You might not be aware of this, but there are secret menus across the Vegas Valley, possibly even at some of your favorite spots. They exist for a variety of reasons, but mostly they’re just fun. It’s like a password to a speakeasy, and now, you’re getting the invite, too. But be aware, there are secrets that even we can’t divulge, ranging from restaurants operating out of private residences to Tamale Alley, a street lined with vendors selling their wares out of the back of Aerostar minivans on weekends.
Oyster shooter at Other Mama
An off-menu oyster shooter isn’t uncommon at Japanese restaurants. But most don’t achieve a level of detail like Other Mama, which begins with a West Coast oyster swimming in Junmai sake. Ponzu and teriyaki sauces are included in the mix, with the addition of exactly seven drops of Sriracha, because GM Allen Owens says, “Anything more is too garlicky; any less and you don’t taste it.” The shooter is finished with pickled vinegar, fresh cilantro and parsley and a dollop of ikura for a meld of sweet, heat and salt.
Miso-rubbed porterhouse at Sparrow + Wolf
Selling some 25 steaks a night, Brian Howard’s 30-day dry-aged, miso-rubbed porterhouse might be the worst-kept secret menu item in the Valley. But the local luminary says it provides his team a creative outlet, particularly when it comes to the ever-changing lineup of American banchan accompanying the cut.
The funky, 32-ounce beast is accompanied by garlic naan and a drizzle of Sicilian olive oil with a host of rotating accoutrements. They have recently included red wine-braised cabbage, potato pave—thin-stacked scalloped potatoes with bonito—and octopus head salad. But the selections rotate depending upon the whims of the kitchen, so you never know what you might get.
Blue cheese wings at Naked City
What’s the best part of chicken wings? One could argue it’s the blue cheese for dipping, and Naked City owner Chris Palmeri agrees. That’s why, after being struck with a moment of brilliance, he offers blue cheese wings. Instead of being tossed in hot sauce, they’re tossed in his house-made, tangy dressing. And of course, hot sauce is offered on the side for dipping. The Buffalo native isn’t a savage!
Sea bass at Mr Chow
It seems a lot of people are familiar with the multiple off-menu dishes at Rao’s at Caesars Palace, but equally noteworthy on the property are a pair of offerings at Mr Chow: the smoked bean curd roll and Beijing sea bass with pine nuts. The former is a vegan dish—bean curd swaddling a combination of carrots, bamboo shoots and shiitake mushrooms, wafting the scent of oolong tea. The latter delivers chunks of flaky sea bass in a caramelized red bean sauce, adorned with pine nuts for texture. Both are worth seeking out.
Za’atar man’oushe at Rooster Boy Café
If you haven’t spent time in the Middle East, there’s a good chance you’ve never encountered the wonder of za’atar, a spice mixture that includes oregano and thyme. At the homey Rooster Boy Café in Desert Shores, chef/owner Sonia El-Nawal is proud to offer a taste in the form of flatbread layered with the spice blend, a breakfast staple of her native Lebanon. So sidle up to the counter and unwind with a cup of coffee while awaiting an unfamiliar treat.
Ma Lat at Blossom
The 100-item menu at Aria’s Blossom offers myriad high-end Chinese dishes, but one of its most popular isn’t found anywhere in that count: ma lat fish. Its Western name is “spicy water fish,” which only begins to hint at its spiciness. In fact, the reason it remains off-menu is that Chef Chi Kwun Choi refuses to deviate from the characteristic heat delivered from Chilean sea bass bathed in a Szechuan pepper and red chile-strewn broth combining chile and grapeseed oils. The dish is complex and mind-numbingly hot in all the best ways.
Secret menu items aren’t limited to restaurants. One of the Strip’s most popular is a cocktail— the Verbena at the Cosmopolitan’s Chandelier Bar. It was a seasonal drink on the resort’s opening menu, and chief mixologist Mariena Mercer continued offering it after a raucous outpouring of support. Nowadays, you can find the drink on any of the showcase bar’s multiple levels.
So what’s the buzz about this cocktail? It’s actually the buzz button, a Szechuan flower that extenuates the taste buds with a tingling sensation characteristic of the plant’s namesake cuisine, driving some to call it the Face Melter cocktail. But don’t be afraid of this Asian twist on the margarita, as it’s a drinking experience unlike any other.
Farther north on the Strip, a trio of secret menus centered around classic cocktails are available at Rosina inside the Palazzo. Depending on your libation of choice, you can choose between Manhattans, Old Fashioneds or juleps. From there liberties are taken, such as with the well-balanced banana-laced, reposado-centric Last Fortress Manhattan to the aged-rum-based Early to Rise julep with a coffee infusion.