Vegas report - July 10-14 (long)
Here’s a somewhat delayed and much too lengthy report from our last trip to Vegas. Anyone who manages to make it to the end of this report will note in more detail that every dinner we had was under $200 for two – well under $200 in the case of Rosemary’s. We didn’t have wine, though, as we are mostly sticking with cocktails these days since wine is giving me nasty headaches whereas distilled alcohol is less problematic.
Tuesday July 10th
Lunch: Wolfgang Puck Bar & Grill (MGM). Chinois chicken salad for me, panini with prosciutto and goat cheese ricotta for my husband. Food and service were pretty good as usual – we often eat lunch here on either arrival day or departure day if we’re staying at the hotel, and I don’t hesitate to recommend this restaurant for lunch.
Dinner: Mesa Grill (Caesars). This was our first time for dinner, after several lunches and one or two brunches. I started with the spicy tuna tartare with a luscious avocado crema and squiggles of mango sauce, my husband had ceviche of shrimp and grouper (not sure about the grouper but there was a fish with the shrimp). The tartare was almost too spicy (and I like spicy), I think the tuna itself was tossed with chili oil or something akin. But it was an addictive kind of spicy, different than your ubiquitous tuna tartare that you can eat at a million restaurants, and I’d definitely order it again. The avocado and mango sauces definitely made the dish. We shared the New York strip for our entrée (two other couples around us were doing the same, actually). I had collard greens as my side, more spice due to smoked chiles, wonderful. My husband had a chile relleno as his side. For dessert we shared the smoked vanilla walnut flan which was one of the better desserts I’ve had in awhile. The highlight of this meal was our surprise at how excellent everything was. The steak itself was probably the weakest link, although it was flavorful and cooked medium rare as specified. Service was acceptable if not stellar. Total including two shots of tequila (Herradura blanco y reposado), a double espresso, tax and tip, $164.
Wednesday July 11th
Lunch: Lotus of Siam. This was our second visit, as my husband is just starting to accept Thai food. I’m hardly an expert either. As with our first visit in April, we had the crispy rice with sour sausage appetizer. This time we asked for level 3 since level 5 was too spicy for us last time. Level 3 was perfect. Our other dish was a grilled beef dish which was under the BBQ heading on the menu. I was kind of winging it because I didn’t bring any notes with me about what to order and I vaguely remembered someone here liking the grilled beef but there was more than one grilled beef dish and maybe I ordered the wrong one, and also I’d had beef the night before and was anticipating more beef. I suggested catfish but my husband vetoed it. Well, the beef dish was only ok. The meat was too fatty, in fact. But I’m not going to complain because it was my fault for not ordering adventurously enough. I didn’t even know that we’d be going to LOS on this trip, I was going to suggest we try Lindo Michoacan instead, but surprisingly my husband wanted to return to LOS. We did agree that we will NEVER visit LOS and not eat the crispy rice with sour sausage, it’s just that freakin’ good. So as long as it’s just the two of us for lunch there, it’s going to take a lot of visits to work through the menu assuming we only get one additional dish per meal. I don’t know how much the lunch buffet costs, but both of our lunches have been around $20-25 total, so it’s beyond me why people snarf down all the fried food at the buffet when they could be ordering great stuff from the menu.
Dinner: Rosemary’s. This was our third visit to the Sahara location, and we’d been once to the prior branch at the Rio. First, my cocktail, the “House Manhattan” made with my current favorite bourbon, Knob Creek, was one of the best cocktails I’ve ever had (but I don’t like vodka so I’ve had to forego all the various vodka concoctions that crowd cocktail menus, and I tend to stick with basics like a Bombay martini). I asked for the recipe and within minutes one of the managers was at our table with a typewritten sheet, neatly folded into an envelope accompanied by a business card. On the sheet are the recipes for six of their signature cocktails. A class act, not that I had any question. We were there on a Wednesday and as everyone knows, Wednesday is Ladies’ Night, so all my food was 50% off. We decided to do the prix fixe, 3 courses for $50 ($25 for me, ha ha). Wasn’t this recently $48? For the sheer tastiness and quality of the food, at $50 this is a great deal. (We’re doing it again in a month, yay, on another Wednesday! For next time I requested seats at the “dining bar,” a.k.a. the counter, overlooking the kitchen, since we love to see all the goings on.)
