Before a Night at the Clubs, Las Vegas Dines at this Innovative Asian Fusion Restaurant
By Andrea Bennett | March 30, 2017 |
Nightlife-focused Asian cuisine in a room designed to celebrate the feminine mystique? Four years after opening at Encore Las Vegas, the combination of themes at Andrea’s couldn’t make more perfect sense.
The interior of Andrea's.
When Joseph Elevado was asked to move back to Las Vegas for a new restaurant in 2012, he first had to wrap his head around the concept. A “hip, Asian dining” theme that would draw on his experience as an executive chef for Nobu Matsuhisa in two cities, and Social House in Las Vegas, and bolster a corner of Encore devoted to nightlife, fit his experience quite neatly. But with no black lacquer or bobbing lanterns in sight, the design of the room didn’t hint at Asia. The venue, connected to Encore Beach Club and with its own entrance to Surrender nightclub, was, as designer Todd-Avery Lenahan describes it, “a metaphorical portrait frame around the allure of modern women.” Done up in hues of cream, cognac, pear, and gold, it was “inspired by contemporary fashions... glamorous footwear and handbags made of opulent materials such as gilt leather and couture crystal details.” Think Alexander Calder-like earrings dangling over secluded booths and a bank of velvet sofas awash in the perfect lighting of a thousand champagne-tinted Venetian glass teardrops. Plus, Elevado had quit Las Vegas—and nightlife—two years earlier to weave together contemporary Italian and Asian fine dining at L’Ermitage Beverly Hills.
Still, an Asian restaurant that didn’t attempt a play on Asian influences intrigued him. “And it was so personal to the Wynns,” he says, “so being a part of that seemed important.” Once on board, his task was to create an innovative menu with a wide variety of shareable items that wouldn’t weigh down patrons before hitting the club, and prepare for one of the most celebrity-packed restaurant openings in recent history. Added pressure: A late design decision rendered the room’s allegorical glamour girl quite literal, as Andrea Wynn’s own gorgeous eyes were floated right above the bar and the restaurant took her name.
Wagyu nigiri sushi.
“I wasn’t sure who my clientele would be, so I made the menu trendy and more straightforward—and I didn’t want to scare everyone away with a bunch of shrimp paste,” he laughs. Some of the accessible early dishes remain wildly popular, such as elegant slivers of tuna with pickled jalapeño and spicy mayo over crispy rice, plus raw bar platters, a broad sushi menu, and special wagyu entrées, as well as a Saikyo miso black cod—a tribute of sorts to his mentor, Nobu. Andrea’s cod is a lighter, plumper rendition of Nobu’s dish, which is marinated longer in fermented soybean paste, mirin, sake, and sugar. “I wouldn’t take his food directly because that would be a disservice to him,” Elevado explains. “And he told me before I left, ‘Don’t take any of my food, Joe.’”
Four years in, though, Andrea’s has not only gained critical success, it’s also been a testing ground for Elevado to gauge diners’ acceptance of less familiar flavors. The pan-Asian menu, liberally borrowing from Thailand, China, Japan, and the Philippines, “is always evolving, and people are more adventurous than ever,” the chef says. On an afternoon in early January, he is already planning the spring menu in his head. “We’ll add in some lighter fare to take advantage of the peas and ramps and beautiful radishes we get in the spring, and we’ll add more Thai salads—like crispy rice tossed with mint, cilantro, and sausage.” His own current favorite is a tribute to the caramelized fish-sauce chicken wings of Northern Thai specialist Andy Ricker’s Portland restaurant, Pok Pok, reborn in a deceptively simple-sounding fried chicken over green papaya salad. One stalwart that will go on forever, Elevado promises, is the flaming Mount Fuji dessert: a foot-high cone of devil’s food cake layered with Myers’s dark rum mousse, coated with dark chocolate and a fluffy meringue, doused with Bacardi 151 at the table, and torched to great effect. And although a smaller version is available (the original serves 10), Elevado says, “We have two-tops that order the large one because they love the spectacle.” It’s a dish that, in some ways, represents the restaurant’s conceptual bridge between cuisine and theater.
Chef Joseph Elevado.
Look at nearly all the photographs of Andrea’s in the last four years and you’ll see that the concept—Lenahan’s “elegant pose-and-repose” décor-meets-hip, Asian social dining—is clearly working for its intended audience. (In one shot, a good-natured Elevado vamps with Jenny McCarthy, while another shows him draped with supermodels Chrissy Teigen, Nina Agdal, and Kate Bock.) But to the chef, the real advantage is his freedom to grow the restaurant’s culinary reputation without having to shoehorn his food into thematic restrictions. “It’s a better mix than anyone might even have planned,” he says. “You can see that people are in here, dressed to the nines, and ready to go out. I love to come into the dining room and see that excitement.”