not just a product of its ingredients, but a product of its environment.
MGM Grand, 5-10 p.m. Sun.-Thurs., 5-11 p.m. Fri.-Sat. 702.891.7600