Over the past year, few Las Vegas restaurants have generated as much buzz as Artisanal Foods Café. Websites, blogs, daily papers, weeklies, word of mouth—the 12-seat café, located inside of Artisanal Foods Market, has been inescapable in local culinary circles. Despite the attention, scarcely a bad word has been said about the place.
It’s really nice to hear that people appreciate the café,” said owner Brett Ottolenghi, seemingly a bit taken aback by all of the attention. “It means a lot to us and we appreciate the comments.
Can a place this heralded possibly live up to the hype? Of course not. But it’s certainly worth a visit (assuming you can find it).
Artisanal Foods (2053 Pama Lane) is hidden in a honeycomb of business complexes south of the airport. It has high, exposed ceilings, faux wood floors and is inundated with natural light. Shelves lined with bottles, cans and tins adorn the far wall, and two circular fish tanks take up much of the right side of the room. The center of the room is occupied by tables and chairs. During our visit, on a typical Wednesday afternoon, the tables were clear and chairs empty.
On Ottolenghi’s recommendation (he’s heavily involved in the day-to-day operations), my friend Kaori and I started with the Piedmontese Beef and Octopus Carpaccio ($14), which was perfectly oiled and spiced. We followed with the Peruvian Style Lionfish Ceviche Tacos ($14)—fresh but small and subtle. We finished with the House-Made Fresh Pappardelle Pasta with Porcini Mushrooms ($15) and found it silky, but plain.
The café is the opening act at Artisanal Foods. The market, which provides products to some of the best restaurants in town, is the headliner. Though small, it is stocked with several select items, including meats (e.g., grass-fed venison), seafood (caviar), truffles (fresh black winter truffles from Italy), oils (lobster oil) and spices (freeze-dried Spanish saffron threads). It also offers a variety of teas and coffees.
When Kaori and I visited Artisanal Foods in early May, the café was in transition. Founding chef Johnny Church (Andre’s, Alize, RM Seafood, MTO Café) was no longer in the kitchen and one of his successors was on the way out. Ottolenghi closed the café and, despite the rave reviews, reimagined it as a high-end sandwich shop, in an attempt to appeal to employees of the surrounding businesses. He compares it to Subway, but with the quality meats, cheeses, oils, spices and produce featured in the market.
We want the café to be constantly changing,” said Ottolenghi. “We want to constantly be thinking of new ways to make these quality ingredients accessible to people. If we have to do that through a sandwich that’s what we’ll do. Our goal is to show people how to utilize these products, so they can take them home and use them there.
Update: Artisanal Foods Café is currently closed. The market remains open. For more information on the café, call 702.436.4252 or visit www.artisanalfoods.com.
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