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Jan 12, 2007 03:43 PM

Vegas report

Just back from a long weekend in Las Vegas where I researched a bunch of dining choices. Must say, I was pleased with some and disappointed in others. Lunch at Olives was shockingly good. I just figured this would be a glorified TGI Fridays but I was in second heaven with the cuban sandwich and the beef carpaccio. The service was efficient and cordial and thankfully, no dramatic synchronized placements or "hello my name is Tim and I am going to be your server today". Right up my alley. Excellent salad too.
I am a lunch person and I did find that rather difficult in Las Vegas considering all of the tremendous choices for dinner. I posted a query on this site and did get some excellent responses. I missed Mon Ami Gabi for lunch and opted instead for the Country Club at the Wynn. Wow! The interiors are stunning and the large windows overlooking the golf course offer spectacular views. We had a brunch menu with standard eggs benedict but also super sandwiches and burgers. The fries were sublime and the bloddy mary's just perfect. The soup was perfectly excellent. What a find. I was surprised that the Country Club has hardly ever been mentioned on this site but perhaps it is too "hotel resortish". I am not sure.
The other lunch spot was the Mesa Grill which was extraordinarily good. Hip interiors, top notch wait staff and fabulous Southwestern inspired brunch food. Just fantastic. It is right in smack in the middle of the casino at Caesar's Palace but oh well, that is Vegas.
Dinner at Delmonicos was a total disappointment. I was invited so I cannot complain too much as the bill I am sure was not easy on the eyes. I guess I was expecting the romance of the one in New Orleans where I live but was disheartened by how lackluster the restaurant is. The fish course was cold and bland, the steak also rather insipid and tough, and the banana pie was straight from a diner. We were served, however, a truly sensational course of scallops inside a pumpkin shell which was absolutely mouth watering. Ironically, as I disparage the experience that evening, that course was so good, it makes me change my mind. In addition, the service was excellent.
Bouchon was also hit and miss for me. Hoping to taste a Thomas Keller restaurant for the first time, I was hardly blown away. The style is tile floored brasserie and nothing special. It is loud and echo filled and the service consisted of that awful fawning with long descriptions of the food that interrupt your conversations. Then, of course, you feel obligated to listen and make "oohs and ahs" comments. Fish was bland and the fois gras too rich but once again, I tasted some of the best braised pork imaginable. Crispy on the outside and moist and rich inside. Incredible! Nothing was bad so I cannot complain about anything really awful. I guess it was like hearing about the greatest movie and then while seeing it, wondering what the big deal is.
My best meal the whole weekend was at a place called the Social House. Asian food is rather uninspired in Louisiana so it is a HUGE treat for me to fill my mouth with one taste sensation after another. I dined with 5 other friends and everyone was moaning with pleasure after each course of small plates. I could have poured a pitcher of the coconut soup down my thoat it was that good. The lobster rolls were superb, the prawns filled with flavor, and the ribs sticky and filled with seasoning. It is also fun. Tables were packed with young and happy people just enjoying themselves and although the tables were close together and the place was packed, I felt like we were left in complete privacy. Considering the hustle and bustle, the service was unparalled. A multitude of good looking servers were at the table at the first hint of need from the guest. The food came out fast, the drinks appeared out of nowhere, and everyone seemed eager to please without hanging out and pontificating about the glory of the food. It spoke for itself.
Finally, nothing could compare to this fluffy, fresh brioche with dulce de leche filling and steaming caffe latte at a pastry place in the Bellagio., I think it is called Phillipe or something like that. WOW! I normally find pastry stores to have beautiful looking confections with mediocre taste but this is a big exception. I wonder if other people have been shocked by the quality and taste of the sweets at this place. The chocolate fountain is pure kitsch and the gawking tourists are annoying but that did not take away from the pure pleasure of the breads. I wish I could have one now.
Thanks to all for your recommendations. Also, tried Stripsteak which was very good and FIX which had fabulous food as well.

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  1. Thanks for the long review Mikey.

    We also find lunches problematic in LV for the same reasons. We always know we're going to go overboard at dinner and yet, of course we need to eat in the middle of the day and there are so many good choices beckoning.

