Las Vegas - 14 days
We recently returned from our vacation and the following excerpts from my trip report summarizes our dining adventures.
4/23 Nora’s, Flamingo, was the 2007 recipient of the LVRJ’s Reader’s Choice award as the Best Undiscovered Restaurant and has a Zagat rating of 24, 18, 21. This southern Italian restaurant is very popular and we encountered a long waiting line as we entered at 7PM, but we had secured advance reservations and were promptly seated. We shared a Caesar salad that was on the small side though the menu indicated it would serve 2-3. The salad itself was decent, but the croutons were soft and flavorless. The menu was the same as you would find in any Italian/American restaurant so my wife ordered the eggplant parmesan while I chose meatballs and spaghetti. Both dishes were satisfactory though typically over sauced and nothing special. 2 Forks out of a possible 5
4/24 Thursday night is our “Date Night” so we drove downtown to the historic El Cortez for dinner at Roberta’s. It has been 20 years since we last had the courage to dine at Roberta’s, but like fine wine this restaurant has improved with age. What it lacks in ambiance is made up by a friendly staff and moderate pricing. My wife's 8 ounce filet, served medium rare as requested, was very good though decidedly short of prime. My Chilean sea bass was perfectly cooked – crusty on the outside and moist inside, and accompanied by garlic mashed potatoes, a small fennel salad and sautéed spinach. 3.5 Forks
4/25 Himalayan Cuisine on Flamingo. We previously dined at this restaurant in April 2007 and were anxious to see the changes made after the owner’s son took over. The menu has been upgraded so we shared two new dishes, mahakali mango chicken – oven baked chicken with fresh slices of mango in an onion and fennel seed base which is similar to chicken tika masala. Our second entrée was saag ra dhiido – braised lamb, sautéed spinach and Nepalese cornmeal (grits?). We have had several saag dishes in the past and usually the ingredients are mixed together, but in this dish each item stood alone. We requested a medium heat level, but neither entrée was particularly hot. We also ordered naan and basmati rice. Service was very slow because our server, presumably the owner’s son, also served as maitre d and cashier. A printable 2/1 coupon found on the Citysearch website was used. 3.5
4/26 In mid afternoon drove to Provence Bakery on W. Spring Mountain Road. There were large quantities of wrapped pastries, but only a few in the pastry case. We decided to share a flan that proved to be extremely dense and largely flavorless. 1 Fork
McCormick & Schmicks on Hughes Center Drive. A warm beet salad with herb goat cheese in a balsamic reduction served as our appetizer. The serving size was such that I thought our server had misunderstood and brought us each a salad, but it was so good I decided not raise the issue for fear he would take my portion away. My wife ordered the pan roasted halibut served with a yummy bosc pear chutney on top of spinach and a potato cake. I ordered the Chilean sea bass with a delicious fruit sauce, whipped Peruvian purple potatoes and a spicy shrimp, corn, red pepper and chayote sauté. The sea bass was tasty, but one-third the size of the one served at Roberta’s and slightly overcooked. 3.5 Forks
4/27 Ellis Island was serving breakfast this morning so we each ordered their famous, at least in our family, cinnamon vanilla French toast. Service was a little slower than usual because one of the servers resigned earlier in the morning. 3 Forks
Emperor's Garden on Spring Mountain Road. We each started off with a cup of corn and chicken soup that turned out to be egg drop soup with a few kernels of corn tossed in for good measure. We shared entrees of shrimp lo mein and spicy chicken with peppers. Neither dish scaled any culinary heights, but at least I was able to use a 20% off coupon printed off the LVRJ website to ease my disappointment. 1.5 Forks
4/28 Wynn buffet. The line was very long and it took us 45 minutes before we were finally seated. Here is my rating for all the different items my wife and I taste tested over the next 1.5 hours.
Seaweed cucumber salad – 1.5 Forks
Jicama salad with mint and yuzu – 2.5 Forks
California roll – 2 Forks
Pickled ginger – 3 Forks
Scallop ceviche – 3.5 Forks
Crab ceviche – 3.5 Forks
Sea bass in orange sauce – 4.5 Forks
Dover sole – 3 Forks
Herb crusted salmon in a carrot miso broth – 4 Forks
Moroccan glazed lamb chop – 4 Forks
Broccoli rabe and roasted garlic – 2.5 Forks
Grilled asparagus – 3 Forks
Bok choy with garlic – 3 Forks
Grilled veggies with pesto – 2 Fork
Wild mushrooms – 3.5 Forks
Crème brulee – 1 Fork
Tiramisu – 1 Fork
Banana mousse – 4 Forks
Banana mouse redux – 4 Forks
White chocolate cherry mousse – 1 Fork
Key lime pie – 3 Forks
Crab legs grilled – 2.5 Forks
Cocktail shrimp – 3.5 Forks
Pork pot sticker – 2.5 Forks
Baked tomato and ricotta over baby greens – 1 Fork
Mashed potatoes – 1.5 Forks
Bananas Foster – 3 Forks
Bread pudding – 2.5 Forks
4/29 Grimaldi's on Eastern. This was our second visit and it proved to be a major disappointment. The sauce, mozzarella and fresh basil were all excellent, but the crust was like cardboard. There was no chewiness at all and it was close to flavorless.
