Insignia swaggers into town with headliner confidence and showstopping cost. All that's missing is the casino.
Turning a corner of Nesconset Highway into an offshoot of Las Vegas Boulevard demands ambition-plus. For restaurateur-as-impresario Anthony Scotto, this brassy palace of protein known as Insignia completes a trifecta.
Behind the maitresse d' station, you'll see a black-and-white image of women dancing tabletop at a lively affair before the smoke-free era. It's a send-up of excess, as is a lot of this pulsating, play-hard fun house.
To your right is the lounge and bar: granite, marble, epic projection screen, TVs tuned to sports, in-progress dolce vita pursuits. To the left: the main dining room, a mahogany-beamed affair, alongside a two-story glass-walled wine room. A sleek, glittery sushi-and-shellfish bar features perpetual-motion chefs. Above it float glass light fixtures resembling giant ice cubes.
You envision roulette wheels near there, blackjack and craps tables close by, baccarat doubtless upstairs. But, immediately, Insignia's food is no gamble.
You're not here for subtlety. But executive chef Mikhail Apelsinov, who opened Rare650, provides that and, naturally, more.
His saffron-tinted seafood chowder is terrific. Share the addictive "seven spice" mini-Kobe burgers. Crisp pork belly, paired with garlic sausage, braised red cabbage and red-wine mustard, almost rivals them.
Nibble on a refreshing crabmeat cocktail, capped with crunchy seaweed, in a martini glass with enough shaved ice to jump-start a granita. Crack a stone crab claw, at $11 per.
Sample pristine sushi; or give in to the "supreme" cooked rolls. The house's namesake embodies Insignia's approach: steamed lobster with foie gras, black truffle, covered with Wagyu beef, finished with saffron and eel sauce. This $40 opus doesn't quite harmonize. But the "triple spicy" with lobster, tuna and jalapeño does.
The selection of whole, grilled fish includes mild, sweet striped bass. And catch the snowy grilled halibut, matched with cider-braised short ribs, for an update on high-roller surf-and-turf.
A dry-aged Kansas City strip steak stands out, despite its gilding of truffled foie-gras butter. Pick porterhouse for two or more; maybe a fist-size cut of filet mignon. Wagyu steaks, with more marbling than a Carrara quarry, are, of course, rich; you must like the taste of luxurious fat. Entry-level is the 16-ounce Australian rib-eye, for $89. But save a few dollars for the creamy mashed potatoes.
And allow some room for the warm, cinnamon doughnuts and a hefty wedge of Junior's cheesecake. They're sure things.