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Haute Spot: Appies with an Edge

Caña Latin Kitchen and Bar

By Aly Wagonseller

There’s something about sophisticated drinks and appetizers served in a vibrant setting that make dining out an experience rather than a hum drum meal.  Granted, you might be missing out on gluttonous portion sizes, but the pleasure of nibbling on a wide variety of inspiring flavors while imbibing cutting edge cocktails made with the finest sugar cane based spirits and freshly squeezed juices is simply way more fun. That’s the idea behind Town Square’s newest hip spot, Caña Latin Kitchen and Bar.

Very much a place for the trendy set, Caña will surely attract the young and the beautiful with its dark and sexy interior, ambiguous restroom facilities and pulsating mix of Latin influenced music. But it’s so nicely done that those of us with Gen X and Boomer birth dates will also want in on the fun. The expansive, white onyx bar, indoor/outdoor dining areas and organic touches that include an interesting Kudzu vine ceiling treatment, as well as a psychedelic velvet wall treatment, are nearly as interesting as the food, a combination of creative ceviches, flatbreads and small plate cuisine known as Bocadillos. There’s no slouching in the drink department either, with selections that include the Nacional, an easy-to-down concoction made with smooth, vanilla influenced Kilo Kai rum, a complex Creole Shrubb orange liqueur, and freshly made pineapple and lime juices; the peppery Ultimate Caipirinha, dubbed as “the new mojito”; as well as Sugarcane Sangria, Hemingway’s Blackberry Thyme Margaritas, and imported beers and wine.

I’m a sucker for ceviche, a high quality fish dish that’s similar to sushi in taste but substantially different in texture due to the fish’s treatment with acidic ingredients, usually lime, which renders the fish opaque and firmer than its counterpart. Caña offers a wide range to choose from, including Salmon and Snapper (both $10), as well as a couple of faux renditions for the fish faint of heart. Out of the gate, Caña’s ceviche was not the norm, served in sashimi like slices, a departure from traditional chunky dice, and dressed with much more interesting ingredients than lime alone.  Hamachi ($14) was the resounding fave, buttery fish accompanied by the lemony zing of yuzu sauce and an earthy soy “paint-on-the-plate”, then finished with fresh cilantro and a sprinkling of sesame seeds.  Halibut ($12) was also tasty, served with chives and a drizzling of fresh coriander oil to liven, but not overpower, the mild fish.

While ceviche is certainly a Latin power dish, Caña also has some interesting items you wouldn’t typically consider South American. If not a bit of a stretch, it’s all in good fun, with playful renditions of Mac & Cheese ($8) made with habanero jack, Chorizo Corn Dogs ($10) accompanied by tangerine-habenero mustard, and a Meatball ($9) whose sauce suspiciously resembled that of the Swedish variety, circa 1960, but with a nice bite of pickled jalapeño to amp it up a notch. More substantial offerings, although still considered small plate, include guava glazed Short Ribs ($12), Lamb Chops with Chimichurri ($14) and the house favorite, Crispy Shrimp ($12). A few flatbread items round out the menu, with a rich, 3 Cheese Flatbread ($10)–made with tangy goat and white cheeses tempered by a layer of honey and agave nectar–a creative standout.

Throughout the meal the service was exceptional. Our waiter was well versed in the flavors and ingredients of each dish we inquired about, and frankly that’s a good thing since you may not know what to expect from a huancaina, aji amarillo or chicharron sauce.  What you can expect, though, is dining and drinking that’s fun and sophisticated, full of fresh and well executed food and libations, along with  a good dose of “beautiful people” watching. It’s experience dining at its best. Caña is located at 6599 Las Vegas Blvd. in Town Square. For info, call 722-6060.

Cana Latin Kitchen & Bar on Urbanspoon

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