Chef Sam DeMarco first surfaced here when the Bellagio opened all the way back in 1997, so he’s been a Vegas denizen for nearly fifteen years. But it’s taken him almost this long to be recognized in our town for the major talent that he is. He practically invented tall food, and he has created a slew of casual bar dishes that are now part of the idiom; Philly cheese steak pot stickers, pulled pork egg rolls, and many more.
His restaurant, First Food and Bar, is hampered by a location down a corridor behind Barneys New York, sandwiched between the Venetian and the Palazzo, but the restaurant has many devotees, as well it may. The menu is huge, fun and brilliantly crafted.
Recently, the restaurant held a small viewing party to highlight his appearance on an eccentric Food Network show, “Unique Eats.” The show was all about Vegas, and First Food and Bar shared the spotlight with Raku, a Japanese restaurant, and Holstein’s, a burger joint in the Cosmopolitan. Several members of the local media, among them John Katsilomedes of the Las Vegas Sun, and Susan Stapleton of Eater.com were there to watch.
Sammy, you’re da’ man.
And so we gathered in the bar, to drink Absolut Cherry/Cranberry vodka and low octane wines by the glass, pigging out on De Marco’s inspired junk foods featured on the broadcast.
In addition to egg rolls, (topped with Cole slaw, I should add), and those sought after Philly cheese steak pot stickers, there were walnut shrimp, a riff on a Chinese-American dish with a sweet mayo topping, and for dessert, Monkey bread, pull apart hunks of bread awash in caramel sauce, topped with sliced banana.
You can eat these dishes every day, and many more, such as his incredible mac n’ cheese, and some of the best fried chicken in the city, at the restaurant.
First Food and Bar. At the Venetian. 414-1000.
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