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5 nights in Vegas - please help w/ steak, Japanese (sushi & omakase), Italian, Chinese and fine dining

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I will be in Vegas for 5 nights and I would be grateful for assistance/recommendations for the following:

1) I would like to find the best dry aged beef in town. Sure I like good sides and a decent atmosphere, but my primary focus is on the quality of the beef. My initial thoughts are Craftsteak and Carnevino. Any thoughts and am I missing something better?

2) As far as Japanese food goes, I want to find the place with the freshest, best quality seafood . . . that simple. Sen of Japan? Okada? Shibuya? Or something else? I've been to Nobu in both NY and Vegas so I would like to try something else.

But I might also want a wonderful omakase meal separate from the sushi. Would you go to Sen, Raku, Shibuya or elsewhere?

3) For French bistro, I'm thinking Bouchon. Good choice or DB Brasserie or elsewhere? And is it worth sampling at Guy Savoy's Bubble Bar -- can you have an enjoyable meal there?

4) I'm looking for the best fine dining experience I could have, and have been looking at Joel Rubuchon, but I'm thinking I might prefer L'Atelier de Joel Rubuchon because I prefer a more contemporary dining experience. Is this a mistake? And are there better options in town?

To give you a better idea of my likes, I'm more willing to spend big bucks for a more creative dining experience, along the lines of an Alinea/Moto/Schwa in Chicago (i.e., the trend toward molecular gastronomy). Is there a place in Las Vegas where I can find something along these lines and be wowed by the quality of the food, not merely its appearance?

5) Is Origin of India that good, or is it just good for Las Vegas? And if you highly recommend it, what dishes in particular stood out for you? I'm probably also going to return to Lotus of Siam because I enjoyed it so much on two previous visits.

6) Italian - Enoteca San Marco? B&B Ristorante? I'm leaning towards the more casual Enoteca unless you choose to steer me to another restaurant altogether. I've read mixed reviews of both so I'm curious to hear what you guys say, and if there's a place I'm just not thinking of which would be a better choice. Overall, I love salumi and often small plates when it comes to Italian food.

7) Chinese - authentic . . . can be Cantonese, Szechuan, Hunan . . . love it all. Can be a hole in the wall or it can be on the strip. Maybe some great roast duck? Maybe some Xiao Long Bao if there's a good version? Maybe something fiery? Also maybe some dim sum? And any thoughts concerning Orchid's Garden, Cathay House, Chang's Hong Kong, Sam Woo BBQ, Joyful House, Food Express? And if I want Chinese on the strip, what are the best options (cheap and pricey)?

I know this is a lot to ask but I appreciate any recommendations and with respect to one or more of the above questions. Thanks in advance for your thoughts.

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  1. Bouchon is a excellent choice for french bistro. Love everything about the restaurant. Guy Savoys Bubble Bar is more of a pre-dinner or post-diner snack. I was even told by them that many of the Chefs in Las Vegas usually come there for a late night snack. I enjoyed it very much but portions are "MINI" bites. Its a great way to taste the great chefs dishes without spending a fortune. For Italian I can really help you there but I to will be in Las Vegas next month and choosing Fiamma at MGM for my italian as I've heard nothing but awsome reviews about it. L'Atelier is a cool experience just because you get to watch them make some AMAZING dishes and everyone is very nice. Okada gets great reviews for jabanese and Restaurant Charlie is a restaurant you might want to check out as they have some unique dishes that I have yet seen from ANY restaurant.

    2 Replies
    1. re: cgervais45

      Thanks for the clue about Fiamma. I had not thought about it, but after you mentioned it I searched and located much praise. That might be a good option.

      And thanks for the info on Bubble Bar . . . I'll probably keep it in mind for a late night snack.

      1. re: BRB

        My last meal of the trip was a quick dinner at Enoteca San Marco and I came away generally impressed. A caprese salad was good, nothing unusual, and offered a decent but unremarkable mozzarella. But I was very impressed with my pizza - arugula, prosciutto, mozzarella and tomato sauce. The sauce was very good and the overall ratio of ingredients to one another, and to crust, was perfect. The crust itself was very thin, very crispy (not cracker-like though) and offered beautifully charred portions underneath. There's no wood burning oven at work here but the crust was still very good. For dessert, "pumpkin cheesecake" which was pumpkin gelato, cheesecake gelato and a homemade graham cracker. The flavor of the pumpkin gelato was terrific with the perfect ratio of spice to pumpkin, although there were a few too many ice crystals for my liking. Overall, the dessert was very good although the $12 price tag was steep, even considering the generous portion.

        Otherwise, enjoyed some pretty good dim sum at Cathay House, and took in both the Wynn and Paris buffets for breakfast/brunch (both good but the pastries at the Paris buffet won me over).

        Thanks again to all for the suggestions.

    2. chinese - for spice yun nan / yunnan garden - on schiff ( basically an alley just west of spring mtn ) has an interesting cafeteria style appetizer selection - the kinda stuff for the adventrurous eater. for selection and decent food but crappy service - joyful house. gf and i still prefer orchid's for dim sum but haven't been to cathay house since new ownership/mgt . we are no longer fans of chang's which is a bummer since it's close to our condo. not a fan of sam woo but there is a place below ichiza on spring mtn that has some decent duck dishes ( the name escapes me )

      happy eating !!

