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May 4, 2009 03:14 PM

Switch- Vegas

I can't find any reviews on the restaurants in the Encore? How are they? In particular- thinking of going to Switch...


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  1. I've been to Botero, Sinatra and Switch.

    Botero was excellent and will eventually be spoken of in the same sentence as Prime, CUT, Craft, etc. From apps to steaks and sides they were right on during my visit there. We did not have dessert that evening.

    Sinatra was also a memorable evening and in my opinion, is the feature restaurant at Encore. It's one of the 2 or 3 best Italian restaurants I've had the pleasure to dine at. No expense was spared as you'll notice when you enter and see Sinatra's actual Oscar trophy. The pastas were handmade, the osso bucco was downright legendary (I order osso bucco quite often) and the bread pudding dessert I had was very good. Service was on par with the food and prices. I consider Sinatra a "don't miss".

    Switch on the other hand was not real memorable. I had trouble getting over the gimmicky, Vegasness of the place which may have tainted my objectiveness of the food. The menu struck me as unimaginative as well being real steak-heavy. The switch thing was pretty cool but lost its novelty after a few cycles. This was my least favorite venue at Encore as you can tell. My suggestion is to have a drink and app there and go to the other venues when you want to dine.

    21 Replies
    1. re: climberdoc

      climberdoc... At Switch, do you know if you can eat at the bar, or did you see anybody dining at the bar? I had already planned to do just this -- get a drink/app at Switch and eat at Sinatra/Botero -- but I don't want the tedium of getting a table there.

      1. re: grimaldi

        I did see people dining at the bar. Seems like a good plan.

        1. re: grimaldi

          If I am not mistaken, I am not sure SWITCH has a bar. Back in March, I asked if we could sit at the bar and have some appetizers and I could have sworn there was no bar, that accomodates eating.

          We ate at Sinatra at the bar and had a stellar meal.

          1. re: LVI

            We should add a caveat here - anyone that is planning to dine at Sinatra might want to check the menu first. To preface, we like the room, and the quality of ingredients and execution from the kitchen is first rate, while also maintaining a high service standard. But...

            If you have dined at Patina in the past and want to see Theo Shoenegger unleashed in a Las Vegas setting that is not quite what you will find. The menu is extremely limited both in choices and in scope. Most nights there are 4-5 pasta dishes and 9-10 entree's, with only a few side dishes. There was a thread about this a few months ago, as the economic downturn saw several last-minute changes at the Encore restaurants. What was originally to have been "Theo's" morphed into the current "Sinatra", and the menu was curtailed to a list that does not give a talented chef the chance to really show his creative abilities (basically the same thing that happened to Alex Stratta when he took over the Italian kitchen at Wynn; to see guys with this kind of talent having their hands tied has been one of the biggest disappointments in recent years in Strip dining).

            You are not going to find a B&B, Valentino or Circo menu here. Think Rao's instead, with even fewer options, but better execution. That is not necessarily a bad thing some evenings, but it is best to make sure that is the kind of experience that you want before making a reservation.

            1. re: QAW


              Is a small, focused menu necessarily a bad thing? I'm thinking of the diners in New Jersey with the 6-page menu when all you want is a "hamburger deluxe".

              I found Sinatra's menu had multiple possible menu options that I was interested in including apps, pastas, entrees and desserts. Service and execution was stellor as LVI has attested to.

              I admire your knowledge of the Encore "politics", but I'm not sure what your point is.

              1. re: climberdoc

                The point is a simple one, and it is certainly not that a small menu is a bad thing - it is a heads up to Chowhounds based on what is becoming common feedback from people that expected a more diverse menu from both the location, and the presence of Shoenegger in the kitchen (especially since Las Vegas gets so many visitors that have experienced his cooking in Los Angeles). Sinatra takes some traditional standards to high levels (the most recent menu showcasing items like Lasagna, Pasta Primavera, Chicken Parmigiana, Osso Bucco and Veal Milanese), and when those moods strike there may not be a better place in Las Vegas. But that is not the experience that everyone is looking for, so we thought it proper to offer a small disclaimer. Those looking for well-executed classics are coming to the right place; those looking for dishes and combinations they have not had before might want to consider other options. A foodie caveat emptor.

