B&B Ristorante at The Venetian
B&B Ristorante was opened by Chef Mario Batali and his partner/ winemaker Joseph Bastianich. We decided to stay at The Venetian primarily for its proximity to Bouchon and B&B. Stupid, I know, but what can I tell you? We are ones that think primarily through our stomachs.
The first time we tried one of Batali's restaurants was in NYC last October, where we had my sister, Tara's and Dan's lovely rehearsal dinner. Babbo didn't disappoint our large group there and we were looking forward to a similar evening at B&B Ristorante, filled with the same sort of comfort and love Italian food so naturally exudes. B&B is known for its simple and classic pairings, and for its comprehensive Bastianich signature wine list, with selections from every region in Italy. We saved B&B for our last night in Las Vegas, hoping it would make for a special culmination of our trip in celebration of a very special guy.
The restaurant feels luxurious amongst all the dim lights, masculine dark maple wood, and lush leather banquets. The setting is intimate, though can feel a bit crowded at times. The noise level got louder as dinner progressed, and there were a couple of moments when I became intimately aware of the conversations at the table next to us. Olive oil is not offered automatically, it is something that has to be asked for which was sort of odd. But once it came, Wow. What. A. Treat. Perhaps the reason they don't offer it, and only allow one plate of it per table during bread service, is because it's so damn good and people turn those pieces of bread into expensive sponges. I felt like I was eating blades of grass (in a deliciously good way). They don't skimp on the balsamic vinegar either; equally as appealing in its perfected tangy syrupy-ness, also has to be requested. This is how it should always be, in my opinion. Like, if you're going to do something, do it well; do it right; make people's tastebuds do backflips; make them know the difference and make them want more. That is just one of the reasons we miss Portland's lost but beloved Nutshell. While some turned their noses down at it, I could/would/did bathe in their salt and olive oil menus, and spent more than a couple of nights tucked away in a corner table reading the olive oil descriptions and swooning.
Really? By whom? And then there it was, printed right on the menu: by The Green Restaurant Association.
I was still baffled by this idea and the by the fact I had not yet previously run across this in a Portland establishment*, where it seems it would catch on like rapid fire. *Interestingly enough, upon my return home I was able to discover that there is in fact one restaurant certified green here in Portland and it's Bamboo Sushi on SE 28th. To learn more about this concept and the associations requirements, visit their website.
Anyways, regarding the meal...After inquiring whether we were more classic traditionalists or fairly adventurous eaters, our waitress made suggestions on some of Mario’s signature dishes.
So much sounded enticing, the menu read beautifully. Here's what we ordered. The [parentheses] are my additions:
Three Beet Salads [one a golden pickled, the 2nd a red and chevre, and neither of us remember the 3rd]
Mozzarella di Bufala with Charred Ramps
Liver Sausage with Radish Salad
Winter Root [sunchoke] Carpaccio with House Ricotta and Hazelnuts
Sweet Potato Lune [ravioli] with Sage and Amaretti [Italian almond macaroon]
Linguine with Clams, Pancettta, and Hot Chiles
Cavatelli with Flowering Greens and Smoked Ricotta
Rabbit Porchetta with Carrot Pappa
Wild Alaskan Halibut with "Carciofi alla Romana" [crispy artichokes]
Whole Grilled Branzino [mediterranean seabass] with Sicilian Potatoes
[brought out whole and filleted tableside]
We also ordered bourbon and two bottles of red wine, and to be perfectly honest the wine menu was so extensive and the restaurant so dimly lit, that I never, in a million years, would be able to tell you what bottles we ordered. My father would probably know, he was the one who ordered both bottles, upon the suggestion from the sommelier, who was sent over by our waitress (a nice touch since we were asking specific questions) who was fairly helpful in helping locating a couple of bottles from a particular region. I do know they were expensive, they were delicious, but I'm afraid they were slightly over priced. However, for the experience and the memory created, they were worth every penny, which is all that matters.
Our most solid meal of the trip. Flavors were bold and balanced, sweet and tangy, familiar and renewing. We "loved" nearly everything.
Breath of Fresh Air:
The parmesan cheese as well as the amaretti cookie for the sweet potato lune [along with several other hard cheeses] were kept on display in a glass cake stand on a slab of Italian marble located in the middle of the restaurant. They looked incredibly beautiful beneath the lights and you couldn't help but feel special when your specialty garnish was brought over to you and personally grated for all to see. A classy touch.
What's still lingering on our tongues:
The Three Beet Salads, Mozzarella di Bufala, and the
Liver Sausage were all knockouts, each finding enough balance between smoke, tang, and sweetness. The Sweet Potato Lune was fabulous, as was the Linguine. Surprisingly the Halibut won out over the Branzino, despite being one of Mario's signature dishes, and the Rabbit was literally savored until the last bite. Like I said, we could not pick a favorite dish from the meal; many were simply that good.
Would/Will we go back?
I think the real question is would Evan and I ever turn down an Italian meal?
But yes, we would return, and hopefully we'll have an opportunity to make the rounds throughout NYC.