So, I started with the salmon tartare which I’d enjoyed once before and very much enjoyed once again, and my husband had the salad with smoked duck and a berry vinaigrette, delish. For mains, the chicken for him, served with haricot vert and shoestring fries, the halibut for me, served atop garlic spinach, with some crispy, thin onion rings on top which I was able to mostly ignore. Everything was lovely. For dessert, he got that night’s special which was a bing cherry cobbler with vanilla ice cream, and I had a trio of ice creams – espresso, toasted almond, fig. I’ve been having to go very light on “white” carbs for the last few months, and to just have dessert at these meals was an incredible treat, and ice cream is my favorite dessert and thus the most meaningful splurge for me right now (maybe other than the crispy rice at LOS). Our server brought us complementary dessert wine but I don’t know what it was other than it was a lovely deep color and kind of fizzy. I think this was our best dinner yet at Rosemary’s, everything just clicked perfectly. I know it’s not news here, but what a gem of a restaurant. Total including tax, tip (actually they include 18% when you’re getting a Ladies’ Night discount but we added some additional tip since service was wonderful) and three cocktails, maybe a coffee but I don’t recall, $147!! Incredible.
Thursday July 12th
Breakfast: Verandah (Four Seasons). It was my husband’s birthday so I booked an expensive breakfast instead of lunch. This was our first visit and actually it had been several years since we’d been in the Four Seasons, that time for dinner at Charlie Palmer Steak. What a beautiful and peaceful setting. After inquiring if the highly touted huevos rancheros contained bell peppers (which I detest) and the server checking and reporting “yes, in the sauce” I chose the eggs benedict and my husband “decided” on the huevos (after I told him that he had to get them). The hollandaise on the eggs benedict was lemony perfection topping lovely poached eggs, sided by some simply steamed asparagus. Sadly, since I was trying to save carbs for desserts at dinner, I only had a bite of the English muffin which had apparently been buttered, and then grilled or griddled, and then had absorbed some hollandaise as well as egg yolk, so rich. I look forward to this dish again when I can eat more of the muffin.
The huevos rancheros made a spectacular presentation, and my husband loved them. I only had a bite of the chorizo which was very good. These two dishes and two coffees totaled $54 including tax and tip. Well, it’s the Four Seasons! One irritation: they didn’t check me in on Open Table so I had to get that corrected which was easily enough done but still…We did arrive somewhat early, but I gave my name and mentioned to the hostess that we should be checked in, and it’s not exactly as if the restaurant was packed on a Thursday at 9:30am, in fact it was mostly empty both inside and out. We’ll definitely return but not every trip.
Snack: SeaBlue (MGM). Since we hadn’t eaten since around 10:00am and our dinner reservation was at 8:30pm, we stopped into SeaBlue for a cocktail and snack upon the restaurant’s opening at 5:30pm. We’ve done this before. They have a new menu and my favorite appetizer is not on it – the Moroccan-inspired octopus. I complained mightily (but nicely I hope) and the bartender told me that many people are asking for the octopus to be reinstated. Anyway, we shared the trio of raw seafood which was comprised of tuna kibbe, yellowtail with a spicy ponzu, and salmon on a mini-bagel which had been spread with truffle butter. I think this trio was $26 which is way overpriced for the amount of food although everything was good with the tuna kibbe, served with teeny pita halves, a standout.
Dinner: N9NE (Palms). My husband chose this for his birthday dinner, as it is our favorite steakhouse in town (combination of food, service, vibe and all-around-fun-times go into that rating). Even for N9NE, it was incredibly loud at the beginning of our meal, but after a short time things got more manageable. I started with the crab cocktail which was a very generous amount of lump crabmeat presented simply with a couple of sauces, a cocktail sauce and a mayo-based sauce. Both sauces were good as was the quality of the crab. My husband had the humongous wedge salad. Then we shared the bone-in ribeye which is the only entrée we ever get at N9NE – we’re boring – but the meat was perfectly cooked as always. One of those steaks is enough for the two of us, and then some, and I’m talking about the regular bone-in ribeye, not the special steak “for two” which size I can’t even imagine. The restaurant is always extremely nice about splitting the steak. We had the mushrooms and some simply grilled asparagus (not on the menu but always available) as our sides, and a competent if uninspired chocolate banana cream tart for dessert. N9NE once again delivered a fun evening of satisfying food and interesting people watching. Total including two Bombay martinis, tax and tip, $180.
