My Vegas Report 3/5-3/7...really long
Got back last week from a quick trip to Vegas for a convention. Here's my report:
Monday/Tuesday/Wednesday Late Afternoon: Quick sandwich at 'witchcraft. Great sandwich. I had the chix, mozz, red pepper, basil panini which was fantastic. It somehow was $9.75, but hey, its Vegas baby. My friend liked it so much, that she had the sandwich everyday for lunch, which meant that I went there too everyday for lunch. The last day I mixed it up and got the roast pork w/ fontina, pepper relish and coppa. Again, really good sandwich and actually surprisingly filling
Monday Night: Dinner at CraftSteak. I must say I was excited about this one because I have wanted to try one of Tom Colicchio's places and I have heard many people here on chowhound rave about it.
My table of 7 did the beef tasting menu. Basically, three courses, apps/main/dessert, all of the chef's choosing and served family style of course. For apps we had roasted red peppers, roasted baby beets, crimini mushrooms in sherry, arugula salad and grilled hawaiian prawns, as well as foie gras with kumquat compote, which we added for $20. All of the apps were pretty good, but not really spectaular. I thought that the roasted red pepper was bizarre, as it was just a large strip of red pepper...that's it. On the menu it's an $11 app I think. I can't imagine the look on a customers face who did an ala carte menu and was served the red pepper as an app. Just a pepper on plate. I think Tom would be packing his knives if he served that one on Top Chef. On to the steaks.
We received an absurd amount of meat. Two bone-in sirloins, two bone-in ribeyes, one hangar, one filet and one kobe shortrib, along with two sides of mashed, two roasted asparagus and one grean bean almondine (sp?). The mashed poatoes were awesome, more like a potato puree with a whole lot of butter. The steaks I and the rest of the table found to be average at best. I thought the short rib was really good and one of the bone-in sirloins and the filet was just good, while the ribeyes, the other sirloin and the hangar were really bad. The meat lacked that nice beef flavor and strangely, no USDA rating was listed, but there was no way these were prime, maybe CAB at best. I will say though that all steaks were cooked perfectly, mid-rare, but did lack the char on the outside.
Desserts were pretty good, with a selection of six sorbets and ice creams, vanilla cheesecake, a molten choc cake with nuts, roasted pinapples and monkey bread. The monkey bread was by far the best. With tax and tip the bill came to about $1150.
Tuesday Night: Started with apps at Emeril's. First time for me. I was actually pleasantly surprised. I had a trio of tuna tartare and my friend had braised shortribs. Both were really good. With two glasses of wine, tax and tip, the bill came to about $75.
Later on Tuesday Night: Dinner at Diego's. Had good memorys of this place from a prior trip. The braised goat, the tableside guacamole and the trio of salsas are still good, but overall our experience was not great. We were dying for their mojiotos and consumed quite a few. They were all good but each one tasted different. I hate not getting consistent drinks. We ate some many chips that we just had apps for dinner, which included the black bean soup, tortilla soup, diego salad and side of black beans. I must say that I love salty food, but all of these dishes were almost unedible because of the salt. To top it off, our waiter was not very warm and actually kind of mean...like we were bothering him the whole night. With tax and tip, about $170.
Wednesday Night: Apps at Michael Mina at the Bellagio. This restaurant was fantastic and it will be the first place I go back to the next time I'm in Vegas. We had a mojito, diet coke and glass of wine to start (Silver Oak Cab...only $28 a glass!) and shared the beef tartare (done tableside), chantrelle mushroom soup and the trio of scallops. Wow. Everything was fantastic. My scallop dish was one of the best dishes I've had in a while (I read on Chow last week that someone had them and didn't like it...how?) and the combination of sauces and flavors were spectatular. With tax and tip, about $150.
Later on Wednesday: Dinner at Bartolotta at the Wynn. I found the interior of this restaurant to be kinda ugly, but thought it was pretty good overall. We had the roasted rabbit loin with crispy artichokes, scallops with pecorino (seafood with cheese, is there a more serious sin in Italian cuisine?) and a simple insalta mista. All the dishes were really good and nice plated. For entrees, we shared the agnolotti, linguini with clams and tomatoes, sheep's milk ricotta ravioli and gnocchi. I know, we didn't order the fish at Bartolotta, but the people I was with did not want fish...go figure. All the pasta dishes were really good, especially the gnocchi, which can be a little heavy, but were incredibly light. The agnolotti were the perfect size (for some reason, I find that many Italian restaurants in the US served really large agnolotti, which basically look like ravioli...why is that?) and the linguini with clams were packed with clams about the size of cockles (not sure if they were cockles or just a different type of small clam). With tax and tip, about $250.
Overall, I had a great week. One thing I find strange is that in my three trips out to Vegas in the past few years, I have yet to be really wowed by a place, with the exception of Michael Mina's. I thought I had picked well (I actually made reservations at StripSteak, but everyone wanted to go to CraftSteak) and left underwhelmed. Is it me, or can the Vegas restaurant scene be more glitz than substance?
To answer your question kjs, my standard is simply great tasting food. But things can vary based on the expense of a place. When I go to an inexpensive BBQ joint in Memphis and Kansas City, I'm expecting great BBQ, but could care less about service, atmosphere, etc... When I dine at a place like Craftsteak, I expect great food as well as great service and atmosphere. The more expensive a place, they should receive less leeway. And I know that most of the restaurants are expensive, which is why I try to stick with restaurants with outposts in other cities, such as Michael Mina, Tom Colicchio, Nobu, that have established and solid reputations.
splitting my time between la and vegas, then visiting sd, sf, chicago and back east at least twice a year i will split my time between local favs and the outpost of the top chefs, heck, with the exception of seablue in atlantic city and the michael mina "hub" in sf, i think i've been to every michael mina restaurant, i've been to most of bradley ogden's restaurants ( i think the exception is his new steakhouse in sf ) i'm a huge fan of thomas keller, hubert keller, generally a fan of puck, emeril, and so on...i don't say this to be a name dropper but to just say that i know what you mean and yet for me the "jury is still out " as to whether or not a "name" chef brings all that much value to these outposts; when it's all said and done, you are at the mercy of the line cook; the sous chef and i guess the executive chef.
It was me (I?) that didn't love the scallops at Michael Mina (had them on Sunday 3/4). I just didn't think the taste combinations were very exciting, and for the price I thought the serving was stingy - even for Vegas, where we eat a lot so have a lot to compare.
I agree that the pastas at Bartolotta are superb, even though it's primarily known for fish/seafood.
Your post reminded me that we mean to do a dine-around at MGM one trip - maybe appetizers at SeaBlue, pasta at Fiamma, banana cream pie at Emeril's. But now that we've been to Nobhill we might have to incorporate that...maybe for a cocktail. And Craftsteak. Hmmm...
on the strip...when you consider price and the "superstar" chefs behind some of these places...i would say more glitz then substance but i'm not sure what you are using as a standard...what your expectations truly are...i caution people not to use price as the standard...the days of $1.99 prime rib and buffets are long, long gone ! i would have to say my biggest beef is inconsistency - it's hard to find places that day in, day out consistently curn out a top product but i still find gems...the problem is i want to try so many places that it takes me awhile to go back to see if the establishment is consistent or was i one of the lucky ones !!!!