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Cactus Pete's new 36 Steak and Seafood hits the Jackpot

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At Cactus Pete's, the largest hotel/casino in the tiny gambling burg of Jackpot, Nev., it's easy to lose track of time among the flashing lights and clanging dings of the slot machines. Nonetheless, even the most compulsive among us has to stop and re-fuel. Just because Jackpot's not Las Vegas doesn't mean eschewing a high-quality meal, especially with the recent opening of 36 Steak and Seafood Restaurant—Cactus Pete's new fine-dining establishment.

On an evening shortly after Christmas, walking into the hushed bijou eatery, closed off from the literal bells and whistles of the casino floor, was like stepping into a fancy food spa.

36 Steak and Seafood opened late last year after a six-week remodel of the former Plateau Room and, while the size of the space remained unchanged at fewer than 50 seats, warm lighting and a subdued color scheme make it feel cozier still.

Shortly after we were seated, a server silently delivered an amuse bouche, described with no irony whatsoever, as "seafood strudel," which turned out to be a delightful slice of pate wrapped in an airy, flaky pastry.

Wanting to further explore the surf side of 36, we ordered the jumbo lump crab cakes appetizer, big enough and good enough to be a meal in itself.

Unlike the seasonings and fillers often used to mask the bland frozen ingredients found in crab cakes, a bed of crisp baby greens and light blanket of bright lemon aioli enhanced the flavor of the dish.

Following a long but ultimately worthwhile wait, our orders arrived and we dug into seafood fettuccine laden with lobster, scallops and shrimp; sirloin with an Oscar hollandaise sauce brimming with king crab and asparagus; and Atlantic salmon, accompanied by sides of crispy Brussel sprouts, jumbo asparagus and the 36 Signature mac and cheese, all in portions big enough to qualify for "family style."

Both the cooking and seasoning of everything was spot-on and each dish tasted fresh enough to have been butchered, caught or made that day. The truth isn't too far off: According to a Nov. 17 report on Magic Valley station KMVT-TV, 36 has fish flown in daily and its beef is sourced locally from Double R Farms.

Extras like a large marrow bone served with the sirloin, fried pancetta and reggiano on the sprouts, and a pour-to-taste portion of provolone and gruyere sauce for the mac and cheese elevated not only the meal but the entire dining experience.

Though we lost plenty to the slot machines, dinner at 36 Steak and Seafood was a total win.

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