4/30 Origin India on Paradise. We were quickly seated and served house made papadum with mint and tamarind sauces. Our entrées were Fish Nigril – fish (sole/flounder) in a freshly prepared green sauce and Lamb Rajwari – boneless lamb cooked with Indian spices, tomatoes, yogurt and a taste of cashew. Our meals included a black lentil dipping sauce, basmati rice, a small unadorned salad and naan. For an extra fee we upgraded one portion to peshawari naan – stuffed with crushed nuts, raisins and cilantro. The peshawari naan was unbelievable, but we were disappointed by the quantity of fish in our entrée given the $21 menu price. We concluded the meal by ordering beet halwa for dessert which is prepared with grated beets, sugar, ghee, cashew nuts and cardamom powder – excellent. 3.5 Forks
05/01 We needed a little sustenance a lunch time so we drove over to Pho Kim Long on Spring Mountain Road and shared a very tasty order of goi cuon with spinach. 3 Forks
Le Golosita on Eastern. This restaurant has the same ownership as Zefferino’s at the Venetian though the menu is not nearly as ambitious and the pricing more friendly though hardly inexpensive. We shared the Le Golosita salad – watercress, radicchio, arugula, cherry tomatoes, olives and shrimp wrapped in prosciutto in vinaigrette. My wife's entrée was veal saltimbocca – veal scaloppini topped with sage and pancetta in a white wine sauce. I chose the branzino – 2 Mediterranean sea bass filets with white wine and capers. Each entrée included roasted potatoes and crisp green beans. 3 Forks
Before exiting we entered the adjoining bakery and taste tested several flavors of their homemade gelato before settling on a cup of pistachio. 4.5 Forks
05/02 Most of our breakfasts have been at buffets at Orleans or the Gold Coast, but today I stopped at Ronald's Donuts on Spring Mountain Road and brought back to the room 2 apple fritters. These were fresh and flavorful. 3 Forks
Lunch was at Faustos Mexican Grill on Horizon Ridge. Barrio food for the burbs. We shared a chile relleno burrito and large diet coke in addition to a complimentary salad mix of carrots and jalapenos. 3 Fork
R. E. Tapas on Silverado Ranch. This restaurant offers nontraditional tapas that we found to be superior to those served at either Café Ba Ba Reeba or Firefly. We enjoyed each of the following dishes: dates stuffed with blue cheese (3.5 Forks), quesadilla margarita (4 Forks), crab paddies (4.5 Forks), sautéed vegetables (2.5 Forks), seafood paella (3.5 Forks) and a trio (traditional, ginger, passion fruit) of crème brulee (5 Forks).
05/03 Village Pub on Eastern at Wigwam. At breakfast this morning my wife ordered 2 eggs, cottage fries and wheat toast while I opted for the French toast. Hers was very good, mine was overcooked. 2 Forks
Dinner was at the American Grill that occupies the space on Eastern that formerly housed Bonjour Bistro. A female jazz singer and a pianist were performing, but the music was way too loud and proved to be an irritation until it was finally toned down. The waiter delivered a bowl of salted edamame as an amuse bouche. We shared a very large organic spinach salad with raspberries, blue cheese, grape tomatoes, fresh orange segments and cashews in orange vinaigrette. My wife chose truffled macaroni and cheese while I settled for the pork tenderloin stuffed with goat cheese in a white wine sauce accompanied by roasted potatoes on cabbage. The size of my tenderloin was almost frightening and could easily have fed Robert Leach. 3.5 Forks
Dinner tonight was at the Oyster Bar at Sunset Station. My wife ordered etouffee with shrimp, lobster and crab while my entrée was Bouillabaisse with shrimp, crab, those dreaded green lip mussels and orange roughy. Neither dish was close to authentic, but both were good. 4 Forks
05/05 Dinner tonight was at Gaetano’s, a northern Italian restaurant on Eastern Avenue.
The owner’s son, Nick, was again our waiter, but the parents were not on the premises. We shared the evening’s special salad - arugula and fennel in a blood orange and lemon dressing. My wife's entrée was mezzelune di Vitello con Porcini - homemade half moon pasta filled with veal and served with peas, prosciutto and porcini mushrooms in a light cream sauce. I chose the evening’s special pasta – homemade wild mushroom ravioli in a mascarpone cream sauce. All three dishes were outstanding. 4.5 Forks
05/06 Our last dinner of this trip was at McCormick & Schmicks, but, though we had reservations, we ended up waiting 15 minutes for our requested booth. We declined the bread and shared a bountiful spinach salad with dried cranberries, carrots and fennel in a basil dressing. My wife ordered shrimp and crab cakes with a red pepper aioli sauce that was accompanied by mashed potatoes and steamed broccoli. I ordered thresher shark marinated in achiote with red pepper aioli and served over mashed potatoes and topped with corn succotash. Both dishes were excellent - 4.5 Forks
The fact that you went to Roberta's automatically qualfiies you as "cool" in my book. I've been there 3 or 4 times in my 16 years of visiting Vegas (I'm a New Yorker) and it's a real throwback...and way off the beaten path.
