The idea behind Pine Bistro was simple. Save the drive to the Strip and give Southern Highlands an upscale Mediterranean restaurant to call its own. However, the end result is such an interesting mix of cuisine and culture that it is bound to attract curious diners from all over the Las Vegas Valley.
Find out what it’s all about when Pine Bistro celebrates its official grand opening on Thursday, September 28. The dining room is inviting, bright and open, with wood décor and industrial accents that pair well with the hand-painted murals and brass and Turkish accents. Window frames, bamboo lighting fixtures, including lanterns that glow softly above the bar. The surroundings are designed to impress, but it’s the food that will keep you coming back.
Pine Bistro serves Mediterranean cuisine with a heavy Lebanese touch, reworking traditional recipes and flavors in a sophisticated, modern package. “We want to take the same service, product quality and experience you get on the Strip and bring it to the communities where we live,” said Lowell Raven of Aya Hospitality Group, the driving force behind Pine Bistro. “We take traditional Lebanese cuisine, traditional Mediterranean flavors, and put them in a cool, modern, high-energy environment.”
Executive Chef Danny Shabat, a veteran of the Gaza Strip, draws on his Lebanese heritage to put together a wide range of dishes. Deep, distinctive spices such as sumac, thyme and coriander are staples in the kitchen, balanced by the frequent use of mint, lemon, pomegranate and other bright ingredients.
Almost always, the meal begins with a choice of dips and pita bread (the traditional kind that puffs up into a circle), baked fresh in a custom oven. Don’t be shy about tearing it apart and pulling the pieces through the hummus, beautifully coated with olive oil, paprika, garbanzo beans, and baba ghanoush, where pomegranate seeds offset the smokiness of the roasted eggplant.
The same heavier-textured pita dough is used in fatayer, small pies filled with spinach, pine nuts and sumac. “There is a pine tree on the Lebanese flag,” Ravin points out. “Pine nuts are found in many foods.”
It’s just one of the items listed on the menu as “mezze,” which is the Middle East’s answer to tapas. So load up on the dishes to share. Samosa is a teardrop-shaped dish of beef and lamb patties with spices, pine nuts and a side drizzle of pomegranate syrup. Cheese rolls are a Lebanese cheese roll with a thin pastry crust filled with mozzarella, feta and halloumi (a cheese traditionally made from goat and sheep milk). A touch of mint is the secret weapon to liven up the flavors with onions, olive oil, and sesame seeds. Even the fries come with zaatar seasoning and chili, a spicy Middle Eastern sauce, on the side.
The kebabs are grilled over an open flame. Choose between chicken tawook with garlic whip, filet mignon, beef kofta (similar to meatballs or sausage), plump Mexican shrimp, a vegetable combo, or all of the above in a shareable platter that feeds up to four people. You can also split whole Mediterranean snapper, grilled or pan-fried. The shawarma meat is cut fresh from one of two vertical grills, but if you just want to splurge on a juicy American steak, order a New York strip or a bone-in ribeye drizzled with olive oil, sumac and other seasonings while it cooks over the shawarma. Grill.
Two versions of baklava are made locally: a traditional recipe with pistachios and another with a creamy, almost cheese-like cream. The first is topped with aromatic homemade pistachios and rosewater ice cream. Any dessert that pairs well with Arabica coffee is served short and strong in a form similar to espresso.
Luis Capota, former head bartender at Rosina, leads a bar team with industry experience, crafting drinks using house-made syrups, fresh juices, proper glassware and four types of ice. The cocktail menu features traditional classics, like the Negroni or Aperol Spritz, and new creations inspired by the flavors of the kitchen. The smoked Buffalo Trace Old Fashioned is sweetened with fig syrup, while the Sumac Smack is made with cachaça (a Brazilian rum-like spirit) and sumac syrup. Arak, a Middle Eastern spirit flavored with licorice, is used in red sangria and the citrus-flavored Neha Temple cocktail. It is also available for sipping on its own with the addition of water, a traditional practice that reduces the intensity of the flavour. Ask about Lebanese wine and beer or choose Armenian brandy.
Pine Bistro will be open for dinner from 5-10pm daily with shisha service available on the outdoor patio – spacious in design with comfortable furniture, large umbrellas, a stylish water feature and views of the Strip. The outdoor grill will cook whole lambs and other items for special occasions. Shisha service moves inside at 10pm with a menu of small bites, including wings, shawarma wraps, and the amazing house burger (a kofta patty topped with arugula, light pickles, honey, and plain old yogurt) reimagined as sliders. The cart offers shisha made with ice water and fresh fruits. It’s a sophisticated version of a service that’s more common in a place like Dubai than in Las Vegas.
Pine Bistro’s arrival reflects the growth of Southern Highlands, a master-planned community built around a golf course near the south end of Las Vegas. Aya Hospitality Group also operates Thick & Thin (a juice bar and ice cream shop in one) and IVI Performance, a 5,000-square-foot fitness center for elite athletes (including professionals from the NFL and MMA) that focuses on individual training. One-on-one personal training. All three businesses are located side by side near Keller Cactus Hill, a contemporary apartment complex alongside Interstate 15 that didn’t exist a few years ago.
But why stop there? Ayya Hospitality Group also oversees Crust & Roux for savory and sweet pies in Town Square and is opening J. Blanco, a Mexican steakhouse, in UnCommons on Southwest by early 2024. Big things are happening, and they’re not always on the Strip.Want more excitement? Follow us Instagram, Tik Tok, Twitter, Facebook, PinterestAnd Youtube.
Rob Cashelreis He’s a full-time freelance writer covering travel, dining, entertainment, and other fun stuff for Thrillist. He resides in Las Vegas but enjoys exploring destinations around the world, especially in the southwestern United States. Other than that, he’s happy hanging out at home with his wife, Mary, and their family of dogs. Follow him on Twitter @rkachelriess.