There is nothing that I love more than trying new restaurants. For our first official date night as a married couple, Luke decided to take me out to a steak house that I have had my eye on for awhile- Echo & Rig. Located over on the west side of Las Vegas in Tivoli Village, I first stumbled across this establishment quite by accident. Bored one hot summer Sunday, the hubby and I set off to check out a specialty kitchenware store that turned out to no longer exist. Stuck in Summerlin with nothing but time, Luke took me to Tivoli Village, where we wandered around checking out various restaurant menus on display. Echo and Rig’s butcher shop featuring slabs of meat hanging from the window caught my eye, and I have been obsessed with coming back ever since.
Generally I am not the biggest of steakhouse fans. Classic steakhouses bring to mind low lighting, wood or dark red decor, and the obligatory business man smoking a cigar. The formality, the stiff waiters, and the menu are utterly predictable. Which I am sure is a great comfort to the sort of person who orders a New York Strip, creamed spinach, and a baked potato without fail, every time he goes out to dinner. But in the past few years, the culinary scene has started to liven up, and slowly but surely the public has begun to come around to the idea that a fancy night out doesn’t have to include a steak. There are options! Lots of them. So how does a restaurant balance some people’s desire for comfort classics, while exploring the trend of innovative and creative dining?
Echo & Rig manages to do just that. At their heart they are a steakhouse, and a quality steak house that is serious about its beef. Once seated, our waiter began a detailed explanation of the menu that focused heavily on highlighting where the various cuts of meat come from, as well as the difference in taste and texture. I appreciated the guide through the menu for a few reasons. One, I am not an expert of various steak cuts, and I found the explanation educational. I know that a Rib-Eye is big and a New York Strip is cut thinner and longer. But I truly appreciated the explanation on what part of the animal each piece of meat is cut from, the difference in marbling, and the education on “American Style” Wagyu beef. The giant slabs of meat that were paraded out later may have been the tiniest bit on the side of overkill, but on the other hand, it is kind of cool to see that if I wanted to I could buy a giant tomahawk steak that will feed 4 people.
But what I loved the most about Echo & Rig is that they find a new way to bring fresh life to the steak house menu without offending those die hard purists. Replacing your classic steak plus one vegetable and a starch formula, Chef Sam Marvin has introduced the idea of ordering “small plates” prior to the meal. Call them appetizers, call them pre-dinner side dishes. The small plates list, which are organized according to price points, could be considered either, depending on what you order. For a veggie fix, selections such as roasted carrots, black tuscan kale, or grilled summer corn is available. They proudly support local farms out of California, and I get the feeling if you wanted the name of the specific farm, they could probably cough that up for you. Your standard staples such as mac & cheese and roasted mashed potatoes are available, but thankfully, not a creamed vegetable in sight. For the more adventurous, you have steak tartare, grilled octopus, or bone marrow carne asada.
For our appetizers/sides, we decided to go with a mix of old classic and new ideas. We ordered the lamb cigars with tzatzki sauce, plus the four cheese mac & cheese.
Never heard of a lamb cigar? Well, this gem of an idea is basically a ground lamb egg roll. A greek egg roll? I don’t know. But it is tasty. As is the macaroni, which is one of those things that I can’t help ordering as a side dish even though I know I can make macaroni at home. There is just something irresistible about noodles smothered in cheese. This particular dish comes with seven types of cheese and led to a 5 minutes conversation trying to guess them all. I don’t remember what all seven ended up being, but I know one was jarlsberg. Yum….
Selecting an entree was quite a dilemma. On one hand, if I’m going to a steak house that boasts its own butcher downstairs, I feel like it would be wrong not to get a steak on the first go. On the other hand, the rest of the menu sounds really good too. Luckily, one of the rules of marriage is that you can never both order the same thing off of the menu at the same time. This means I get to try a steak and still get a bite or two of something else. Woohoo!
I chose the bohemian steak, because 1) I’ve never seen that cut on the menu before, 2) it is a smaller portion, and I wanted room for dessert. The Bohemian Steak, which is from the tail end of the sirloin, is well marbled and buttery in taste. The Bohemian Steaks are from Snake River Farms and are American Wagyu beef. I ordered mine the recommended medium rare.
My steak came out with a great char. I loved the blue cheese sauce, and I love even more that Echo & Rig doesn’t nickel and dime you by charging for a sauce. The menu says “pick one” but my waiter said “pick all” if you like. If you want to go nuts and order all seven sauces, they won’t stop you. My only warning about the steak, is beware that they learn towards a rarer cook. My medium rare was decidedly on the rare heading to raw side. Whatever your steak preference is, you may want to order a level up. However, it should be noted, when I started to ask my waiter about it, before the words even left my mouth he immediately said “oh, that is rare,” and offered me a free dessert.
Finally, the hubby ordered Wild Sole en Papilotte, which is a fancy way of saying fish cooked in a bag. “Bag” meaning a pouch of parchment paper. For anyone who has never had fish prepared in this manner, basically, the fish is baked in a pouch of baking paper, along with assorted vegetables and aromatics. The pouch traps both the moisture and the flavor of the fish while cooking, resulting in high flavor without a lot of fat.
Not only is the dish yummy, but it adds a little bit of flair to your dining experience, when the waiter presents you with a plate, and then cuts the bag open in front of you. Not to mention, you get that amazing aroma of flavors once the bag is cut.
My only complaint about the menu is that vegetarians would probably have a hard time, and vegans are mostly out of luck. There are a number of salads on the menu, and a few are robust sounding options without meat or cheese. A non-meat eater could order a hodge podge of vegetarian side dishes, but as far as main entrees go, there really isn’t one that is strictly without any type of meat product. The closest vegetarian option would be a penne dish with a number of vegetables, but even that has anchovies. With a growing number of people with alternative dietary preferences, I always appreciate it when restaurants provide vegans an option beyond salad.
While I mainly judge restaurants based on the taste of their food, service, price and atmosphere are also something to consider. And I have to say, Echo & Rig delivers on all fronts. When we walked in, the hostess downstairs made a point of asking our last name, and we were addressed as “Mr. and Mrs. Ciciliano” throughout the night. The manager made a point of coming over to our table, thanking us for coming, and asking us to contact him directly the next time we needed a reservation. As I have mentioned, the waiter was incredibly knowledgeable about the menu, and immediately offered a free dessert when he saw something about the dinner was not quite right.
The building itself is two stories, with the bar and butcher shop on the first floor, and the dining tables on the second. An elevator is available for those who physical challenges, but the staircase adds a nice bit of drama. As large as the building is, I don’t think the dining room actually holds a large number of tables, so reservations are probably preferred for a weekend night. When it isn’t overly hot, the outdoor seating is supposedly lovely as well.
Finally, given the atmosphere and food quality, Echo & Rig has to be the best deal in town. Part of their marketing is to openly advertise that they serve quality food at a reasonable price, and its true. If they were located on the strip, there prices would be 40-50% higher. Eating here provides a high class experience for an affordable price. They even have a no cork fee policy, that they openly encourage. That means you can come have a nice dinner, for an affordable price, and your waiter will happily pour your wine from the bottle you picked up from BevMo on the way to dinner.
Too often in Las Vegas, the celebrity restaurants on the Strip get all of the glory. Echo & Rig stands up to the best of them, with the added bonus of you won’t have to fight your way through a casino to get there. Giving my business to Echo & Rig means supporting a local restaurant, which supports small farms, while also having a stellar meal. I look forward to going back soon.