Las Vegas -- Commanders Palace, Il Molino & Joe's Steak and Stone Crabs
Quick trip to Vegas 6-19 to 6-22. Dinner on Monday at Commander's Palace in the Desert Passage at the Aladdin/Planet Hollywood. I've been there several times before, and as always, the meal and service were outstanding. We started with Turtle soup and shrimp remolade and they were excellent. Main courses of BBQ seafood stew, a pork chop with Bourbon glaze and seared swordfish were delicious. Bread pudding souffle and Bananas Foster rounded out the evening. A great place, wonderful food, terrific wine list and outstanding service. (My son had the cheese plate as a first course. The waiter apologetically asked if we minded if the cheese plate was brought with the second course, because the chef didn't want the cheese presented until it had a chance to warm up a bit to bring out the proper flavor. When I later remarked that the cheddar with sage was our favorite, the waiter made sure that a copy of the cheese's label was taped to the Thank You card that Commander's Palace leaves with the check, so that I could order the same cheese from my local cheese shop.) This is an outstanding and unique place that is well worth a visit. Times seem a bit tough for it though. Monday night -- granted always slow at most places -- was very, very quite at 7:30. We were almost alone in the place. I hear that lunch is busy -- they have 25 cent Martinis as a promotion -- but the food is the thing here and I think dinner business is being hurt by the up-in-the-air status of the Aladdin/Planet Hollywood transition. A real shame.
The next night found us at Joe's Steak and Stone Crab at the very end of the Forum Shops Mall attached to Caesars Palace. A top notch steakhouse, excellent service and fine food. They're not kidding about the stone crabs -- I'm not that fond of crab and I have to admit they were tasty. Steaks were outstanding as well. Good desserts too -- and I don't normally have a sweet tooth. Key lime pie was about the best I've had, and a peppermint ice cream hot fudge sunday was spot on too. Very busy on a Tuesday night. Worth calling ahead for a reservation to sit in back. (The front part has tables facing the mall, and isn't as nice.)
Wednesday night found us having a late dinner (9:30) at Il Molino, also in the Forum shops at Caesars Palace, upstairs from Joe's Stone Crabs. This is a branch of a top rated New York place, and it lived up to its billing. A really wonderful place. The prices aren't cheap, but the quality is outstanding and the quantities a bit overwhelming. As you are seated you're bombarded with waiters placing huge wedges of Reggiano parmesan cheese on your plate. Another puts down a dish of heavenly caponata while another lays out a plate of terrific, gamey salami, along with a bread basket with (among others) garlic bread to die for. Portions are huge, so splitting is a good idea. We had a great spaghetti carbonara, veal scaloppini, and double fillet mignon with homemade buffalo mozarrella. All were outstanding. The place is not cheap, but given the amount and extremely high quality of the food, it remains somewhat of a value. The wine list is outstanding, though you catch your breath when you see that all wine by the glass is $20, and the lowest priced bottle is $65. However, the list is outstanding and the pricing close to retail (if not wholesale) on some bottles. The wine service is excellent -- all reds are decanted, and the stemware first class -- with the result being that virtually any wine you order is drinking its best. They also throw in a complimentary chilled house infused grappa -- white rasins in our case. Not cheap, but again, very high quality. Easily among the best Italian places in the western U.S. A transplant that is as good as the original. Not deserted, but not jammed on a Wednesday night, I think this is still under the radar a bit.
Some other minor points. Had breakfast/lunch at the Paris buffet, which still remains a cut above most other buffet's on the strip and is reasonable to boot -$40 for three. Had a great margarita at the Mesa Grill at Caesars Palace, and being a fan of Bobby Flay I'll try and stop for dinner the next time through.
Thanks for the detailed reviews. I'm not as enthusiastic as you about the food at Commander's Palace, but it's a lovely place, the service is warm and attentive, and I also wonder why it isn't more popular. The tables are well-spaced and you can carry on a conversation. The food is tasty and although far from cheap, it is reasonable compared to other fine dining places in LV? Are all these things that I consider a positive somehow a negative?
I wouldn't necessarily say that Il Mulino is under the radar; I just don't think it is worth the money, and is hardly (IMO) among the best Italian in Western US. Indeed, I can think of three restaurants within two miles of my home in San Francisco that I think are better (and much, much cheaper, all three with excellent Italian wine lists!)
So, I am not a fan, and wouldn't return. Here is my report from my visit last year:
No question, you had a far different experience than we did. The failure to thank or at least acknowledge a guest when leaving is inexcusable, especially for a place charging those prices and purporting to offer a top level of service. When we were there the staff couldn't have been more attentive, and we were warmly thanked by everyone from the Captain to the busboy as we left. Inconsistency in food or service is the kiss of death for a place of this level -- what you're paying for is a consistently outstanding experience. I'll probably go back, but your review and those of others certainly gives me pause.
Hi: Interesting to note that your experience was different, because several posters had mentioned the lack of a thank you. Maybe someone is listening! (I certainly hope so).
Have to admit, though, about the only aspect of my visit I really enjoyed was the room itself. Pleasant and quiet on a summer's day...