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1st Vegas Trip: need some advice

Heading up to Vegas in October for a friend's birthday. We are looking for a good spot for a birthday dinner for friends who are on somewhat of a budget but still consider themselves connoisseurs. They like a to have a few cocktails and good food....we are all in our mid 30's so we are not looking for a hipster club....Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

My husband and I, however are leaning towards Alex for our private meal while in town. Is that good choice for a first visit? If not, what would you recommend. Money is no object but we are very particular about our food/wine (and cheese!). We don't want to follow a 'name' and be disappointed with food/wine/service.

Gosh, I sound like a snob.....

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  1. For your private meal I recomend Aureole at Mandalay Bay. I had my most memorable dinner experience ever at that place on my honeymoon. Everything was perfect. Great appetizers, great salads, great steaks, great deserts. Fantastic wine!

    1 Reply
    1. re: jpc8015

      I think Aureole gets very mixed reviews. My pick is Picasso.

    2. If money is no object, then I would highly recommend either Alex or Guy Savoy. If you're really into cheese, then Guy Savoy might be your best bet. Their cheese cart is absolutely over-the-top and includes many cheeses that I have never seen, tasted or smelled (!) before.

      Here is a link to a review I wrote of both Alex and Guy Savoy. http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/530071

      Note that, in hindsight, I have come to believe that our experience at Alex was a bit of an anomoly. It is almost universally adored and respected and I will definitely dine there again when I back in Vegas.

      1 Reply
      1. re: ejs1492

        after reading the first paragraph of your previous post....you and your wife must be our southwestern doppelgangers.....you just described me and Simon!!!! NOt big gamblers or show folks....we are eating and drinking folks. We enjoy a good backyard BBQ as much as a fine dining experience! Thanks for the link to the post, EJS.

      2. I'll be dining at Alex, MiX, and Le Cirque this week. I will post a review here on the boards and in my blog regarding the new tasting menu at Alex. :-)

        That said, I imagine you can't go wrong with Alex, Robuchon, or Savoy.

        As for the cocktails and birthday, Thomas Keller is never a bad pick.

        1. How much money per person are you looking to spend for the birthday dinner? Also, is off the Strip ok (as long as you have a car)?

          1 Reply
          1. re: Eric

            $200/person for dinner is what I assume would be their cutoff...but I could be undershooting it if ETOH is included. We would like to stay on Strip. Folks are flying in and coming straight to the hotel. We will be the only couple with a car. Walking distance is preferred.

          2. I think Alex is a great choice for a private dinner. For the Birthday, I've heard awsome things about N9NE steakhouse at the Palms and really fits hip and trendy and heard there cocktails are fun!

            1. Went to Alex. It was nice...but I was not overly impressed with the food. It was good...but nothing WOWED me....the rest of Vegas was "ehh"....I eat better here in town. The ambiance and service of Alex was wonderful...impeccable really....it's just I think the food was way over priced for what it was....doubt we will ever go back to Vegas again. It's way over-rated. And Bouchon....I've had better bread and breakfast here in town....or from my own kitchen for that matter.

              15 Replies
              1. re: CheesemongersWife

                Where else did you go? And is the "here in town" you refer to Phoenix? I'm just curious how long you spent in Vegas and what selection of restaurants you visited to make your judgment.

                1. re: Dave Feldman

                  We arrived Friday night and had drinks and a cheese platter at our hotel (Trump). The cheese platter was excellent...as were the drinks. However, the service at Trump was atrocious and continued to be until we departed on Sunday. Friday night we dined at Alex. Said my two cents in the previous post. Next was Bouchon...then for lunch it was Olives at the Bellagio. Service was poor and the food was again...pedestrian at best. Nothing that wasn't to be expected. Dinner was at Mon Ami Gabi (not by my choice) and that was just a HUGE cluster f*ck. Horrible space, too loud, cramped...the keep the wine in the dining room along the walls facing the casino....I guess they didn't care about their wine. The reds were waaay too warm and I had to have them chilled before we could drink them. The steaks were chewy and greasy...service was sporadic. Then brunch at Paris and was good...but I'm not into brunches and the crowds drove me nuts. I couldn't stand the casinos and was absolutely ASTOUNDED at the amount of children in "Sin City". Blew my mind to see a stroller at the roulette wheel....the stench of the fake/perfumed air they pump into the places made my sick....I just don't like the place. No other way to look at it. It was a chance for us to meet up with some friends who were going there and we were close enough to drive up there and spend some time with them. I guess never having been there I had grandiose ideals of what it would be like....more panache and elegance. I was wrong....but, I will say that Alex was the highlight....I just had a hard time with the price point for what I got. And yes....I mean PHX/Scottsdale when I say "here in town". If I could have had Kevin Binkley cook my food at Alex it would have been worth the money. It's just not my scene I guess.

