Vegas notes (mostly cheapish eats)
LOTUS OF SIAM
I don't claim to know if this is the best Thai restaurant in the U.S., but this was a notch above the best places I've been to in the Bay Area. Having failed to make a dinner reservation, we got there around 2pm on a Friday and hurried to place our orders before the kitchen closed. Nam kao tod (crispy rice with minced sausage) had very bright flavour. Chicken wings were fried immaculately. Khao soi noodles had an intense coconut milk sauce. Panang pompano and especially hoh mok catfish were the best Thai fish dishes I've had by some margin. I even thought our veggie friend Dave's pad thai was tasty.
Next time we'll order it spicier: this time we asked for something like "spicy by American standards", forgetting that the Bay Area spice standards are hotter than in most of the U.S. Otherwise, grand.
For dinner, we tried to get to Paradise Grill, the Peruvian place we read about on this board, but by 8:30 their kitchen was closed. This was our second choice, since we don't have much Cuban around Berkeley. In general, we thought the sandwiches were excellent; everything else, not so much. Meats that were dry and tasteless outside two slices of bread were tender and satisfying between them. My Cubano was well-constructed and well-seasoned, though the accompanying fries were just OK. Still, the sandwiches are a good on-strip cheap eat option.
No, none of us could afford kobe or foie or truffles, but we all liked our burgers. The meat quality wasn't quite as good as some Bay Area burgers I've had. But they cooked everything to specifications -- my medium-rare was indeed medium-rare -- and I was glad to have simple sesame as my bun option. Fries were flawless. It seems so simple, but then why can't everyone get this right?
What they didn't get right: the atmosphere and noise level were pretty annoying. If you're going for the faux-sportsbar feel, at least keep your NCAA tournament brackets up to date.
At $38 on weekends, not quite worth it, but not that far off. A decent proportion of diners were returning to their tables with huge piles of Alaskan crab legs, and with good reason. The rest of the seafood was also excellent, particularly the jumbo shrimp. Red meats were pretty good: I liked the prime rib a lot, though others thought it too rare and/or fatty, preferring the lamb dishes (rack and leg). I thought the salads were better than the cooked vegetables. Desserts were poor: I found only the ice cream to be passable.
Best strategy might just be to grab what's been freshly cut.
There must be places in Vegas that'll serve you a large, well-made Sunday brunch without the half hour wait we had here -- which, thanks to the multiplicative powers of I-15 traffic, probably delayed our arrival home a hour and a half. Still, the queue aside, there was little to fault. My bacon and eggs were very satisfying, and the third of someone's Joe's Special I ended up having was nearly as good. Coffee was drinkable, near Starbucks quality (that's sort of a compliment).
Vegas trip Xmas '09 notes:
Lotus of Siam, third visit: They'd just re-opened after remodelling: maybe there was a new compartment or two or something; I don't pay much attention to such things. Whatever, it's still in a strip mall. The green chili dip (nam prik noom) isn't a fusion dish, yet somehow seems as distinctively Southwestern as it does Thai. Great with the accompanying chicharrones and salad. Tom kah kai (the standard coconut milk version, not the one on the northern menu) was revelatory -- more sour and with brighter flavour than any other version of this I've had. Drunken nooodle soft shell crab confirmed Lotus's skill at frying seafood, while the ho fun in that dish were probably the most satisfying form of noodle I've had there. I don't know if I've ever eaten fresh jackfruit before, and Lotus's jackfruit curry (kang ka noon) was an introduction that made me want to try that ingredient again. This does however seem to be a prep that would be improved with more chili heat than the moderate amount we requested. After three visits, it still feels like I'm only scratching the surface of this place -- not least in terms of their Riesling list.
Bouchon for brunch: The boudin blanc had plenty of pork taste with some gentler subtle notes as well -- maybe the best white sausage I've had. I've never had a gourmet tuna sandwich before, so I don't have much of a baseline to which to compare their tartine, but it was much better than the budget canned nonsense I'm familiar with. The croissant was also much better than what I'm used to, while the fries were much much better. The coffee, on the other hand, was a step down from my regular in Berkeley, even though I think they employ the same roaster (Equator). Still, an excellent meal.
Sam Woo, Chinatown: Came here because the wait seemed shorter than at Harbor Palace. I don't demand that my roast pork be ultra-fatty, but even I thought ours was a bit lean. Parts of the skin were crackly, but overall it was more chewy than crisp. Chicken was decent, but rice wasn't. Somewhat disappointing all round; perhaps we ordered the wrong things.
Village Seafood Buffet at Rio: $38, discount coupons around if you look. A much stronger deterrent is the ninety-minute wait -- at least that's how long we stood in line for dinner. We though about walking over to Carnival World instead but the line didn't look much shorter. Best things: 1) the Jonah crab legs, 2) the other crab legs, 3) the other raw seafood, all fresh. Apart from one seared tuna dish, the cooked stuff really should've been better. You might be able to justify the wait if you really like eating lobster in large quantities, regardless of how carefully it's prepared.
Flavors Buffet at Harrah's: We were treated to dinner, so let's accentuate the positive: good company and no ninety-minute wait.
Actually, at the moment, the capacity at LOS is a little LESS. I don't know if you noticed it, but as you enter, the wall on your right is temporary, and the elevated tables in the back-right are now gone, as the room is slightly narrower. But all kinds of good things are happening next door (to the right, with the door now closed). There will be restaurant seating for approximately 40 more, a wine bar with about 10 seats, and places for others to stand at the bar. This will also enable LOS to have bigger private parties without closing the rest of the restaurant.
And I have to agree with something in the second to last post of yours. The garlic prawns are outstanding. I've had them a few other times, but they were spectacular the two times I tried them on this last trip. I wouldn't think of ordering them, frankly, but on my first night I let Saipin cook whatever she wanted tor our group of six, and she delivered these beauties, which somehow seemed sprightlier than before.
Another year, another Vegas trip.
Hot N Juicy Crawfish was good for what it was. As reported elsewhere, the shrimp is better than the crawfish, and the sausage is a must-have. Mostly it's about the sauces, though.
The Bellagio buffet was better than the Wynn almost across the board; the ahi poke was particularly fine. I'm still not convinced by buffets in this price range, but if you've got friends who insist on one, this seems like the place.
We finally made it to Paradise Grill, and found it had turned into a Mexican place. We tried their recommended grill platter and didn't find it special -- should've ordered more adventurously.
Lotus of Siam is still tops. Repeated several dishes from last time. Best of the new things we tried was, of all things, garlic prawns: I think they were as good as that dish gets -- in themselves, not worth braving the I-15 for, but once you throw in the hoh mok catfish... Oh, and the pork jerky. That was ace.
Thanks for an excellent report.
I've forgotten that Peppermill still has Joe's Special. There was a time that virtually every breakfast-oriented place in LV served it.
Was LOS really offering pompano Panang? I've never had pompano there, and I can see how that would be a great partner to the Panang sauce.
That's too bad about the Wynn buffett -- we had a very good experience there, and yes, they do have the best shrimp. We found the ice cream was below par, but the other desserts were excellent. My only complaint was whoever made the green tea mousse let the tea steep too long as the flavor was bitter.