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rjwong

My Las Vegas trip on a bus

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During early to mid-Nov., I took a trip from Los Angeles to Las Vegas with this new bus service. The decision wasn’t too hard to make, considering my round-trip ticket cost me $9.50. Yes, that’s nine dollars and fifty cents. The original plan was to meet up with a couple of eGullet members (David Ross & TheDiningAdvocate) face-to-face. Unfortunately, it didn’t work out this time. Well, as they say in Las Vegas, “Better luck next time.” I stayed off-the-strip at a nearby hotel close to UNLV. So, without my car around and I wasn’t going to rent one, I got around by walking and taking the local bus system. An all-day pass for five dollars (for all of Las Vegas, not just the Strip or Downtown) comes in very handy and oh-so convenient when you’re tired of walking.

Anyways, here is my report with some photos. I’ll report on each restaurant with a separate post, if necessary. Enjoy!

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Fri. night

Wollensky’s Grill is the more casual version of Smith & Wollensky’s, pretty much their bar area.

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Bread

That spread for the bread tasted so tangy. Unfortunately, I didn't asked the server what's in it.

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Their famous split pea soup

Nothing to write home about ...

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Bone-in New York

The steak was very good.

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Asparagus

The place is good for what it is, a steakhouse. You’d be surprised how many “steakhouses” can’t do steak.

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Sat. afternoon

Before lunch, I went to Caesar’s to find Payard Patisserie. It wasn’t opened yet during my trip. Mind you, I decided to take some photos anyways. You can see them here in its own thread.

Afterwards, I had lunch at Joe’s Seafood, Prime Steak & Stone Crab. It was crowded. The only spot available was at the bar, first-come first-serve. I started off with a stone crab cocktail followed by a New York strip. Both tasted very good. Unfortunately, I forgot to take pictures.

Sat. night

From my hotel, I took the bus all the way up to Downtown Las Vegas to have dinner at Binion’s. I wanted to try this place ever since eGullet member Chris Cognace kept raving about this chicken-fried lobster dinner on his TV series “The Hungry Detective” on FN.

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View from the 25th floor of Binion’s

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Chicken-fried lobster

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The decor is quite retro, as well as the service. The waiters are friendly, not prententious, but still professional. Definitely local Las Vegas, and I always mean that in the good sense, okay?

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Sat. late night

As I was making my way back down the Strip from Downtown via taking the bus and walking, I decided to have a late night meal over at l’Atelier.

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Échirre butter

This butter tastes so good, I could just lick the butter off the bread and forget about eating the bread ...

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Le boeuf au poivre

That was one of the best steaks I had, with plenty of peppercorn on top, as it should be!!

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Aloe sorbet, lime cream and Granny-Smith apples

As I was eating my boeuf au poivre, I looked up and saw ... :shock::shock:

Chef Joël Robuchon ... lui-même!!

I had a nice, brief conversation with him, albeit with my limited French. He apparently noticed me taking pictures of my meal. Imagine, I just saw God and I lived to tell about it ... :rolleyes::rolleyes:

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Sun. morning

Eventually, I woke up, took the hotel’s shuttle bus to the MGM, and walked up the Strip to try Bally’s Sterling Brunch for sixty-five dollars. Bally’s uses their steakhouse and Italian restaurant for their brunch seatings.

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Champagne

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Lobster, roast beef, shrimp, bacon, eggs, fish, vegetables, lamb, made-to-order omele, among other things

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Desserts

The food was pretty good, but the food area wasn’t spread out. It was a bit crowded trying to get the food. And the service was almost non-existant, and I would fault management. Over in the section I was seated in, there were about two servers covering forty tables! There really needs to be more servers than that. IMO, the brunch, with all the champagne, wasn’t worth paying the $65 price. You’re better off going to one of the other buffet places, like Bellagio or Wynn.

