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Apr 30, 2011 01:14 PM

[Review] Dinner at Sage at Aria

For photos and complete review, please visit my blog:

It's been nearly a decade when I last went to Vegas. Back then, I was under aged to appreciate or cared about much; Vegas was about half the size and not as glamorous and adult Disney-like.

I have eaten a number of restaurants that skew toward the higher end of the price scale, as I'm pretty bored of the NYC fine dining scene.

Sage is under the helm of Owner/Chef Shawn McClain and Chef Richard Camarota, a critically acclaimed chef from the Midwest. He broke out into the national scene at Trio in Chicago, left there after seven years to start his own restaurant Spring. He was awarded for February 2002, McClain was named the “Rising Star Chef of the Year” at the inaugural Jean Banchet Awards for Culinary Excellence and Spring was nominated by the James Beard Foundation as the “Best New Restaurant” of 2001. Then he opened another restaurant Green Zebra in 2004, which focuses on vegetables. In 2006, McClain was honored with the “Best Chef Midwest” award from the James Beard Foundation.

Sage seems like a different animal compared to the haute European and celebrity chefs from New York and other cities imported to Vegas. I had high hopes that this restaurant would break me from my jaded self, as I'm pretty bored with the New York City dining scene.

Sage is gorgeous. High ceilings, spacious and decorated with sleek, dark wooden tables, plush seats and banquettes with large purple projections of Édouard Manet's "Le Déjeuner sur l'Herbe (The Luncheon on the Grass)" on the sections of the restaurant's walls. The painting's projections are beautiful but I'm trying to figure out why did Chef McClain specifically chose it. There was a moderately large private dining room in the back for parties greater than 6 people. The acoustics here was great - conversations around the room were soft and muted.

Thank goodness for flexibility for most Vegas restaurants, I ordered the Chef McClain's Signature Menu (4 courses for $79) while my friend went a la carte.

Bread service started with a good note. Lavender butter with a side of pink Murray River salt served with warm mini baguette and bacon country bread. As unusual as lavender butter with savory bread seems, it works here. The lavender isn't overwhelming pungent but one can taste the beautiful floral aroma melding with the sweet, creamy butter. The salt enhances the lavender ever so delicately when sprinkled on top. The bacon country bread is wonderfully smoky and sweet.

Our server then presented us with an amuse bouche of avocado mousse, cranberry, and toasted almonds. The delicately sweet, creamy avocado mingled with the bracing tart cranberry, rounded out by the almonds.

My wagyu beef tartare served with buttered baguette slices was perfectly seasoned. Sharp caper aïoli juxtaposed with creamy, fatty wagyu beef was good by itself. But the slow poached egg, pickled mustard seeds, and crispy, bitter chocolate played on the lusciousness of the beef as well as adding the needed texture and contrasting flavors.

My friend's pan of roasted sweetbreads looked like a large pile of bumpy McNuggets but when you bite into them, it's delightfully creamy and addictive to eat. The slice of thick-cut of bacon gave it some sweet smokiness and the trumpet mushrooms and white polenta gave you some needed fiber. Kidding aside, the mushrooms gave it a wonderful meaty flavor.

2nd course: My Maine Dayboat scallops were solid. Seared beautifully and served with braised oxtail, wild mushrooms, salted caramel reduction to go along with the inherent sweetness of this mollusk.

My friend's Foie gras 'brûlée' stole the show. It's silky, intensely flavored, über rich that it can almost be dessert. The umami of that premium foie gras was screaming (in a good way) to my palate. The poached rhubarb added some crunch and tartness to the very intense bites of foie. The salted brioche danced between the savory and sweet lines like the foie gras custard. This was mind blowing.

My 3rd course of Iberico pork loin is an adoration of Spanish pork in a Staub cast iron pan. The sweet, smoky slices of pork loin and mortadella accompanied with cannelloni stuffed with confitted pork shoulder, and crisp green asparagus.

My friend's Maine lobster casoncelli was pristine both in execution and the ingredients. The pasta was delicately eggy and had enough structure to contain the chunky lobster and mascarpone filling. The fennel and spinach purée played on the lightness of the dish and it does reflect on the season of spring.

My dinner ended with Warm Carrot Cake filled with roasted coconut sauce and candied ginger with a quenelle of cream cheese ice cream. I tend not to order carrot cake because I find them to be cloying from the cream cheese frosting or the nut studs . But this I would make an exception. The carrot cake is served "naked" (as in without frosting) and it's filled with barely sweetened coconut sauce to give it a tropical/Asian touch. The cake was truly warm, fluffy and moist. The crunchy, candied walnuts on the side with the quenelle of dense, cream cheese ice cream is a great idea of deconstructed carrot cake.

