A worthy indulgence

Don’t let these uncertain times stop you from treating yourself to Intimate Dining

Photo: Beverly Poppe

Intimate Dining offers a new wrinkle for the southeast Valley, a small, charming room sandwiched into a mini-mall next to Valley Cheese and Wine, arguably our best boutique food store.

The chef here is a passionate young Hawaiian, Don Espaniola, who has Delmonico’s in the Venetian on his resume, as well as a long stint as a private chef. Dinners are long, multi-course affairs at a fixed price, with four starter courses, an entrée choice and then a cheese and dessert course. Lunches are à la carte.

For anyone who was here when this location housed the dependable Crazy Pita (which has now moved to a larger location at The District), the transformation is impressive. The chef’s wife, Amy, who doubles as an interior designer and one of Lance Burton’s “babes” in his Monte Carlo magic show, has done a bang-up job here.

The wall separating the long, narrow dining area from the kitchen has been retrofitted with three rectangular windows fashioned out of crushed red glass, affording a glimpse of what is going on behind them. Five golden chandeliers are suspended from the ceiling; tables are elegantly set, with linen and candles.

Let’s call the menu eclectic; the chef literally does foods from all over the planet. And he’s quick to tell you he makes virtually everything from scratch, from a puffy flatbread, studded with herbs or seeds according to his whim, the terrific bread he uses for lunchtime panini, for which he uses a yeast that is native to Vegas (who knew?), to a dazzling array of sauces and desserts.

The Details

Restaurant Guide
Intimate Fine Dining
1770 Horizon Ridge Parkway, Henderson. 270-3463.
Lunch 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Tuesday-Sunday; dinner Thursday-Saturday, by reservations only. One seating nightly, at 7:30.
$95 per person.
Suggested dishes: (lunch only) truffled potato chips, $7; smoked turkey panino, $10; herb crusted lamb chops, $19

By all means come for lunch before committing to that lavish dinner. One day the chef did a unique, delicious take on a mozzarella Caprese salad, breading the cheese delicately and topping it with an heirloom tomato and a refreshing iced basil granita. Truffle potato chips, served warm, are completely addictive. And those are only the starters.

I said that the chef makes everything from scratch, and I mean everything. I only tasted one panino (yes, that’s the singular of panini), but it was amazing, smoked turkey that the chef does himself, bacon and avocado, stuffed into a dome of fresh bread. Espaniola whips up a killer duck confit that he uses to garnish salads. He’s also pretty proud of house-smoked wild sockeye salmon ravioli that he serves in a teriyaki cream sauce laced with cashews.

Now, perhaps, you are primed to come back for dinner, at which time you can book the intimate two-person chef’s table, hidden behind glass embedded with birch branches, and imbibe something from the restaurant’s smart list of boutique wines and Belgian ales.

The menu here changes daily, depending on what is fresh and seasonal, so the dinner I now describe will surely not be the one you will eat, but you’ll get the idea, at least.

I was lucky enough to get the Caprese as a starter course, and the ravioli after that, but the courses following them were new to me. Shrimp in a basket, with bread crumbs and garam masala, an Indian-inspired spice mixture, was a delight, topped with lemon-grass basil oil and a sprinkle of yellow curry powder.

Then came Hudson Valley foie gras, pan-seared on coconut-banana-bread toast drizzled with a maple tamarind infusion. We had opted for the wine pairings, and this course came with a stunner, a sweet French petit maseng from Alain Brumont. That primed us for our entrée course, offered as a choice.

That evening there were four choices, and as we were a party of three, we were able to taste most of them. My choice, the table consensus favorite, was buffalo short ribs, fork-tender meat braised in Guinness stout on a bed of Israeli couscous mac and cheese. Glazed miso halibut came on stuffed polenta with pan-seared bok choy. New Zealand lamb chops with sweet potato mousse and a green herb sauce rounded things out.

Then Espaniola’s Hawaiian background surfaced at the first dessert course, a delicious guava cheesecake lumpia, or Filipino-style egg roll, on a thick crème Anglaise. Finally, a Mezcal truffle contrasted with cooling house-made lime sorbet finished us off. With each course we had different wines, resulting in a grand bacchanale. The pairings cost $50, but considering there are seven wines, from a diversity of countries such as Germany, Argentina, France and New Zealand, this doesn’t seem out of line.

Throughout the evening, the service was efficient, friendly and well-paced. Just as the Europeans do, Espaniola doesn’t double-book. Once you are seated, the table is yours for the evening.

I realize this is a difficult time for many of us, and that a dinner here may seem a grand indulgence. Still, if that formula suits you, a dinner here is well worth it. And hey, there’s always lunch.


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