Almost two years ago, while reviewing Sage, chef Shawn McClain’s “artisanal American” restaurant at Aria, I wrote some pretty heavy stuff, as near to hyperbole as any words on food should be. It was “easily one of the best restaurants in the city,” and you could not possibly be “a Vegas foodie if you haven’t eaten here.”
I guess I laid it on pretty thick. But the bottom line was, and still is: even on the Las Vegas Strip, where there’s an outstanding fine dining experience every few steps, Sage stands out. After McClain and his team recently opened the casual Five50 Pizza Bar (also at Aria), it seemed like a good time to get back to Sage, try some new dishes, and hope that it was as good as it always has been.
There were no disappointments. We started with an amuse bouche of kushi oyster with tabasco sorbet, a bright and splendid bite, and tried to stop ourselves from eating too much bread. The sourdough rolls and bacon baguettes were too powerfully tasty to resist.
Dining with good friends means I get to eat a bit of everything, and my sampling was all over the place: roasted sweetbreads with polenta and trumpet mushrooms; a slow-poached egg with smoked potatoes and shaved black truffle; grilled Spanish octopus with charred leeks and peppers; heirloom tomatoes with smoked peach and baby fennel; Iberico pork loin with crispy bits of pork shoulder and date puree; and yellowtail kampachi with bacon, clams, chanterelles and black grapes. We threw the kitchen some curves, too, requesting a special entree from the tasting menu (48-hour braised beef belly) and a vegetarian risotto. The Sage team happily obliged. (I highly recommend the $59 early evening menu or especially the $89 signature tasting menu, both excellent ways to experience this food.)
There were no misses, and some of the hits were home runs; the sweetbreads were out of the park. We agreed this was the best version of this dish we’d ever tasted, a sublime study of crispy-creamy textures. The pork and yellowtail were right behind it, and the experimental dessert that capped this memorable meal—a wild combination of basil sponge cake, cucumber ribbons, mint leaves, custard cream and gin pearls—was lively and refreshing.
It’s hard not to use every superlative in the book in attempting to describe dining at Sage. No best-of-the-Strip list is complete without it. I was right the first time when I wrote this restaurant is unmissable.
Sage Aria, 877-230-2742. Daily, 5-11 p.m.