Restaurant Review: Echo and Rig (Tivoli Village in Summerlin)
Echo and Rig is unlike any other restaurant in Las Vegas.
First, there’s that odd-sounding name, chosen (I was told) because the owners thought it had a nice ring. In a sense, the nonsensical name embodies the free-spirited and self-confident approach here to the entire dining experience – including food, drink, and service.
It’s best classified as a nouveau steakhouse, yet it also defies conventional description and expectation. On one hand it’s a butcher shop, yet also offers an extensive salad and vegetarian menu. It’s bar selection is top notch (Abita Amber on tap!). Deserts are home made. The staff knows and loves food. Bargain prices compared to what you’d pay elsewhere. What more could you ask?
Echo and Rig stands near the entrance to Tivoli Village, an upscale (but surprisingly affordable) enclave of excellent restaurants, specialty shops, and other businesses. The district located across the street from the Sun Coast Casino. Since its grand opening about 18 months ago, Tivoli Village has been introducing a Tuscany-style flair to Summerlin residents, with considerable success. If excellence lies in getting the details right, then Tivoli Village has spared no expense in pursuit of creating not just a popular food court, but an entire neighborhood and atmosphere. Pay a visit and look around at the architecture, the lighting, the ambiance. This entertainment community is as nice as anything on the Las Vegas Strip, without the crowds of tourists and inflated prices.
By my count, Tivoli Village includes five solid restaurant choices, four of which we’ve tried (multiple times). Topping the list, Cantina Laredo serves Mexican fare and is fantastic. Kabuki is Japanese-themed and serves excellent lunch specials. Poppy Den is a one of those celebrity chef joints that I’m not usually fond of — but turned out to be wonderful. Brio is Northern Italian, and although a national chain, quite serviceable. The View Wine Bar and Kitchen has a terrific happy hour with live music. Then, there’s Cafe Leone, the perfect place to enjoy a coffee and pastry. And now, let’s add a sixth worthy destination to the list — Echo and Rig.
Here’s how things went for us on two separate visits.
Marieta and I stumbled into Echo and Rig by accident. When approaching another nearby restaurant, we noticed what appeared to be an old-fashioned butcher shop lit up brightly across the path. Only this was no common meat-market. Located on the second level above the meat counter and full bar, diners are seated upstairs. There’s an expansive outside balcony, which has a nice view of the city. That’s the basic layout of Echo and Rig — a butcher shop, sandwich counter, and bar downstairs. And a wide open dining room upstairs, with an exposed kitchen and open balcony with plenty of tables.
Earlier, I alluded to the key difference in “good” versus “great” — which is the details. From the moment you enter Echo and Rig, one realizes this place is different. While not everything is quite perfect (yet), no detail goes spared.
On our first visit, there was a short wait. The hostess wrote our names down (with comments) in a book and then came back twice to check on us, informing that the wait wouldn’t be much longer. That special touch is often missing elsewhere. In the meantime, we were offered a (complimentary) sausage and salami platter, no doubt encouraging us to go for variety once we sat down and ordered. During this wait, staff came by to tell us more background about the restaurant and the basic concept. Naturally, service personnel had no idea I’d later be writing about the experience. Well, neither did I — until this place turned out to be such a gem.
We were seated upstairs following a 15-minute wait. The outside balcony was filled on this gorgeous night, so we took seats inside. Even the seating was highly unusual, with pillows on the chairs. Dining room lighting is brighter than one might expect inside a steakhouse. But that’s a good thing since there’s plenty to see. If there’s one complaint I have, it would be the selection of music, which was way too loud and simply the wrong soundtrack for what otherwise was a magnificent experience. Jazz, rather than techno, would have been a better choice.
The biggest surprise on the menu is undoubtedly the vast array of appetizers, all reasonably priced between $5 and $11. I’m a carnivore. But I didn’t need a steak to be satisfied. One could order multiple appetizers and be full. And that’s precisely what we did, one two occasions, leaving completely stuffed both times. The staff, often so arrogant at overpriced Strip restaurants, conveyed “sampling” is what they encourage — trying as many different menu items as possible. On the night(s) we visited, everyone around us seemed to be sharing appetizers, steaks, and desserts. That’s the norm.
To my shock, the standout items were indeed the appetizers, which are truly the freshest ingredients you will find in Las Vegas. I’ve had thousands of meals in this city, including many five-star dining experiences. Echo and Rig advertises that all their vegetables are freshly brought in from the farmers market, and one can tell a clear difference in quality. Try a tomato someplace that’s delivered in bulk by a vendor. Then, try a tomato apparently grown someplace closeby that glistens with its natural juice. Same with everything in the salads, which were marvelous. Two favorites were the “Kale” and “Over the Rainbow.” It’s rare to find soemthing tasty which happens to be good for you. That’s the appeal of the “Vegatables and Small Plates” section. READ MORE HERE
Meat choices are highly unusual for a place which advertises itself as a steakhouse. Rather than the $45 eight-ounce offerings at the power lunch palaces, Echo and Rig prices all of its meats in the $17 to $32 range. Tri-tip, hangar, flat iron, and more. Any sauce accompaniment you can imagine is optional.
See LUNCH AND DINNER MENU here.
As for service, during our two visits we encountered about 5-6 staff personnel. Each employee had obviously gone through a rigorous training course. They inform diners about the choice of cuts, preparation, and spare no detail when making thier personal recommendations. Outside of my beloved New Orleans, I have not seen a better trained staff top to bottom than what I’ve seen in these two visits for a restaurant in this class.
Then, there’s the alcohol. Whoever created the bar menu obviously loves to drink and knows his stuff. Porters, ales, and pilsners on tap. Abita Amber. Specialty cocktails. Then, there’s the offering of either flat water or sparkling. Free of charge. Imagine that — a restaurant that doesn’t try to upsell you on the water from the moment you walk in the door. After all, what’s the first thing you’re asked in any upscale restaurant nowadays? That’s right, your choice of water.
There was no room for dessert, but on our second visit we ordered one anyway. We chose a strawberry shortcake loaded with fresh berries. Again, the details are what matters. Consider that the shortcake was perfectly and unusually crunchy, the berries tasted like they’d just been picked, the whipped cream was fresh (not spray!), and the ice cream was home made. For like six bucks. Enough to share.
On our second visit, we arrived at 4 pm, which was considerably less crowded. There was no wait. We enjoyed balcony dining almost to ourselves.
This time, we enjoyed the Kale salad (best I’ve had – the ground hazelnuts added a special twist), Garlic Mashed Potatos (why always go healthy?), Grilled Shrimp and Scallop Ceviche (fresh and tasty), Tomato/Watermelon/Cucumber salad (perfect on a hot day), and a Hangar steak. The meat was perfectly prepared. However, it wasn’t the best cut. Next time, I’ll opt for the tri-tip or flat iron. Sauces were also outstanding and complimentary. Then, there was that mouth-watering berry shortcake dessert.
After both meals, we purchased a small package of fresh sausages and other meats downstairs. Both times, the butcher wrapped up and tossed in a few “extras,” including some fresh ground beef in one package and kaboob cuts in another. That was a real nice touch of class. See if they do anything like that in a big chain restaurant, or at the Aria.
No doubt, Echo and Rig wants to a loyal clientele. Based on a great selection of food (90 menu itesm) that extends way beyond just meats, excellent service and menu knowledge, a highly uusual number of hard-to-find bar items, and an ambiance that is upsacle yet remarkably affordable, we will go back.
Hopefully, again and again.