Thursday, Sept. 2, 2010 | 12:05 a.m.
- What: Nu Sanctuary
- Where: At Town Square; 527-7851
- When: 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. daily
Look, up in a shopping mall! It's a hookah lounge! It's a bar! It's Nu Sanctuary! Yes, Nu Sanctuary, a restaurant that came to Town Square with powers and kitchen abilities far beyond those of mortal mall eateries. Nu Sanctuary can change the course of mall wine bars with a good list, bend burgers into something magnificent and, disguised as a mild-mannered lounge next to a movie theater, fight a never-ending battle for edible truths, gastronomic justice and a better American shopping center way of eating! Phew.
Good mega-mall meals not involving franchised food and frozen yogurt are notoriously hard to find. In fact, you'd be hard pressed to name a gastronomic destination in any mall in Vegas that isn't connected to a top-flight hotel. The daunting task of succeeding in this hostile environment has been taken up by Chef Brian Howard — an alum of Simon and Bouchon — who thinks his indoor/outdoor ambience and casual, wallet-friendly menu of small plates will woo diners away from the much more pedestrian fare of the competitors surrounding him. Howard's menu, obviously culled from his stints at those high-performance kitchens, is unlike anything you've ever tasted next door to a movie theater. Taleggio cheese-stuffed chicken in a bright, lemony beurre blanc (served with a fresh tomato and olive salad) or chickpea-crusted scallops over cauliflower "risotto" aren't common fare for the "Resident Evil: Afterlife" 3D crowd, but Howard is banking on enough hookah-loving hipsters and gastro groupies to make all of his delicious efforts worthwhile.
Just as compelling are his deconstructed hummus (one with kick that every "Mediterranean" restaurant should take note of), a beautifully constructed carpaccio of "steak and eggs" and a spicy lamb tagine over Israeli couscous that showcases his love of strong, assertive flavors. He can even get molecular, as his addictive nitrogen-frozen caramel corn demonstrates. With each bite, you sense this kitchen's talent at doing technically precise, sophisticated food at remarkably soft prices. One can only hope that stroller-pushers, and the audience for "The Expendables" (or the next "Superman" movie), will get with the program.
— Originally published in Las Vegas Weekly