Sage at the Aria
Chicago's soon-to-be loss will be Las Vegas' gain. Chicago's homegrown Chef Shawn McClain is gradually closing up his string of restaurants here to focus full time in his restaurant venture in Las Vegas. With a myriad of Michelin star restaurants and TV celebrity chef restaurants in Las Vegas, Shawn McClain is a breath of fresh air. Not without an impressive credential, Shawn McClain offers a contemporary and approachable flair to American cuisine.
A spacious lounge leads into a dimly lit dining room with just enough amount of lighting to create an atmosphere that could come of as either sexy or casual trendy at the same time. Everything about Sage was professional and well executed without pretensions. Our server gave us a reasonable amount of time to ourselves in between getting seated to ordering drinks, and then our food, as well as checking in on us periodically without overdoing it. The food at Sage is creative and yet very approachable to diners. We have no qualms in saying that Sage has no difficulty in joining the ranks of being one of the top restaurants in Las Vegas.
To kick off the night we were served the amuse bouche which was the pork rillette that came with a small amount of cherry sauce sitting on a teaspoon.
The 4-course Signature Tasting Menu offers a good variety of choices and I got to choose between several options for each course. The ala carte menu, which T went with, is also worth mentioning here as they do have excellent items on there as well.
For my first course of the tasting menu, I chose the Market Oysters which ended up being quite a surprise to me because of the generous number of five oysters on the plate. The raw oysters on the shell sat on a thick bed of sea salt. Complementing the oysters were a small dash of pepper and tabasco sorbet. I am generally a purist when it comes to eating raw oysters which means that I eat them as they are without any tabasco sauce nor with a squeeze of lemon primarily because I want to be able to taste the pureness and freshness of the raw oyster. I could never bring myself to dousing my raw oysters with sauce. At Sage, the tabasco sorbet that came with the raw oysters had the right amount of lightness that it did not take away from the pureness of flavor of the oysters.
For the second course I chose the Maine Dayboat Scallops which clearly did not disappoint. Perfectly seared on the outside, it was medium rare in the inside just like how scallops are supposed to be prepared. Hidden underneath the scallops were slivers of braised oxtail and wild mushrooms, accompanied with several stalks of broccolini. The savory caramel reduction sauce was just enough to add some moisture to the course.
The star of the tasting menu was clearly the 48-hour beef belly. Beef belly has been under appreciated with pork belly taken over the reigns recently that this dish opened up the idea to how much food potential there is in beef belly. The few slices of beef belly were very tender and soft with the melt-in-the-mouth texture. I was very impressed with each bite that I would be equally as happy even if the dish did not come with the slivers of rhubarb, morel mushrooms, and caramelized shallots.
To top off the meal were the Peach Praline Profiteroles served in a miniature steel dishware. They were light and airy and perfectly complemented with roasted peaches and praline sorbet sandwiched in between the profiteroles.
The ala carte that T had that are worth mentioning are the roasted sweetbreads served with glazed bacon bits, polenta, and mushrooms. The sweetbreads were tender and made perfect for a very flavorful appetizer. The hanger steak was juicy, moist, and tender and came with bean puree and duck fat potatoes.
Sage's execution of American cuisine is creative and is nowhere near dull. Coupled with the contemporary and approachable flair, we would not hesitate to say that it will remain for awhile in Las Vegas.
Sage at the Aria
3730 Las Vegas Boulevard South
Las Vegas, NV 89158
2011 AAA Four Diamond Award
2010 James Beard Nominee Best New Restaurant
2008 Star Chefs Rising Star Restaurateur
2006 James Beard Award Best Chef in the Midwest