Las Vegas Wine Lists?
A friend and I will be out in Las Vegas to celebrate a special occasion a day before our other friends arrive. We are hoping to go to a restaurant where we can spend more than we would usually spend on some outstanding wines (thinking in the $200-300 range).
I'm looking for a place where 1) the markup is not outrageous, 2) there is a good variety of selections, especially among whites (I figure we'll splurge on a Bdx or a well-known Napa Cab like Monte Bello, but then try to hunt for some interesting things among the whites and maybe dessert wines) and 3) excellent food.
I live in New York, so I'm also hoping it is not a place with a New York outpost. Also, I realize it's Vegas, and therefore markups are all going to be unfavorable; nonetheless, I at least want somewhere that has good depth/breadth on their list and sells wines at a drinkable age, versus somewhere trying to throw out 2004 Opus One or something of that ilk as their top shelf selection. For instance, though I didn't ask for a reserve list, I thought the regular list at Craftsteak was surprisingly awful in terms of vintages on offer (I may be remembering wrong, I recall an awful lot of recent vintages at about 300% markups to retail).
I would assume the best recommendation would be a steakhouse of some sort, but I'm open to ideas.
Thanks in advance.
Aureole is the first place that comes to mind though you have it in NY as well, though NY doesn't have the "Wine Tower." Also an entertaining way to navigate a wine list (it's on a PDA-type device). I didn't think the markups were criminal. To explore, see ->
(I have not been floored by the food at Aureole but it is certainly good and often designed to complement wine).
Rosemary's Restaurant has a very nice wine list - the place is way off-strip (about a 20 minute cab ride). I think Sunday is 50% off night, which makes it even easier to splurge. Many folks rave about the food, I thought it was good but not quite at the level folks made it sound. SOmething of a welcome relief from the strip, much more laid back.
Lotus of Siam I have not tried, but it is supposed to be one of the greatest Thai restaurants in the US and also has a remarkably good wine selection especially for German whites.
L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon was one of my favorite restaurant experiences but the wine list is preposterously marked up. Plus they also now have a spot in NY, no?
I also enjoy Bouchon (Thomas Keller's bistro) every time I've gone, though it's a pretty abbreviated list I've always found something good. Probably not the right place if you're hoping to do a wine splurge though.
Spectator also did an article a couple years ago on Vegas:
Great advice from both of you, thanks. Have either of you dined at Andre's? It caught my eye because it's a) not in a casino and b) seems to be unaffiliated with other national places. Is their list any good?
I was definitely interested in L'Atelier - have never been to the New York one. I think I will skip it because I plan to spend so much on wine, I'd like to keep the food tab around $150/pp or so...
Aureole I have been to, and would agree it's good, not great. That wine tower makes it a lot more tempting, though.
Lotus of Siam is also a great idea, maybe for when the rest of the group gets there (I'm assuming it's correspondingly less expensive than some of these other places).
I've dined at Andre's at the Monte Carlo. Do not know which is the "original." It's a bit anachronistic, as it's a quiet, very refined, but definitely "old style," French restaurant. The food was very good, and the wine list impressive. I did not really examine it, with regards to markup, but the prices "seemed" very fair, for a resort, fine-dining restaurant. Given the time, I'd go back again, as it was a good value, on all counts.
Up a bit, Aureole was fair disappointment to me. Now, it was fairly recently opened, and the press was still spilling ink on the "wine angles." The wine tower is impressive, but the PDA was bulky, and did not offer much. The tables were jammed in far, far too tightly. Wife and I were at a 2-top, and the servers' bottoms cleared our table, when they served the adjoining tables. We even had to stand, and pull out our table, so they could serve on of the nearby diners. The surfaces were all hard, so all noise was amplified greatly. The food was OK, but nothing to get us too excited. Luckily, we did Picasso that trip, as Aureole and SeaBlue were big letdowns.
Things might well have changed, and they mayb have worked out the kinks in their PDAs. Worth a look at the tower, though.
Just so you are aware..... Lotus of Siam is a remarkable Thai experience but it is a typical neighborhood restaurant in a pretty shabby looking strip center away from the strip. Sortof like one of those old Chinese places in NY's Chinatown. Nothing at all upscale about it.......... except the food, which is amazing.
