Las Vegas Report: Soup to Nuts (long, w/pix)
Here’s a quick rundown from my trip to Las Vegas. Thank you to everyone for your ongoingly informative posts on this board, which I read regularly in order to plan my fantasy Vegas get-aways. This getaway, however, was real; hence, I get to post a report, for a change, instead of living vicariously through yours.
SOUP…Pumpkin Soup with huckleberry coulis and spiced marshmallow at Daniel Boulud Brasserie (at the Wynn)—awesome…imagine pumpkin pie as a beverage, except, served in a bowl and with a spoon.
NUTS…caramel popcorn from the honor bar at the Wynn “purchased” on impulse while watching the Lake of Dreams show and TI pirate battle from our suite…my advice, resist. (For those of you who have wondered but were unsure you could pull off an Indiana Jones by removing the popcorn with a swift sweep of the hand and replacing it with a bag of sand of equal weight all in 60 seconds so you could check the price—it’s $8.)
CARSON STREET CAFÉ (GOLDEN NUGGET, downtown):
2am post-arrival-from-the-airport meal at the Golden Nugget 24 hour Carson Street Café. ~Turkey burger with cranberry BBQ sauce—not bad, but at 4am “home” time, we happily would have eaten a burger of made ground cardboard.
~Crab salad with avocado—okay. The avocado needed more ripening. I envisioned the salad as hunks of crab arranged artfully on a bed of crisp lettuce (what was I thinking?) not crab bits mixed with mayo…still, it wasn’t overly saucy. Not a bad choice for a 2am meal, but next time, I think I’d still head to Binion’s Coffee shop for their late night specials (available until 6am) or Golden Gate for their 99 cent shrimp cocktail. Also, I knew the Fremont (2nd Street Café, I think?) and the California (their 24 hour coffee shop) offered Hawaiian options on their menu, but I was surprised and impressed that the Carson Street Café offered at least one.
CHAMPAGNE BRUNCH BUFFET (GOLDEN NUGGET, downtown):
For breakfast. Not bad—every station had at least one “healthy” option, which was nice. I’d say the quality of the ingredients overall was a B minus. Not exceptional, but pretty good by AYCE buffet standards in the sub-$20 category. They had a lox & bagel station (the bagels themselves were forgettable); shrimp station; “Chinese” station with egg rolls (blah), and a really tasty and not too gloppy or limp veggie stir fry; building your own omelet (long line); Mediterranean station with hummus etc.; “international” with Jamaican jerk (forgettable); huge dessert station including sugar free options and breakfast pastries; fruit station with cottage cheese. The fruit station was a little disappointing as some of the fruit was canned. The winner here, of course, was the famous bread pudding with warm bourbon sauce. I had expected to mock it and expected to take only a bite or two of the serving I’d taken, but, after picking out the raisins (I hate raisins—even drunken ones), I finished off the whole thing, even though it was entirely too sweet. It was pleasantly firmer than I expected, though it in no way resembled anything that might once have been bread. I liked it and after making this post will be Googling “Wynn mother bread pudding recipe” so I can kid myself that I’ll make it at home. http://www.kimosvegas.com/index.php?page=recipe/recipe&id=25 I guess I'm still on the hunt for the recipe for the very essential warm bourbon sauce...
GOLD DIGGERS (GOLDEN NUGGET, downtown).
For drinks: okay, super campy and no chow, but a great place for drinks and to watch, from the balcony and up close to the canopy, the Fremont Street Experience.
GOLDEN GATE (their 24 hour café, downtown).
For “snack”: I had to have the 99 “classic” shrimp cocktail with the tangy sauce and served in the heavy, fancy glass. Thought briefly about upgrading to the “big” shrimp version for $2.99 but, in the end, my cheapness won out. The shrimps themselves were itty bitty, but they were packed in there. A great value. We also tried the $2.99 “pound and hound” 16 oz beer and Vienna hot dog special. Another bargain at $3.
I love the player piano and the old photos of San Francisco in this place. Dinner AND entertainment.
LOTUS OF SIAM (on E. Sahara
For dinner: as expected, a wonderful meal. We had reservations for 7pm, but were starving by 4:30. We tried to call ahead, but the line was busy (and, throughout our meal, that phone rang incessantly—amazing!), so we just showed up around 4:50pm and they let us in anyway, even though they weren’t supposed to open for another 10 minutes. Astonishingly, we weren’t even the first ones there. We ordered (heat level 4 to 5—I wish we’d kicked it up to at least 6, but I was seized with fear and excitement in the moment of ordering).
