Rao's or B&B
My husband and I are going to Vegas for a long weekend. We've got a couple of things planned, save dinner on the Friday night of our stay. I'm debating between Rao's and B&B. We're staying at Bellagio and want something nearby. We're from NYC, so I have eaten at Babbo and adore it. I've never been to Rao's NY but friends have and adore it equally. I've read here and on trip advisor mixed reviews on both - Rao's seems to have mediocre food, according to some, and B&B gets negative marks from others on service.
If you had to do the Sophie's choice here and pick one, what would it be? Or, would you pick a third option? Husband was thinking of Lawry's, but it seems awfully kitchy for me (hello, it's Vegas, home of kitch).
The best way to make this decision is to define what you want your experience to be, because they are vastly different. We dine at B&B often, because the menu is so creative that there is always a dish that we are waiting to try the "next time"; and once having completed that list it will mean time to keep going back to sample an old favorite or two. But when we go there it is all about the food; the layout makes the space just a little frenzied.
Rao's fits a different niche. If you want an "old school" evening of sitting back in a comfy booth and having excellent service they can provide that. There are a couple of dining areas, but one is a close replica to the NY location in terms of layout (we were told it is almost exactly the same size), and provides a cozy aesthetic. Anyone that plans to go there should request a booth in that room. If you have a group that wants to make an evening of it and tell stories it is a nice atmosphere, and the standards of service on our trips has been outstanding. But now the caveat - when we go it is only with a group that wants to kick back and tell stories, with some nice Tuscan red's. The food has been a little inconsistent, rarely hitting any high notes, and there is almost nothing on the menu that would not be found at an Italian restaurant right down the street in anywhere USA. That is what perhaps makes the decision process the most awkward when choosing Rao's, because the price points are exorbitant for the level of cuisine. Examples of base-line dishes are $24 for fetucine alla bollognese and $40 for vitello alla parmeggiana (yes, even if it is a chop pounded with bone-in), which paints part of the portrait. Good? Yes. Ample portions? Yes. But fetuccini with meat sauce and veal parmigiana can only be taken to certain levels. You are paying for the ambience and the reputation of the property, and have to be comfy with that going in.
In a perfect world, B&B's menu would be available in a back corner booth in Rao's.
Lawry's is not on the strip, just fyi. I think I would probably consider going to Bartolotta at the Wynn, just because it's different and not a branch of any other restaurant and is supposed to be terrific; i'd ask to sit outside in one of the cabanas. I'd definitely pick B&B over Rao's, though, based both on reviews on this board and talking to people who have been to Rao's and been disappointed. Other places I'd consider would be Bouchon...and if you want red meat, like at Lawry's, I'd look at Joe's Stone Crab in the Forum Shops or BOA in the Forum Shops....
EASY...B&B got a gushing review from the LA Times, Rao's at Caesars has gotten lousy reviews. I have seen several reviews of Rao's on various sites, including egullet.com, and most all the reviews were pretty bad, while I have yet to see a bad review of B&B.
Fiamma at MGM was excellent, loved it! But I'm itching to go to B&B next trip.
Thanks to all. I purposely left out the background - my husband and I are going to celebrate my 40th birthday. We tend to like places more for the food than the atmosphere, and from what you are saying, B&B is it, just don't expect it to be Babbo. Which, BTW, hubby said was one of the top meals of his life. Per Se in NYC was another. BBQ in North Carolina a third. That should tell you all you need to know about the man. :-)
Just got back from LV and we had 8 of us @ B&B. I am from CT and work in NYC and visit Babbo on a regular basis. If I had never been to Babbo I would have no problem recommending B&B. However, I have (and so have the 2 of you) and you will be severely disappointed. It very well could be just as good in a couple of years but it need more time to season itself.
I have been to Rao's in NYC but not LV. I hear the LV joint is like the NYC outpost in terms of food quality but more expensive. Based on that I would skip Rao's too.
Have you considered Sensi in Bellagio? You will be pleasantly surprised.
Also at Bellagio and very good is Michael Mina. His signiture dish, lobster pot pie, is awesome.