(Note: we never mention to a restaurant that it’s a birthday or other special occasion, so we don’t get any free desserts or anything.)
Friday July 13th
Lunch: Border Grill (Mandalay Bay). Being from Los Angeles, we’ve eaten a few times at the Border Grill in Santa Monica (but not in the last few years) and Ciudad downtown (pretty good meal a few months ago), but we’d never been to the outpost at the Mandalay. We had been thinking of going to Lindo Michoacan (maybe next time we’ll try it) but we wanted to do our daily exercise walk at the Mandalay complex. So we decided to chance Border Grill and then do our walk afterwards. We got there just in time, right around noon, and we were seated immediately. Soon a gigantic line had gathered at the door, mostly conventioneers or so it seemed. Anyway, my husband ordered the special torta of the day, a generous portion of pork – I think it was kind of a Border Grill take on BBQ pork but I don’t recall the seasonings. I had the turkey tostadas, lots of shredded lettuce, roasted corn, black beans, crema, cotija cheese, and little cubes of cold roasted turkey which was actually the weakest link in the dish. Next time I would order it with shrimp instead of turkey. However, the tostadas met my need for some cold, crunchy food. The service was fine and all in all it was a very pleasant lunch, albeit expensive. Total including one iced tea, tax and tip, $48.
Dinner: B&B Ristorante (Venetian). This was our second visit to B&B, the first was in mid-April right after it opened. We had 7:00 reservations since we were walking over to the Mirage for the 10:00 “Love” show, and we had plenty of time to have a leisurely dinner. For appetizers, I repeated the lamb’s tongue salad with chanterelles and a three-minute egg that I’d had last time, still a wonderful balance of flavors and textures. My husband had the prosciutto platter which was very simply presented with high quality (as expected) prosciutto. We decided to share two pastas and a side and forego any of the secondi. Our server suggested we have the pastas in two separate courses, with the side (escarole) with the second pasta, great idea. Our first pasta was angnolotti filled with goat’s cheese, topped with fennel pollen and (dried? I think) orange peel. There was a subtle orange aroma to the dish, and the goat’s cheese was melting within its envelope-shaped pasta container. Wow wow wow, this dish was great, and I’m so sorry that I didn’t take notes so I could describe it better, nor is it on the current online menu. Our second pasta was the orecchiette with sweet sausage and rapini. This one was a disappointment as it was over-salted. We’d had a similar orecchiette dish at Lupa in N.Y. last fall, and a similar dish at the new Osteria Mozza is currently earning raves over on the L.A. board, so I am hoping the over-salting was an aberration. Anyway, the escarole was competently cooked and made a satisfying accompaniment. For dessert we shared three gelatos: coconut, salted caramel, and a mocha stracciatella. All were superb, with the salted caramel a particular standout due to the crunchy bits of salt. While I’ve read of some service issues at B&B, we had no problems on either this visit or our prior visit – everything was handled very smoothly. I don’t see any reason not to continue returning to B&B. Total including two cocktails, one or two (sorry don’t recall) coffees, tax and tip, $172.
Saturday July 14th
Lunch: Mon Ami Gabi (Paris). This is one of our favorite lunch destinations. The food was good as always, with the chopped salad for me and the chicken club sandwich for my husband. The service was bizarre this time, I think our server was really passive aggressive or had some other issues. We weren’t presented with the paper-wrapped baguette as usual, so after awhile we asked for bread since my husband was starving. The server said he thought they were out of bread – at 1:30 on a Saturday afternoon – right! He took awhile to check, and came back and said that bread would once again be available in a few minutes. Then after a bit I saw some bread being delivered to a table near us. I wasn’t going to have any bread anyway, since I wanted to get some gelato at Jean-Philippe before driving home to L.A., and my husband didn’t need any since he was getting a sandwich that would come with chips, so I didn’t ask again. Then after we got our food and had been eating for awhile, the server came over and said that bread was now available but we didn’t want any, did we? I restrained myself from snapping and as nicely as possible said no thanks. And, to add insult to injury, even though I checked in for our reservation up front, and the fellow manning the computer seemed to punch something in, once again I didn’t get credit from Open Table and I had to deal with that (which was resolved just fine as was the Verandah problem). I don’t know what the problem at Mon Ami Gabi was on that day, but hopefully it was a one-time thing since we like it enough to return regularly for lunches – they’ll certainly get one more shot and we’ll see how it goes. Total including one iced tea, $36.