I've done Atelier twice and absolutely love it, but it is not the first place I'd pick for a wine splurge night because of the ridiculous markups (worst I've seen just about anywhere including other places in LV).
I do wish the food at Aureole were a little better / more inspired but it is a very good wine list with particular depth in certain areas (and nice that you can review the inventory online and do a little advance reconnaissance) and the food works well with wine.
We keep on meaning to try one of the Michael Mina places but haven't gotten there yet. SeaBlue definitely looks like it's in a different (lower) class than NobHill or the eponymous place in the Bellagio. NobHill is more "classic" SF while MM is more of his current obsession with doing "trios" of everything.
A few years ago we ate at Renoir and I only have limited memory of it - though I do recall the sommelier was a true pro - first bottle of wine (a CA pinot) we opened must have undergone a slight secondary fermentation and had a touch of spritz to it, he pulled the bottle and volunteered to replace it with another (slightly more expensive) wine before we even had a chance to comment on it.
I'm planning to visit Vegas too and I have Aureole on my list as well. I've only jotted down places on the strip since I won't have time to get away.
Browsing through WS's recent restaurant guide, the following have a Grand Award. I wouldn't necessarily go to any of these places, but they're probably a good starting point.
Aureole, Mandalay Bay
Delmonico Steakhouse, Venetian
Piero Selvaggio Valentino, Venetian
Others with 2 stars where the food might be good:
Bradley Ogden, Caesar's
Emeril's New Orleans Fish House, MGM Grand
Fiamma Trattoria, MGM Grand
Michael Mina, Bellagio
Le Cirque, Bellagio
Osteria del Circo, Bellagio
Guy Savoy, Caesar's
Nobhill, MGM Grand
Wine Cellar, Rio's (includes retail shop)
Out of all the restaurants listed in the WS guide with two or more stars (info is not listed for 1 star awards), only three had a wine prices of "moderate" and not "expensive." Delmonico Steakhouse, Wine Cellar, and um, Ruth's Chris, where I would prefer not to eat even if the meal were comped.
Removing the restaurants with NY connections from consideration (I'm doing that as well) pretty left me with a night of tapas at Wine Cellar, and a steak dinner at Delmonico.
Although I would assume Michael Mina would have a good selection of whites given the excellent food geared towards seafood, my friends who visited the SF location and I with Seablue at the Borgata in AC both agree that the prices are extraordinarily high, and even more so for wine. Nevertheless, since I am staying at the MGM Grand, I was planning a visit to NobHIll, more so for the food than the wine.
Not too long ago, we were at Michael Mina's SF and I was talking to the sommelier. The subject of the LV restaurants came up, and he stated that SeaBlue was MM's, in name only. I breathed a sigh of relief, as I had been greatly underwhelmed. He confided that NobHill was the best of the LV restaurants, even over they eponymous restaurant. Unfortunately, I have yet to do either of those two. Regarding wine prices, I did not feel at all uncomfortable with the list at MM's SF, and we did a bunch for a table of 12 that night, with me picking up the tab. Not "cheap," but all things considered, worth it.
re: Bill Hunt
Thanks for the tip about Mina and NobHill. I had heard good things about NobHIll and I feel much better in getting a reservation now.
My friends who visited MM in SF were very happy with their tasting menu plus wine pairings, as well as the service, but noted that the prices were high. I personally enjoyed SeaBlue in Atlantic City recently, though noticed most entrees in the 40's and invidivual oysters at $4. Thank goodness for the casino comps covering most of the bill!
I think this is sort of related to the thread on wines by the glass lists where you talked about the Lindeman's Bin 65 Chardonnay costing $6/bottle and $25/glass in the restaurant. That would be pretty ridiculous to me as well. I don't mean to suggest that MM and his restaurants are anywhere near that level, but I do think they're at the very upper, if not the highest, bounds of what I consider to be an acceptable range, with at least a good portion of their selections. Not uncomfortable, just close to the highest I'd be willing to pay.
OTOH, I give him/them credit for offering excellent values with some of their wines, provided one looks carefully. $50 for a half of NV yellow Veuve? No thanks. But that same $50 for a half of 1996 Laurent Perrier Millésimé? Haven't tried that one, but gladly.
