Renowned Chicago chef Shawn McClain (Spring, Green Zebra) is giving the likes of Guy Savoy, Thomas Keller, and Jean Georges Vongerichten some serious competition with his inspired and perfectly executed dishes such as his to-die-for foie gras brulee. If I needed to pick one starter for my death row meal, this would be it. Creamy, almost mousse-like foie gras is topped with a thin, crackly caramel crust that creates a perfect mouthful with toasted cocoa nibs and a salted brioche companion. We experienced a few seconds of temporary blindness with our first bite–this dish is that good.
With so many tempting items on the menu, we were having difficulty choosing our meals. We put our appetites in the hands of our very capable server, Jason Bond, and with his nod of approval went the four course tasting menu ($79) with the wine pairing ($40 additional). Bond was spot on with his recommendations. Each wine was an absolute perfect match for every bite along the way. The expertise of our server was apparent as he guided us through each course and companion wine.
A starter of a half dozen pristine oysters with a Tabasco sorbet and aged tequila mignonette may very well be the best oysters in town. The Tabasco and tequila were perfect mates for the sweet, icy oysters.
Our second courses of lobster casoncelli – tender little ravioli filled with lobster- were paired with spinach and mascarpone cheese, and Maine dayboat scallops served on a bed of meltingly tender braised oxtail were outstanding.
A third course of Iberico pork loin with smoked dates and a melt-in your-mouth beef belly on a chestnut puree were both rich and satisfying. We loved both dishes, but felt slightly less love for the Iberico pork loin. The pork was very tender, flavorful and moist, but perhaps too heavily smoked (possibly due to the smoked dates). The smokiness haunted our palate way into the desert course and beyond. It was a lovely dish, perhaps best served on its own. We felt it was a bit too assertive with the other selections on the tasting menu. If Iberico pork loin interests you (and it definitely should), we suggest ordering it ala carte rather than a component of the tasting menu.
We found no fault with our deserts. A warm carrot cake and a crunchy chocolate peanut butter tart were perfect endings to a near perfect progression of dishes. We contemplated ending our meal with one of the numerous absinthe selections, but our palates were still feeling the stress from the smoke on the Iberico pork loin.
The gorgeous interior and elegant serenity of Sage and it’s bar are an ideal stage for Chef McClain’s masterpieces. One last note about the service–ask for server Jason Bond. When your goal is an excellent meal, only excellent service will do. We are planning another visit Sage very soon. We intend to call ahead to reserve one of Bond’s tables and make our reservation accordingly (not that the other servers are less skillful). Trust us on this; you will want to do the same if you want a perfectly paced, flawless dining experience.
In the Aria Hotel and Casino
3730 Las Vegas Blvd.
Las Vegas, NV 89109