                1. re: QAW

                  Great response QAW! Articulate posts have become quite the rarity on this site and especially this board.

                  I had not thought of the venue holding back the chef. To be honest, my motivation for going there was its location in the Wynn and Steve Wynn's history (Bellagio and Wynn) to go over-the-top when it comes to dining in his resorts. Naturally, he seems to attract the celeb chefs. Sometimes he goes a bit far with the gimmicky attractions (Picasso paintings, walls that switch, etc). I may be in for a lynching from the many Picasso-lovers on this site. Sinatra seems like one of his best venues.

                  I'm not from LA and had not heard of Shoenegger before Sinatra. I guess I wonder who the bulk of Sinatra diners are. Foodies seeking Shoenegger's artistry or Vegas tourists wanting to gawk at Sinatra's oscar? Probably, the clientele lies somewhere in-between. I'm sure that the chef entered this Sinatra project knowing full well that the Vegas mix of clientele was likely discrepant from his LA crowd.

              2. re: QAW

                QAW, you are spot on with your assessment. There is a balance and I guess the question that needs to be asked is, is Sinatra too minimalist? Encore, and Wynn for that matter, certainly are not appealing to the $9.99 buffet seekers. There is a level of sophistication, if you will, that Steven Wynn achieves from his properties and that, in turn, captures the more sophisticated traveler (this is by no means saying that all guests are "sophisticated" or even well healed, especially myself!). Hence places like Sinatra will focus on quality as opposed to quantity. My feeling is that when restaurants offer too many choices they tend to lose their way and instead of a chef executing dishes you get an assembly line of "robots" following portion control measurements. I have not eaten at Alex and this is not a comparison of the two restaurants, but the lack of choices at Alex has never really seem to be an issue so far so I'm not sure it should be at Sinatra. QAW, I definitely understand what you mean by point out lack of choices, but I am not sure that issue is one that concerns the restaurant.

                Climberdoc, I like and agree with a lot of your posts and musings. This one, however is confusing. On the one hand you deride a "gimmicky" Picasso (yes, I am one of those ;-)) while at the same time mentioning Sinatra's Oscar and Emmy as you walk in. How is that not gimmicky? And to that, how are real Picasso's gimmicky? I LOVE BOTH restaurants and would have a very hard time deciding on the two. If I was in Vegas for only 1 time my choice still remains Picasso. But for the repeat diner, I will side with you and Sinatra wins. But in no way would I term either one gimmicky.

                1. re: LVI

                  Now this is getting good!

                  I'm glad you enjoy my musings LVI. Unfortunately, my best, most articulate and poignant posts have been deleted. I've sworn off this site on multiple occasions but seem to keep wandering back.

                  As far as the confusion you report about my statements about Picasso/Sinatra. I'll agree with you on that. I'm guilty of hypocrisy there. I absolutely loved my experience at Sinatra so the gimmickyness of the Oscar, Sinatra pics, etc. I let slide. On my visits to Picasso, I've found the food uninventive and unmemorable, so the Picasso paintings and fountains (is this really the desert?) strike me as a means to detract the diner's attention from the average yet pricey food.

                  As far as QAW's point, I'm still not getting it. Perhaps I'm not on the same culinary level as the two of you, I'm not sure. I'd really be interested to hear of some examples that illustrate the point. Menus perhaps?

                  As to gimmickyness in general. It seems to fit right in in the Vegas one-upping food scent. It seems like at times it works well, (i.e. Sinatra and Picasso in your humble opinion) and at other times it just seems overdone and detracts from the food (as is the case at Switch and is exemplified by the jousting dinner thing at Excalibur). No I have not done the jousting thing. Alex, which has provided me with some of my most memorable dining experiences needs no gimmicks or New Jersey sized menus. The food, service and venue speaks volumes.

