Vegas Eats Preview: Cleo at SLS Las Vegas
SLS Las Vegas is opening in August and wallpapering the world with PR that states that the restaurants they are importing from Los Angeles are, like, awesome. Fortunately for you, most of the VT staff lives in L.A., enabling us to give these spots a spin and share the results. Previously, we visited the original Katsu-Ya location in Studio City, the Griddle Cafe in Hollywood and Umami Burger in Burbank.
As before, this series of posts are previews of what might happen at SLS, based on reviews of the existing venues in Los Angeles.
Cleo restaurant is located inside a former flop house hotel which sbe bought and transformed into boutiqueish Redbury hotel about five-seven years ago, right in the middle of tourist section of Hollywood. Cleo - named for the Egyptian pharaoh, not the 90's progenitors of coffee house grunge - offers a wide ranging menu focusing on cuisines from the Mediterranean and Middle East - Lebanon, Syria, Egypt, Turkey, Morocco, Greece, Persia and beyond from Chef Danny Elmaleh. Don't let this scare you... this is sbe restaurant, of course they have sliders.
Immediately upon arriving at Cleo, we were greeted by this... a standing SLS Las Vegas advertisement which fraudulently presents its location as being right next to Wynn / Encore, when reality it is 1.3 miles and three and a half large casino parcels between it and Wynn. I walked it and it took me 30 minutes.
Inside the Redbury.... signage...
...a gabbing gaggle of servers ignoring us...
... Theda Bara...
"Blowin' Free" by legendary and semi-obscure English boogie rock band Wishbone Ash (from their incredible album 'Argus') on the muzak system. Wishbone Ash was Iron Maiden bassist/mastermind Steve Harris' favorite band in the early 1970's, providing the prototype from which he built the mighty Maiden empire. Despite being greeted at the door with sbe puffery and indifferent service, I'm smiling... a deep deep cut just for me?
Eventually, we (me, MissMonkay and JohnH) were led through the lobby past the dining room bar to our table that faced the open kitchen.
Allison, our server, met us at the table, distributed menus and made herself available for any and all questions. We asked tons and sent in orders for starters.
The first thing on the menu - "SLS Las Vegas".
The first thing on the drink menu? A hashtag SaharaToSLS cocktail.
The first key to mind control is to get your targets to speak the planted truths back to you "I'll have the #SaharaToSLS."
How could I not order the Kool-Aid? It came with a silver Grey Goose vodka stirrer and a sprig of rosemary! Flavor was mishmash of sweet and bitter with pear flavored vodka kicker. How about skipping the rosemary and replacing the vodka with an aromatic gin? Because 'woo girls' don't drink gin. Forgettable.
JohnH ordered the Mediterannean Margarita, made with Casamigos tequila, fig-almond syrup and a schfritz of fresh lime.
Fresh bread arrived wrapped in a Cleo branded paper bag - steamy, hot, airy, light and delicious. We ordered two dips for the bread, Lebaneh with Feta (top) and Htipiti (bottom). Lebenah is best described as a goats milk yogurt strained into cheese, then mixed with feta and covered in olive oil and spices. It has the consistency of a runny cream cheese - creamy, delicious with a hint of feta's salty tang. Htipiti is a Greek dip made from roasted red peppers, capers and feta chese. Super tangy, smoky and rich.
Next came the Greek Salad - feta, letuce, cucumber, tomatoes, olive oil, fresh chopped leaf and olives. Underwhelming.
Roasted Brussels Sprouts topped with chopped parsley, capers, sliced almonds and a viniagrette - the end result was a crispy, sprouty take on salt & vinegar potato chips. A revelation.
Spanakopita - a Greek delicacy made of spinach & feta chese wrapped in filo pastry, fried and sprinkled with roasted sesame seeds. Cleo's spanakopita left us all wanting more flavor.
Shrimp Briouats - a juicy pocket of shrimp and Moroccan seasonings wrapped in filo-like dough. An explosion of delicious.
Cleo offers an extensive kebab and sausage menu - we ordered (left to right) the Boudin Blanc sausage, Lamb Kebab and Chicken Kebab. Adventurous, foodies should know that Cleo offers sweet bread kebabs.
We ordered the Boudin Blanc (left above) - a super tender, almost creamy white pork sausage with salty crisp casing. Lamb kebab (above center) was tender yet slightly musty - unanimous miss for the table. The chicken kebab, was just that.
In the middle of this blizzard of small plates, JohnH ordered an Old Hollywood - made with his beloved Bulleit Bourbon, bitters and the same fig almond syrup his margarita came with.
Then came Ravioli filled with cheese and egg and served in a brown butter sauce. Wow.
Final dinner course was the meatball tagine, which the waiter poured two uncooked eggs on, then scrambled in the spicy tomato and pepper sauce. Holy crap.
Meatballs were perfectly rare... oozing fat and mouthwateringly flavorful. Wow. Cleo also offers chicken and beef cheek tagine.
Of course, we ordered dessert.
But first... almost on cue... a Cleo 'spokesmodel' saddled up to our table, her arching back facing us, with spine turned enough to provide clearance for her craned neck to Garbo-ize "is everything to your satisfaction?" tilting her hips enough to reveal the thong outline beneath her translucent dress.
The three of us sat there in disbelief at this grand display of pretentious sbe puffery. She tossed her hair, and sashayed away to the growing sounds of our barely contained snickering. "What was that about?" we asked each other.
Flourless chocolate cake with deep fried banana - gooey sweet delicious.
Sticky toffee pudding with a sugar crisp.
Coffee - a French press, brewed at the table - dark and roasty.
Tea - steeped at the table. All served in mis-matched array of estate sale tea cups.
Dinner for three with three cocktails and desert came to $184.21 plus tip. Our server Allison was thoroughly incredible.
And then she came by the table and told us that we could have the chance to win a $500 sbe gift card if we give them our personal contact information to add to their SLS Las Vegas mailing list. Get the picture?
There is no restaurant in the Las Vegas tourist corridor like Cleo. Chef Danny Elmaleh touches on all of the major culinary traditions in the Mediterranean/Middle East/Northern Africa traditions and presents them in contemporary, approachable way that will make Cleo the break out restaurant at SLS Las Vegas.
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