Sharpen your knives and save the date: Cleaver Butchered Meats, Seafood & Cocktails will open on September 9, 2018. This is the second Las Vegas venture for owner and operator Nectaly Mendoza and his first east of the Strip. Cleaver’s labyrinthine strip-mall space has at various times been home to a number of other steakhouses, including a Ruth’s Chris that was a longtime service-industry hangout. With hours spanning from 5 p.m.–3 a.m. seven days a week, and a devoted built-in customer base courtesy of big sister Herbs & Rye on the west side, Cleaver is poised to be the talk of the town, and the table to get, this fall.
In Mendoza’s eyes, Herbs & Rye, which opened December 15, 2009, has always been a cocktail bar that also happened to have an Italian-influenced, steak-centric food menu. Inspired by the notion of classic Las Vegas, Cleaver presents an evolved perspective, aiming for a more balanced guest experience between the kitchen and bar. “It’s the embodiment of what we truly love, which is steakhouses,” Mendoza says. “Cleaver is not Herbs & Rye; it’s an actual steakhouse. So this is us, stepping into that ring and saying that we have the experience and we have the knowledge.”
Image: Cleaver Las Vegas on Facebook
While Cleaver’s luxurious blue and marble bar and lounge will stick to its wheelhouse of classic cocktails spanning the eras, it now does so with a greater focus on the bartenders and mixologists who created, perfected or popularized them. Menu sections span the 1800s, Prohibition, post-Prohibition and the cocktail Renaissance. Look for nods to Las Vegas, Mexico, Cuba, London, Manhattan and San Francisco, as well as the notable beverage personalities those cities have produced.
Speaking of the greats, Cleaver will deploy with ranks worthy of its parent company name, Infantry Inc. Giuseppe Gonzalez —who moved to Las Vegas this summer following the closure of his Manhattan bar Suffolk Arms — has taken a cocktail development role and will also bartend at Cleaver along with Infantry’s beverage director, Gerardo De La Torre. Joining ‘the two Gs’ behind the stick at Cleaver are Adam O’Donnell (formerly bar manager at Herbs & Rye, who returns after a time as a property mixologist with Station Casinos) and Christina Michaels (bartender, Herbs & Rye).
This also marks the first time that Mendoza will give equal footing to a wine program as Veteran Herbs & Rye bartender Isaiah Haro has been promoted to the role of wine director. Haro, who has been with Infantry for a cumulative seven years, took a sabbatical not long ago to study wine and to add management to his skillset at Wynn Resorts.
Craig Fraser of Craig Fraser Studios rendered all of Cleaver’s menus and signage by hand as well as a series of portraits that will be revealed on Cleaver’s walls once the venue opens. (image above and featured: courtesy of Infantry, Inc.)
In the kitchen, Mariano Ochoa’s own rise can only be described as meteoric, in that the chef started at Herbs two weeks into its less-than-stellar first month as a porter and dishwasher. He later learned inventory management and served as kitchen manager while teaching himself cooking, and by 2011, was running the kitchen at Herbs as its executive chef. Ochoa will now oversee both programs, maintaining Infantry’s standard of in-house butchered and aged meats in his new position as the parent company’s executive chef. His counterpart in the front of house is director of operations Valeria Varela, most recently of neighboring venues Tacos & Beer and Firefly, and a longtime friend to Mendoza.
Of course, with the vacuum caused by the decamping of O’Donnell, De La Torre, Gonzalez and Haro for Cleaver, Herbs & Rye also welcomed some change with the arrival of bartender Joy Herrin (most recently from Chica in The Venetian) and Day One Herbs & Rye bartender Mike Washington, who steps up as the location’s bar manager.
Image: Cleaver Las Vegas Facebook
Mendoza had hoped for, widely announced and readied his ranks for an August 26 opening, but a delay with the liquor license meant cutting things too close for comfort. He instead opted for eating a little crow on social media and playing it safe with two more weeks of preparations for the September 9 debut, which has, if anything, only further stoked anticipation.
Imbibers will immediately take note of Cleaver’s comparatively small cocktail menu and Mendoza’s no-repeat policy; you’ll not see anything on the cocktail menu at Cleaver that has already graced the pages at Herbs. “We dug even deeper into the books for this,” Mendoza says.
The food menu, too, will be a comfort to Herbs regulars, offering a familiar yet wider selection of steaks, chops and other entrees, plus interesting appetizers, salads, side dishes and potato preparations. Perhaps a reflection of the much larger space with which the team has to work at Cleaver, there are also now more combinations of sauces, compound butters, surf accompaniments, crusts and rubs than you could possibly try out in one carnivorous lifetime.