    We also enjoyed our lunch at Olives, especially the salad and flatbread pizza, both of which my husband and I split so that we'd have room for dinner. We also thought service was surprisingly unobtrusive. We'd go back again tho I don't think we would for a dinner.

    As for Bouchon it is one of our favorites however I think one of the problems people make is thinking of it as a "Thomas Keller" restaurant and expecting French Laundry/Per Se quality and service. It is not at all either, and for that matter he has very little to do with running it except in name only from what I understand. If people would just consider it a fine french bistro I think they would be more apt to be pleased with what the receive. We have had only excellent meals there but I will admit to some iffy service on occassion. It tends to be either first class, or dismissive. The one time it was downright disappointing (service, not the meal) we just bypassed our waiter completely and went straight to management since we'd already eaten there several times already (in fact, that week alone we had breakfast there nearly every morning and dinner twice). The problem was swiftly corrected with much apologies. Anyway, one night we were there my husband had a veal special which apparently they almost never serve - some complicated dish where they take a veal breast, cook it down until it's falling off the bone, shred it, reassemble it into a cutlet shape, bread it and saute it and if I remember right it was served over a bed of roasted veggies. I can't tell you how delectable this was - it was butter soft, comforting and decadent at the same time. A remarkable dish.

    To bad about Delmonico too but I think I may have to sort of agree with you on this one. The first time we ate there we were blown away, as we were the second time as well. The third time, not so much. Also, for some reason I remember reading/hearing that this Delmonico does not have the same type of menu as the NOLA one does - correct me if I'm wrong please. The LV outpost is specifically known as a steakhouse; I don't believe the NOLA one is thought of as such but I may be incorrect about that.

    I'm really intrigued by the Country Club review. My husband and I peaked in this past April, and nearly had lunch. The view inside was awesome and it looked like a wonderful place to relax for a while. But it was so quiet and empty that we assumed maybe it wasn't very good. Since then we'd heard a couple of people give it only passable reviews but yours makes me want to go. So, next time we're out there I think we'll give it a shot.

    We absolutely love Mesa Grill but have only been there for dinner. Much better than the NY one, not that this one is bad (people say it's "tired"). We especially liked the sweet potato tamale that came with my husband's pork dish - wow! The night we were there Bobby Flay was in the kitchen cooking - yes, he was actually cooking.

    Jean Phillipe in Bellagio was very good - we had a couple of little bites there. And what is so wonderful about that chocolate waterfall anyway? We heard so much about it and it was really no big deal. I don't know maybe I'm jaded an all, being a NY'er?

    Thanks again, you gave me some ideas for the next time we go out.

    1. Thanks for an interesting report. I agree about the Mesa Grill and look forward to trying the Country Club. However, I've tried the dulce de leche brioche at the Jean Philippe Patisserie and found it to be not all that great. Perhaps its only good with a steaming caffe latte.

      1. i'm surprised about the delmonico review - granted i have not been there in a year or so - but i really enjoyed - i was hoping you might provide a little more detail on stripsteak. i gotta try mesa grill...soon

        1. You have to know what you're getting with Bouchon - it's pretty much straight French bistro food, but done to Keller's perfectionist standards and techniques. The braised pork short rib is an outrageously good dish. My last time there I had another item, an oxtail stew served w/ poached marrow and a puff pastry cap, that was also great.

          1. Mikey-what did you have at Stripsteak? I have it on my absolutely must do list for my next trip, just wondering. Also, might consider Country Club for lunch now.

            1 Reply
            1. re: elrushbo

              I ate there about a week after it opened and I would definitely head back. It was good, but not great. I had the tartare, which was nice but too much "foo-foo" stuff in it to mask the flavor of the beef. The foie gras sliders are great in theory and I really enjoyed them -- right up until I bit into a big vein. Kind of blew the appetite for foie. I had the duck satays with a quince reduction and they were forgettable. Overdone and not tender in the least. The butternut squash puree side dish was overwhelmingly the best part of the meal. It was infused with vanilla in some sort of way and topped with a dollop of infused creme fraiche. The texture was extremely silky on the puree and again was very tasty.

              I didn't try any of their steaks but, from what I'm told, they "hold" their steaks in clarified butter. That probably makes for a pretty tasty steak even if it's not the politically correct way to do it. I'll go back sometime soon -- maybe even this coming week.