Wednesday, July 23, 2014 | 4:55 p.m.
As Robin Leach arrives for his annual summer vacation under the Tuscan sun in Italy — he also is visiting Lake Como and Lake Maggiore this year — many of our Strip personalities have again stepped forward in his absence to pen their own words of wisdom. We continue today with a look behind-the-scenes of rock and roll star chef Kerry Simon’s new downtown restaurant Carson Kitchen.
When I was asked to write a guest column for Robin Leach while he was off on his well-deserved vacation, I was honored but unsure of when I would find the time.
I recently partnered with Las Vegas’ own “Rock ’n’ Roll Chef” Kerry Simon to open Carson Kitchen at 6th Street and Carson Avenue in downtown Las Vegas, and my life has been a whirlwind of excitement the last three months.
I met my dear friend Kerry back when he was a regular customer at my Cana Tapas Kitchen & Bar in Town Square. Our mutual interests and passions quickly built the potential for a solid business partnership, which led to the launch of Simon Hospitality Group in 2013.
Since then we’ve spearheaded projects including Chuck’s: A Kerry Simon Kitchen at the Hard Rock Hotel in Chicago; the opening and oversight of Simon Mansion at Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic; and most recently, the creation, development and opening of Carson Kitchen.
Kerry has been planning Carson Kitchen for a long time, and with the continued battle against MSA, he was involved in every aspect of the design and menu. He envisioned Carson Kitchen to look like his own home mixed with the revitalized vibe of downtown, creating a gourmet oasis in the East District.
The restaurant is filled with his personal touches: from the open kitchen and chef’s table to his “swear jar” ($100 gets you covered for the year!) to our chef’s hats labeled with his favorite quips and phrases (“Are there any girls there?”).
With the opening of Carson Kitchen, we’ve partnered with Tony Hsieh and the Downtown Project to become an integral piece in the rebuilding efforts sweeping the district. We aimed to capture the soul of downtown by designing our restaurant in the old John E. Carson Hotel and using repurposed materials to create a unique finished-but-unfinished look. We also just introduced a rooftop patio with a full bar for downtown summer nights.
We developed the menu with our executive chef, Matt Andrews, who has worked with Simon for the past seven years. The menu is focused on social plates for sharing, with no item costing more than $20. We went through four stages of testing for the items and came out with a variety of signature dishes uncommon for downtown and the greater Las Vegas area.
Some of the early favorites include Spam croquettes, lightly fried balls of breaded Spam served with jalapeno honey; crispy chicken skins accompanied by smoked honey sauce; rabbit ragu made with spaghetti squash and parmesan; and our fried green tomato sandwich mixed with lump crab ravigote and baby greens.
A Simon restaurant wouldn’t be complete without dessert, with offerings like a bourbon fudge brownie served with brown-butter bacon ice cream and glazed doughnut bread pudding made with three-rum caramel and vanilla creme.
We’re thankful and honored at the great initial response and look forward to growing with the downtown Las Vegas community for years to come. Next time you’re in the area, swing by and introduce yourself! We’d love to have you try the new Carson Kitchen.
Check out our other guest columns today from World Food Championship host and Food Network star chef Ben Vaughn and singer and Las Vegas resident Pia Zadora. On Thursday, three stars of “Jersey Boys” at Paris Las Vegas wax wisely in their guest columns.
Robin Leach has been a journalist for more than 50 years and has spent the past decade giving readers the inside scoop on Las Vegas, the world’s premier platinum playground.
Follow Robin Leach on Twitter at Twitter.com/Robin_Leach.
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Follow Sun A&E Senior Editor Don Chareunsy on Twitter at Twitter.com/VDLXEditorDon.