                  1. re: climberdoc

                    QAW is more than capable of speaking for himself, but I THINK his point isn't that the limited selection is bad, but that those who were familiar with Theo Schoenegger's work at Patina and San Domenico might be surprised at how limited and relatively unadventurous the dishes are at Sinatra.

                    I know nothing about what happened at the Encore, but when a casino restaurant is named after the chef and then gets changed to "Sinatra," I think it's safe to say that the culinary ambition of the place has been downsized. I doubt if veal parmigiana would have been on the menu at 'Theo's."

                    1. re: Dave Feldman

                      This is a fairly surprising post given the author. And maybe Mr. Feldman can expand on his thoughts. I will not pretend to know the source for produce and other ingredients at Sinatra, but when did "unadventurous" define cuisine? Wasn't it Alice Waters that made an empire in San Francisco at Chez Panisse? Her approach was/is simple: very few choices while sourcing the finest (organic to be precise) ingredients. How fussy does a perfectly prepared risotto have to be in order for it to be ethereal?

                      As far as the name is concerned, I have a quick little story. When I first read that the signature restaurant at Encore was going to be named Sinatra, I thought to myself, "that's silly". You know, the whole "gimmicky" (that’s for you climberdoc ;-) ) Rat Pack Vegas thing. I mentioned the name to my wife without allowing for my feeling on the name and she said, "now THAT'S a GREAT name for a Vegas restaurant". And judging by the foot traffic to the restaurant (it really isn't in the most ideal location for people to just to wander by), I think she was more correct than I. Steve Wynn is a marketing genius and, again these are my thoughts on the subject. When the name "Theo's" was originally decided upon I think several factors worked against it. First, when I think of a place named "Theo's" my immediate thought is casual type of spot. Second, outside of LA, Theo's doesn't really doesn't connote the "star/celebrity" chef he really is. Also, a simple search of "Theo's Restaurant" in Google and you will see a multitude of Theo's. So I imagine the trademark infringements alone were enough to change the name.

                      And lastly, Mr. Feldman, have you had the opportunity to dine at Sinatra yet? Maybe Theo Schoenegger will make you a believer of his veal parmigiana .

                      1. re: LVI

                        Just came across this link. Thought it useful, not to mention it made me freakishly hungry!!!


                        1. re: LVI

                          Except, of course, that veal parmigiana is not on the current menu, although chicken parmigiana is….

                          The original points were pretty clear. There has been a paucity of Las Vegas traffic on this site in recent months, which goes hand-in-hand with the reduced number of visitors that the city has been receiving. So while the “Sinatra” topic got a lot of play elsewhere, I thought it proper to at least make Chowhounds aware of what some might find as an issue before they determined whether or not they might dine there. To repeat, I have never heard a single complaint about food quality, and have had good experiences at Sinatra. But some visitors are looking for a different experience than what is offered; hence the heads-up to check the menu first. There is not a dish on the current menu that could not readily be found in a neighborhood Italian restaurant anywhere in North America. At Sinatra they are likely to execute some of those standard dishes much better than elsewhere, but for a lot of visitors a Las Vegas trip means the opportunity to try things they have not had before. Sinatra might not be the right call for them.

                          What has been interesting to follow, and is germane in terms of how that menu came to be, is the way that the Encore restaurant concepts shifted in the final stages before opening. This was the first Las Vegas strip property to open after the economic downturn, and with Wynn management being an experienced and savvy group we followed closely as they made decisions while riding a bit of a roller coaster. Last summer John Curtis wrote this on his “Eating Las Vegas” blog -

                          "Moving along; the ultra high-end joint at Encore is tenatively slated to be called VIP 5 (dumb name that…we’re guessing it’s a working title), and will be Italian and small-sorta like Del Posto without the size and the tackiness(!), and blessedly, without Batali. Chef to be named later."