So, is Mendoza a little nervous about his next big gamble in Sin City? Naturally. But some might recall that the last time Mendoza presided over the opening of a venue, it was at the dawn of the Recession. The earliest days of Herbs & Rye would be its darkest, bringing Mendoza to the brink and even to the point of selling his car to make payroll. (His devoted staff wouldn’t even cash those paychecks, and he would later buy it back just prior to Herbs being named America’s Best High-Volume Cocktail Bar in 2016.)
Image: Cleaver Las Vegas Facebook
“I never thought the outcome of Herbs & Rye would be what it is—the city loves it, the people love it,” Mendoza says. “Cleaver is my second property, so we gotta do what we do best. We’ve waited nine years for this project, and we’re 100 percent ready. Yeah, I’m excited, a little nervous. I just want to get the doors open.”
“This is our sophomore album—we’re ready to express our artistry,” Mendoza continues. “And from here on out, every project we do will just get better and better.” Reservations are now open, but move fast as Cleaver’s first few nights are already completely booked solid.
The Beginning of Bartending (1800s)
In 1862, Jerry Thomas famously published the first bartender’s guide and the world would be forever changed. However, he is not the inventor of the craft (nor is he the first celebrity bartender). This section is dedicated to the craft’s early beginnings and the pioneers we rarely talk about.
Bourbon. Apple Cider. Bitters.
Traditional Eggnog from Puebla, Mexico.
Pimm’s Cup (Seasonal)
Pimm’s No. 1 Cup. Fresh Lemonade. Seasonal Fruit.
Whiskey. Bitters. Maraschino. Absinthe. Sugar.
Cognac. Curaçao. Pineapple. Lemon. Bitters.
Prohibition and the World (1920)
In America, we would begin a period of temperament that would halt bartending as we knew it. However, our loss was the world’s gain. American bartenders would flee the country and take their craft global. This section is dedicated to the classics that were spawned around the world.
Aged Rum. Apricot. Pineapple.
Scotch. Honey. Cream.
Gin. Sweet Vermouth. Fernet.
Mexican Firing Squad
Tequila. Pomegranate. Lime. Bitters.
Post-Prohibition Evolution (1934)
When cocktails came back to America, the re-imagination of drinking took force. We not only saw the birth of the Tiki bar but the growth of cocktails everywhere. This section is dedicated to the drinks that take us to a different place every time.
Gin. Dry Vermouth. Sweet Vermouth. Benedictine.
White Peach Puree. Bubbles.
Gin. Tomato. Worcestershire. Lemon. Celery Salt. Pepper.
Dark Rum. Light Rum. Falernum. Maraschino. Lime.
Polynesian Pearl Diver
Puerto Rican, Demerara and Jamaican Rums. Falernum Gardenia Mix. Lime. Orange. Bitters.
Dale DeGroff & Beyond (1980)
The modern cocktail is a wonderful thing. We live in a time when legendary bartenders offer their own originals, which have transcended time to become global classics. This section is dedicated to those legends of the craft. We start with “King Cocktail” himself, Dale DeGroff, and continue to the present.
Manhattan (The DeGroff Method)
Rye. Sweet and Dry Vermouth. Dale DeGroff’s Pimento Aromatic Bitters.
Cable Car (Tony Abou-Ganim)
Spiced Rum. Lemon. Curaçao. Cinnamon Suger.
Tommy’s Margarita (Julio Bermejo)
Tequila. Lime. Agave.
Ready Fire Aim (Steve Schneider)
Mezcal. Pineapple. Lime. Honey. Spicy Bitters.
Porn Star Martini (Douglas Ankrah)
Vodka. Passion Fruit. Vanilla. Lime. Bubbles.
Bramble (Dick Bradsell)
Gin. Lemon. Blackberry.