Dessert: Jean-Philippe Patisserie (Bellagio). I broke my no-dessert-at-lunch rule to have some gelato at Jean-Philippe before departing for home. We shared the regular size cup with tiramisu and stracciatella, both were wonderful, so smooth and deeply flavored, yum!
Great report, thanks!
At LOS, try the duck curry or something from the Northern menu next time.
At Rosemary's, don't forget they do a wine promo on Sundays.
I'm excited about B&B and can't wait to try on our next visit.
Thanks for the detailed report Debbie. We haven't been out there in a bit over a year, and you hit upon some places we haven't tried yet, particularly B&B which we're looking forward to next time we're in town. We're from the NY area - have a Babbo gift certificate burning a hole in our wallet for nearly 2 years now and everytime we try and make a reservation it's a whole pain in the butt. We always stay at the Venetian and have the concierge make our dinner reservations for those places that don't take Open Table - so I bet we'll have better luck getting into B&B than home at Babbo (which is really sad!). Umm, wonder if they'll honor that Babbo gift certificate...
I called for our B&B reservation on the first day that I thought they would be taking reservations for the day we wanted to go, although I'm not exactly sure if that's necessary at this point. The policy is either a month or 30 days, I think the same as when I got a reservation at Lupa for last fall. Somehow I doubt they'll take your Babbo gift certificate! One of my pet peeves about making reservations in Vegas is how many restaurants aren't on Open Table, although two of our favorites, Bouchon and Rosemary's, are. In fact I used our last O.T. dining cheque at Bouchon.
re: Debbie W
I know, I agree with you. Bouchon is one I've been able to secure with Open Table too. Most of the others I've had to call in advance - or rely on the concierge to help me out with. I discovered that the Venetian, for instance, has several tables held for them in the restaurants on their premises on a nightly basis. If you're lucky - you can get one of those if you don't luck out otherwise.
You can also make reservations online for many restaurants at the MGM and part of MGM-Mirage, but you're going through each individual hotel's site. I've done it many times for places such as Fiamma, Nobhill, SeaBlue, Craftsteak, Stripsteak and Michael Mina (I think). With this system you have to give a credit card and there may be cancellation charges, and of course you don't get points that translate into dollars. It sounds like B&B is on O.T. now per SueFH's post below.
re: Debbie W
I do wish more were on Opentable! My wife and I have gone to Vegas with her sister & husband the last two times, we usually pick two restaurants for 'big' dinners, one on the night we get in, one the last night, and we pick them by the time we make hotel and plane reservations. Opentable would be more convenient, but I'm still making the reservations as soon as they take them. We were at Prime last trip and they were turning people away at 9pm on a Wednesday!
I have heard so many good things about B&B, I'm really going to have a hard time deciding where to go on our next Vegas trip! B&B is on the list...I saw they have a pasta tasting menu, I find that intriguing. I have a Batali cookbook and have made wonderful things from it. My brother in law wants to try Battista's hole in the wall, so might be hard to get two Italian places in one trip. I also want to try Stripsteak next time, I want to try David Burke, Bradley Ogden...dangit, I need to win the lottery so I can just go to all these places when I feel like it!!
re: Debbie W
Thanks for the report. I'd definitely do dinner next time at Mon Ami Gabi because the steak frites is so good. Sorry you had strange service there, they are usually very pleasant. The Four Seasons sounded heavenly. (And that breakfast in NYC would have been $100, so don't feel bad!)
Great report--I like the detail. My wife and I ate at B&B in the spring. It was great except my pasta dish (but not my wife's) was grossly oversalted. I would have sent it back but we were in a hurry.