There are great food choices in Vegas, but I still haven't found a top notch Mexican that rivals the best in NYC...any hep here?
Anyway, thanks for your reviews. I'm going to Vegas on Sunday with the guys for a week (hooooray!!!!) and will have another look at your comments before I go.
A couple of recommends from me to you for your next trip...Pasta Shop, Grape Street Cafe, The Broiler (simple and surprisingly good at the Palace Station).
re: Dave Lazar
Gee, I think Las Vegas has better Mexican food than New York.
Some ideas for lunch: La Mexicana 3675 S. Decatur Blvd
at Twain or Mariana's Supermarket Lunch Counter at Valley View & Sahara.
For dinner, if you're willing to travel a little north, how about Viva Zapata's? http://www.chowhound.com/topics/502255
I haven't found any good Mexican on the Strip, but some people like Border Grill at Mandalay Bay, although it'll cost as much as a meal at all three of the above combined.
re: Dave Lazar
Dude... you need to visit either Southern California, Arizona or New Mexico for "top notch" Mexican food. I don't expect to get decent bagels in Las Vegas and I certainly don't expect to get good Mexican food in New York.
That being said, there's a dive downtown called El Sombrero that makes pretty good Mexican.
However, if you want the best Mexican food Las Vegas has to offer, you need to drive down East Lake Mead Blvd. in North Las Vegas. Way east of the I-15. You'll see all manner of Mexican joints where you'll have to point at photos because nobody speaks English. Great for a late night meal.
re: Dave Feldman
Ricardo's Mexican Restaurant - pedestrian
Lindo Michoacan Mexican Restaurant - Good but not my favorite cuisine
Viva Mercado's Mexican Restaurant & Cantina - Good gringo food. Love their soup.
Galerias Comida Mexicana - Almost in a league by itself.
El Jaliqillo - Now we're talking. And a couple of other dives along E. Lake Mead Blvd. whose names I can't remember nor probably pronounce.
re: Dave Lazar
Having grown up in San Diego, lived in LA for 10 years, and spent many vacations in Baja and mainland Mexico, I am more than a little shocked at the notion of trying to find Mexican food in Vegas that "rivals NYC" (really? REALLY? During my (short) time in NYC and New Jersey I failed to find even one decent Mexican restaurant).
Anyways, while I have yet to find anything that rivals the best of San Diego and LA, I really like "Bonito Michoacan" on Decatur just south of Spring Mountain. Large, varied menu and some really nice items one doesn't find on most Mexican menus. Not fine dining, but a delicious meal at a good price (most entrees hover around $10-$15). In particular, I have really enjoyed the Mole-based dishes, the Mojarra Frito al Ajo (whole deep-fried snapper), and the Lomo Estillo (3 thin pork chops in a very nice sauce). The only thing I haven't cared much for there was the flan (the flan itself is okay, but it is drizzled with chocolate sauce which is inappropriate and really destroyed the flan).
re: Dave Feldman
Dave - the breakfasts are typically buffets or places like Ellis Island or Village Pubs (same ownership) so anything above a 2.5 would be unlikely.
I have previously given a 4 to our breakfast at the Original Pancake House (Green Valley Ranch) and a 5 to Bouchon.
Regarding desserts -you may be right because we sought out specific desserts at Nothing Bundt, Le Golosita's gelato and Jerry's bread pudding. Other than R. E. Tapas creme brulee, the only other dessert ratings were at the Wynn buffet which were much lower.
Regarding restaurants - although I do a lot of research, I included several that we had not previously visited and first hand reports were either non existent or very limited such as American Grill, R. E. Tapas, Oyster Bar and Le Golosita.
woopdido - we have been vacationing in Las Vegas for the past 30 years and since my retirement in 1998 we have going 3 times per year for 2 weeks at a time. We no longer enjoy the Strip so we stay at locals casinos and dine primarily at non tourist restaurants. I posted a trip report at the following website which details how we spend our days and nights:
Wow. You sure can write! Ha ha. I'll look over your report when I have a little more time. I still enjoy the strip, but like I mentioned before, I can only handle it for 3 or 4 days at a time. What you say makes perfect sense and I can see not getting sensory overload if you son't spend much, if any, time on the strip during your 2 weeks.
Thanks so much for all your reviews! You ate at places so close to me, and have been wanting to try, like Le Golosita, R.E. Tapas and Gaetano's. (i'm about 2 blocks from R.E.) I've been really curious to try the Himaylan place on Flamingo to boot.
I'm going to try out R.E later today, thanks to your heads-up! (and here I was, wanting Carrabas!! Hey, i've never been there, either!)
Again, many thanks
Nice reviews. I go to Vegas all the time but almost always stay on the strip so I haven't heard of a lot of those.
One quick question though. What did you do in Vegas for 2 weeks? Were you visiting friends/relatives? Like I said, I go to Vegas often (probably once a year at least) but can never stay for more than 3 or possibly 4 days at the most. I just get overloaded. I know there are so many things to do in that town, especially if you've never been there before, but 2 weeks there would probably cause me to go insane.