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Sun. night

I took the hotel shuttle bus again to MGM and then catched the bus that goes up and down the Strip, aka “The Deuce.” BTW, it was raining and I was late for my 6:30 p.m. dinner at Boulud. Daniel Boulud Brasserie was where I was to meet David Ross and TheDiningAdvocate, with two friends who own a cheese and wine store in Henderson. After I hurried to the restaurant and remembered to breathe, my two friends, Bob & Kristin, treated me to a terrific meal. Because they know the chef de cuisine and one of the servers, the kitchen staff cooked us a dinner that was “off the menu.” Therefore, I can’t really comment on Boulud’s on-the-menu items. What we did eat that night demonstrates what the kitchen can do. Perhaps, I need to go back and order what’s on the menu. Life is so hard ...

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Oysters with caviar

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Foie gras au torchon

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Rabbit mortadella

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Charcuterie plate

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Crispy pork belly

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Taleggio ravioli

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Presentation of the Muscovy duck before final preparation

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Salmon

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Sliced Muscovy duck with cabbage stuffed with duck confit

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Cheese plate

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A few desserts ...

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and the wine was flowing ...

My friends and I had a great meal and a wonderful time. We got to tour the kitchen. It’s huge! To those of you who were previously disappointed with Boulud, I’d say give Boulud a chance, especially with the new chef in place. Admittedly, the photos I posted show what the kitchen can do. I’m sure it’s great when the kitchen can cook “off the menu” for VIPs and friends. Mind you, the real test for Boulud is how consistent they can cook from their menu, day in and day out.

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Mon. morning

After that meal last night at Boulud, I managed to have brunch at the Bellagio Buffet. Sorry, no photos. You’ve seen one buffet, you’ve seen them all, right? To a certain degree, that may be true. Mind you, Bellagio Buffet has a greater variety, better quality, and far better service, IMO. My server was right on top of things, refilling my ice tea, etc. And I think I’ve seen her before, working at the Bellagio Buffet. And that’s a good sign: They’re keeping their good workers.

Mon. night

Picasso is one restaurant in Las Vegas that I’ve been meaning to try after all these years. One can get bogged down eating at the newest places, then all of a sudden, one forgets an “older” restaurant that opened two or three years ago, or more ... Sadly, my dining companion was ill, so I was a solo diner that evening.

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To my left, I could see the Fountains of Bellagio, which never ceases to amaze me.

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Amuse bouche

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Maine lobster salad

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Pan seared scallop

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Sautéed foie gras

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Kobe beef, accompanied by vegetables

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Dessert

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Earl grey

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Petit fours

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My meal at Picasso was very good and comforting. Nothing too adventurous. The service was fine, perhaps a bit casual for my taste. Picasso didn’t have a full presentation of a tea list, like at other restaurants, where the list of teas are written out or the teas are presented tableside. The server just recited the list of teas to me, which was fine. Mind you, it’s those little things that distinguishes a good restaurant from a really great restaurant.

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Tues. morning

Before leaving Las Vegas on a bus back to Los Angeles, I had breakfast at Spice Market Buffet in the new Planet Hollywood (formerly Aladdin). It was fine, with the usual breakfast fare. Sorry, no photos. And the servers need to work harder. My server didn’t come by to refill my water glass or anything, and it wasn’t busy at all for a weekday morning.

Final comments

I enjoyed this trip. Meeting Robuchon, dinners at Boulud, Binion’s, Picasso were great. And I’m amazed at how many really great steaks I had this time around. I think I batted a thousand. As for the buffets, Bellagio is on the top of that department.

Next time, I need to try Payard Patisserie, when it opens ...

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Russell, thanks for the report! It looks like you had an amazing trip. Good thing you saved on the travel and hotel because the food looked so decadent!

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I wasn't able to make the trip at the last minute due to some family obligations and our other dining companion-John Curtas aka The Dining Advocate and KNPR restaurant reporter, was suffering from some sort of bug he picked up while on a dining trip to Hong Kong. Alas, we were unable to be there, but we are girding up for the next trip. Great photos and reviews and when we do meet in Las Vegas, I'll definately be going to the places we had planned on.

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