Last week my sons had Spring Break and my husband had a conference in Las Vegas. We decided to combine ‘vacation’ with ‘work’ so we could hang out as a family, with sun/pool/good food at our fingertips.
While James had a conference, I set myself up to visit/review a few restaurants in Las Vegas. Onda was on my short list, as I love ‘chef’s menu’ plus ‘Italian food.’ Onda is located in The Mirage hotel. If you haven’t been to Vegas, you should know this: each large, multi-starred hotel on the strip boasts a myriad of restaurants. These restaurants range in cuisines from Italian to Asian to Steakhouse, Russian, Spanish, American Bistro and on and on. Many MANY of them boast big-name chefs (one of my faves is Jean Georges’ Steakhouse at Aria).
The more I frequent Vegas, the more I love to soak up the restaurant properties in whatever hotel I am staying in. It gives you a better sense of the hotel, is a great cross-section of cuisines and well lets be honest: when you are rolling full of food and ‘fine beverage’ it is a fantastically short walk back to your room. Skip the taxi—head to the elevator.
A few weeks ago I stayed at Aria Resort (thumbs up. If you can: stay here). A great friend of mine met me in Vegas and we spent time at the spa, at the pool, read our books and ate ate ate. Mostly at the resort. We found ourselves repeatedly at Julian Serrano. We had a quick meal at Lemongrass, an extravagant and very ritzy meal at Sage and settled deep into booths and ambiance at American Fish for happy hour shrimp and grits plus gin cucumber cocktails.
This past week I returned to Vegas with my family. We stayed at two different hotels boasting their own litany of restaurants. Though we soaked up many brilliant restaurants, the final night we grabbed a cab and headed to Onda (all photos in post are from Onda) for a menu inspired by Italy’s Liguria region. We enjoyed a choice of Appetizer, Entree and Dessert for $55.
When you think Liguria, think sea. And sun. Tucked in the most northern and western coast of Italy, Liguria is the sliver between the sea and the mountains. Liguria starts in proximity to Tuscany and stretches to France; the region includes the famous Cinque Terre and Genoa, plus two more districts. It is famous for seafood and fish, olives, sardines and pesto. In Italy pasta is specific to each region, and Liguria is known for its trenette (similar to lingine but a bit thicker) and sometimes trofie (my favorite: a little over an inch long, twisted in the middle for a great texture). Onda’s Ligurian meal:
Fritto Misto di Mare (fried mixed seafood ‘from the sea’) or artichoke olive salad, Wild Mushroom Ravioli, Salt encrusted snapper or Trofie Nere Pasta with Pesto Cream Sauce (entree) and for dessert Crostatina di Mele. Aka Apple pastry.
The fried mixed shellfish was fun, and a typical experience of ours when we lived in Italy: yes, shrimp heads and all. We didn’t eat the heads. I adored the mushroom ravioli (which my son ordered): if you have the chance to order ravioli at Onda, do it. Wow. Admittedly, I was a bit bummed about the trofie pasta. On the menu they listed ‘Trofie Nere Primavera’—trofie is my favorite Tuscan pasta—Nere means it’s black (which I assumed/verified was squid ink) with pesto cream sauce and vegetables. But it wasn’t trofie. This detail might not have been important to most people, but having ived in Tuscany, I had enough time to determine my favorite pastas. Pasta loyalty in Italy is key—a badge of each region. They should have called it Squid Ink Pasta or Pasta Nere. Instead of trofie, the pasta was similar to a buccatini or perhaps a trenette—a popular shape from Liguria.
Just ask if there are any last minutes substitutions on the menu. Chefs often have well-laid plans, then have to change out ingredients last minute. Which is important to me, since I am often very calculating on what I order. ‘Trofie’ tipped the scale, so I ordered the pasta. But had I known it was a pasta similar to linguine I would have opted for another dish. Also: the garbanzo fries (which sounded really intriguing to me, as I am on a bit of a chickpea fit and chickpeas, chickpea flour etc. are huge in Italy) listed as part of an appetizer were in fact polenta fries. Something I make at home. Which makes it less interesting to me to try at a restaurant.
Just small details… unless you lived in Italy, picked the pasta for your personal credo and happen to be a chef… in which case you would want to know: have there been any last minute substitutions?
The meal was paired with a Prosecco and red wine (La Spinetta Barbera d’Asti). Compliments to their sommelier, the pairings were spot-on (the pairing is $14 extra, but worth it).
Read more about The Mirage beverage program. Pictured above: Onda’s Chef Derek and myself. If you find yourself in Las Vegas in May or June, consider these Italian inspired menus:
May 10 – 24: Sardinia Considered by many a seafood haven, Sardinia also boasts big Italian flavors with rustic fare. Roasted meats, sausages and cheeses perfectly complement shellfish and anchovies. Grilled Beef Tenderloin with white anchovy peppercorn crust and Fisherman’s Stew of monkfish, shrimp, octopus and scallops are menu highlights.
June 14 – 28: Tuscany Simplicity and the use of seasonal produce are central to Tuscan cuisine. Legumes, bread, cheese, vegetables and fruit often are incorporated in this region’s dishes. Fresh and dried white beans have earned Tuscans the epithet of mangiafagioli (bean eaters). Guests can take pleasure in delicious selections such as Tuscan Bean Soup, Grilled Porterhouse with cannellini beans and Seared Duck Breast with wild rice and pine nuts.