Subtle brilliance: Tom Colicchio strikes again with Heritage Steak

An indulgent first course: spicy braised pork belly with fried oysters, horseradish and tomato molasses.
Photo: Leila Navidi

Tom Colicchio is a celebrity chef of the first order thanks to his Top Chef gig, surely as famous as Gordon Ramsay or Wolfgang Puck or Mario Batali. Like them, he governs a successful, acclaimed restaurant empire, though his is a bit understated by comparison. When Heritage Steak arrived at the Mirage in late summer—something new, not a spin-off of his Craft restaurants—there was no blitzkrieg of hype like last year’s Ramsayfest. Maybe it’s still coming. Maybe it’s not Colicchio’s style. Maybe it’s unnecessary.

There’s something about Las Vegas that takes the oomph out of big restaurant openings; there are too many, and national arbiters of culinary taste (still) don’t take Vegas seriously. Shouldn’t a new concept by an American restaurant giant make some serious noise? Or are Colicchio’s restaurants so consistently excellent that they’re taken for granted?

Tom Colicchio's Heritage Steak

When Craftsteak landed at MGM Grand in 2002, a new standard was set for the Las Vegas steakhouse. Now the Strip is the steakhouse center of the universe, and so Colicchio shifts gears with Heritage. We’re told the focus is open-flame cooking and the dish descriptions reflect that idea, but this place is something more. It has favorite cuts and sides, but also creative, substantial first courses and artfully composed entrées that don’t require à la carte ordering. This menu is closer to Craft than Craftsteak, or, more Colicchio-ish.

Still, there’s a lot of meat. I felt silly ordering the braised short ribs ($40), one of the only dishes not cooked over fire, but the meat was so buttery-rich and its accompanying roasted heirloom tomatoes so fresh and sweet, it’ll be hard not to have this again. A New York Strip ($45) is served as massive beef medallions with a pepper bordelaise over arugula and small roasted potatoes. And this roasted chicken ($36) is as good as the ones at the fancy French restaurants, though Heritage’s comes with game-changing spicy onion rings.

Vadouvan grilled lamb ribs with bread and butter pickles.

The menu changes a little each day. Market fish for me was Mediterranean sea bass ($38) between layers of roasted tomatoes and zucchini relish, one of many dishes as pretty as they are delicious. The steak section offers a porterhouse for two ($98), a bone-in ribeye, a 10-ounce filet, a Tabasco- and pepper-laced skirt steak and a Japanese A5 Kobe tenderloin ($200). Judge me if you like, but I’m perfectly fine with the filet, if a little amazed at how much beefy flavor resonated throughout its velvety rare core and savory, charred edges. The next day: cold sliced leftover bliss.

The first courses are revelatory. The Caesar uses grilled romaine ($14) and white anchovy. At this time of year, we don’t even deserve flavors as deep as those in the wood-roasted onion soup ($16) with bacon, garlic and smoked escargot. A salad of grilled shrimp, shishito peppers, cherry tomatoes and squid ink vinaigrette ($23) absolutely pops, and there’s more sensory overload with plates of wood-roasted peaches and Iberico ham ($16), and braised pork belly with fried oysters and horseradish ($22).

You could sit at the amber and mahogany bar overlooking Mirage’s tropical atrium with a few of these plates and a brew from Heritage’s very respectable craft beer list and easily conclude that this is the best place in Vegas to eat right now. You wouldn’t even need a steak.

Heritage Steak Mirage, 791-7330. Daily, 5-10:30 p.m.

Tags: Dining
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