We’ve had our eyes and ears to the ground for years while we eagerly awaited the Las Vegas opening of SUGARCANE raw bar grill. The Miami hot spot has been drawing the art-set in from neighboring Wynwood and the glitterati off of South Beach for six years. Finally, the moment arrived. We were at Sugarcane to spend an afternoon with executive chef Timon Balloo for a tour and a meal.
Our first impression was how much the décor reminded us of Miami. Guests enjoy classic Cuban architecture and design with a touch of Old Havana. The space is both comfortable and artistic. Period-correct cane-back chairs, inlaid wood flooring, and tray ceilings trimmed in a rich red patina take you back in time. The private dining room, which we dubbed the “Hemingway Room,” features a large mural of one of the world’s most-loved writers.
Already impressed and eager taste the cuisine, we sat down with the chef in front of the large open kitchen. Balloo was born to Chinese and Trinidadian parents, whose cultural influence was in the food he ate as a child. In 1998, through an international program of extended studies at Johnson & Wales, he worked at Hotel Métropole in Belgium under French master chef Dominique Michou. He went on to work for his “professor,” chef Allen Susser, and then as a junior sous chef at the five-star Azul in Miami’s Mandarin Oriental Hotel under the leadership of Michelle Bernstein.
“I use simple ingredients to create great dishes,” he says. His signature style mixes bold, locally sourced items and vibrant flavors into plates meant for sharing. In 2010, the original SUGARCANE raw bar grill in Miami took “Best New Restaurant,” and Balloo was dubbed “Best Up-and-Coming Chef” by Miami New Times.
Balloo started us off with an excellent kombu-marinated fluke with red grapes, charred onions, and sesame seeds accenting this very tasty dish. Staying inspired by the sea, the Hokkaido scallop with compressed apple, black truffle, lime, and jalapeño is a must for any table. A perfect appetizer choice to commence the dining experience is the sea urchin and avocado toast with cilantro and radish, which shows off the chef’s creativity. Off the grill, you can’t go wrong with a lovely yellowtail collar with Singapore curry and pickled chiles adding a spicy tang to the dish. Don’t miss out on the rich, succulent bone marrow veal cheek with marmalade.
SUGARCANE raw bar grill is not just about creative dishes with fresh ingredients; it’s also about mixology. Mixologist Jason Hughes has crafted some signature cocktails that are some of the best in town. Have Hughes and his staff make you a barrel-aged rum Manhattan. This mix of Mount Gay Black Barrel rum, sweet vermouth, Angostura Amaro liqueur, Luxardo, and a maraschino cherry is a fantastic way to get your palate ready. The Garden Essence Botanist balances the botanicals of the gin with the bite of lemon, peppercorn syrup, fresh basil, and black pepper and will impress any gin-lover.
We are glad that this new restaurant venue is finally here. Balloo and his staff are serving up some of the most innovative dishes we have seen in quite a while. The Palazzo Resort has a plethora of excellent dining choices, and SUGARCANE raw bar grill is the perfect fit among the best of the best.