Sometimes the best new offerings in any city are ones that spring up in gentrified areas. For Las Vegas, the eighteen-block region now known as the Art District was once a collection of run-down warehouses and abandoned shops. These days, a new vibe of hipster cool is drawing both young and old back to the area.
Nestled in among the graffiti-style wall murals, art galleries and coffee shops is a little place named Esther's Kitchen. While technically located at 1130 S. Casino Blvd., the cafe physically faces E. California Ave., unit #110. Though it may be a bit tricky to find, Esther's Kitchen is definitely worth seeking.
Esther's Kitchen is the brainchild of Chef James Trees, whose late Great Aunt Esther bequeathed him the funds to make the restaurant possible. A protégé of sorts of the world-famous Michael Mina, Trees made his mark in countless establishments on and around the Strip before venturing out on his own.
Esther's Kitchen is the culmination of Chef Trees' storied career, and a wonderful reflection of his upbringing. His goal is for every guest to feel welcome and cared for. The open kitchen, whimsical decor and friendly staff may remind you of visits to a favorite relative, but it is in the food that Esther's Kitchen really shines.
Esther's boasts a farm-to-table operation. Everything is locally sourced or brought in from the best nearby suppliers. It's worth noting that prices are far less than you'd pay elsewhere for dishes of this quality and presentation.
The weekend brunch, for which I was an invited guest, features a variety of familiar favorites given a homespun Italian slant. My companion and I were invited to select two entrees to accompany a sampler of Chef's choices.
We started out with a plate of warm fluffy Biscuits with Chive Butter ($5) along with Toasted Italian Bread under layers of cream cheese, smoked salmon, red onions and capers ($11). Next came a bowl of Malfada Nero ($19), a dish whose dark mafaldine pasta is colored with cuttlefish ink. The unique wavy noodles are tossed with big chunks of lobster (flown in directly from Gloucester, Mass.), fennel, lemon and truffle butter, and the dish is as mouth-watering as it sounds.
My main course from the list of "Egg Dishes" was a plate of Polenta with two sunny-side Chino Ranch eggs, mushrooms, truffle butter and frico chips ($14). My guest took a cue from the lunch menu and indulged in an enormous Chicken Parm ($13) smothered in provolone, organic tomato sauce and basil. Sandwiches are accompanied by housemade root chips and a simple salad.
Some of the other brunch specialties include Ricotta Pancakes topped with blueberry compote and lemon butter ($12), a Breaky Sandwich with sausage, fried egg, fontina cheese, greens and potatoes ($12) and Bread Pudding French Toast Sticks served with maple and golden dipping syrups ($10).
During weekdays, Esther's Kitchen caters to the Downtown lunch crowd with fast counter service. Parties of six or more can make reservations for full table service. The lunch menu has a variety of delectable pizzas, pastas, salads and sandwiches.
Esther's dinner menu builds on crowd-pleasers from the lunch menu, and adds a hearty selection of main courses. Market Fish with charred orange braised endive ($28), Pachamama Farm Porchetta with squash and brussels ($27) and Rye Tagliatelle with braised duck and mushrooms ($24) should satisfy your cravings.
Despite the intimate size of the dining room, Esther's Kitchen boasts a full bar whipping up classics, alongside Seasonal Market Cocktails. It also hosts a daily "Pasta Happy Hour" – from 5 to 7 and 9 to 11, enjoy any adult beverage and get half off a pasta entree at the bar.
Whatever time you show up, you're sure to enjoy Esther's Kitchen. And if you're feeling especially appreciative of your experience, you can send a round of beers to the kitchen for only six dollars.
Esther's Kitchen is open for brunch Saturdays and Sundays from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., and for lunch between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m., Monday through Friday. Dinner is served daily from 5 p.m. until 11 p.m. For reservations, which are suggested, call 702.570.7864.