Rosemary’s and Time- This sage sanctuary has Vegas stepping off the Strip
The taxi ride was longer than I remembered, but that was probably because any recollection I had of Rosemary’s (8125 W Sahara Ave)was about the food. Twenty minutes off the Strip, Rosemary’s graces its own strip (mall), where Chefs Michael and Wendy Jordan continue to rival any contortionist Cirque show for creativity and execution.
A flash of Mary Poppins extracting a coat rack from her carpetbag flooded my mind as I stepped from molten asphalt into a bath of beige and black. Somehow this desert mirage remained immune to the venom Vegas spit on the Strip. There was a whiff of reality here (along with deep breaths of garlic) and our initial steps inward lowered our temperature 10 degrees.
They had expanded the space since my last visit in 2003 and it suited them well. An outstretched bar beckoned us with an array of elixirs and Venetian tendencies (as in Venice, Italy, not the Venetian, Vegas), basing neutral hues behind vibrant artwork. This “breath of fresh air entrance” flowed into the warm yellows and soft sconces of the dining room.
Our twenty something waitress was enthusiastic, but much too comfortable with her use of the word “sucked,” which hacked through the fine décor like a pick axe. Her dialectic destruction was buffed out by the open arms of an amuse bouche and I accepted the crispy wanton topped with salmon mousse and citrus aioli as a refreshing, bite-sized “welcome”. Choices of bread like pecan wheat or macadamia white chocolate also opened with gregarious “how-do-you- dos.”
Besides “gutter mouth gal”, service was a highlight here and a main reason for my return. Collaboration of courses played out in a choreographed routine, where waiters lifted silver covers and distributed plates in unison. Jazz hands- appetizers had arrived. Smitten as kittens we mewed with delight at the saucers placed before us, but upon tasting the first option, hissing (and spitting) became more our demeanor.
Hugo’s Texas BBQ shrimp with Maytag blue cheese slaw was a Hugo disappointment. Smokey was the bandit, unmentioned and unwelcome, in the barbeque sauce with its distinct embers lingering on my palate like match-heads. I was more disappointed by an insufficient menu description than the actual dish (some people like smokey) and this formidable food decision weighed on my mind as heavily as the soggy, blue cheese slaw accompanying it.
The grass wasn’t much greener on the salad side. I thought I was down at the boon docks with the smell that emanated from my Caesar and though anchovies are a necessary component for this classic, they in no way should be the prominent flavor (or smell).
I hesitated to think that maybe my idea of the food was remembered too grandly from either multiple bottles of wine or a love for this opulent oasis, but then it appeared as a bird? A plane? No…Fabulous Fig! Donning a proscuitto cape and accompanied by his goat cheese sidekick (stuffed, snuggly inside), this salty, sweet superhero saved the day (a triumphant cheer went out over the crowd) and just like that, the cogs of this well (olive) oiled machine slid back into place.
Possibly to make up for my prior disappointments, culinary karma delivered one of the most prolific entrées ever to grace my lips. I believe that day my journal entry read, “Today I became a woman.” Their veal filet had me throwing my head back and grunting involuntarily, similar to the overplayed scene from “When Harry met Sally…” Green lentils exploded like salty sparklers and bacon confetti rained on the sherry mustard butter sauce like it was a holiday- it sure felt like one. This could possibly be the best piece of meat I’ve ever had (#1 meat entree nationwide).
The rack of lamb also managed magnificent feats of flavor, seeping natural juices into Kalamata olive mashed potatoes and blending with the rosemary bordelaise (a reduction of red wine, shallots and demi-glace) to form a potent jus.
We didn’t have room for dessert, but that didn’t matter- they brought it anyway. Peanut butter truffles, dark chocolate truffles and lemon squares were presented as their “after dinner amuse bouche” and was a tasty metaphor that symbolized what Rosemary’s brought to the table- tangible appreciation.
Playing to each olfactory sense, Rosemary’s fine tuned performance gave an experience, rather than just a meal. Even our two unfavorable selections were forgiven like a teenager’s bad attitude, squashed by the overall success of the show. Coined as a rarity here, Rosemary’s elcits one of Vegas's most jaw dropping (and closing) illusions, where humble elegance outshines the neon bulbs.
Wed - (Ladies night) fifty percent off for women
Sun – fifty percent off wine bottles
*discount gift certificates can also be purchased at some Costco stores