In the large Aria hotel on the Las Vegas strip is Sage, a restaurant whose executive chef is Shawn McClain. Mr McLain graduated from cookery school in 1990 and after several spells in Chicago hotels and restaurants helped to open Trio in Chicago. He spent seven years there in all, progressing through the ranks to become its head chef in 1996. His first solo venture was Asian restaurant Spring, and in 2004 he opened a vegetarian restaurant called Green Zebra, then in 2005 a meat restaurant called Custom House, all these in Chicago. In 2010 he ventured further afield and opened Sage on the ground floor of the Aria hotel. He has since opened a pizza place called Five50 in the same hotel.
Sage has a cavernous dining room with high ceilings, good acoustics and the murky lighting so beloved of American restaurant managers, though there is at least some directed lighting illuminating the tables. The dining room and bar area adjoin one another, and there are some dining tables within the bar room, which has a wooden floor and suffers from piped music. In all, 150 diners can be accommodated at any one time. The cooking style supposedly has a "farm to table" emphasis on American produce, though a signature dish here is Iberico pork, and understandably most ingredients come from outside the state. There was a four-course menu at $89 (£53) and a lengthier tasting menu at $150 (£89) in addition to a la carte choices.
The wine list offered over 700 different labels and had quite a good geographic spread, with a reasonable German wine section for example. Sample wines included Franz Kunstler Riesling 2011 at $60 for a wine that you cane find in the high street for $25, Kistler Les Noisetiers 2012 at $136 for a wine that retails at $73, up to grander wines such as Chateau Clinet 1995 at $411 for a wine that will set you back $206 in a shop.
There was a solitary nibble offered, a spoon with smoked pork and ramp salad, which was perfectly pleasant, not too smoky (14/20). Wagyu beef tartare came with capers and a slow-cooked egg yolk as well as toasted, buttered country bread. The beef had nice flavour and was well seasoned, the surreal garnish of fried chocolate fortunately adding little flavour (14/20).
Day-boat scallops are flown in daily from Maine, had limited flavour but were lightly cooked, served with braised oxtail, a few wild mushrooms, baby bak choi and a nice salted caramel reduction; the sauce was quite rich and nicely seasoned (14/20).
Iberico pork loin was wrapped in bacon and came with celeriac panacotta, asparagus and smoked apple. This was enjoyable, the pork having good flavour, the apple providing a hint of balancing acidity, the asparagus accurately cooked (14/20).
Dessert of lemon pie was a little disappointing, the filling decent but short on acidity, the pastry base a little over crumbly, the dish topped with pistachio ice cream (perhaps 13/20). Service was functional. The bill came to $205 (£122) before tip, albeit with a nice bottle of Chateau Musar 2002. If you shared a modest bottle of wine then an all-in typical bill per head would be around £90 a head. Overall the food here was quite good, albeit the service left me with the distinct impression of being processed rapidly through an efficient culinary machine.