By: Bob Gourley
There are some friendly banditos hanging out in Vegas and you had better go visit their restaurant soon or you will be missing out on some great food and libations. Bandito Latin Kitchen and Cantina is the brainchild of Kent Harman who formally worked at the very popular Border Grill at Mandalay Bay. He has brought some of the culture of that place to this new venture.
Located just off the strip on the corner of Flamingo and Hughes Center Drive, the sparkling new building offers an open, airy look with a huge mural that towers over the dining room. There is a large patio area that affords views of the strip and is a friendly spot for conversation, or something more romantic.
This is not your momma’s Mexican food restaurant. The emphasis is on ‘fresh’ and everything on both the food and cocktail menu reflects that theme. They make all their tortillas, sauces and dips in-house every day.
For starters the guacamole has a decided spicy twist with roasted serrano peppers, red onions, cilantro, cotija cheese and heirloom cherry tomatoes. How often do you find octopus on the menu? Here it is prepared with green onion, yellow peppers, red Bandito sauce and lemon pepita salt.
Don’t miss the Seafood Ceviche with a collection of gems of the sea like scallops, octopus, shrimp, white fish and English cucumbers, red onion, radish and jalapeno to add a tasty accent.
When it comes time to find an entrée, look to the ambitious enchilada fare. They make them a little different than most with the protein on top.
Meat choices include chicken tinga, carnitas, al pastor, carne asada or sautéed shrimp. Inside the tortillas is Bandito cheese mix that is finished with pico de gallo and guacamole. They also have burritos made with black bean puree, charro beans, achiote rice and cheese mix.
The slate of sauces ranges from mild to very hot on the spice scale. Blood orange, mole rojo and habanero pepper are all part of the list.
Brick-pressed roasted chicken is a fine pick. The bird is prepared with roasted vegetables, potato al pastor, pickled fennel, guajillo and chicken thyme jus. They also offer a daily pan roasted fish that includes vegetables and black bean relish.
This is a fun spot for a cocktail. Every one of them is constructed with fresh juices and the non-alcohol Agua Frescas are a must for someone looking for a pick-me-up after a heavy day at work. Strawberry Lime Fresca will excite your mouth with a mix of both fresh strawberry and puree plus lime.
Tortas are a welcome addition to the lunch menu including a veggie wrap that is filled with cauliflower, heirloom tomatoes, baby carrots, charred jalapeno and lime crema. During these cool months you might also enjoy one of their soups. The chicken tortilla version is creatively put together with chile pasilla, roasted corn, caramelized onion, pulled chicken and crispy corn tortillas.
This is Harman’s first restaurant. And he has definitely succeeded in bringing together a friendly staff, lively bar area and creative Latin food that is sustainable and delicious.
I hope the banditos never get caught!
Bandito Latin Kitchen and Cantina, (702) 857-7550, 325 Hughes Center Drive, Las Vegas. www.banditolv.com.