Thursday 19 January, 2012

Twice As Nice: Double Helix in Town Square

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The Palazzo's Double Helix has long been one of my favorite wine destinations on the Las Vegas Strip: it was one of the first to have an extensive by-the-glass selection, and with owner Ray Nisi frequently on premises, it's also always had a very well trained and knowledgeable bar staff--regrettably still a rarity.

It also seems to be a well-kept secret that Double Helix's retail shop is one of the only places you can call to have a serious bottle of wine delivered to your room–any hotel room on the Strip, actually–for no additional charge.

So I was thrilled when Nisi told me he was taking over the space previously known as The Grape in Town Square. While The Grape was a nice enough wine bar, with some interesting selections, it obviously couldn't hold a candle next to the more popular drinking destinations in Town Square like Blue Martini and the Yard House chain.

Competition is even more fierce there now, but Nisi has smartly updated the space, keeping the original ovular bar, opening up the lounge area with couches in place of dining tables, removing the retail component, and adding a large patio with misters. Directly across from the Rave Theater entrance and cater-corner to Nu Sanctuary, it oddly anchors that square so well now it's hard to imagine it not being there.

Double Helix Wine & Whiskey Lounge is distinct from the Palazzo locale in several respects. Beyond having actual walls, as previously stated, it isn't selling bottles retail (why bother, when Whole Foods is so close?) but has a slightly more serious devotion to brown liquors, which I hope goes even farther. There's no shortage of booze in Town Square, but not a lot of serious stuff.

DHWW's by-the-glass selection is, at least for the moment, a bit smaller than DH Palazzo, but also priced more for a local crowd. Needless to say, I'd love to see it expand, but it makes sense that they figure out what the crowd here will demand first, especially in this economy. They have a selection of signature cocktails, some of which are interesting.

The most unexpected pleasure of DH in Town Square, though, is the food. While the Palazzo location gets its small plates from Emeril's Table 10 (and there's nothing wrong with that), here, Nisi hired Chef Doug Vega (ex-Daniel Boulud) to produce a simple menu with approachable names, but above-average quality. Most are $10 or less, though those at $15 are closer to entree size.

My friends and I got the "double triple" cheese and charcuterie plate with Boucheron goat cheese, Moody Bleu and Comte AOC along with chorizo, salami Toscano and proscuitto. Each averages about $5 a piece a la carte, and while that's a bit more than average for a cheese offering, here you get 2+ ounces rather than the usual 1.5 oz serving (and fresh grill-toasted bread rather than boxed crackers). At Ray's suggestion, we encored that with some amazing thin-sliced smoked duck and a wedge of the fancy truffle bruschetto cheese. Decadent.

From the "One Hand" starters, we had some hearty but tender arancini, fried risotto balls with mascarpone, mushrooms and truffle oil.

From the "Two Hands" side of the menu, I tried the Southern shrimp and grits: tender jumbos bathing in a tomato-bacony swamp of rib-sticking grits. Nice. There are several other menu items--posh flatbread, funky short ribs, olive poppers--that I look forward to trying on my next visit.

All the menu items suggest a wine to pair with it, if you don't trust the advice of that cute rocker girl Katie behind the bar (Though, you should. She knows her stuff.)

Surprisingly, there's also a small $5 kids menu here: Ever seen a family-friendly wine bar before? You have now.

Town Square Las Vegas, 6599 Las Vegas Blvd South, 702-735-9463