                          Regardless of the Mario Batali editorializing, the rest of his column that day was accurate in terms of the other Encore restaurants. He was in the loop, and those were the ideas when times were good. Just a few months before opening here was how a press release previewed the restaurant –

                          "Theo Schoenegger will get his own signature restaurant at the Wynn's new Encore resort. Theo's will be Italian with California flair. "I'm Italian and grew up eating and cooking Italian. This is definitely the ultimate opportunity.""

                          That was in line with what had been done at the Wynn – bringing in top chef’s for namesake restaurants – like Alex, Bartolotta, and Daniel Boulud (they could not do the same for the Asian restaurants because of awkward name recognition), and having them run the show, instead of franchising from some of the other celebrity chefs out there. And the times were still good.

                          Then comes the economic malaise of late 2008, and the end result for that restaurant space was significantly different from what the earlier plans had been. And there was more under the Wynn umbrella, with Larry Forgione’s “An American Place” becoming a casualty. Forgione would have opened in the space that remains as Tableau, and many of us were looking forward to that because seasonal American cuisine is something extremely under-represented here. Fortunately we got a chance in early January to dine there in the limited time that he was working the kitchen, and even got to share some conversation with Forgione and his wife afterwards, particularly talking about off-strip restaurants since they were new to the area. But maintaining the kind of pantry necessary for his kind of cooking, or for "Italian with California flair", was not a gamble that was going to be taken in that economic climate.

                          That is the gist of how the Sinatra theme (the first time anyone I knew even heard of them heading in that direction was less than 60 days before the Encore opened) and menu came to be, and hence why there has been some disappointment expressed in food circles.

                          1. re: QAW

                            It seems to me that Wynn made the smart decision here. Sinatra is a casino restaurant where the predominant consumer is not going to be looking for the "Italian with CA flair". It's more likely they will be seeking a $60 serving of osso bucco since they can now afford it after winning at the craps tables. I'm not so sure that Wynn cares about the disappointed "food circles" that you refer to. QAW your arguments are well-presented, articulate and clear. At the same time I find myself bothered by what you claim. Unfortunately, you have revealed a level of snobbery that I was not aware existed.

                            1. re: climberdoc

                              I am at a bit of a loss here, I have no idea how someone could read the above discussion and make a diagnosis of "snobbery". I went out of the way to say that I have enjoyed my evenings at Sinatra, so that it could be crystal clear. But to say that Wynn does not care about "food circles" completely misses the mark, and is even a more difficult diagnosis to fathom. No one on the Las Vegas Strip has had more influence on changing the dining scene than he has. He was able to make some original strides at the Mirage in terms of upgrading the dining experience (once upon a time we saw the first of Alessandro Stratta there), but look at the balance of the cuisines and quality he brought to the Bellaggio. As we look at places like the Venetian and the Palazzo and the celebrity chef culture that has become a part of the Las Vegas scene, we can sometimes forget how ahead of its time the Bellaggio was in terms of the restaurants. At his name-sake, his idea to bring in top name chefs and have them working on site, rather than just lending their name and some direction, was also a savvy stroke. And when reviewing the information pipeline as the Encore was being developed the imaginations of Wynn and his team appeared to be as active as ever.

                              I would not be surprised over time if we find out the the final decisions at Encore were made as much by the accountants as they were based on what Wynn really wanted to do. Remember that just one month after the opening of that property all Wynn employees making less than $150,000 took a 10 percent pay cut, with their work weeks reduced to 32 hours, and all employees at $150,000 and above were cut by 15 percent. Part of what was trying to be established above was how economics are going to be changing the face of what has been a dynamic dining scene over the past decade, which is why some of us watch these developments so closely, but perhaps that point was not made clearly enough for some.

                        2. re: LVI

                          I've never even stepped foot int he Encore, let alone Sinatra -- unfortunately, I haven't even been to Las Vegas in more than six months.

