Saturday, January 12, 2008

B and B Restaurante: Mario Takes Vegas

A Little Taste of Babbo on the Strip

I am one of those people who just love Vegas.

Years ago, it was about playing blackjack, staying up all night and people watching. As I grew older, it became more about eating at the world class restaurants and catching a great show. Ok, maybe a little blackjack....

That said, I have developed a gathering of spots in Vegas that have become favorites, and just getting back from the CES Convention, I have a new entry to the group... B and B Restaurante, in the Venetian.

This partnership between Mario Batali and Joe Bastianich opened quietly last year, but has been knocking audiences dead ever since. Classic and understated, those who know Mario's food will liken this spot to be a clone of Babbo, decidedly not Lupa or Del Posto. Of course for those who love Mario, another Babbo is welcome anytime.

For me, a trip to a Batali store is about the pasta, and B and B doesn't disappoint. The 5-course pasta tasting menu is very similar to the New York experience, witout the 30 day reservation requirement (I called the day before).

Upon arrival, we were sat quickly and greeted right away. We knew coming in that the pasta tasting menu was going to be the call, and instead of getting fall down drunk [airing each course with wine, we opted for a few quartinos of a Piamonte Barolo that was out of this world.

After a delicious treat of chick peas and black olive tapenande as a starter,

We were ready for the main event.... and it didn't disappoint.
The first course:

Ravioli with Bitter Greens in Brown Butter

This was outstanding. Light, fragrant, perfectly balanced mixture in very delicate pockets of pasta. Tossed in butter this was the perfect start.

Next was a very light and refreshing course:

Tortellini in brodo

I liked this course, although I though it may have been programmed strangely here. The pasta was handmade and very fragile... and the broth slow simmered and flavorful.

Next was a rich terrifc dish:

Cencioni with Pancetta and Walnuts

I loved this flavor combination, and the portion was just right. About this time, you start to realize that the small portions don't matter... you are filling up.

Next up was Mario's famous crowd pleaser:

Jose’s Pyramids with “Passato di Pomodoro”

This is a dish I had had at Babbo a few years ago, and loved. The little triangle pockets are filled with braised beef and tomato and are savory. This is a great dish and I am always impressed by the craftsmanship of the kitchen when these gems show up at the table.

Lastly, we asked our served to opt of of the goose liver ravioli (I'm not a liver guy).... the chef subbed this delicious item (and old stand by):

Black Pepper Pappardelle with Wild Boar Ragu

Rich, heavy and filling... this pasta was the perfect closer.

Desserts were delicious, but by the time I had finished the 5th course, there wasn't much room.... that said, I left B and B full, but not stuffed, which was a nice feeling. It would be easy to pack it in here and feel miserable all night. I prefer the small plates and array of tastes compared to a massive bowl of pasta that sticks with me for 3 days.

The skinny on B and B? Love it. There are now several Mario options in Las Vegas, but those who love Babbo will be happy happy here. Seats can be hard to come by on weekends, so call ahead.... The earliest table on the Wednesday night we visited was at 10:30pm.... ouch.