Let's Get Social

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Put it in the books right now, Social House is the best new restaurant in Las Vegas. It’s got the complete package: style, celebrities, atmosphere, a daring drink menu… and most importantly, unbelievable food that dwarfs the four things I just mentioned.

First, let’s hit the faces. Before the A-list celebrities get their VIP on at the best nightclubs in Vegas, they fuel up at Social House inside Treasure Island. Nick Lachey and Vanessa Minnillo always try their best NOT to be photographed together, but the food is so good at Social House, they couldn’t help but get cozy for the cameras. Vegas staples Paris and Nicky Hilton, actor Wilmer Valderrama, rocker Dave Navarro, comedian Damon Wayans, Entourage’s Kevin Dillon… they all can be found dining at Social House at all hours. The owners will say it’s because of the food, which we’ll get to in a sec. But I have my own theory on why the stars love Social House: the layout. Social House is a maze of nooks and crannies where you could be dining 10 feet from Enrique Iglesias and never know it. That intimate layout allows stars to have their privacy, and it allows normal people like you and me the chance to have an intimate, romantic, cozy evening with our significant others without having to shout your sweet-nothings across the table.

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Now, don’t get me wrong, celebs LOVE to be seen at Social House. How else can you explain Dennis Rodman donning full KISS make-up to hang out with real-life KISS rock star Gene Simmons? And then there was the appearance that will be etched in my mind forever: Jenny McCarthy in a sexy leather French maid’s outfit. She was wearing the get-up for Halloween, but when I tell the story to my friends, Jenny put it on when she heard I was interviewing her. (Yes, I was a loser even BEFORE I was married.)

Earlier this month, boxing bad boy Mike Tyson arrived at Social House at around 3 a.m. for a late-night snack. After sushi and sake, Tyson requested some hot green tea and honey to "chill him out" before bed. How much green tea DOES it take to chill out Iron Mike? Gallons.

Enough about the stars, let’s talk cuisine.

Now, I’m all about full-disclosure, so let me reveal that the guys from Pure Management, who run Pure Nightclub at Caesar’s Palace as well as Social House, have always been very good to us in “Extra’s” Las Vegas bureau. Whenever we need a last minute table for dinner on Social House’s balcony overlooking the Vegas Strip and the Sirens of T.I. water show, it’s a done deal. So, yeah, of course I’m going to give Social House crazy props solely based on the VIP service that I get with a simple phone call.

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So in order to give you an unbiased view of what Social House is all about, I had to invite my good friends Ryan, G.N. and Justice from Philadelphia’s best morning radio show, “Chio in the Morning,” on Wired 96.5 FM to fly half way across the country for this review. Really. No joke.

Now keep in mind, these three are from Philly. In case you haven’t heard, people from Philly don’t put up with any crap. It either sucks or it’s just not that bad. “Good” is rarely an option and “great” never sees the light of day. (Unless you’re talking about the ’83 Sixers, the ’80 Phillies or the ’75 Flyers… and if you remember the ’60 Eagles, you’re more man than me.)

Well, I’m happy to tell you, Ryan, G.N. and Justice threw the word “great” around at Social House more than Eagles fans used to throw snowballs at the opposing teams at Veterans Stadium.

I met my Philadelphia trio at Social House’s downstairs lounge just off the Treasure Island casino floor at 10 p.m. We walked upstairs to the restaurant area past Social House’s trademarked copper and brass safe-deposit-boxed staircase. I guess this is your first indication that you’re in for a money evening.

When we sat down, Ryan and G.N. pointed out that their Asian heritage was going to make them tough critics of Social House’s sushi and sake. Well, after the first plates of Hamachi Yellowtail and Binchyo Maguro Albacore, G.N. exclaimed mouth half-full, “This is better than sex!” In defense of G.N.’s boyfriend, I’m thinkin’ she means Social House’s sushi is pretty darn good.

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Ryan was equally enthused but he made it clear to me that he still prefers sex to any kind of sushi. He also made it clear that sake makes him a bit randy, and since his girlfriend was out gambling with her friends, I ordered him a Green Tea Lemonade just to be safe.

Yes, it didn’t hurt that I greased my Philly friends up with several of Social House’s now famous mixed drinks before the food arrived. Ryan followed his Green Tea Lemonade by getting down with a Rising Sun Martini, G.N. gave a thumbs-up to a Pineapple Mojito and Justice quenched his man-sized thirst with a Lycheetini. I stayed with my go-to Social House Rock Candy Lemonade because… well, because I’m a lightweight. And even though he wasn’t joining us this particular evening, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that “Extra’s” Las Vegas Bureau Chief Steve Weiser turns in his man card every time he visits Social House by ordering a Blueberry Mojito.

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f you look in the dictionary under “Philly Boy,” you’ll see a picture of Justice: nice guy, fiercely loyal, with a tough exterior, preferring a loaded cheese steak sandwich to a plate of sashimi. So Justice was pretty bummed about some of Social House’s exotic Pan Asian dishes… until the platter of Mini Kobe Burgers was brought to the table.

“Dude… Ohhhh… Dude!” Justice beamed as he eyed his half-eaten mini-gourmet-slider.

Well put, my friend, well put. And quite deserving because this Kobe beef is the best you’ll ever find nestled between two buns. But the Social House menu makers did not stop there. The bun of the Mini Kobe Burger is a moist, sweetbread that’s more candy than whole wheat and the accompanying Hawaiian ketchup in tangier and tastier than anything you’ve ever found at TGI Friday’s. (If you can’t tell, this is my favorite item on the menu.)

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That is what is so great about Executive Chef Joseph Elevado’s menu. The food is delicious, but not pretentious. Elevado, who came over from Nobu in Las Vegas to run the Social House kitchen, just wants to have fun with this food, and it shows. By blending Asian spices and sauces, he creates recipes with unique bold flavors that enhance the texture of his unique preparations.

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That aforementioned fun really comes out in the desserts. (Uhh, let me amend that above “favorite item” comment.) It being G.N.’s birthday, our waiter poked a candle into the Warm Chocolate Cake. I honestly don’t think G.N. or Justice or Ryan noticed the candle because they were so focused on the Banana Split … and the Sweet Dough Balls... and the Yogurt Pancakes... and the Ice Cream Sandwiches… and the Lemon Crème Brulee… and most of all… the Mochi. If you’ve never tried Mochi, imagine balls of ice cream that you can pick up with your hands in flavors like Green Tea, Mango and Peanut Butter Chocolate.

The epic meal was finished off with a string of Watermelon Sake shots that were nutritious and delicious. (Okay, just delicious… but aren’t watermelon and rice both nutritious?)

We waddled out of Social House so full of food, we weren’t going to need nourishment until at least 3:30 a.m. But if we craved Social House grub at that late hour, we’d have no problem getting it. You see, Social House is open until about sun-up for all your after-the-party-it’s-the-after-party needs.

So if you’re all about sushi, sake and socializing, Social House at Treasure Island in Las Vegas is your place. If it can please three critics from Philadelphia, it can please anyone.