A night out at Harlo off the Strip ranks among the best local dining experiences
It is so easy for people who come to Vegas to believe that the best restaurants are at all the major casinos on the Strip. After all, they have massive advertising budgets, shiny billboards and mere meters from guests’ hotel rooms. Fine dining on the Strip, for the most part, is a five-star experience, but it is way too easy for locals, including myself, to forget that off the Strip dining competes head to head with the best restaurants on the Strip.
My wife and I like to get out and enjoy what Vegas has to offer, and prior to COVID, a staycation every few months at a major Strip hotel was common. We live in Summerlin and I guess it’s our gut reaction for date nights to dress up and head over to the Strip for a night out. Last weekend, that was the plan, but an associate told me about a new local restaurant in Downtown Summerlin, so we thought, why not?
The restaurant Harlo is a part of LEV Group and this steakhouse is located beside Ethan Allan. I am told it opened some time ago, but this was our first time dining there. The night turned out to be a big success and I wanted to share why.
First off, something an off the Strip restaurant can offer, which not many Strip places provide, is the short distance from your car to the door. Downtown Summerlin’s valet and Harlo goes one step further and has its valet, a mere 30 feet from the front door. Maybe this is a minor point, but it was a cool evening, and walking long distances in dress shoes is not fun, especially for the ladies. The hostesses were pleasant and the decor was sophisticated. We appreciated that we were seated immediately. The dining area has tables, but we sat in a booth. The restaurant layout appeared to include a nice mix between the two.
We were sat and quickly received water and were greeted by several people who welcomed us to the restaurant. Last time I checked, I didn’t have any award-winning GRAMMY’s to my name or own any major casino properties, but I was treated like I did. I later found out that those people were Ivo Angelov, vice president of operations, and Rebecca Royster, the vice president of concept development for LEV Group as well as Ivonne Moy, director of guest experience. Being seated quickly, warmly welcomed to the restaurant, and served water within minutes were all good signs of an enjoyable evening. But it gets better.
Having not been out dining for some time due to COVID protocols, I was eager to spend some money on a good bottle of wine. I don’t drink often but when I do, I am particularly fond of a European Bordeaux. Maybe I just like saying Grand Cru or drinking a bottle with a name that is mentioned in some major motion picture spy thriller. After all, I do enjoy a Vodka Martini—shaken not stirred. I had tempered my expectations though, as many restaurants think the left bank is the Wells Fargo across the street, so fingers crossed when I opened the wine list.
To my surprise, the wine list was quite deep and I was impressed that I could order some fine vintage wines from Europe. I saw a few names and Jacob Funaro, came by to help me with my selection. I initially thought he was the sommelier, but later found out he was the restaurant manager. I saw nice Bordeaux ranging from a few hundred to some much much more. For a restaurant off the Strip, this was an unexpected treat.
Now, I have traveled around the world and lived in several major cities and it is not uncommon for the sommelier to push you into an expensive bottle of wine.
I said to Jacob, “I see some really nice names, but I am not sure if I want to spend that much for a good bottle.”
Jacob was quick to tell me that I didn’t need to spend that much. He recommended a nice left bank St. Emillion, which was quite near the bottom of the price range and recommended the cheaper of the years.
Later on I googled the wine and found that the markup was not nearly as much as someone might expect at some restaurants. The restaurant manager explained that they want to be very competitive on the wine pricing and in that regard, they succeeded.
I did not intend to write this as a food review, but I have to give Kudos to Jeffrey Fine and Chef/Partner Gina Marinelli. The menu rivals that of anything on the Strip. The 16 oz. New York strip was the best steak I can remember eating in quite some time and paired beautifully with a wine that was beyond comparison. The restaurant’s menu has many excellent choices and even offers a caviar service, which was presented in a fine bronze rabbit figurine that I jokingly asked if they would miss. My wife thought the wild mushrooms were the best she has ever had or at least recently.
Everything was going great and we savored a delicious meal and then indulged in a dessert. We were all full and didn’t want a large dessert. My wife asked the server if there was an after-dinner sweet, something small that could quench the palette, and nothing that met that description was listed on the menu. Fine, you cannot have it all. But wait. What happened?
Jacob quickly returned to our table with exactly what my wife requested. He had the kitchen create a gorgeous-looking amuse-bouche treat. This gesture completely blew me away. Not only did they take the time to do this on a busy Saturday night for a regular guest, but they also delivered a yummy treat with a great presentation, too!
The evening was a huge hit and if you had blindfolded me, I would have thought I was at an expensive Michelin-starred restaurant on the Strip. This was Harlo, but I have heard equally nice stories about other off-the-Strip restaurants.
The point of this review is to remind all of us locals, that fine dining is only minutes away and we should give these local restaurants some of our love because they are returning it to us in spades. Because of this experience, I am going to explore another local eatery on my next night out.
You can discover some of these places here at Best Restaurants in Las Vegas Off The Strip.