June 16, 2005
ODE TO A COCKTAIL
I've never been that big on booze. Back in the day, I was known to bend an elbow over a bottle of bourbon, or take my Tequila straight, or gingerly pound some gin. But time has taken its toll, and liquor no longer makes me quicker. And when you consider how sweet, overpriced and juvenile most cocktails have become, beer and wine seem like the only way to drink and retain your dignity. Unless of course you're the type that likes having chopped-up Oreos, jawbreakers, and jello in something you have to be over 21 to order. I mean what's next? Baby food highballs?
With stuff like that around, I've been thinkin' that adult drinkin' has become passé. Then along comes Sensei to blow me away. And it wasn't even the bar itself, perse, but a single cocktail.....called the Caprese. The name Caprese comes from the Isle of Capri, that 4 by 2 mile island off the Amalfi Coast in southern Italy known for its dramatic vistas and incredible sights. The name also denotes a salad made with fresh tomatoes, basil, and mozzarella cheese-preferably burrata-made from creamy buffalo milk. A caprese salad can be a thing of elegant simplicity. The perfect acidic and fruity tang of a ripe tomato accented by the lemony freshness of basil, and creamy cheese.. Fruit, herb and milk in perfect harmony. Dribble a little olive oil on it (or maybe some aged balsamico), and you have tasted sun, earth, and sky.
Now what does this have to do with a cocktail? Well, Drew Levinson, master booze maven at the Bellagio, has taken these elements and turned them into..... a drink.
And you can only get it at the bar at Sensei, the architecturally stunning restaurant in the new Bellagio tower. Starting with overpriced vodka (is there any other kind?), he muddles basil leaves with intense, almost clear but very tomatoey tomato water, shakes it all with ice (which creates a silky layer of foam, and garnishes it with basil, a cherry tomato and a small mozzarella ball. A few grinds of the pepper mill and voila! You have a caprese salad in a glass!
Skepticism runs high among first time imbibers, according to the bartenders....er...uh excuse me....the mixologists here, and I must confess that even an old road food warrior like me had to be cajoled into his first sip. After one succulent, savory slurp though, a look of delicious amazement came over me that apparently is also common around this bar.
I've never tasted anything like it, and I like it because it is the perfect antidote to all those sugary kiddie cocktails that exist solely to get college girls hooked on booze. And the wonders of this bar do not end there. Non-tipplers get a rare treat with the freshest and best-made ginger-ale, this side of Blenheims. That's right, they make their own ginger ale Sensei and dare I say it.... It is Sensei-tional.
See discussion rules
|Nov 24, 2010 | Thanksgiving 2010 - Another Beanie Reveal|
John Curtas delves into family history to discover the real story behind Grandma Schroader's Sour Beans.
|Nov 19, 2009 | Valentino -- You don't know the truffles I've seen|
According to Food Critic John Curtas, no other Italian restaurant in Las Vegas has performed at such a high level for so long.
|Oct 1, 2009 | Blow It Up|
In at least one part of town, our dining critic John Curtas says the food used to be a lot better.
|Sep 25, 2009 | Social Media Meltdown|
For our dining critic, John Curtas, social media has started to intrude on dining out.
|Sep 2, 2009 | Discovering LOS ANTOJOS|
Our dining critic John Curtas finds a new affordable favorite.
|Aug 20, 2009 | Chinois R.I.P.|
For John Curtas the recent closing of Wolfgang Puck's first Las Vegas restaurant brings back memories.
|Aug 3, 2009 | Food, Inc.|
John Curtas turns movie reviewer today - but the subject is in his usual area of expertise. Hear his review of "Food, Inc."
|Jul 16, 2009 | The Steak That Saved Las Vegas|
Dining critic John Curtas finds some steak aged for EIGHT MONTHS and he tells us how it tastes.
|Jul 2, 2009 | Bang for Your Buck|
Everyone's food budget is tighter these days. But if you still want to dine out now and then, our dining critic John Curtas has a few tips on restaurants now giving you more bang for your buck.
|Jun 19, 2009 | Whassup with Wazuzu|
Explore Dining Critic John Curtas' love/hate relationship with Wazuzu. If you want to spice up your dinner go for at least a "4 or 5."
|Jun 12, 2009 | Two Farmer's Markets|
Fresh, locally produced food has become a big trend across the U.S. Our food critic, John Curtas, says there's more of this trend in Las
Vegas than you might think.
|Jun 4, 2009 | MandM Soul Food|
John Curtas tells us about one of his favorite dining spots - a surpsingly affordable one.
|May 28, 2009 | Checkpoint Charlie|
While fine dining has seen a downturn in Las Vegas in recent months, our dining critic John Curtas says at least one dining legend intends to stay put. Charlie Trotter is standing pat in Las Vegas. John Curtas reviews Resturant Charlie.
|May 8, 2009 | Food Festival Frenzy!|
It's a time of many food festivals in Las Vegas. John Curtas has an overview.
|May 5, 2009 | Peppermill Coffee Shop and Fireside Lounge|
A landmark Las Vegas restaurant gets a visit from John Curtas. He takes you to the Peppermill.
|Apr 23, 2009 | Thai Me Up Thai Me Down|
Thai cuisine is starting to show up in more places in Las Vegas. John Curtas has some recommendations
|Apr 9, 2009 | A Gourmet Corner - In Spring Valley?|
Food Critic John Curtas takes a trip to the strangest gourmet corner in town.
|Apr 2, 2009 | Pip's is a Pip|
If you're looking for good dining near Aliante, our dining critic, John Curtas, has found a new place to go.
|Mar 26, 2009 | Stripped to Its Bare Essentials|
Dining on steak at Planet Hollywood! John Curtas takes you along.
|Mar 19, 2009 | Hachi is absolutely amazing!|
John Curtas has a find - a Japanese-fusion restaurant on the
west edge of the city.