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Vegas Dec. 2013

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It was as cold in Vegas as it was in Vancouver, and I was there for the hot food. Cheese souffle at Payard, one of the things I'd most regretted not having in previous trip, finally experienced. Like the greatest omlette I've ever eaten. Minor league sparkling wine that worsened preciptously as it warmed, and when the omelet is consumed, nothing more for the wine to do so it trudges off into unpleasentness and soon paid check.

Next up, Rao's Uncle Vincent's Chicken. Whose uncle asks my inner George Carlin. He could get in. The gates to America's most exclusive restaurnat open in Vegas. I'll get some great chicken, right?

I'd gambled on MIchael Mina's Jidori chicken a couple of years ago and lost to vegetable imperialism. Can the man even cook? This chicken was so intimately involved with the lemon you'd tell it to get a room, if your tongue weren't oohing and ahing. Too much work getting meat off bones made it further from the best temperature, my only criticism

Next morning, orange creamsicle French toast at the Pyramid Cafe. Too sweet but the pearls of orange juice felt like El Bulli had moved into my mouth.

I'd heard the lavraki at Milos was now hit and miss but was surprised how fishy it was, only mitigated with a glass of wine almost the price of the cheap lunch. Predatory marketing? Salad not as good, fruit even better.

Every time I return from Vegas, customs asks me my favourite restaurant there and I always say Guy Savoy. I'd asked for the chestnut dish before, only to be rebuked that it was the wrong season. This time, it's the right season, right? A great foam, a pleasent blend of textures and the porcinis eventualy evoked pleasure. I'm asked if I wish to know the answer to the surprise, and I decline, and then to no great surprise, its fois gras and duck confit. But Guy still has it. The turbot with a hint of pineapple evokes Gagnaire as subtly as only a great knowledge of food could produce. His micro French Hamburger is as good as any hamburger I've ever eaten, A perfect antidote to the rodeo fever. The cow's revenge. Hey, I can taste better than you can imagine, but only a few of you will pay attention. The town can still cook. Something...

More to come.

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Although the broccoli soup at Schlotsky's in the food court of my hotel was a tasteless goo with the word "broccoli" waved over it a few times, the tomato soup was astonishingly good. So there is a breakfast option in my otherwise foodless hotel? Snow was predicted for the day, but instead it was pleasently sunny so I walked up to Paris, having made a lunch reservation for Eiffel Tower when it opened. Chef's Joho's baked vegetarian crepes are one of my favourite things in Vegas. I'd had a glass of white wine when having the crepes at night and a fine cup of ginger-peach tea when I dined on them for lunch but I'd been hearing great things about the Eiffel cocktails so I ordered a pearish beverage called Autumn in Paris, thinking pear might be a good element to add to the walnutty crepe. Alas. The crepes had fallen off in quality, and the pear drink was too pushy. On my walk back to the hotel, I pick up some cans of Mike's Smashed Apple Cidre, a fine apple beverage we don't have in Vancouver, unfortunately. It quickly erases my Parisian unpleasentness. Dinner at Tetsu. I've had nothing but great teppanyaki in my life, 5 times in Japan and once in Vancouver. Usually the sauce makes the dish. The web menu promises Ohimi beef, which I've actually had in Ohmi and is about as good as beef is gonna get. When I ordered it, I was told it was $34 oz, minimum 9 ounces. I could go to Ohmi for that price. Instead, I ordered the vastly cheaper Autralian Wagyu Filet Mignon. It was tasty, rather than reveletory. Many things I wanted were oddly off the menu, as if they knew I was coming and went and hid. I'd read great reviews of the maitaki in truffled butter and I loved the maitaki with black truffles at adjacent Bar Masa but this dish failed to impress. Maybe the teppanyaki thing isn't for Masa after all. HIs sauces would impress only someone who thinks sauces are things that come in cans. Only the asparagus worked well with one of the sauces, one of four. Batting .250 wont even get you out of the minor leagues.

I had Rick Moonen's Jumbo Lump Crab cake on a previous trip and thought it was the best crab cake I'd ever eaten. That was 2 years ago. I had already filled up on Schlotsky's tomato excellence and I knew the crab cake was small, but I still shocked to see exactly how small. The word Jumbo could only be applied by Liliputians. Unfortunately, you can't eat memories. The crab cake was oddly neither crabby nor cakey. The luxuriousness of a well made cake and the proud sea taste of a good crab were no where to be found here. Instead, a blitskrieg of chipotle aioli pounded my palate and was thereafter scrupulously avoided. What to do with this uh, "crab" "cake?" I had had a fine, very subtle and stimulating cocktail when I'd first had this crabcake 2 years before. Quickly, I summoned Superdrink to the rescue. Called The Carribean Dream, surely it would save the day. Yes, a fine beverage indeed. The boring crabcake is brought a few degrees closer to taste and I'm pleased to see it gone. A few nights before, I had a delicous cocktail called a Poire Dakar at RX Boiler Room, the more cockail oriented joint uptstairs. My learned local companions told me Rick was doing well. That's 3 for 3 with the cocktails, but only one for three on entrees. His catfish sloppy joe was curiously devoid of fish. Was it Rick's lesson for his guests about vanishing fish stocks? The crab cake home run of 2 years ago is replaced by a crabcake devoid of virtue, jumbo only in clumsy irony, and finally, just a lump. Mighty Ricky has struck out.