After paying the check, we each received a parting shot of hot mint chocolate. This hot chocolate was refreshing from the minty kick. The dark hot chocolate wasn't too sweet and rich that we're not going need some pillows and blankets to stay there overnight.

Overall, my meal at Sage was wonderful. If you have the inclination of robust flavored food that's globally inspired, this would a great place for dinner.

Sage (Aria
)3730 Las Vegas Blvd S, Las Vegas, NV 89109

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  1. Great review and amazing pictures! What kind of camera are you using? Sage is my second favorite restaurant in Vegas with L'atelier being at the top. Yet I dream about that Foie Gras brulee constantly.

    1 Reply
    1. re: SDGourmand

      Thank you so much!

      I'm using the Canon 5D Mark II with the 24-70 mm lens. (Yeah, heavy duty stuff to lug around for vacation.)

      I did eat at L'Atelier a few days after my visit to Sage. I have a relatively difficult time deciding which I liked more just because the two restaurants have different philosophies and cooking styles. Well, I'll talk about it more when I get to that particular review. At any rate, the foie gras brulee is stuff dreams are made of.


    2. Interesting, I found the foie gras brulee just way to sweet. But all in all, I agree that Sage is great. Had a fabulous dinner there twice and loved the food. The bread pudding there is awesome.

      1 Reply
      1. re: A5 KOBE

        I agree - I prefer my foie gras straight. Going to Vegas on Sunday and staying at Aria. So I'm gonna check out Sage again. I loved the oxtail appetizer last time.

      2. Great review-- thank you. Can anyone comment on Sage as an option for vegetarians/pescetarians? I've got just one night in vegas coming up and I'd love to find a fabulous tasting...

        7 Replies
        1. re: GSM

          I would have no compunction about going to Sage as a vegetarian/pescetarian. My wife LOVED her meal at Sage even though she is kosher to the extent that she will eat at restaurants but only fish with scales and fins and otherwise vegetarian.

          I would highly recommend the slow poached egg with truffle - it was on par with any of the meat dishes.
          We did not love the summer salad that she ordered next and when we informed our server, he quickly removed it and brought my wife a delicious vegetarian soup. There were fish options for mains, though my wife opted for the rissotto which was good but not as memorable as some other dishes. The desserts were on point.

          All-in there is plenty of choice for a vegetarian/pescetarian to enjoy this menu.

          1. re: GSM

            I am a vegetarian/pescetarian and recently dined at Sage (last week). Although our server was wonderful (but not attentive as he was split between the restaurant and the lounge) and the food solid, I didn't find it as spectacular as others on the board have. It was our anniversary dinner and we had booked in advance yet we were seated in the lounge with no option given to us. The wine was warm and we had to send it back to decant in ice, and the lounge area was absolutely freezing cold. I would not dine here again but do wish I had the experience that the OP did as that was what I would have expected from a restaurant of this caliber.

            1. re: selena03

              Warm wine? What kind of wine did you order?

              1. re: kagemusha49

                It was a Zinfandel...I can't recall the name.

                1. re: selena03

                  If it was red Zin it is not meant to be served chilled. If it was white - I can think of few white zins that are not in the soda pop category.

                  1. re: kagemusha49

                    I know it wasn't meant to be chilled like a white wine. I am not a sommelier but I do know what wines should taste like when they are served.. Red wine is supposed to be cooler than room temperature (about 65 degrees), not warm like a warm bath . If it was warm like this and I was paying $5 for a glass at PF Changs I wouldn't have blinked an eye. But when you are spending over $300 on your dinner you expect your bottle to be at the right temperature or close to it.

                    1. re: selena03

                      If it tasted warm then it definitely wasn't cool enough. I'm pretty flexible on how warm a red should be - it definitely doesn't have to taste chilled but no more than a hint of cool is fine by me.

          2. How do you feel about the food in sage? The food that handle most of large party group usually prepare by the "event team" instead of the original team that work in the restaurant. Originally I want to book Twist but was told the food won't be prepare by the Twist group.... How much was it per person for your reception? I'm also planning for my wedding reception and have Sage as one of our option.

            1 Reply
            1. re: princesskitty

              @princesskitty: I do not know if you read my posting (despite it's dated in 2011) but I ate at Sage for dinner with friends. Not for an event or wedding.