~Chicken wings deep fried until crispy then sauteed with chili, garlic, and topped with crispy mint leaves. These were good, and didn’t seem that garlicky, until I tried to spoon up some of the garlic that had fallen off the wings…oh my, so garlicky, and very good, though the texture was a surprise, as if the “sautéing” impaired the crispiness somehow.
~Moo dad deaw --Pork jerky Thai style--Deep fried marinated pork, served with spicy home made sauce. Of course we loved. it, it’s Thai bacon, what’s not to love? We didn’t find the spicy sauce that spicy (we expected to barely be able to tolerate it) but, it was good.
~Nam kao tod-- Minced sour sausage mixed with green onion, fresh chili, ginger, peanuts, crispy rice and lime juice. Fantastic while warm—I love the crispy texture of the rice. As it cools, the cilantro and red onion seem to battle for domination, so, finish this dish before moving on to other things so it doesn’t cool. This is now my new favorite dish at LOS (the previous favorite, still occupying a place of honor, being the whole fried catfish.
)~Kang Hung Lay (Pork Stew Northern Curry) –we loved this, too; the depth of flavor reminiscent of a good mole (even though, there was no chocolate in the pork stew, of course)—my only complaint was that the hunks of pork were so large. But, this dish is now up there in my personal LOS hall of fame.
~Nua nam tok--sliced charbroiled beef mixed with green onion, chili, lime juice & rice powder. This was very good, with the beef cooked to perfectly to medium rare with discernable grill marks on the outside. The sauce was great.
My only complaint? Geeze, why didn’t I order any veggies or noodles? I had really meant to order the drunken noodles and, in my excitement, forgot. I realize I did not have any veggie dishes on my list of things to try, so, I’ll be looking for some veggie dish recommendations next time. I might drop the wings and nua nam tok—though very good--there would be other things high on my list to try.
This little strip mall has all kinds of ethnic joints—any of those others any good?
LUV IT CUSTARD:
Where the heck is it? I had wanted to go after our LOS run, but couldn’t find it. I thought it was nearish to the Stratosphere, no?
BINION’s ( 24 hour café, downtown)
For breakfast, we ordered the chicken fried steak and the eggs Rothschild. Quite good for the price, with the steak on the Rothschild competently cooked to order and the hash browns not-too-greasy. My only complaint was the watery coffee.
TRIPLE 777 BREWERY (at MAIN STREET STATION, downtown)
We still love the homestyle brews at this place. We tried a Porter (chocolately, as it should be) and a Nut Brown Ale—both fresh-tasting and true-to-type.
Overall, we loved staying downtown, the ease of wandering from one Casino to the next.
MESA (CAESAR’s, next to the sports book):
For brunch/lunch: Yeah, we had to check up on Iron Chef Bobby Flay (and, obnoxiously, though hopefully sufficiently quietly mutter to each other throughout the meal, wondering whose entrée was going to reign supreme, and challenging each other to throw downs etc.) After reading Bruni’s recent review of Flay’s NY restaurant, I’d expected to be disappointed, but…I guess I was star struck. I thoroughly enjoyed it, though, I wish they could have dialed the price down a notch or two. Very good service.
~The ahi tuna nachos with the green chile (nice) and the honey mustard (too sweet) sauces and the blue and yellow corn chips. The yellow corn chips were oddly layered, but, a fine delivery vehicle for the tuna, nevertheless.
~The pork sandwich with the seasoned fries. This was spicy and knock-out fantastic. The fries were good, too.
~The famous spicy chicken and sweet potato hash with poached eggs. Nice, but I couldn’t finish it—just a little too rich and a touch two sweet. (But, of course, I’ll be Googling that hash recipe... http://cybermeals.com/food/recipes/recipe/0,1977,FOOD_9936_12344,00.html
Oh, and brunch comes with a basket of lovely breads. And, naturally, rubes that we are, we got a kick out of the “MESA” butter stamp. I order the pear cactus iced tea and thought it was fine, not exceptional, though it was accompanied by a small carafe of simple syrup.
We’ll be back for the pork sandwiches.