Things did not improve when I went to The Top of the World. Funny, it souded like a fun place. I was advised to go to the lounge first to view the sunset from 107 floors and enjoy 2 for one drinks and half price appeys. Ok, the pork belly should really have stayed on the pig. Even at half price it squeeled meatily as I attempted to eat it. The 2 for one sangrias were perhaps Mexico's revenge on
Spain. The sun set slowly. I went downstairs to eat.

The restaurant revolves. This is a good thing. I could not say that about the branzino. It did not REQUIRE a wine intervention to bring it into the realms of edibility, as did its cousin the lavraki at Milos, but it was pretty much a non-happening in tasteland. Instead, I bathe in the beauty of revolving city lights.

Cab back to hotel suprisingly cheap. Back in my room in time to watch The Simpsons. Hi-light of the day.

3 more days to go. This is turning in to a LONG trip.

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Wicked Spoon will be my first Vegas buffet. Will it live up to the reputation of buffets in this flavour-sotted town?

I had some fruit and a cup of tea for breakfast, expecting to pig out at WS but my stomache isn't nearly big enough to enjoy $28 worth of food at 10 Am. I tried, though.

Lox omelet with more lox, an ambassador from the bacon republic, 3 slices of grilled tomatoes, artichoke thanks itself for becoming a salad. I wish I had an appetite large enough to get more out of this, but it's pretty good, especially the tomatos. Parsely, thyme, a tiny taste of rosemary along with garlicy breadcrumbs and olive oil, Hey, I can make this!

I eat well and learn something profound. What a vast reversal from yesterday's bummers.

When it opens, I'm in the door and ordering the lion fish at American Fish. I tell the server I was unimpresed by Mina's at Bellagio and he thanks me for giving Mina another chance.

I ask what Lionfish tastes like and he says smokey. With a smokey chowder. I think a Dark and Stormy would pair well wtih this, with its intense ginger evocation, intenseness will work for me, whistling while it works its chemical magic. It is the best thing I'll eat in a week of gourmet excursions. The song Living in a Bottle by Gil Scot Herron appears in the back ground as I am eaten by the lion fish. Many appetites are satisfied tonight.

After this fish, I go over to L'attelier and have an equally awesome langoustine fritter. Basil leaf in fritter, in cocktail, complement each other like lucky locks They had refused me entrance the day before, claiming to be too full This time I get in. Stunned by the vastness of its goodness.

The next day I waste $62 on Joe's Tasteless Crabs. They use another adjective, but it implies how intoxicated one would have to be to hallucinate flavour for these crabs. Squeezing a lemon wedge on them saved them from nothingness. They came with a spicy sauce which obliterated the crab's lack of taste. Unlike this taste violation, their baked tomatoes with spinache puree and cheddar is a wonder to behold, and worth the long walk. The violence of this crab's sauce and rm's murderous ailoli for its tasteless crab cakatrocity combined to make me wonder if anyone here cared about food any more? The trip goes up and down like an earth quake. First its flat, then it flutters

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The Tea Lounge at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel has to be one of the mellowest spaces in Vegas. I'm there for an exotic tea cocktail called a Maple Tree Bird. Thankfully lacking in maple flavour, instead it is steeped in tea goodness and assorted good spirits. The magically dissappearing crab thing of the hour before is washed away by intellectually challenging and palate delighting liquid.

I'd heard great things about Lobster Thermidore and Andre's brags about theirs. Must be good, eh? A cocktail called a Willly Nilly: Vanillla infused vodka, cranberry juice and peach liquer pulls the lobster into something resembling taste, as well as mighty efforts by sauced asparagus and mashed potatos, but the meal seems an insult to the noble lobster. Next, it's off to Twist. I am no longer remembered here, or is just a new staff? When I order my favourite drink in the world, Twist's passion fruit cocktail, it has vanished from their conscoiusness. They attempt something and it's not poisonous, but losing that flavour is losing a reason I come to Vegas in the first place. Fish is good. Better than the lobster.

I begin the next day with a cab ride to Bouchon. It's spinache quiche is as melty as before, but its' formidable grapefruit has vanished down the same memory hole as the passion fruit drink at Twist. My server seems to think I'd ordered a grapefruit juice. Horrors! Should have gone to Mon Ami Gabi, far more reliable about grapefruit, but it's too late now. More great drinks at the Vesper bar and another, more refreshing tea at the Tea Lounge and then I'm off to Le Cirque. It was pretty good the last time I visited, 2 years ago, but it is vastly better now. Things I would normally refuse to eat, such as liquid eggs, actually become edible with the addition of salmon and caviar. An orange widow remarries. A truffle and a scallop enjoy each other's company. And prosciuto, not a favourite ham form, wraps itself around a monkfish and the result is better than the monkfish I'd eaten at Le Bernardin 3 years ago. Better fish than Le B? Can it be? A wonderous final meal in food town.

A very tasty tomato, ham and olive bruschetta at the airport and I'm on my way back to Vancouver. For all the days since, I have been filled with happiness and curiousity about what interesting new things I can cook. Good trip.

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