Recently, two dear friends surprised me by taking me to dinner at Nusr-Et Steakhouse Las Vegas, the Strip-side outpost of the #SaltBae restaurant empire that’s located in the dining and entertainment district known as The Park; and I couldn’t believe how delicious it was.
But let me back up, for a moment. If by this point you haven’t heard of the #SaltBae, you’ve either flunked social media or been in a coma. Nusret Gökçe, the Turkish butcher-cum-restaurateur who has been so hashtag-christened, became an international Internet sensation in 2017, on the wings of countless memes and clips depicting his signature method of seasoning meat, wherein he holds his arm in the shape of a “Z” and sprinkles the grains of salt onto his forearm from which they then cascade down to his elbow and onto the steak.
If I’m being completely frank, I dismissed the whole phenomenon as Internet hype and thought nothing else about it. Meanwhile, his chain of luxury steakhouses, Nusr-Et—a portmanteau of his name and the Turkish word for meat—has grown to include 19 locations throughout Europe, the Middle East, and the US, as much known for their excess (gold leaf-covered steaks!) and outrageous pricing as for their devoted celebrity following.
As you might therefore imagine, when I first found out where we were going, I was a bit trepidatious. Besides my feelings about whether social media acclaim equals quality, I’m not a huge fan of Wagyu (as it’s so rich that I’m invariably full after a few bites); but I figured that even if the food was lousy, time with these two is always a treat, so I knew it’d be fun.
What I didn’t expect were the incredible flavors, tastes, and textures of the food that awaited us. Nor Nusr-Et Las Vegas’ charming and knowledgeable staff and management, who ensured that every aspect of our meal was memorable.
We began with the Meat Sushi (thin sliced New York strip with sushi rice, fresh Parmigiano-Reggiano, avocado cream, and crispy potato) and the SALTBAE Crab Cake (crab meat, roasted sweet pepper sauce, with a tropical fruit salsa). We certainly got things off on the right foot because each piece of the Meat Sushi was a light, crunchy and flavorful bite-sized morsel of scrumptiousness. As for the SALTBAE Crab Cake, we enjoyed them so much that we were sopping up the sauce with our bread. Then—and this is very telling of the team at Nusr-Et—upon noticing that one of the bussers had cleared it away, one of the servers went and brought us more bread with a ramekin filled with that roasted sweet pepper sauce. We hadn’t even mentioned anything: He just did it in anticipation of our wants.
Remember those “Beef. It’s What’s for Dinner” ads from the early ‘90s? Well, apparently that struck a chord with Chef Gökçe because this might be the least vegan-friendly restaurant on the Strip. (Is vegan-hostile a thing?) Needless to say, each of us had some sort of beef dish as an entrée, including the Lokum (7oz. of sliced mustard-marinated Wagyu tenderloin), the SALTBAE Wagyu Burger (a 7oz. burger with caramelized onion, cheese, and French fries), and the SALTBAE Tomahawk (a 39oz. highly marbled, mustard-marinated Wagyu bone-in ribeye).
The Lokum might well be the most tender presentation of meat I’ve ever had. At one point I declared it to be succulent, causing one of my friends to look at me skeptically and say “Succulent?” So, I quickly sliced him a piece and put it in front of him. “How would you describe it, then?” I asked. Before he had even finished chewing, he was already vigorously nodding his agreement. Small wonder, then, that “lokum” is the Turkish word for the candy we know as Turkish Delight; because a Turkish delight is exactly what it is.
IF you’re a burger person, then you’ll be head-over-heels for the SALTBAE Wagyu Burger. The onions really made it sing, and it was cooked perfectly. NOTE: Due to the high level of marbling in Wagyu, we ordered everything one notch up from what our normal preferences are, and it worked beautifully. Thus, a Wagyu burger ordered medium-well, comes out tasting as though it were medium.
Rounding out our entrées, was the SALTBAE Tomahawk, and not only was it wonderfully savory, but was presented with a great tableside floorshow, as did our Onion Flower (Spanish onion battered with milk, eggs, flour, and breadcrumbs). Held in the air, it looked like an enormous sea anemone, and we all agreed that Nusr-Et’s Onion Flower facilely puts the Bloomin’ Onion at Outback Steakhouse to shame.
Nusr-Et only offers one dessert, the restaurant’s signature Baklava. Made at a bakery in Gaziantep—a Turkish city about a half-hour outside of Istanbul that is renowned for its pistachios—the Baklava is flown in, daily. But what really elevates this pastry, besides a tableside presentation reminiscent of Benihana, are the thick slabs of Marash Ice Cream placed inside. Made from goat’s milk, the ice cream has a thick, custardy feel, and the result is an utterly decadent dessert. [Watch a clip of the tableside presentation of our Baklava at Nusr-Et Las Vegas]
We enjoyed ogling the cognac cart (all of those Lalique and Baccarat bottles make me happy) but were more in the mood for what we encountered on the tequila cart; and (after a bit of deliberation) two of us opted for the Clase Azul Mezcal Durango while the third chose to try the Clase Azul Tequila Ultra, an extra añejo. I thought the mezcal was lovely but found the extra añejo so strong that a mere kiss of it on my lips was enough to give me a buzz while causing some new hairs to sprout on my chest (but sadly, not on the top of my head).
So, if you’re in the mood for a truly memorable meal and have the coins to spare (or a generous expense account), make tracks for Nusr-Et Steakhouse Las Vegas. Just make sure you’re hungry!
Nusr-Et Steakhouse Las Vegas
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Get into it!