DANIEL BOULUD BRASSERIE (the WYNN)
For dinner: we were seated under a heat lamp, alongside the Lake of Dreams and, corny but true, loved every minute of it.
We ordered the prix fix, a fantastic deal I thought.
~Caesar salad with avocado (very nice)
~Coq au vin (wonderful—and a giant portion—jidori chicken, which sounded like an impressive pedigree even before I googled it)
~Chocolate hazelnut fondant—nice, not too rich, in part because it was a small serving
~Pumpkin soup (see above)—like liquid pie in a bowl
~The Original D.B. Burger—would it be blasphemous for me to say that we weren’t as blown away as we wanted to be? We ordered it medium rare and, though the foie gras and braised ribs in the center of the burger were identifiable, the combination resulted in an overall texture of mushy. It was interesting, but nothing either of us would order again. And the fries were pretty ordinary (we preferred Mesa’s, actually), though the three sauces were fun and the presentation, with the “D” and “B” toothpicks was cute.
~Pair of ice creams—rocky road & vanilla
And, oddly, itty bitty blueberry muffins. Tasty, but odd, we thought. Overall a fantastic meal and probably the best value we encountered at the Wynn. I wish D.B. would open an outpost in the Twin Cities.
TERRACE POINTE CAFÉ (the WYNN)
For breakfast: we were disappointed that we couldn’t be seated poolside, but they don’t start poolside eating until 9am and, as you can tell, we had practically been starving ourselves to this point, so we just couldn’t wait to be seated outdoors. We ordered a stack of the blueberry and a stack of the buttermilk pancakes, both served with whipped butter and a carafe of warm maple syrup. We’d heard rumors that the Wynn had shrunk the size of the big as your plate, thick as a book pancakes, but, no, they were still gigantic. And fluffy. And fantastic. Next time, we’ll order them to share.
On a different day, we came back for lunch and ordered the pesto chicken sandwich+fries (fine) and the lamb pita with couscous—very nice.
RED 8 (the WYNN)
For lunch: I had to get my dim sum fix in, so we popped in for har gow, siu mai, and steamed pork buns, all competently executed and bursting with fillings. We also ordered some fantastic stir fried greens, not on the menu, by pointing at something delicious-looking being served to the table next to us.
SW STEAKHOUSE (the WYNN)
For dinner: the best breadbasket on this trip, seriously perfect rolls. We ordered the filet mignon and the bone-in NY—both very good and cooked perfectly to order. Each came with a blue cheese-stuffed and rosemary sprig speared profiterole (the cheese was great on the steak; the pastry itself was blah) and a trio of sauces, classic steak sauce (too sweet), béarnaise (adored by my dining companion), and a jalapeno tropical sauce. I thought none of them enhanced the steak (wet-aged, corn fed Midwestern prime beef cooked over an open flame, for those of you who need to know those things.) Our sides, potatoes au gratin and the broccolini with garlic and aged goat cheese, as well as my Caesar salad (very garlicky with ultra crisp romaine; also, dramatically presented with a parmesan crisp and garlic-paprika crouton “sheets”, plus a ball of white anchovy) starter were all very good. My major disappointment here is that there was no lake of dream-side seating and the overall atmosphere was hectic and cramped. We liked the little, square after-dinner truffles (mint was the flavor of the evening), though, at this point, we were growing very weary of everything at the Wynn being named for or initialed by SOMEONE--it's all so very eponymous. Service was exceptional.
On our after-dinner stroll through the Wynn we encountered the Country Club Steakhouse, which offers patio dining overlooking the waterfall at the 18th hole and has a nice, relaxed atmosphere. I would love to find out if the chow is good here because the setting is lovely—nicer, I though, than SW. I also gawked at Alex (stunning), Okada, and Bartolotta—all beautiful. My giant complaint about the Wynn is that you can’t get out of the place without spending about $75 minimum for any meal for two, even at their “casual” eateries. They have an adorable café called Sugar and Ice (right next to Bartolotta and on a faux lake/waterfall) near the entrance from the Strip that makes its own ice cream and has soups, sandwiches and even bread pudding style French toast that I would love to try one of these days.
