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Dining

Well done

Rare is a terrific steak house with a killer wine list to boot

Image
Maybe they should change the name to raw.
Photo: Beverly Poppe

It looks as if three’s the charm for a hilltop location just below Anthem on Eastern Avenue. After previous incarnations Viaggio and Hilltop Café, this view restaurant is now packing them in as Rare, a wine-friendly steak house with surprisingly good food.

Beef is still, apparently, what most people want for dinner. One busy Thursday evening, thanks to a porthole in the wall above my table, I could hear noisy conversation in the bar area, the restaurant was rocking, and juicy, nicely charred steaks appeared to be starring on every table.

The restaurant belongs to veteran owner Dov Droz, whose love of wine is apparent just from eyeballing this encyclopedic list. There are more than 50 wines by the glass, such as a terrific ’06 Penner Ash Pinot Noir from Oregon’s Willamette Valley, $14, or an elegant Cliff Lede Cabernet Sauvignon at $24. You’d need deep pockets even to consider a bottle of Harlan Estate 1999, all of $1,400. But I’ve seen it at well over $2,000 in Strip steak houses.

Restaurant Guide

Rare
11261 S. Eastern Ave., Henderson. 220-7273.
Open for lunch, Monday-Saturday, 11:30 a.m.-3 p.m.; dinner nightly, 3-10 p.m.
Suggested dishes: felafel & hummus, $7; ahi tuna poke, $12; 16-oz. NY Strip, $36; crepes, $7.50.

The restaurant has been nicely remodeled as well. It’s a labyrinthine series of comfy rooms, with walls sponge-painted a soft crimson, and ochre trim at the ceiling border. My window table afforded a far-off view of the entire Strip, from the Stratosphere all the way down to Mandalay Bay, the lights twinkling like tiny gems in the distance.

As an introduction to Rare’s charms, you might consider coming at lunch, when the din of the evening crowds is nowhere within earshot, and the menu serves an abbreviated version of what is available at night, basically salads and sandwiches.

The Cobb salad, for instance, is a winner. Each component—butter lettuce, tomato, Gorgonzola cheese, avocado, bacon and chicken breast—is chopped and separated in your bowl, waiting to be mixed with the good house vinaigrette. The only entrée on this menu is a flat-iron steak served with mashed potato, a bargain at $12. I ordered it, and found it a nice example of the genre, properly charred as requested, and perfectly tender.

The lively bar scene—Rare already seems to be a gathering place for locals from Anthem and Seven Hills—makes it a completely different scene during the evening. The noise level can be daunting, but the quality of the food and the price point make it all worth it.

Credit Droz’s Israeli roots for a delicious felafel and hummus appetizer, which goes nicely with the warm, crisp house rolls. Our waiter strongly suggested a grilled artichoke. The leaves have a nice char, and the two halves come with a citrus aioli. But a soy sauce marinade renders the dish rather salty, so keep this in mind when you order.

Oysters on the half shell are ingeniously offered at $2.50 each, a nice touch for anyone who feels like one or two. Ahi tuna poke might be my favorite starter of all. The kitchen uses lots of sesame oil, which I happen to like, and the fish is sashimi-quality fresh.

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I didn’t try the sea bass, served with fingerling potatoes, broth, cabbage and prosciutto, but reports on it are stellar. Instead, I went for the homemade spaghetti Bolognese, which has the meatiest sauce in memory, and a NY Strip, a 16-ounce Prime beauty.

The Bolognese took me by surprise, because it was actually more meat than noodle, so I was reminded of something my mother used to make in the ’50s, American chop suey. Bet you won’t find that one on many menus in this millennium.

As to the steak, the meat was tender, beautifully cooked and nicely trimmed. I’m not a gas-grill kinda guy, the medium used to cook this meat. Actually, I prefer charcoal. But for a gas grill, this is about as good a steak as the law allows.

Steaks include a pair of sides and a choice of sauce. The Cabernet reduction suggested by the waiter was too sweet for my blood, so next time, I’ll go for peppercorn, or a warm Gorgonzola sauce, at an additional $2. And our sides were faultless, tender, grilled spears of green asparagus, and delicious fresh corn with leeks.

We topped things off with crepes made by the owner’s wife. They are filled with warm custard and topped with strawberry sauce, so be ready. There is cotton candy, too, flavors that change daily. That seems excessive, even for Vegas.

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