Deck on Sinatra


Right now I’m in the process of building a tradition. It’s a pretty simple concept… every year during the NCAA tournament, a bunch of guys have a “boys weekend” in Las Vegas. We fly in on Thursday night to the hotel of choice (currently leaning toward the Flamingo because of its Central Strip location, excellent cabana/pool combo and price). Friday morning we are up by 8 a.m. to place our bets, then it’s to the cabana to watch games all day long. We do the same thing on Saturday, and then head out on Sunday. As part of this tradition, I’m also working in a food rotation. Breakfast and lunch are whatever… feel free to go find something you want, or order at the cabana. But Friday night's dinner is a new place, Saturday night is Mesa Grill, and Sunday morning is the Peppermill. It’s the perfect Vegas rotation… though surprisingly difficult to get guys to join at this point.

This year, the Friday night rotation meant to include one of a couple different restaurants at the Wynn/Encore. As a side note, the three best Vegas casinos for dining are the MGM, Caesar’s Palace, and Wynn/Encore in no particular order (one of these three will be in the Friday rotation).

Ideally, I wanted to go to Wazuzu, a Pan-Asian restaurant that made its way to my Vegas list through one of The Best Thing I Ever Ate shows. But, I didn’t end up making reservations due to an ever-changing commitment as to number of people, and the fact that the Huskies ended up playing the late game. This came back to bite us as there was no bar to be seated at, and the restaurant had no opening for a couple hours. So we asked for an Italian place because I knew there was one of those too and were guided to Sinatra (turns out the one I was thinking of but couldn’t come up with at the time was Bartolotta).

We were originally going to just sit in the lounge for dinner, but Ty decided to go see if there were tables… turns out there were… a lot of them. Never a good sign when the restaurant you just left has a waiting list. We were seated almost right in the middle of the restaurant where we ordered wine. The restaurant had an air of trying to be upscale with the white tablecloths and silverware, maybe a throwback to the time of Sinatra, though today’s younger food crowd might call it “stuffy” (well that’s the word that came to my mind).

We decided to start with an order of the beef carpaccio and then each opted for the pasta; partly because the carbs sounded like just what we needed after a heavy day of partying at the cabana, and partly because it was the only thing on the menu under $40 (which felt excessive even for Vegas). I asked the waitress if it was all fresh-made pasta, and when she said yes, I asked if it was an egg yolk pasta or a semolina pasta. My brain seemed to think it was a good, legitimate question, but she seemed flustered (there is always the possibility that the day’s activities made it a less coherent question than I thought, but it’s my blog, so it was a great question). Despite all of that, I ordered the pennette which I was going to do regardless… I was just curious.

When the carpaccio came out, we both dug in realizing how hungry we were. It was basically beef pounded nice and thin, then topped with copious amounts of arugula and a few croutons. The beef was definitely nice and tender and good, but the thing that blew us away was the amount of salt. It just overwhelmed everything. I’m not sure if it was the sauce, or the croutons, but it was a pretty salty dish. And I like salt, so by commenting I feel like that means it was excessive.

After we finished the carpaccio, the pasta was quick to follow. In the pennette, I got a pretty simple and classic Italian sausage ragu with bell peppers and tomatoes. The pasta was well-cooked — al dente — and the sauce was nice… a little sweet, a little acid. But the sauce to pasta ratio just felt off. There was a bit of sausage on the top, but it was mostly gone in the first few bites. And the big red pepper chunks were nice, but there weren’t many of them. Halfway through the dish I looked at Ty and told him it was good, but it didn’t feel like anything I couldn’t make myself. Go buy some Laguna pasta, and make my own sausage and sauce, and it would be great. Even get my own extruder and make my own pasta. Not out of the realm of possibility.

We wrapped up dinner and headed out after paying the staggering $140 bill (two glasses of wine, one appetizer, two pasta dishes). I don’t know about Ty, but I left disappointed. If I am going to pay that much for a meal, I want something better than what I can make myself. And Sinatra’s just felt like it totally dropped the ball. I know that we had a bit to drink throughout the day, and it could have skewed things a little, but I’m confident enough to know when I have good food.

In fact, when Nick and I went to Craftsteak last year, we had consumed far more during the day at the pool and I remember it being amazing. There wasn’t anything that was new about Sinatra’s which is fine, but there also wasn’t anything that made me feel like it was a classic. In the end, I’m glad Ty and I were the only ones to make it because it may have affected my foodie street cred. Do yourself a favor, skip Sinatra’s and go to Bartollota if you find yourself with an Italian craving while in the Wynn/Encore.