Unsure where to stand on the quinoa controversy? Try an even older supergrain, farro, in some of the newest dishes to hit the strip.
At Ferraro’s, the vegan farro Milanese combines roasted vegetables and sautéed greens for a myriad of flavors and textures in every bite.
With the rise in gluten-free diets and the rediscovery of ancient “supergrains,” alternatives to wheat are sprouting on menus throughout the Las Vegas Valley. Among them is quinoa, the voguish grain of recent years. But quinoa has its detractors: Its surge in popularity has been blamed for the increasingly unsustainable practices of farmers trying to boost their yields in the grain’s native Andes. There’s a new option, however—a supergrain that actually predates them all as a source of human sustenance: farro, which filled the stomachs of ancient Egyptians on a daily basis as one of the first grains to be cultivated. And until you hear otherwise, consider it conflict-free. Nouveau or vieux, it’s the star of some great dishes around town.
1. Old-World Style
Farro is nothing new at Ferraro’s Italian Restaurant & Wine Bar (4480 Paradise Road, 702-364-5300), where chef Mimmo Ferraro has been pairing saffroninfused farro with the family’s famous osso buco for more than a decade. In the old days, when it was located near Flamingo and Jones, the restaurant catered to locals and a smattering of tourists venturing off-Strip. After moving across the street from Hard Rock Hotel & Casino five years ago, Ferraro began seeing a new clientele, whose desire for healthy dishes prompted him to offer more vegan and vegetarian options. His vegan farro Milanese combines roasted vegetables and sautéed greens, including braised radicchio, rapini, escarole, fennel, and beans, tossed with a touch of house marinara and finished with extra-virgin olive oil, resulting in a myriad of flavors and textures with each bite. You won’t even miss the protein.
2. Dirty Little Secret
At the new ode to Southern cuisine in Venetian, Yardbird (702-297-6541), Executive Chef Todd Harrington takes the normally healthy farro to spectacularly unhealthy levels in his Dirty Little Farro. The robust grain holds up under the onslaught of a duck fat, chicken liver mousse, and house-cured bacon and sausage quartet, delivering a dish that’s hearty enough to serve as a main and pairs well with a selection from the restaurant’s substantial bourbon collection.
3. Farro as Foil
Even in Scott Conant’s empire built on pasta, farro has a role, serving as a backdrop to the star proteins. For his braised short ribs at Scarpetta (Cosmopolitan, 702-698-7960), chef de cuisine Todd Sugimoto layers Parmesan cheese and red wine–braised short ribs atop farro strewn with seasonal vegetables, such as a trio of carrots, zucchini, and yellow squash or peas. Sugimoto prefers farro as an alternative to “your typical go-to starches, like rice and potatoes,” he says, adding that it’s the perfect foil to the rich meat of his short ribs.
4. All Puffed Up
At Hearthstone Kitchen & Cellar (Red Rock Casino, 702-478-5118), puffed farro adds a nutty consistency to the Market Salad, featuring shaved vegetables and arugula tossed with a light tarragon vinaigrette. The salad exemplifies the restaurant’s commitment to fresh sourcing, with the farro serving as what Executive Chef Jordan Hoffman calls the dish’s “alternate crouton.” Boiled, dehydrated, then fried, the grain blows up like a puffer fish and supplies a welcome textural contrast to the salad’s mélange of vegetables.
5. Salad Star
Farro is on the minds of chefs even outside the large casino kitchens. Presto Café (4950 S. Rainbow Blvd., #130, 702-293-3332; 19 S. Stephanie St., #140, Henderson, 702-914-2333) offers a variety of healthy items, including a rotating salad bar where farro is the highlight of its own salad. Mixed with asparagus, spring onion, nutty Parmigiano-Reggiano, and spicy arugula, this sharp dish is as delicious as it is nutritious. And there’s nothing old-fashioned about that.