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Best Restaurant

3355 S Las Vegas Blvd
Las Vegas, NV 89117
Menu: Steak-Seafood-Italian Pastas and Pizzas
Hours: Sunday - Thursday, 11:30 a.m. - 11:00 p.m.
Friday and Saturday, 11:30 a.m. - midnight

I was supposed to highlight my bombs of the year this week, but somehow the Christmas spirit got hold of me. So let's leave my curmudgeonly humbugs for another day and speak of what may be the best, least talked about and most underrated restaurant in town. Because if a multi-million dollar Wolfgang Puck restaurant, located in an upscale flashy casino mall, can ever be said to be flying under the radar, then Postrio is it.

These thoughts occurred to me recently as I tucked into a superior spicy Hungarian goulash over crispy spaetzle noodles on a cold autumn day. Actually that cold autumn day wasn't all that cold since these satisfying victuals were being consumed in the hermetically sealed air of the Grand Canal Shoppes at the Venetian-but we Vegans take our seasonally references however we can stretch'em. What impressed me about the goulash was the richness of the reddish/brown sauce, the fork tenderness of the well-braised beef, and the deep and slow heat that built up on the tongue. Everything giving a warm glow to my mouth and the conversation. Good food will do that. And so does everything else about Postrio.

Chef John LaGrone opened this place five years ago, and over time he's put his personal stamp on a menu that hits just the right notes between the prosaic and the ethereal. The former being what my friend The Chicago Guy is always looking for when he asks me if the restaurant cooks that "fancy stuff YOU like"-which is always asked with a barely disguised sneer. As much as I try to convince him that a great chef can give you both.....too much plate confetti and too many ponzu/parsnip nages keeps him pretty skeptical.

Well LaGrone is one chef that knows how to keep me and the Chicago Guy plenty happy. There's no flourishes by the waiters here, not a lot of gee gaws on the plates, and no cymbals crashing as the chef's creations are unveiled when you sit down for lunch or dinner. His wild mushroom soup is a testament to woodsy intensity without any frills and his free range chicken with garlic mashed potatoes packs more flavor into this usually boring bird than I thought possible. Meat and potato types will find no fault with a perfect cote de boeuf or prime filet, and aficionados will appreciate such rarities as huge and sweet day boat scallops accented by a more subtle chanterelle risotto.

Make no mistake, Postrio is a quintessential American restaurant, with lots of pastas and pizzas on the menu (all excellent), and nods to both fashion (a Niman Ranch pork belly appetizer), and fusion (Thai lemongrass soup...that's an Americanized version of Tom Yum). But he weaves easily between the simple and the sophisticated, and never hits a false note with his flavors. I've never had a bad meal here. In fact I've never had a bad bite. And for those reasons, and for being a restaurant for all seasons and all types of customers, POSTRIO is my Restaurant Of The Year for 2004.