BOUCHON (the Venezio Towers in the VENETIAN)
For breakfast, we came for the glorious bread pudding style custard-y French toast with the maple syrup (wonderful but, seriously, way too rich for me after only a couple of bites)…Oh, you’d better believe that, I’ll be Googling that recipe, too, but I’ll make them “mini” sized. Found the gnocchi, but I guess I'll have to buy Keller's Bouchon cookbook to get the French toast recipe... http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/foo... The “jardinere” breakfast was a fantastic value. For $22, you got two pastries (we chose the pastry of the day, a strawberry croissant covered in a sugary crumble), French style gnocchi (which were incredibly light and airy—what tater tots aspire to be, I think), two slices of toast (with butter and raspberry jam), two eggs, and a dish of fried potatoes. A meal for two, really, if they’d let you share. Good coffee. Fancy still French water when we meant to ask for tap water.
GORDON BIERSCH (at the airport): I only mention this because I was so excited to see it when I stepped off the plane and so disappointed to later discover that they serve only packaged sandwiches (fine, and better than the Burger King across the hall) and no garlic fries. ☹
And, since I’m cataloguing for you EVERYTHING I ate on this trip, the pillow chocolates at the recently remodeled Golden Nugget are the same as the pillow chocolates at the Wynn, at easily half the price. Ooh, but the best "free" chocolate was the dark chocolate that came with our post-dinner coffee at Daniel Boulud.
Here are some photos of varying (ranging from dreadful to more dreadful) quality.
Photo #1 Golden Gate's 99 cent shrimp cocktail & $3 "pound & hound" special.
Photo #2 Lotus of Siam Garlic Chicken Wings
Photo #3 Lotus of Siam Minced Sour Sausage & Crispy Rice (Nam kao tod).
Photo #4 Lotus of Siam Pork Beef Jerky (Moo dad deaw).
Thank you, everyone, for your kind words. I find posting a detailed report helps me cement my own opinions. Plus, next time I'm in town, I can pull it up and refresh my memory of what I ordered, etc. so I can decide what to order next. And, of course, I hope it's helpful to others.
modthyrth--ah, it sounds like I really blew it not getting the drunken noodles. For the record, I haven't been bowled over by Puck's restaurants in other parts of the country, (or Ogden's, for that matter), so I have't bothered when I've been in LV. Sorry to hear you were disappointed...
Dave, I can't believe our trips to LV were like airplanes passing in the night. It sounds like you had a grand time at LOS this time, as always.
Mmm, thanks for the photos. My camera battery died 3 pictures into the trip we just took to Las Vegas. I had a fully charged battery...sitting on the shelf at home. Sigh. I keep telling my friends about the crispy rice and was wishing I had a picture to show them; I'll just refer to this thread and your lovely images when I have the need, now.
Valentine's day was our first visit to Lotus of Siam, and they really lived up to my high expectations after having read the glowing reviews here. The service was impeccable. Friendly, familiar, delightfully pushy (but since we loved everything he recommended, it was perfect).
We started with the crispy rice and sour sausage--dear god, how do they fit so much flavor in one little dish? I think they found some new tastebuds I didn't know I had. We couldn't resist the prawns wrapped in bacon--much more tame and standard fare, but perfectly prepared. The salty/sweet balance was perfect. There were 8 good sized prawns on the plate, and we knew we had over-ordered, but we didn't care. This experience was about the mouth, not the stomach. Next came the spicy northern mushroom dip. The lightly blanched vegetables were pleasantly sweet but still crisp enough to scoop up the mushroom dip, and contrasted nicely with the heat of the concoction. It didn't taste much like mushrooms, but was still delicious.
For entrees, we took the waiter's recommendation and ordered their two specials that day, crispy duck with cognac sauce, and the drunken noodles with sea bass. We ordered at a level 5 heat, but wish we'd chosen a 7. The duck was absolutely amazing, but a little more heat would have balanced the rich sweetness of the cognac sauce nicely. Our own fault for not being more bold when we ordered. The drunken noodles were absolutely delicious. I'm not a huge fan of drunken noodles usually, but I would be if they were usually prepared like this. The flavor was exquisite, with more sweetness than I usually taste in the dish, almost like pad se ew. I think the large pieces of sea bass had been flash-fried, because it was delightfully crunchy on the outside (no batter or breading though, just the fish), and perfectly tender and perfectly cooked inside. I've never had sea bass--or any fish, for that matter--prepared in this fashion. Excellent.
