LOCATION: Mandalay Bay, 3950 South Las Vegas Blvd.
RESERVATIONS: Suggested; 702-632-7200 or ext.77200
FARE: $$$ Expensive and Ecclectic mix of Russian, French, American, Asian Fusion
ATTIRE: Casual Elegant
Asia de Cuba and China Grill fans will find fancy in Jeffrey Chodorows Red Square, imported for your party and dining pleasure from his smash hit original in Miami. The restaurant’s "funky and chic"—czarist-meets-proletariat—theme and outstanding drink & fare menus continue to garnish rave reviews from CNN, Access Hollywood, The Food Network as well as Esquire and Conde Nast Traveler. A host of others have bestowed accolades from Best New Restaurant (1998) to Best Bar Scene in America (Playboy). Entering its 6th year in the Mandalay Bay, reservations can still be hard to come by.
All reviews mention the headless statue of Lenin and its simulated bird droppings—no offense intended, Mr.Putin—standing guard outside the entrance to the restaurant. Very few seem to let you know that Lenin's head sits encased in a block of ice, serving as a table in the vodka freezer where patrons may borrow authentic mink coats and hats for a taste test. It was returned to Red Square after being packed away in a warehouse for a few years, fittingly found by workers. The head had been removed amidst supposed controversy after the statue was erected in the Mandalay Bay. The fall of dictatorships this past decade suggests headless statues may just in vogue for now.
The concrete floor of the foyer is embedded with the red and white-outlined square logo. Stepping inside you are canopied under twenty-five to thirty foot high ceilings. Moscow hangs heavy above in a gorgeous multi-color-glass-spired St. Basil Cathedral-style chandelier. Hardwood floors, distressed walls wearing cracked-plaster-finishes whisk you into a turn-of-last-century’s setting. Burgundy velvet booths provide wall seating and red drapes hang from ceiling hoops—strung tent-like to the floors. Murals of workers and post-czar propaganda posters paint the walls while the Hammer and Sickle of a Soviet era-gone-by looms large over Vegas’s only ICE bar. At twenty five feet long, it assures revelers’ drinks of staying cold. The bar menu provides an impressive quantity (150+) of vodkas from a dozen different countries.
It is the fruits, vegetables and candies the vodkas are infused with that allow specialty martinis and cocktails to explode off the menu. Names like The Red Square, a scrumptious martini, are commonplace; a touch of sweet vermouth over Moskoskay vodka and dirtied with blue-cheese stuffed olives. Reality explodes into smithereens with a Cuban Missile Crisis (Bacardi, Triple-Sec, pineapple and fresh line juice), or just get nuked on a Chernobyl(Stoli-100, Absolut-100, triple sec, and cranberry juice with a float of Polish Luksusowa-80 proof). These are a sample of the two dozen mixers available. With the amount of garbled conversations floating from table to table it does not take many—so to speak (or slur as the case may be)—to reach the heights of Sputnik One…which is also on the menu.
Dining staff wears black pants and polo-shirts with white letters emblazoned on their backs saying "JOIN THE PARTY". Even in this overboard-with-fun atmosphere, attentiveness and superior service is still delivered with high priority. The theme—as with all of Chodorow’s eateries—works well because the food works even better. "Champagne tastes and caviar dreams?" Then you will find plenty of both on the menus as well; Beluga, Osetra and Servuga, are complimented by American caviars for the price-consciousness in all of us.
Tuna tartare lovers will find the blend of pine nuts, chives, ponsu, potato gaufrettes, wasabi, garnished with tobiko and crème fraiche, a first place contender for the platinum palate award! Most appetizers can be ordered as an entrée as well.
Salt-and-pepper-fried calamari dusted in an incredible five spice mix—which was not disclosed, even upon request— is generously served and accompanied with sweet and sour sauce.
Entrées did not fail to exceed expectations. Jumbo crabmeat with arugula angel hair pasta is topped with sautéed Roma tomatoes sautéed in white wine dressed with garlic and basil. A must for the pasta lover.
Roquefort-crusted filet mignon is basted in a red-wine reduction sauce, topped with caramelized garlic on a bed of potato puree. It was incredibly tender and tasty.
The Red Square Salmon Kulebyaka is tender, moist and falls under the fork in medallions. Prepared in mushrooms, egg whites, dill and salmon mouse on a puff pastry smothered in a saffron Beurre Blanc, this chef’s alchemy has patrons leaving their platters scratch-shine clean.
The next dish consolidated the majority of our orders: osso bucco is the menu’s newcomer as well as being my favorite. Fall-from-the-bone tender and in the chef’s words: "slow herb-braised, lacquered in cognac and natural au-jus served over Colcannon Rissoto, balsamic-roasted shallots and crispy horseradish onion strings." The portions are huge, and it is served with small seafood forks to access the flavorful marrow from the bone. Try this, and I am certain it will have the chance to be your favorite too.
Desert usually ends the meal and in this case a peek at the divine menu awaiting all at Red Square. Caramel vanilla bean creme brulee, strawberry's romanoff (in Grand Marnier Sabayon), bananas foster cheesecake, an incredible chocolate trilogy (mousse, sorbet, and tiramisu), and of course, the chocolate cake covered with vanilla bourbon ice and a strawberry sauce...choose your poison in an evening under the former Evil Empires roof!
If attention to detail is what you seek in a culinary extravaganza then
secure that reservation
at Red Square before arriving and party away.
Appetizers $12 to $25
Entrees $23 to $35
Desert $10 to $12
Specialty Drinks $11