The Tasting Panel magazine

August 2018

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august 2018  /  the tasting panel  /  109 Chin pulls double duty at Camden and Apex (which took over the former Ghostbar space), treating the 54 floors separating the venues like the average distance between tables at a densely packed restaurant. "I have comfortable shoes and I do a lot of running, so it works out," he says with a laugh. "I do have two really great sous chefs, so that's a big component of the success. I've been very fortunate that neither place is too busy at the same time. By design of our venues, we're leading our guests through an experience at the hotel, so it definitely works out for me." While Chin's nights (mornings, rather) end at the 8,000-square-foot, open-air boutique nightclub—which offers breathtaking views of the Vegas skyline from its outdoor patio as guests mingle over a graphite and sapphire bar inside—the Palms "experience" origi- nates at Camden, where guests often drop by before heading to a show at The Pearl concert theater mere yards away. Through their intersecting mediums, Chin and Hobbie choose to "focus on the ingredients" above all, Chin says, even when a dish or drink seems deceptively straightforward. "With our lobster roll, for example, there's only a handful of ingredients. We get this really great bread that's locally made, we slowly poach our lobster in butter, and then we use that butter to make the aioli," he explains. "When you think about the luxury of getting an entire mouthful of rich buttery lobster, there's a certain simplicity to it, but on our end there's a lot of time and effort." Hobbie, whose extensive Vegas resume includes stints at The Dorsey at the Venetian and Giada, joined the Palms after Masi, Labbe, and Craig gave him an offer he couldn't refuse: to build a beverage program from the ground up that reflects his philosophy, "You drink with your eyes first." Every drink at Camden is a visual showstopper, whether it's a riff on a classic like the Great Godfather with Bulleit Bourbon, amaretto, and Amaro Meletti over a blood-orange sphere or a delicious, cigar-inspired concoction like The Hef, prepared tableside—smoke effects and eye-catching stemware included—with Del Maguey Mezcal, Contratto Vermouth Bianco, activated charcoal vanilla tincture, and Scrappy's Chocolate Bitters. "Any bartender can make a good- tasting cocktail. To me, it's all about the delivery, presence, and overall presentation," Hobbie says. "My mind is always working on, what's the next thing that's going to blow people's minds? I want jaws to be on the floor." With trendsetting in Camden's DNA, anything from muddling herbs with liquid nitrogen to pursuing almost impossibly lofty dreams—it bears mentioning that Hobbie's been consult- ing with an MIT professor on how to make a "cocktail cloud" guests can suck right out of the air with a straw—seems like business as usual. Despite these ambitions, however, Hobbie keeps the essence of his creations firmly grounded so people perusing the list for a familiar favorite will still feel at ease. "What I care about most is if that person who comes to Vegas maybe one time a year or once every five years has their trip made over something we served them," Hobbie says. "To us, the guest is the most important person in this room. At the end of the day, they're the person we do this for." PHOTOS COURTESY OF CLIQUE HOSPITALITY One of the most popular dishes at Camden, the Maine lobster rolls come on toasted, locally made brioche buns with butter aioli and fresh lemon. Lanny Chin serves as Executive Chef at both Camden and Apex. One of six selections on Camden's interactive "tableside mixology" list, The Hef features Del Maguey Mezcal, Contratto Vermouth Bianco, activated charcoal vanilla tincture, and Scrappy's Chocolate Bitters. Eric Hobbie is the Lead Intoxicologist for Clique Hospitality.

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