Las Vegas - Our Way
We recently completed a 14-day vacation to Las Vegas and here is a quick summary of our fine dining experiences:
Agave @ 10820 Charleston Blvd.This is an upscale Mexican restaurant in terms of both décor and menu. We were served a colorful basket of warm tortilla chips along with 3 salsas. We also shared a bowl of black bean and smoked cheddar soup that was finished with a spoonful of salsa fresca and cilantro. It was two different soups served in the same bowl - very colorful and flavorful. My wife ordered the shrimp and crab stacked enchiladas with sweet corn and chili sauce and micro greens. I opted for the taco sampler – birria de chivo (marinated goat, avocado puree, cilantro and onion), carnitas with nopales salsa and tomato purcee and fresh fish with Mexican slaw and salsa fresca. The kitchen made a mistake preparing carne asada (grilled skirt steak) instead of the carnitas, not a problem since all 3 tacos were delicious. When I brought the mistake to the waiter’s attention, he offered to bring me an additional taco, but I was satiated and waived him off.
Aroma Garden Cafe @ 5875 S. Rainbow Blvd. We requested a table in the atrium known as the Small Talk Garden which was filled to capacity with beautiful plants and a humongous fountain. The owner, a former executive chef at Drai’s, greeted us, he did not need to introduce himself, you just knew from his demeanor and appearance. The food is described as pan Mediterranean – a little French, a little Middle East, a little of this and that. My wife chose the sea bass, an 8-ounce filet sautéed and served over mashed potatoes and bokchoy simmered in ginger and lemongrass sauce. I chose a crispy chicken breast served with mashed potatoes, asparagus and creamy mushroom sauce. My chicken was overdone and both sauces were uninspired.
Border Grill @ Mandalay Bay. We had an Open Table reservation at Mary and Sue’s place for 7PM with a request for a table with a view of the outside patio. Our view was better than anticipated as we were seated on the patio, but the night was comfortably warm so we registered no complaint. The complimentary taco chips and two salsas were a cut above your typical cantina. A special menu was offered in celebration of Mexican Independence Day so I chose (by pointing) the manchamanteles – even the waitress admitted being unable to pronounce it. As it turned out the kitchen was out of this stew-type dish, so both my wife and I settled for chili rellenos - roasted poblano peppers stuffed with manchego, panela, and cotija cheeses served with both roja and tomatillo salsas, two types of rice, and black beans. The poblano peppers were super sized and the amount of cheese used in the filling was over-the-top, but tasty nonetheless. I used a $20 coupon from one of the freebie magazines to ease the financial burden, but we were $8 short of the required $50 tab, not a problem as we shared a large slice of tres leches.
Dragonfly @ 3900 Paradise Road. This restaurant is located in a shopping center hosting a number of restaurants including the wildly popular Firefly which shares the same ownership. Unfortunately the Asian bistro concept has fallen on deaf wallets and, other than a few people at the bar; the restaurant was empty at 8:40PM this Monday evening. In contrast, it was standing room only over at the Firefly. My wife ordered a Thai beef salad with pickled cucumber in a warm spicy sauce which was excellent. I ordered the banana leaf salmon steamed with miso and shitake mushrooms. The Atlantic salmon was very good, but it obviously had not been steamed in the banana leaf which was cold to the touch. A very good side dish of baby bok choy stir fried with oyster mushrooms was shared. Once again I made a reservation through Open Table though unneeded.
Khoury's Meditteranean @ 6115 Fort Apache. This restaurant is the Las Vegas Review Journal staff’s pick as the best Mediterranean restaurant. It is a neighborhood type of restaurant, but the immediate area is currently under development. We were served homemade pita with a delicious dipping sauce. We each ordered the lamb shish kabob which came with rice and vegetables. Everything was good, but nothing stood out so I would not go back unless I was "in the neighborhood".
Mantra Masala @ 8350 W Warm Springs Road. We drove to the restaurant seeking some healthy (their words) Indian food. There was only one other couple in the restaurant at 12:30PM and we were told our coupon, retrieved from the telephone book, could not be used for the buffet. This was not a problem since buffets that don’t turn food over are not especially high on my dining To Do list. There was a problem, however, no lunch menu is available. We ended up sharing orders of naan, chicken mantra (house special chicken in a mild cashew gravy, yogurt and fresh coriander) and malai kofta (mixed vegetable dumplings in a savory creamy spiced sauce). Our entrees were dummied down for American palates so neither dish was a winner.
Marc's Italian Steakhouse @ 7290 W. Lake Mead Blvd. I was surprised that entry to this reportedly upscale restaurant was through the bar area and no one was staffing the hostess station. On entering the restaurant proper we were directed to wait in the bar area until someone could seat us. The place is attractive, but neither upscale nor particularly intimate. I found the noise level very high and a flashlight was required to read the menus. We shared a full size house salad that was described as field greens tossed walnuts, gorgonzola cheese, onions, carrots and berries in apple pear dressing. The salad was very good even though the gorgonzola was MIA and the berries were represented by 2 slices from a unripe strawberry. My wife entrée of spinach lasagna in a tomato vodka sauce was prepared with fresh pasta and was melt in your mouth delicious. I chose the penne alla Dean Martin – a thick pink vodka sauce with peas, chicken and prosciutto. Everything was very good though overpriced IMHO.