                          I was just trying to explain what I thought QAW was trying to say to Climberdoc. I certainly wasn't making a value judgment about Sinatra's -- you are right in thinking, I'm assuming, in presuming that I might be less likely to rave about a place simply because it was "adventurous."

                          But I think QAW's point is valid. Let's say that Grant Achatz was going to open a restaurant called "Grant's" at the Encore and then it gets changed to 'Wolverine's," with X-Men paraphernalia as decor and a mainstream steakhouse was the chosen cuisine. I think people would be a little surprised.

                          I agree that because of Sinatra's association with Vegas, the analogy is a little strained, but folks familiar with Schoenegger's work in Washington, New York, or Los Angeles, wouldn't expect him to be serving this kind of menu.

                          1. re: Dave Feldman

                            Nor would I expect the average Parisian to think that Guy Savoy or Joël Robuchon would be churning out dishes like they do in Paris. If Theo Schoenegger were on TV Food Network 18x a day yelling BAM over and over, my guess is that Sinatra would be named Theo Schoenegger's (I still think it was a trademark thing given the plethora of "Theo" establishments out there) or some other derivative. I think, and this is obviously my musings only, that if Theo Schoenegger had the naming marquee of some other high profile Vegas chefs whose establishments are named after them, then the management at Wynn would have tried harder to coerce the naming rights away from the aforementioned "Theo's". That statement has NOTHING to do with the quality of Mr. Schoenegger's work but rather a statement on Vegas itself. Look at Picasso. There is the obvious reasoning for naming it Picasso. And those familiar with Julian Serrano's previous work could obviously argue that same point. But outside of his home turf Mr. Serrano is a virtual unknown. As is Mr. Schoenegger (I live in CT. and work in NYC and I will be honest, I was not familiar with any NYC venture of Mr. Schoenegger until you mentioned that) Vegas is not a culinary destination, nor do I think it will ever become one. However it is light years ahead of its past thanks to people like Julian Serrano and Theo Schoenegger.

                            Comparing the relationship of Steve Wynn and Frank Sinatra to that of Hollywood's Wolverine and GenXers is a bit of a stretch. And maybe QAW is correct in musing about how this whole economic downturn affected decisions at Wynn. But I will contend that when people think of top restaurants in Las Vegas, Sinatra must be considered. From the "gimmicky" awards in the front to the "award" winning food in the back, it is as good as most (minus Guy Savoy or Joël Robuchon's name sakes).

                            And maybe at some point in the future we all could continue this discussion at Sinatra while dining over a plate of that Agnolotti that I still think about! How about a Chowhound dinner the weekend of Sept. 19th? I'd be happy to organize.

                            1. re: LVI

                              There has been some local Chowhound discussion of a Stratta vs. Schoenneger "Lasagna Smackdown", to see how two talented chefs take on an old classic. But we are having trouble deciding the proper logistics. Going to one venue right after the other makes for an interesting crawl, but is it a calorie overload (especially since a nice Tuscan red would have to be consumed alongside to properly bring out the nuances)? We also have wondered if getting carry-out orders and switching them for a blind tasting works better, but the thoughts are that each is best appreciated straight from the oven. Somehow, we will find a way...

                              1. re: QAW

                                i think when it comes to lasagna, as in steak, you need to give it time to "rest" thus, 20-30 minutes out of the oven might improve the overall enjoyment of the dish - the key is if the pasta holds up. personally, "old style" lasagna actually tastes better the next day - the flavors tend to permeate over night.

                                i am hitting Sinatra this week - a top restaurant in Vegas ? a bold statement given the laundry list of dining destinations on the Strip.

                    2. re: LVI

                      Just thought of something else LVI.

                      There was a certain sincerity to Sinatra. The photos of Wynn and Sinatra together along with the real Oscar trophy really exemplify the respect and friendship that existed between the two men. It seemed like Wynn really takes pride in this fine restaurant which he dedicated to his friend Sinatra. Did you sense this?

