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Dining

[The Perfect Meal]

Shawn McClain creates a winter feast from Five50 and Sage dishes

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Chef Shawn McClain opened Five50 Pizza Bar last year at Aria, also the location of his fine dining room Sage.
Photo: Leila Navidi

Chef Shawn McClain doubled down on Las Vegas last year, opening Five50 Pizza Bar near his acclaimed fine dining room Sage at Aria. The two restaurants symbolize his two different personalities when it comes to eating. “In restaurants, I tend to be more decadent, and I want to try some of this and some of that,” he says. “Cooking at home, I tend to keep things lighter and do single-course meals, and I like to use a lot of Asian and Indian spices for one-pot dishes.”

We assigned McClain the task of creating his perfect meal using dishes from both restaurants, and he decided to start with a Five50 favorite before diving deep into the richness of Sage. “I’m a braised meat guy, so this is going to be a very rich meal.”

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      Wood-fired Manila clams

      This appetizer is roasted in the wood-burning oven with Portuguese linquica sausage and creamy baby potatoes, and the clams are steamed with Tenaya Creek Calico Brown Ale. “It’s fatty and rich and spicy and very rustic, and the potatoes really absorb all the liquids. Then we garnish it with a little Catalan-style tomato bread.”

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      Foie gras custard brûlée

      We think any meal at Sage must include this new classic, and McClain agrees. “The custard is the dish, but for me, what goes on top makes it, those subtle seasonal changes. In wintertime we do blood orange, dehydrated a bit, and toasted cocoa nibs. And of course there’s brioche topped with coarse sea salt and pastry sugar. This dish is going from savory to sweet all the way through.”

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      Sea scallops

      Before you think the chef is lightening up with some seafood, consider there’s braised oxtail here. “It just adds a nice richness that holds up to the scallop.” The oxtail reduction is finished with salted caramel, and wild mushrooms meld salty notes with the fresh, briny scallops.

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      48-hour beef belly

      “It’s one of my favorite bites of meat,” says the chef of this unique cut. “You don’t see it much, and it’s a special order from our meat company. It’s not traditional, but there’s a really nice balance of meat and natural fat.” The beef is cold smoked then sous-vide braised for two days before being glazed and served with crispy potato pavé laced with horseradish and red onion jam.

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      Milk chocolate Earl Grey cremeux

      Time for dessert. This creamy concoction is stacked with smooth flavor and garnished with all kinds of fun stuff, including Meyer lemon marmalade, warm baked-to-order madeleines and scalded milk gelato. “It’s much denser than a chocolate mousse.”

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      Brock Radke is Las Vegas Weekly's food editor and author of the Strip-focused column The Incidental Tourist. He has written ...

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