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The Society Cafe

August 14, 2012

“Imaginative American Cuisine” is how The Society Cafe is billed.  And imaginative, it certainly is!  And impressive, outstanding, delicious, and fabulous are just a few other adjectives that describe this restaurant.  The Society Cafe is a restaurant located inside the ultra-luxurious Encore Resort and Casino located on the world-famous Las Vegas Strip in Nevada.  Encore opened in 2008 as an extension to the famous Wynn Resort and Casino.  Encore is an all-suite 5-star resort that feels a little bit more intimate than the Wynn.  The resort features 12 different dining options with one of them being The Society Cafe.  This restaurant, which is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner was voted as one of the “Best New Restaurants in America” by Esquire magazine.  And it’s easy to see why this restaurant was given that kind of distinction.

Walking into the restaurant, you’re greeted by a gorgeous, and intimate decor.  Dark colors, heavy drapes, stylish combinations, patterns and designs adorn the walls, the art work, and even the place settings with a very black and white color motif.  The cuisine is called imaginative American cuisine because the head chef has put her twist on classic American comfort food.  It’s all the comfort food you’d find at home, but kicked up 20 notches in a fun and inventive way.

Like the old-fashioned New York restaurants where they’d bring soft pretzels to your table, The Society Cafe provides each table, at dinner with a small bowl filled with soft-baked pretzels with a side of whole grain mustard spread with a spritz of lemon.  The soft-baked pretzels are sprinkled with rock salt and really harken back classic New York street vendor selling pretzels.  It was a nice unexpected treat to our meal.

I had previously looked at the menu online, but had no idea what I wanted to order as I wasn’t sure anything really jumped out at me.  I figured I’d decide when I got to the restaurant.  Immediately upon looking at the menu, I knew that I wanted to order a soup to start my meal.  They had a creamed corn soup with Maine lobster meat and micro greens.  That sounded too good to pass up.  What they do is bring a large bowl to your table that has nothing in it but a small pile of micro greens mixed in with a few chunks of lobster meat.  Then, in a separate small metal container is the creamed corn soup itself.  Once the plate is placed in front of you, the waiter will pour the soup from the small container into the bowl in front of you.  It was a fun way of presenting the soup.  However, the minute I took a spoonful of this amazing soup, I was hooked.  This was a super creamy, very delicious creamed corn soup.  So full of flavor it mixed really well with the micro greens and the lobster meat.  I devoured my soup in just a few minutes that even my husband remarked that I must have really enjoyed it.  It’s certainly one of the best bowls of soup I’ve ever had.

My husband opted to order the mac & cheese bites with truffle oil as his appetizer.  When these were brought to the table they looked so delicious that I had to steal one from my husband.  The mac & cheese bites were the size of a tater tot, but so full of wonderful flavor.  They were perfectly crispy and crunchy on the outside, and soft and chewy and cheesy on the inside.  You’d pick a mac & cheese bite with one of the small toothpicks they give you, and then dip it into the small bowl of cheese and truffle oil topped with chopped chives that is served along with your dish.  This dish was heavenly and perfectly done.  A dish like this really does scream out imaginative American cuisine; it’s a true twist on the classic American comfort food.

For dinner, my husband knew right away what he wanted.  On the other hand, I was indecisive.  I had wanted to order something different from him so that we could both sample from each other.  But, in the end, I couldn’t pass up what he decided to get, so we both ordered the same entrée.  Herb crusted sea bass served with fingerling potatoes, bacon, winter greens, capers and extra virgin olive oil is what it said on the menu.  What came out was something much grander than what the menu had described.  There was a broth made of bacon, capers, tomatoes and olive oil sitting at the bottom of a shallow bowl with a bed of wilted winter greens in the middle of the bowl.  Sitting in this broth were also some creamy fingerling potatoes.  The dish was topped by a large piece of herb crusted sea bass.  The sea bass was perfectly cooked and tender and flaky.  The herb crust was delicious and flavorful without being overpowering.  But the broth in the bowl was beyond amazing.  It’s the broth that made these dish heavenly.  I don’t know how they did it, but the broth was so full of flavor and texture.  The wilted winter greens were addicting.  The fingerling potatoes were perfect and creamy and sitting in the broth soaking up all of the flavor it was perfection.  When the herb crusted sea bass came into contact with yummy broth at the bottom of the bowl, it was like a match made in heaven.  Herby, brothy, beautiful flaky sea bass heaven.  This dish was amazing.  Such simple flavors, and ingredients, but when prepared and cooked the right way, it was just amazing.

My husband and I were both full from our delicious meals and were debating whether or not we should get dessert.  We kind of looked at each other and thought that this might be the only time we’re ever at this restaurant, and we were on a weekend getaway, so it was ok to be a little naughty and order dessert.  Boy am I glad we did!  We looked over the dessert menu and decided to order the banana split.  Honestly, by reading the menu, the banana split seemed to be the most boring item on the dessert menu.  But, since my husband and I are suckers for banana split, we decided to be boring and order the most plain jane straightforward dessert they had.  We couldn’t have been more wrong.  The menu describes the banana split by saying it is chocolate covered frozen bananas served with a trio of ice cream and almond tuile.  What was brought to our table was anything but an ordinary banana split.  This dish, to me, is the epitome of imaginative cuisine.  This was a deconstructed banana split at its finest.  To one side of the plate you have 3 lengthwise sliced frozen bananas; one dipped in white chocolate, one in milk chocolate, and one in dark chocolate.  Down the center of the plate, you had one scoop of vanilla, one scoop of chocolate and one scoop of strawberry each resting on a butter cookie and topped by a long length of almond tuile which was then topped with a few dollops of whipped cream.  Finally, down the other side of the plate were 3 small bowls, each filled with a different banana split topping: hot fudge, caramel and strawberry sauce.  I was stunned when it was brought to the table.  It was so pretty you almost didn’t want to eat it!  And you almost couldn’t figure out how to eat it other than to just dig right into it.  This banana split was not only delicious, but fun and inventive.

The Society Cafe is luxurious, decadent, delicious, magnificent, astounding, and all manner of other adjectives that I can’t think of right now.  The restaurant lives up to its billing as imaginative American cuisine.  Everything in the restaurant was classic American fare, but turned up to showcase the flavors of the food.  Each dish is crafted with care and whimsy, but most of all tastes outstanding.  I know my husband and I thought that this might be the only time we ever dined at The Society Cafe, but after having had this meal, I know I certainly want to go back and try some of their other dishes!  If you ever find yourself in Vegas, and you just want good old-fashioned comfort food but with a twist, this is the place for you!

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