                  The high point!....Valley Wine and Cheese...just outside town in Henderson...what a proper cheese shop should be....maybe one day we'll get one here....until then...I'll keep going to Henderson for my Sally Jackson goat cheese and my Delice de Pommard!

                  1. re: CheesemongersWife

                    If you do come back to Las Vegas, I hope you do explore more than just the strip. You've essentially done the equivalent of going to New York and visiting Times Square. True, there is a concentration of expensive restaurants on the Strip (some good, some not so good). Only a small percentage of Las Vegans spend much time on the strip. Las Vegas has seen an influx of people from all over the world,and to me that makes for an exciting food scene, but I understand -- Las Vegas is clearly not for everyone.

                    1. re: Dave Feldman

                      We have two very good friends that live in Henderson and plan on coming back to spend time with them and see the other part of Las Vegas. A city like that can't be judged on one tourist trap alone....I understand that...but because the strip is the area's big selling point and the one they choose to flaunt and tout....I was hoping for better.

                      1. re: Dave Feldman

                        side point: we did get a tip on a small, Thai restaurant that is purported to be the best in the states....looking forward to going back up and trying that place.!

                        1. re: CheesemongersWife

                          Right. Lotus of Siam. Not exactly a secret...there are about a million threads on it here. Search for LOS. Food and wine are excellent. Ambiance is mini-mall.

                      2. re: CheesemongersWife

                        WOW! It does sound like you had a terrible time.

                        I do have to question though that after SO many people have had such wonderful experiences at most all of the places you tried, how is it that your experience was on the complete opposite end of the spectrum.?

                        1. re: aztami

                          Not sure. I have very high expectations of places and figure that every meal I eat should be held to high expectations. I have eaten all over the world and have had many memorable meals...maybe I was just unlucky....maybe I'm just too picky.

                          Good is fine for a casual, inexpensive lunch...but with the prices they are charging...it should have been spectacular....and it wasn't. I have been blessd with many good friends as chefs and may have just become accustomed to spectacular vs. good.

                          1. re: aztami

                            and I never said Alex wasn't good...it was....actually the highlight of Vegas for us compared to the rest....just wanted more innovative cuisine.

                            1. re: CheesemongersWife

                              CheesemongersWife.....next Vegas trip you must try Vintner Grill in Summerlin. They offer one of the most unique and varied cheese selections in town paired w/ different wines and chocolates (on the dessert menu.)
                              When you arrive they present you w/ a clip board of cheeses you select by the slice...and you pay accordingly to what you select......
                              It is unlike anything I have found in the Valley (Phx/Scotttsdale)...I have the opportunity to travel between Vegas and Scottsdale every 6 weeks for work..... Vintner Grill has to be one of my most favorite/eclectic/unique dining experiences to date......
                              I hope you get an opportunity to experience it...as it is comparable and yet different to Binkley's in Cave Creek......


                              1. re: ciaogal

                                that sounds great. my husband is actually a cheesemonger and we are always looking for good cheese across the us. The Trump cheese platter was actually really good.....but I can't wait to check out Vinter Grill! Thanks for the tip!

                                As for cheese in the valley..well....it's hard to come by.

                                1. re: CheesemongersWife

                                  CheesemongersWife....I enjoy your posts and finds in our fair city.....(Scottsdale/Phx) My SO's parent's have a Horse ranch in Carefree....we are always looking for a new dining experience in the 'hood!

                                  1. re: ciaogal

                                    well, yesterday I fell in love with Zinc Bistro. I have a blog post about it coming up....just loved it.

                            2. re: aztami

                              I do not think, in general, you hear good things about Olives or Mon Ami Gabi .

                              There is also no way that a child in a stroller is allowed to be parked for more than a minute in the casino area. (I do note you said stroller, but didn't mention if there was a child in it.) If there was a quick mention to any casino employee would have gotten them moved. I have certainly seen a lot of children in LV, and they are allowed to pass by on the aisles, but not stop--especially in the casino area. The notion of "Sin City" is not a phrase that Las Vegas uses. It is a major tourist destination with more kids than in the 60' and 70's, but less than in the 80's to 90's.