Restaurants come and go, especially in this town. Talented chefs, on the other hand, tend to stick around. Take for example the recent closing of Comme Ça, the Cosmopolitan’s beloved French bistro. I definitely miss the place. But I take comfort in the fact that longtime executive chef Brian Howard is preparing to open multiple new concepts this fall. And the man who replaced Howard when he exited his position to start planning those concepts, Daniel Ontiveros, has already opened the doors at what is emerging as Downtown’s latest flavor of the moment, Therapy.
The new restaurant occupies a piece of prime East Fremont Street real estate that formerly housed a Dollar Store. But despite its predictable recaptured urban decor, nothing about the space looks like it was done on a budget. The large room is beautiful, with high-end light fixtures and other classy touches accenting the predictable exposed heating ducts and brick walls. (Ironically, in a city where so many decorators are trying to dress down brand-new corporate spots to look like urban renovations, this space with true street cred has gone out of its way to class things up without sacrificing authenticity.)
The baked ricotta gnudi with truffle honey and fig jam arrived at my table piping hot and so soft, my wife and I used it as a spread for the accompanying cranberry-and-walnut crostini.
Therapy’s menu offers upscale spins on American comfort food. But as this nation is such a melting pot, that means incorporating various ethnic influences. Take, for example, the oxtail empanadas: perfectly flaky pastry pockets packed with meat that’s so well seasoned there’s no need for the rather uninteresting harissa lime crème fraîche that accompanies it. And the hangar steak tartare with confit egg yolk in a mason jar is a delicious throwback to the chef’s French roots.
The best dish on the menu, however, is a pasta. The baked ricotta gnudi with truffle honey and fig jam arrived at my table piping hot and so soft, my wife and I used it as a spread for the accompanying cranberry-and-walnut crostini. As it cooled, however, it took on a more pasta-like consistency and was perfect on its own. I’m not sure at which point we enjoyed it more, but it was a huge hit with both of us.
Those are just a few of the dishes I loved over the course of two meals. Chicken sliders served on red-velvet waffles were much lighter than I expected, with only the slightest hint of sugar in the batter and a savory red-pepper remoulade slaw. And an order of white-cheddar macaroni and cheese with bacon and just a touch of truffle oil was rich and delicious.
My only complaint was with an order of chicken meatballs served with jalapeño-cilantro pesto sauce. While the meat was well-seasoned, it was extremely dry, and the smattering of green sauce did little to remedy that fact.
Service at Therapy so far has been excellent, both when seated at the bar and when having a more formal meal at a table. Servers are friendly and seem excited about the new project, and my food always arrived quickly. That doesn’t surprise me, since the owners have gone out of their way to bring in a quality crew. In addition to Ontiveros heading the kitchen, the front of the house is manned by general manager Chuck Scimeca, who oversaw the opening of Kerry Simon’s award-winning Carson Kitchen just a block away.
I’ve spent a lot of time in recent months singing the praises of the Carson Avenue restaurant scene, often dismissing Fremont as more of a drinking drag. But that’s really not fair. While I still prefer the offerings on Carson, Fremont’s kitchens continue to get better and better, and Therapy is just the latest example. Congrats to Ontiveros for landing on his feet, and once again giving Las Vegas foodies something casual, creative and fun—not to mention delicious.
Al’s Menu Picks
- In the “Gnudi” ($12)
- hangar steak tartare ($14),
- oxtail empanadas ($12),
- and chicken and red-velvet waffle sliders ($12)
518 Fremont St., 702-912-1622. Open for lunch and dinner 11 a.m-midnight Sun-Wed, 11 a.m.-2 a.m. Thu-Sat. Dinner for two $40-$80.