McCormick & Schmicks (M&S) @ 335 Hughes Center Drive. We dined 3 times on this trip at this restaurant. We were staying at the nearby Tuscany Suites and could have walked to M&S, but it was way too hot outside so we made the 2 minute drive. This was our first visit and we were favorably impressed by both the décor and hostesses’ greeting. We were escorted to a booth and shortly thereafter presented with menus. According to this upscale chain's website at least 30 varieties of fresh fish are offered on the changing daily menu. I counted and this evening 33 varities of fish and shellfish were being offered - very impressive. We started off with the seafood and roasted corn chowder which was not overly thick, but very good. My wife ordered the black sesame crusted Pacific snapper served with a Thai chili sauce and coconut jasmine rice. The fish was cooked to perfection – succulent and delicious. I chose the artichoke crusted English sole which was accompanied by vegetable hash, jasmine rice and a mild spinach pesto sauce. Again, the fish was perfectly prepared and delicious.
On our second visit we were again warmly greeted by the host and escorted us to a booth. I ordered the spicy (PEI) mussels in a chunky tomato sauce served over linguini. I prepare a similar dish at home and M&S's version was delicious. My wife's entrée was the coconut crusted mahi mahi accompanied by assorted vegetables and plain white rice. We also shared an order of wilted baby spinach with mushrooms and shallots which was a steal at only $3.90.
On our third visit my wife chose the fresh crab and shrimp cakes entrée served with red pepper aioli. My entrée was pecan crusted catfish with Cajun remoulade sauce. We also shared another order of baby spinach sautéed with shallots and mushrooms. Both entrees were delicious and each was accompanied by creamy mashed potatoes and crisp green beans.
Musashi Japanese Steakhouse @ 3900 Paradise Road. We held reservations for the Teppanyaki grill which proved to be unnecessary as we were the only ones in the room for most of the evening Our chef/owner most recently served as the executive chef at the Hamada on Flamingo. We each ordered the skinless chicken breast with vegetables which included miso soup and shrimp appetizer. We also requested refried rice which was prepared in front of us. Our personal chef was engaging and put on an exceptional show while cooking everything to perfection. Menu prices are quite moderate compared to other teppanyaki grills we have visited in Las Vegas.
Origin India @ 4480 Paradise Road. We discovered this restaurant on our last trip and were anxious to see if it was as good as remembered. Complimentary papadum was served with tamarind and cilantro dipping sauces shortly after we were presented with menus. The waiter convinced us to try the evening’s special appetizer, a crepe made with corn, homemade cheese and potato which proved to be an excellent choice. Our first entrée was Murg chili milli kebab - tandori chicken marinated in Indian spices and accompanied by an East Asian sauce. The chicken was amazingly moist, tender and very flavor-ific. Our second entrée was Baingan dahiwala – roasted eggplant cooked with yogurt and onions in a cashew sauce. This dish was not as smooth textured as similar dishes served elsewhere, but was very tasty. Menu prices have increaed since our prior visit and may initially seem high, but most entrees include a side salad, choice of naan or paratha, basmati rice and a lentil dipping sauce – we chose black lentils. We reaffirmed our impression from last trip that this is the most authentic and best Indian restaurant in Las Vegas.
Sedona @ 9580 W. Flamingo Road. We drove out Flamingo from the Gold Coast where we were staying to the 215 beltway. This restaurant is very contemporary and includes a large bar area with video poker machines. Much of the bar area was taken up this Sunday evening by a good sized wedding party and the noise level was very high. I chose the fresh Alaskan halibut with chorizo, new potato, zucchini and clams finished in a saffron beurre blanc. My wife ordered the pepper crusted Ahi tuna, served with Provencal vegetable relish, roasted eggplant whipped potatoes and lemon oil. Both entrees were delicious and service quite attentive.
Sweet Water Prime Seafood @ 9460 Eastern Avenue. This relatively new restaurant includes a seafood market, exhibition kitchen and large bar area. After receiving our menus we were served a complimentary shrimp cocktail. My wife ordered the Ono (wahoo) medium rare, but the waitress encouraged her to request it medium which was unfortunate because the grilled fish was too dry even with the Thai peanut sauce. I ordered pan seared sand dabs served with a fantastic green pepper sauce over garlic leek mashed potatoes and broccolini sautéed in garlic and oil. My wife was disappointed with her meal, but mine was the best of this trip and I look forward to returning in two months.
Dave - I am not sure about the crepes, but lentil flour may have been used. It was a special that evening and we did not catch the name of the dish. At this point I cannot remember the salad at all - probably says more about my memory than the salad.
kis - it is very frustrating for me as a visitor to have so many great restaurants remain on my To Do list after returning home after each trip.
Thanks for the great report !! Dragonfly is on my "to-do" list - i enjoy firefly but keep forgeting about the sister restaurant. I keep driving by Sedona with thoughts of going there too. I agree with you about KHoury. your post reminds me that there are soooo many places to try in the vegas valley...so little time and with several mega-resorts opening in the next 1-2 years which in turn means more restaurants....I'LL NEVER CATCH UP !!!