More bang, less buck

The salt roasted  prime rib dinner from Orozko Restaurante looks pretty good, but is it worth an     arm and a leg?

The salt roasted prime rib dinner from Orozko Restaurante looks pretty good, but is it worth an arm and a leg?

Photo By Lauren Randolph

Restaurante Orozko

1100 Nugget Ave.
Sparks, NV 89431

(800) 648-1177

Not worth the money. This was the general consensus reached after a night of dining with friends at Restaurante Orozko in John Ascuaga’s Nugget. I dislike writing negative reviews as much as I do reading them. They’re a bummer. I want to be able to supply readers with new options, not warn them off. But, well, while decent and somewhat tasty, Orozko simply wasn’t worth what we paid. In addition, the restaurant suffers from an identity crisis regarding its culinary theme. While Orozko promotes itself as a Basque restaurant that also serves Mediterranean food—this schism itself should raise warning flags—the menu listed a variety of Spanish tapas along with Tuscan soup. This isn’t a huge deal, but for what I paid, I typically prefer a restaurant with a unified theme.

Orozko is long, narrow and dimly lit. In the front, live musicians play, and plush chairs allow for hours of quiet, laid-back entertainment. By the time we left, the front of the restaurant was full, and everyone seemed to truly be enjoying themselves. It looked welcoming, and I might just go back one day for a drink. As we progressed inside, however, the place became emptier and the décor stranger. The carpet was loud and swirling, and the faux sky above us was a little tacky and, to be frank, casino-ish. Our server was very kind, however, and while slow and sometimes forgetful, she made up for it with her good humor and sincere apologies.

We were originally seated near a large party that included John Ascuaga himself. We had come for a quiet night out, though, and asked to be moved. This was managed quickly and with no fuss. There were, as mentioned, ample tables available. We then ordered our drinks. Now, I harp on this often, but a good martini just isn’t that easy to find anymore. And, sad to say, Orozko was no exception. The mix was off and, worst of all, it was served with five itty bitty olives. I’m sorry, but when paying $30 a plate, I generally expect one of those large, snazzy olives, the kind that soak up the gin and people fight for afterwards. Our friend ordered a glass of wine ($10) which was very nice indeed—after it finally arrived.

I need to emphasize that the food was not bad. I had the Orozko seafood pasta ($26.95)—fettuccini with Dungeness crab, prawns, scallops, calamari and clams, all tossed in a creamy herb mushroom sauce—which was good, but tasted too much like the $8.95-seafood meals I’ve eaten at chain restaurants. It was edible but not $26-special.

The description of the Mediterranean grilled prawns ($27.95), which our friend Michelle had, turned out to be better than the meal itself: marinated with rosemary and mint pesto on black linguine and tomato fondue. In truth, it was a plate of good-sized prawns in a yummy sauce but, again, similar to other, cheaper meals we’d all had before. The house Mediterranean salads that came with our meals were smothered in too much dressing and the Basque creamy garlic soup ($5.95) had strong character, but a cup of it would have been sufficient. There wasn’t anything truly unique about any of our meals. Again, not bad, but nothing to shout about, and certainly nothing that made them especially worth the money.

It’s never fun to write a review like this, especially after seeing the legendary owner himself on location the night we dined. Still, it’s my job, and while my husband and I might dine at other Nugget restaurants on occasion, in a time of recession my guess is we’ll shy away from Orozko.