A great chef celebrates incredible ingredients at Artisanal Foods Cafe

Artisanal Food Cafe’s foie gras pancakes.
Photo: Christopher DeVargas

Tucked away in an industrial park south of McCarran, Brett Ottolenghi peddles his wares at Artisanal Foods. As one of the Valley’s foremost high-end culinary distributors, he disseminates swoon-worthy ingredients to some of the Strip’s best restaurants, things like caviar, truffles and foie gras. With a recent relocation into a larger warehouse space, he had additional room to build out a kitchen and some seating. Partnering with chef Johnny Church, Ottolenghi is now showcasing his products through Artisanal Foods Cafe.

Lionfish and sturgeon aquariums and a high ceiling serve as a backdrop for the blank slate of dining and retail space. Preaching to a congregation of no more than 16—the majority of seats at a communal center table—Church has an array of haute ingredients at his disposal, and the results are simply dazzling. The menu is limited, but the cuisine is not.

Church transforms even the simplest of dishes. Exhibit A: salad. Charred escarole ($8) with tart red-wine onions, mild Dunbarton blue cheese fondue and addictive cheese grit “croutons” is a meal unto itself. His Caesar Made to Order ($9), sharp with a funky house-made dressing hinting of anchovies and bourbon-barrel Worcestershire, is among the city’s best versions of this typically pedestrian salad.

Elsewhere, Church highlights Ottolenghi’s star offerings. With less restraint, the truffle and foie burger ($17) could overwhelm; instead, the gooey burger enhanced with foie butter and layered with truffled egg, seared foie and Melkbus truffle gouda is remarkably reserved. And foie gras pancakes ($14), topped with more seared foie and a combination of maple syrup and three-grape gastrique, are a sweet and savory combination best reserved for dessert. Save room.

Artisanal Foods Cafe's beef and octopus carpaccio.

The Piedmontese beef and octopus carpaccio ($9) is Church’s luscious take on surf and turf. Topped with dollops of black garlic wading in onion-caper vinaigrette and accompanied by toasted brioche, it’s superb, though the octopus almost gets lost in the dish.

I’m not typically one to order chicken, but Artisanal’s crispy-skinned brick chicken thigh ($14) could convert me. Stuffed with black truffles, perched atop decadent mushroom bread pudding and wading in rich jus, it’s much more complex than the menu description suggests. In fact, that goes for most of the menu. While you can order à la carte, the best way to sample Church’s culinary mastery is the $35 tasting menu.

Artisanal Foods Cafe presents the ultra-rare convergence of a supremely talented chef, the highest quality specialty ingredients and almost shockingly reasonable prices. Simply put, if you like food, you’ll love this lunch.

Artisanal Foods Cafe 2053 Pama Lane, 702-436-4252. Tuesday-Saturday, 11 a.m.-3 p.m.

Tags: Dining, Food
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