Review: Giada’s at The Cromwell wasn’t what we were expecting

Where to start?

Our last trip to Las Vegas was for the 2015 Super Bowl weekend at which time the renovations of what became The Cromwell were completed; however, Giada’s at The Cromwell–the first restaurant from celebrity chef Giada de Laurentis in Las Vegas–hadn’t yet opened. Those doors swung open the following week after we were back home in Colorado.

So when we were surprised by my mother–also a big fan of Giada’s Food Network show Everyday Italian–with an early Christmas present to spend three days back in Vegas, we made reservations to Giada’s at The Cromwell to ensure a visit to her place was part of our itinerary.

After the 40-minute walk from our hotel along the Las Vegas strip, past the fountains at The Bellagio and the tinkling lights of the Eiffel Tower of the Paris Hotel, the sound of our bellies rumbling at the prospect of having Giada’s food within the hour drowned out the sound of the casino floor as we walked through The Cromwell.

As we entered the grand staircase leading to an escalator up to the restaurant’s hostess stand and entrance, you are greeted by paintings and prints of movie posters from classic Italian cinema as well as a few replicas seen in the background of Giada’s home on her cooking show. As neared the top, the scent of burning saddle wood permeated the space.

When we finally reach the top, we were welcomed by the cutest little hostess in the tiniest black dress with a twinkle in her eye, bright smile and soft voice which said simply, “Welcome.” At that point the warm fuzzies had set in. It was as comforting as being wrapped in a heated blanket in your own home.

The decor was nothing short of what you would expect to see in the chef’s own home, complete with crisp white upholstery, ruby and gold accents and candlelit tables. Our sever, Rocco, complete with authentic Italian accent (coincidence? I think not), was delightful and attentive.

We made our dining selections based on three aspects; one cheese, one seafood and one recommendation. Our order eventually included aged goat cheese with a grape must (whatever that is) for the first criteria, a crab crostini for the second. Meeting our third criteria, Giada’s signature whole chicken for two as featured and raved about in Food & Wine Magazine.

Here comes the good stuff.

The bread course was anything but typical. It included bread sticks–and I mean the actual long, firm and thin Italian bread sticks with a cracker texture, Giada’s fresh baked olive oil loaf and the best darn Parmesan cheese flatbread which I’m sure was made using a wafer cracker and Parmesan cheese only. Is that enough for just three breads? No. They were accompanied by ramicans of crunchy capers, shallots, Himalayan salt, marscopone and basil pesto.

The Hubs was happy mixing the capers with marscopone and dipping the Parmesan in his combination. I didn’t eat them except a bit of the marscopone and a sample of the pesto. Even though I’m not a fan of pesto, this one was impressive. You could tell it was fresh, made that day. It wasn’t brown or separated like you find some restaurant pestos to be.

The Hubs attempting to steal one of Giada’s placemats but not very skilled in doing so. (Photo by Chef Heather)

Our goat cheese arrived on a simple white platter with four slices of firm nutty cheese resembling pecorino, and we found out what grape must was. It’s a very sweet condensed grape syrup with a consistency of balsamic vinegar.

Crab crostini. What comes to mind? Let me tell you….whatever you have envisioned is nothing compared to this. Now understand, I come from a land-locked state, so fresh seafood is not easy to come by as it is in other regions. But so is Nevada. The crab was sweet, buttery and succulent with just a touch of saltiness, exactly the way it’s supposed to be. It was layered atop of what may have been riccota, or a similar soft cheese, and a perfectly toasted crostini as its vehicle. It was nothing glamorous or over the top. It was simple, honest and elegant.

And then came chicken. This perfectly fried chicken is served quartered and family style with a robust tomato-y sauce on the side. First impression? It looked amazing. I fixed myself what would be the perfect bite including all of the dish’s ingredients and opened wide. Now here’s where things turned. While the chicken was cooked perfectly and the skin crispy, my palate was overwhelmed with a perfume that I recognized as fennel. And we aren’t talking a little fennel, like an amount that makes ground pork-sausage, but rather it was an amount which completely enveloped every tastebud I had available. Imagine if you could take a bite out of a cloud, and gases of that cloud fill your mouth, work their way into every corner of your palate and suddenly you have a bad case of cloud mouth which not even a swig of wine will chase away. That’s what the fennel was doing for this chicken for two dish.

My dearest Hubs attempted to eat the dish meant for two, since I couldn’t stomach another battle with the fennel cloud. He was able to consume about 70 percent of the dish–my hero–which he remarked was a bit dry to him, only because the cost of the entree was so escalated. Remember, we are talking about a celebrity chef on the Las Vegas strip.

Needless to say, the appetizers are nothing short of what we imagined to be a true Giada experience. However, because of the portions and my inabilty to win the fennel fight, I ended up at the Sbarro in our hotel’s food court shortly after we left. 🙂

Onto the next.

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