Though we were stuffed, of course we had to order dessert. They made a special mini-sized combo plate for us so we could sample all the offerings. And brought out two glasses of a sweet Riesling to accompany dessert. All were divine. I was born in the Philippines and spent the first 3 years of my life there, eating like a native, and a lot of my taste preferences were set there. Consequently, nothing tastes better than flavors like banana lumpia and my favorite coconut rice cake. The desserts at LoS are the only ones that I like as well as the ones our Filipino house girls taught us how to make. (And my mom's a pastry chef who assisted the team who won the national Pastry and Bread championships last year, so I've been around good desserts--and eaten the results of many practice sessions! ) The fried banana at LoS was breadier than lumpia, but still had that crisp outer shell. Delicious, the the texture was just wonderful--crunch on the outside, a little more toothy texture inside, and then the sweet-tart caramelized banana in the center. mmm. And the sticky rice with coconut--well, I could eat just that for the rest of my life and be happy.
The riesling the waiter selected for us was absolutely perfect, and very reasonable at $40 for the bottle. I desperately wish I could remember the name--damn you camera battery!
After our delicious, indulgent meal, we walked back the entire length of the strip to the Luxor, where we were staying. Practically jogged, actually, because it was COLD. I was delighted that LoS is so casual, so I could get away with wearing comfortable shoes for our 5 mile walk back. Who needs ambiance on Valentine's day when you have your sweetheart and such glorious food?
We hit Cafe Ba Ba Reeba for lunch on saturday (only because LoS was closed for lunch and we had to drive home). It was alright. I've had better tapas in phoenix, NY, Chicago, and *Iowa City*, for goodness sake. We were with a friend who didn't like seafood or mushrooms, so we might have picked different items had we been alone, but still.
Surprise delight of the trip: queso at Diablo (tex mex place in front of the monte carlo). It had a delightfully sharp cheese flavor--very unlike velveeta or cheese whiz. And the chunks of mushroom were large, woodsy, and flavorful. I never found the sausage they claimed was also in there, but I was very content with the mushrooms.
Dissapointment of the trip: Wolfgang Puck bar and grill. They were out of three dishes when we were there for lunch. The baby beet salad with goat cheese and citrus viniagrette was delicious and came out quickly. And then we waited a good 30+ minutes before our sandwich came out. We shared the Peppered prime beef, Aioli, and white cheddar sandwich. The bread was crunchy and pleasant, but the rest of the sandwich was pretty tasteless. The cheddar was flavorless, and added a kind of slimy texture. No taste of pepper. There was some dipping sauce on the side that was perhaps meant to be a steak sauce? But it tasted like bad BBQ made mostly from ketchup. I know it wasn't meant to be a ketchup, because they also brought a small bottle of heinz ketchup. The fries with the sandwich were plentiful, but frozen and unremarkable in any way. Bah.
Thank you for such a thorough review! I feel like I was there with you. You hit 3 of my Vegas faves: SW, Bouchon and LOS. The pics brought back fantastic memories and made my mouth water! Minced sour sausage and cripy rice...mmmmmmmmmmmm!
I am going back to Vegas in March and will try to do 1/2 as good a job recounting my epicurean adventures as you!
We're approaching the finish line. Still with me?
Photo #1 Terrace Pointe Cafe, lamb pita with couscous
Photo #2 Terrace Pointe Cafe, pesto grilled chicken sandwich
Photo #3 Terrace Pointe Cafe, view of the glorious pool from our table
Photo #4 View of the number on my scale upon my return home [censored] HAHAHA just teasing, no way.
Photo #1 Bouchon, eggs, toast, potatoes
Photo #2 Bouchon, most excellent Parisian style gnocchi
Photo #3 Bouchon, bread pudding style French toast (topped with apples) (that's a side order of ham in the background, which we ordered so we could enjoy a brief "non-carb" interlude during breakfast)
Photo #4 2008, year of the rat
Photo #1 SW Steakhouse mint truffles (there were four truffles, but, alas someone had a momentary lapse and forgot the "no eating before photography" rule, bless his otherwise extraordinarily patient and tolerant heart. That's okay, I wolfed down my entire meal at Red 8 before remembering I'd brought my camera, so, sorry, no glorious dumpling in bamboo basket pics, I'm afraid.)
Photo #2 Bouchon, butter+raspberry jelly
Photo #3 Bouchon, fruit salad
Photo #4 Bouchon, weird looking, but fantastic strawberry croissants topped with crumble