Normally, I do not get too critical with restaurant markups on wine. Though somewhere over 400% wholesale start to hurt, and 400% over retail leaves a mark. I do not mind a restaurant covering all of their costs (acquisition, storage, inventory, training of wine staff, printing up-to-date wine lists, mechanical maintenance on the cellar and equipment, spoilage, loss to employees... and the list goes on and on), but I do hate to feel as though I am paying for a year's worth of these costs with one bottle.
I should have paid closer attention to the wine list at MM/SF, especially since I was paying. However, nothing struck me as being out of line. The wines that we did worked perfectly with the menu and everyone passed along compliments to me. I had to tell them that the sommelier did most of the heavy work, and about all that I did, in this case, was to OK the final selections, and maybe choose wine C, when A & B got the better rec. from the staff. Still an easy night, and I should have made comparisons with wines that I own, or have knowledge of - but I did not.
I'd definitely take a group back to MM/SF and hope to try NobHill and MM's in LV, on the next trip. We were at the SF shop, the night after Restaurant Gary Danko, so there was some competition going on in my mind. I gave to nod to MM's, and wife to RGD. Oh well, they were both excellent.
Let me know how you find the pricing. I also wonder if the markup in LV will be much different, than SF. SF is not a cheap city to dine at the higher-end spots, but I have a gut feeling that the same restaurant corporation might feel that LV can stand additional costs tacked on. Have NO info to that effect. It's just an impression. Interested to know what you feel, and also about NobHill.
Have a wonderful meal,
re: Bill Hunt
Just returned from my trip to Las Vegas and dinner at NobHill.
Although the list was great, it was very expensive, probably even more so than the prices one typically finds in NY. With a good bottle of wine with a meal, it'd be difficult not to spend any less than $175/person.
That said, I'd definitely go back again. The service (thanks Kimberlee!) and the food were among the best I've had. The five of us wound up having the 5 course tasting menu for $165, with a copy of Michael Mina's cookbook (retail $50). The two wine geeks got the wine pairings. Because we wanted to try all the wines, we got both the regular and the reserve pairings at $65 and $95, respectively. The reserve pairings blew away the regular tasting and reminded me why it was okay to spend good money for good wine. I don't remember the specific wines for the regular tastings, mostly because they weren't particular memorable. The reserve pairings... heaven.
American Caviar Parfait
-smoked salmon, shallot-potato cake, chive creme fraîche, American sturgeon caviar
NV Champagne Krug, Grande Cuvée
I opted for the Crab Louis as a substitute. Should have stuck to the parfait.
Maine Lobster Pot Pie
-tiny vegetables, brandy cream
2005 Mersualt, Pierre Mantrot
Fried Sonoma Chicken
-truffled mac and cheese, caramelized onion sauce
2004 Felton Road Pinot Noir, Central Otago, New Zealand
Trio of Butter Poached Kobe Ribeye
-seared foie gras, pinot reduction, cipollini onions
2002 Rioja, El Puntido
Banana Tarte Tatain
-maple creme anglaise, maple sugar ice cream
2002 Gunderloch Riesling Eiswein, "Nierstein Oelberg," Rheinhessen
Mindblowing icewine. Where the muscat faded and tasted like sugar water with the tarte tatin, the icewine had awesome acidity that still stood up to the dessert, if not dominated it in a good way.
All in all, a great meal. Good thing my friends opted for this over Craftsteak. Even though the final tab was over $300, still well worth it.
Have fun at NobHill.
Our server Kimberlee did warn us that the experience for dinner on Friday and Saturday nights can be uneven and a little hurried just from the weekenders trying to fit in a tasting menu in less than 2 hours before their show. We were lucky enough to be able to have dinner on a Thursday night, where the restaurant was nearly empty. If you can, I'd suggest doing the same.
Just for the record, I recently had the opportunity to taste the 04 Opus One before release and it is the most approachable upon release Opus One produced.
You've gotten some very good advice so far, but I can't believe no one caught this:
>>> I figure we'll splurge on a Bdx or a well-known Napa Cab like Monte Bello . . . <<<
Ridge's most famous non-Zinfandel, "Monte Bello," is from the SANTA CRUZ MOUNTAINS -- not Napa!
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"Napa" is just a four-leter word the rest of us in the wien trade have to learn to live with . . .