House Bread & Butter
Wings Confit– Chipotle, Lemon Pepper, Maple Mustard, or Hot
Charred Bone Marrow– Blueberry Demi-Glace, Toast Points, Herb Salad
Carpaccio– Charred Onion and Basil Aioli, Crispy Capers, Parmesan, Arugula, Citrus Truffle Dressing
Steak Tartare– Shallots, Capers, Whole Grain Mustard, Parmesan, Chives, Yolk, Truffle Oil, Sourdough
Tuna Tartare– Avocado, Togarashi, Chili Oil, Cucumber, Masago, Rice Paper Chips
Calamari– Black Pepper Aioli, Fresno Peppers, Garlic, Cilantro, Green Onion
Spicy Mussels– Spicy Tomato Basil Broth, Garlic, White Wine
Foie Gras– Sweet Potato Pancake, Blackberry Reduction, Crème Fraîche
Capicola Flatbread– Asiago, Tomato Basil Sauce, Crispy Crawfish, Cleaver Slaw
Prosciutto & Asparagus Flatbread– Caramelized Onion Jam, Goat and Munster Cheese
Burrata & Kumato– Basil Oil, Arugula, Balsamic Reduction, Pine Nuts
Caesar– Crouton, Parmesan, Cured Egg, White Anchovies
Cleaver “Double” Wedge– Thick-Cut Bacon, Egg, Onion, Cherry Tomatoes, Blue Cheese Crumbles with choice of: Blue Cheese, Ranch, 50/50, Thousand Island
Chopped Salad– Spinach, Iceberg, Tomato, Cucumber, Avocado, Red Pepper, Olives, Radish, Salami, Garbanzo Beans, Pepperoncini, House Vinaigrette
Shrimp Cocktail– House Cocktail Sauce, Lemon
Oyster Shooter– Blood Orange Bloody Mary, Citrus, Vodka
Oysters on the Half Shell (Seasonal)– Half Dozen or Dozen
Alaskan King Crab Legs– Steamed or Chilled
SEAFOOD PLATTERS (Classic Cocktail Sauce, Horseradish, Sherry Mignonette)
Platter for Two– Lobster Tail, Crab Legs (2), Tiger Shrimp (4), Oysters (4)
Platter for Four– Lobster Tails (2), Crab Legs (4), Tiger Shrimp (8), Oysters (8)
Cleaver Platter– Lobster Tails (3), Crab Legs (8), Tiger Shrimp (16), Oysters (16), Oyster Shooters (6), Tuna Tartare
CLEAVER FAVORITES (All pasta made in-house)
Oxtail Soup– Mirepoix, Potato, Bone Broth, Rice
Squid Ink Pasta– Bacon, Masago, Parmesan, Egg Yolk
Agnolotti– Mascarpone, Lemon, Pancetta, Peas
Potato Gnocchi– Short Rib, Tomato Pomodoro, Gremolata, Pecorino
Mojo Pork– Bone-In Pork Chop, Black Garlic Bean Puree, Cilantro Lime Quinoa, Pickled Onion
Cherry Lamb Chop– Scotch Herb Risotto, Sweet Vermouth Bordelaise, Cherries
Stuffed Whole Lobster– Mushroom Stuffing, Beurre Monté, Bread Crumbs, Parmesan, Tarragon
Seared Sea Bass– Pea and Mint Risotto, Spanish Chorizo, Preserved Lemon
Filet Mignon 9 oz.
New York Strip 14 oz.
Ribeye 18 oz.
XXL Ribeye 60 oz. (Feeds 3–5)
Cleaver Ribeye120 oz. (Feeds 5–8)
Pork Chop 12 oz.
Double-Cut Pork Chop 16 oz.
Brooklyn Filet Mignon 14 oz.
Kansas City 16 oz.
Tomahawk Ribeye32 oz.
Cured Egg Asparagus
Charred Jalapeño Street Corn
Baby Portobello Mushrooms
Pork Belly Mac ’n’ Cheese
Broccolini and Cheddar
Cauliflower au Gratin
Pancetta Collard Greens
Blue Cheese Spinach
Creamy Garlic Mash
Bourbon Shallot Potatoes
Steak House Fries
Mushroom and Onions
Oscar Style: Crab Meat, Béarnaise Sauce, Asparagus
Cleaver Style: Spice Rub, Blue Cheese Crust, Organic Egg, Thick Bacon, Foie Gras
CRUSTS & RUBS
Blue Cheese Crust
Parmesan and Balsamic Crust
Cleaver Spice Rub
Espresso Chili Rub
Red Wine Glaze
Ancho Chili Lime
Black Garlic Tarragon Lemon
SURF & TURF
Lobster Tail:Beurre Monté, Lemon
Surf & Turf:9 oz. Filet Mignon, 9 oz. Lobster Tail, Asparagus, Mash, Red Wine Glaze
Cleaver Surf & Turf:Tomahawk Ribeye, Whole Lobster, Red Wine Glaze, Whiskey Potatoes, Asparagus (Stuffed Lobster +$)
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