Wednesday, April 13, 2011 | 5:20 p.m.
Offal—a term created to describe portions of meat that “fall off” a carcass during butchering—is surging with the snout-to-tail culinary movement. And here in Las Vegas, one of the best places to experience it is Andre’s at the Monte Carlo.
- Monte Carlo, 798-7151.
- Tuesday-Sunday, 5:30 p.m.-closing.
Over the past few years, chef Gary FX LaMorte has brought some significant new wrinkles to the restaurant, particularly on the tasting menu, where he is afforded significant creative license. Start with sweetbreads, one of the most commonly encountered offal meats. Of course, they’re neither sweet nor bread, but rather the thymus glands of calves. Typical preparations involve pan frying or searing, but LaMorte has developed his own technique. His sweetbread salad preparation—think savory chicken salad—showcases the meat while underplaying its inherent minerality. If that dish doesn’t convert you to calf thymus, nothing will.
LaMorte’s beef tongue is also exemplary. Set atop golden beet carpaccio and served with girdling smoked lentils and a whole grain mustard jus, it displays none of the chewiness that typically accompanies the strong muscle—thanks to a lengthy and delicate poaching process that breaks down the fibrous meat.
The most whimsical offal presentation available? Spring chicken consommé, a mild soup that immerses and complements a bold-flavored tamarind and chicken liver mousse. It’s served from a glass pitcher containing a chicken foot, which peers out like an unholy monkey paw. The presentation isn’t for everyone, but it’s a good reminder that this is no ordinary chicken soup.
Andre’s signature foie gras martini might be the ultimate offal usage. The cocktail, which was inspired by the Double Down’s Bacon Martini (no, really) incorporates emulsified foie with a mixture of honey, Tahitian vanilla beans and vodka, topped with truffle shavings for a savory, decadent cocktail unlike any other.
Purists might claim these meat preparations don’t provide a fully authentic (see: scary) experience. I disagree, since the majority of the fear is mental anyway. Offal meats can truly be palatable, and if creative preparations open more diners to their charms, that sounds like an awfully good result.