Monday, August 8, 2011

A Tour of Beef at Carnevino

Restaurant reviews are far and few on this blog.  While I like to read restaurant reviews, I wanted to focus more on cooking and pairing.  However, when I dine at a truly amazing restaurant, I feel compelled to write about the experience, if only so I can remember what I had.

Recently, I had the opportunity to dine at Carnevino, which is one of a couple restaurants established by Mario Batali and Joe Bastianich in Las Vegas.  As the name suggests (if you know Italian), this restaurant is all about meat ("carne") and wine ("vino").  The dual focus of this restaurant is well balanced.  The menu contains dishes such as beef carpaccio, ravioli di stracatto (duck livers with balsamic vinegar), and a range of meat dishes, featuring the "BBL" beef.  "BBL" beef is hand selected, hormone and antibiotic free beef that is aged in a meat chamber.   The menu is well developed, and reinforced by a very large list of wines.

But, the reason why I went to Carnevino is not that menu.  There was a much smaller menu that grasped my attention ... the Beef Tasting menu.  Five courses, four of which feature beef in different preparations.  The menu had a substantial price tag of $120.00 per person.  It took a little time for me to choose this menu, but, I realized that, one only lives once and so it is important to experience everything.  This principle is particularly apt when it comes to beef.

Unfortunately, I did not take any pictures of the dishes.  I felt a little intimidated to take out my phone camera and take pictures.  Still, here are some of my notes about each course.

First Course: Wagyu Beef Crudo. The first course was an excellent introduction to the world of beef.  The preparation was basically a wagyu beef carpaccio.  Crudo is the presentation of raw protein, usually fish but it can also be beef.  The beef in this case is wagyu, which consists of several breeds of cattle that are known for the marbling of their meat and the high amount of oleaginous unsaturated fat, Omega 3 and Omega 6 acids.  The beef was sliced paper thin and laid out like petals of a flower.  In the center, there was a little "salad" of fennel topped with coriander leaves.  This was the first time that I had ever had carpaccio or crudo.  Each bite of the crudo melted in the mouth, with little chewing required.  This was an excellent introduction to this preparation of beef, making me wish that I had access to such quality beef so that I can try to make it myself.

Second Course: Beef Cheek Ravioli.   Beef ravioli is hardly novel, but the second course, beef cheek ravioli, presents a completely different and unique experience.  There were five ravioli, made with fine sheets of pasta that enveloped beef cheeks.  The meat itself was pureed or minced to almost a paste; however, whoever prepared the dish knew the point at which he or she should stop, because, despite the look of the filling, much of the texture of the meat was retained.  The beef cheek had a deep, beef flavor that was truly exceptional.  The ravioli were topped with an aged balsamic vinegar, which was all that was needed to complete the dish.

Third Course: Wet Aged Piemontese Beef.  Until recently, I had not heard of Piemontese beef.  In the Piedmont region of Italy, ranchers raise razza bovina Piemontese, a breed of cattle that is known for double-muscling.  The cattle have more muscles and less fat, yet the meat remains tender. Small slices of the beef, seared on the outside and nearly raw in the inside were stacked like Lincoln Logs over a small bed of wilted spinach and topped with a poached quail egg that was breaded and fried.  The beef was very good, and tasty, with each bite containing crystals of sea salt to help enhance the experience.

Fourth Course: Dry Aged "BBL" Beef.  The final course centered around Carnevino's BBL beef, which was prepared in a similar way as the Piemontese Beef, with small slices seared on the outside and nearly raw in the inside.  The beef was served with a small lobster and potato side that was very good.  However, the star of this course was the beef.  Like the crudo, each bite simply melted away, giving way to just the full flavor of the beef.

Fifth Course: Vanilla Semifreddo. The final course was the dessert, a Vanilla Semifreddo, which was a semi-frozen ice cream or custard with a pistachio butter and lightly sauteed strawberries.  This dish was a great way to end the dinner.

During the tasting, I had a couple glasses of Barbera, a wine produced in the Piedmont region of Italy.  The wine paired well with each of the beef preparations.

After I completed each of the tastings, I commented on Twitter that every person considering vegetarianism should be required to complete this beef tasting before he or she commits to foregoing beef.  If that were the case, there would be no vegetarians.  Each course was perfect and the overall tasting was amazing.  Although the price is a little stiff, I do not regret it.  The tasting menu is a beef-centric experience that I will never forget.  Until next time ...


1 comment:

Lauren said...

I feel like... if I ever were to start eating meat again, THIS is how I'd welcome it back into my life. Thanks for posting about this :)

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