Hail Nero’s!

Nero’s Tuscan Steak House features prime-grade steaks and 
the freshest seafood served in an Old World setting.

By Frank Gabriel

Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 0 | Posted Jul. 3, 2012

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Tucked into a quiet corner 
on Caesars' third floor, Nero’s Tuscan Steak House is a little hard to find. But take our word for it, those extra steps are worth the effort. Visiting here is like being clued in to a privileged little private dining club.

Our meal began with a classic Italian treat, artichokes. Bulbs of thistle had been prepped by a skilled hand, resulting in clean, creamy centers. Marinated simply with lemon, textures remained firm, but not so much that they required more than a fork to enjoy. Shaved pecorino cheese and two basil varietals — chiffonade of Genovese and clover-shaped micro bunches — dotted the plate, providing color and fragrance.

For those who haven’t enjoyed artichokes before, this pretty dish — delivered on a long wooden plank — would prove a persuasive introduction.

An evening’s menu addition, seared local scallops, followed. Literally larger than a silver dollar, these bivalves were of local origin, as explained by executive chef Keith Mitchell.

Light golden outside their thick middles were opaque and full of the ocean’s breath. Plated atop a smoky bacon fondue with bitter dandelion greens, this colossal scallop shone like Venus in the evening sky. We dug the dedicated sourcing; Mitchell allowed that the vast majority of Nero’s products are harvested from within a 100-mile radius.

Next up, another timely regional special, soft shells. These succulent molting crabs had been lightly battered, respecting their pristine nature. Rolled in half, they were filled with chopped lobster, a bold combination that we’ve never before seen. Think of a lobster roll composed of soft shells and you’re close.

That precious crustacean was also the basis for a delicate orange liquid, similar to French sauce Americaine, atop which everything was plated. A toss of fava bean greens — bet you haven’t had them before — along with matchsticks of apple, completed the imaginative proceedings.

In truest Italian fashion, pasta followed. Two to be exact; ricotta gnocchi and then tortelloni. The former was a soulful, soothing serving. Gnocchi, smaller than almost any you will ever encounter, bore much similarity to German spaetzle. Tender and light, Mitchell allowed that he learned this technique from pioneering DC-based chef Roberto Donna.

Fresh diced tomatoes, added just prior to serving, remained firm and juicy. More basil along with shaved parmesan finished a plate akin to summer in a bowl.

Then, those tortelloni, a third add-on to the bill of fare. Portioned as two large, round purses of pasta, they were surrounded by slivered hen of the woods mushrooms, whole, bright green edamame beans, shaved truffle and luxurious foam composed of Sauternes wine.

Like baseball relief pitching, each ingredient brought a specialized quality. Mushrooms, woodsy yet tender, harmonized with the dumplings of pasta. Edamame, an element we’re not often fond of, brought vibrant color and a daring, contrasting texture. But it was the shaving of truffle and that elegant, slightly sweet foam which elevated this plate to the realm of extraordinary. 

As entrees, we chose a meat and a seafood. The latter, pan roasted mero, a wide cut of grouper, one of the ocean’s sweetest species. Finished subtly by brown butter vinaigrette and huge cannellini beans, attention was never directed away from the starring fish.

The flavor actually surprised us with its intensity, albeit in good way. Earlier this year, in our annual Wish List feature, we plaintively asked for more varieties of unique fish locally, and Nero’s mero — sorry, I just couldn’t resist — really delivers.

My selection, Colorado lamb, arrived as a duet of double-cut racks. Hinged across a base of tiny, tri-colored carrots no longer than an inch- yellow, crimson and traditional orange- these one-bite baby veggies worked wonders with the plush meat.

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