                      I find the Bellagio fountains to be sort of cool yet at the same time not a lot different than the pirate show or erupting volcano down the street. This is not the Hawaiian coast. There is a fakeness and insincerity that I sense here. Throw in some original Picasso works and this is amplified in my opinion. Perhaps the food at Picasso never had a chance with me.

                      1. re: climberdoc

                        Quick comment about SWITCH. I have yet to eat there but 2 people that I trust about food (my brother and close friend) found it to be above average. Both agreed that it was worth a repeat trip. I also have a soft spot for SWITCH as I am a fan of Desi Echavarrie, the sommelier.

                        Comparing palates is like talking politics. It is a no win situation. It is such a personal thing and I will never question another persons.

                        Now on to Sinatra. I have had 1 experience there. It was stellar. And like you, I felt the pride that Steve Wynn has tried to convey to his patrons. He was very close to Frank Sinatra and his family. So much so that I believe that Sinatra is one of very few (I believe the ONLY) business venture that the Sinatra family has given naming rights to. And the food, as discussed, really shines. There is no pretense, just flawless execution and stunning results. Yes, you feel the sincerity!

                        Do I feel that walking into this restaurant in the middle of the desert is gimmicky? That, is, almost oxymoronic, right? Vegas, in and of itself, is one gigantic gimmick. So by definition, doesn’t that make Sinatra gimmicky? Vegas to me is a place where I go to escape. 20 years ago it was different in all aspects. The city was different and so was my purpose for going there. At the tender age of 44 (they say 44 is the new 29 you know) I have many battle scars. But I no longer view it in the same light. As the city has evolved, so have. I remember reading in some tourist review book (pre-internet...can you imagine!!!!) that Bally's Big Buffet was the greatest thing since sliced bread. Thank God for the internet and those with the foresight to realize that Vegas was a culinary wasteland. The transformation in the past 10-15 years has been stunning.

                        So my view about fountains, Oscars, paintings, walls that change and the such, all lend to the experience. Would it work elsewhere? I highly doubt it. However you ARE in Vegas and therefore you need to soak it all in for all its grandeur. Some of my greatest memories of Las Vegas are not from all the alcohol/stimulant days gone by but rather moments like sitting on the patio at Picasso, watching the fountains in all their wonderment as my wife's favorite song is played on the PA system (she really appreciates the phone calls at 1am est. that she receives from me while holding the cell phone to the speakers so she can hear whatever the country singer it is that she so adores). That view, in the middle of September with temps. in the high 60's at night is quite stunning. Combine that with food that is above average to excellent (inventive...not anymore. Flawlessly prepared...98% of the time. Excellent ingredients, yes), service that is professional yet friendly and it is a wonderful experience.

            2. To go back to the original question, Marc Poidevin will be leaving Switch to go back to New York. He originally came to Las Vegas to open Le Cirque in the Bellagio, before moving over to the Wynn when it opened, and then Encore. It looks like there should be a pretty seamless transition, with Rene Lenger moving over from the Country Club Grill at the Wynn to replace him, but Las Vegas has lost a truly talented chef.

              2 Replies
              1. re: QAW

                Who will be at Country Club? That is one of my favorite lunch venues.

                In light of the points made in this thread, I wonder how good a move this is for Lenger. If I were a truly talented chef I'm now sure if I would want to cook in a place where more attention is focused on the walls than my creations. I guess one could say the same about the 18th hole at CC.

                Either way, very sad to lose his talent.

                1. re: climberdoc

                  It looks like Country Club will be in very good hands - Carlos Guia, who originally came to Las Vegas to head Commanders Palace (gosh do we miss that place), and has most recently been working as sous chef at SW Steakhouse.

              2. Thanks everyone for the suggestions...we went to Botero and had a fantastic meal. The olive oil poached halibut and the crab sampler were out of this world! Switch seemed pretty cheesy- thanks for the advice to skip it! Also- we had an amazing meal at Carnevino in the Palazzo....!!