      6 Replies
      1. re: kjs

        Thanks for all of the insight. . . very helpful. Is this the website for Yunnan Garden? http://www.yunnangarden.com.sg/index.php If so, it sounds like it's right up my alley.

        1. re: BRB

          not sure the website is affiliated with the las vegas location - my guess, no.

          definitely look at sen of japan for the sushi / omakase - it's my fav of the non- strip sushi restaurants - they have a $55/person and an $85/person omakase option.

          also on my radar - Raku - not because of this review, but a fellow local foodie who's opinion i value, recommended it - i'm hoping to hit it this week


          happy eating

          1. re: kjs

            Interesting u mention Raku. I asked one of the chef's (Sean) @ Bar Charlie what his absolute favorite restaurant in Las Vegas was and without hesitation Raku was his answer. I have never been but from what I understand just pure Japanese dishes executed flawlessly. DO NOT EXPECT generic sushi bar-type of restaurant though.

            1. re: LVI

              I hit raku 2 weeks ago - AMAZING ! Low key, non-descript place, but the food : lamb chops, pork belly, pork ears, bacon-wrapped asparagus, couldn't get my roomie to share in the foie gras dishes, blue crab miso, rice cakes, the stuffed mushrooms, the noodles - all good ( exceptioon: the pork ears did not impress either of us )

              relatively cheap - the sapporo draft beer !!

              1. re: kjs

                Not at all happy w/myself as after Sean told us about Raku and we dicided to go to L'Atelier w/our planned reservation. When a chef that talented tells you his absolute favorite restaurant is a place like this, you sould make every attempt to go. Good news is I am returning in March (much to the chagrin of my wife!). KJS, how expensive is Raku?

                1. re: kjs

                  mmmm . . . lots o' pork . . . belly, ears (I would like this) . . . I wish I could have substituted this for L'Atelier. Oh well. I'll keep this in mind for my next visit. Thanks for sharing.

        2. I do think Origin of India is worth a visit....Its unique compared to a lot of Indian restaurants....upscale ambiance but some different dishes. I've enjoyed it a lot the times I've eaten there. The beet halwa is a must-have.

          1. Contemporary and fine, I really don't think there is anyplace that will top Alex. The food, the atmosphere, the service.......sublime. If you were looking more traditional, Le Cirque was above and beyond anything I expected.

            I second Bouchon......after 4 days in Vegas with 2 meals at Bouchon and 4 visits to Bouchon Bakery I can officially say there is nothing that Keller or his staff does less than top notch.

            1 Reply
            1. re: uhockey

              3rd for Bouchon

              I went to Bouchon LV this week for the first time & I can't wait to return.

            2. From reading the replies, I guess Bouchon is a definite and thanks to everyone for the additional recommendations. I've got some time before my trip so I'll wait to see what other ideas people have.

              1. I stayed at MGM and walked by Fiamma multiple times. Like many other Vegas outposts, it is a knockoff of a New York establishment. As Il Mulino in NYC is better then Fiamma in NYC, I'd venture that Il Mulino Vegas is better than Fiamma Vegas. IMO, if you've not been to Babbo, then B+B is a CLEAR choice for great Italian in Vegas.

                I've heard some people complain about the music at B+B......well, Babbo is the same and the place is booked solid every night of the week. The foods are 90% the same, as well.

                If you're looking for swanky Italian, Circo looks like a beautiful choice as well.

                7 Replies
                1. re: uhockey

                  Uhockey, I don't necessarily agree with your logic, not sure it applies in every situation when it comes to Vegas. I haven't read anything particularly decent here about Il Mulino, at least that I can recall, since it opened. I haven't eaten there. I have eaten at Fiamma three times and at B&B twice (and once at Enoteca San Marco for a casual lunch but that's a different story). We enjoyed B&B both times although we experienced some oversalting issues, which seems to be a pretty common complaint. We went to Babbo a few months ago (after both our visits to B&B) and Babbo simply blew B&B away on every level. We liked Lupa better too, actually, on a prior trip to NY. Il Mulino is very pricey compared to Fiamma, if my memory serves me correctly. I wouldn't rule out another visit to B&B. I keep meaning to get back to Circo since we'd enjoyed it quite a lot on a few visits but those were some years ago.

                  1. re: uhockey

                    I don't think the consensus would be that Il Mulino is superior to Fiamma. But my point is that since Fabio Trabocchi took over the kitchen at Fiamma NYC, the cuisine is quite different from the Las Vegas branch (I have not been to Il Mulino or Fiamma in Las Vegas).

                    1. re: uhockey

                      Thanks for the sound advice and for your extensive reviews of other restaurants (just read your review of Alex which is certainly making me want to give it a shot). I think B&B is a likely choice too. I understand you didn't love Craftsteak, but have you heard much about Mario Batali's new steakhouse Carnevino? Sounds interesting, but I've read very little about it.

                      And of the places you've tried, what do you find to be the most creative in terms of ingredients, preparations?

                      1. re: BRB

                        Carnevino pissed me off......they say they're open for lunch on their website when, in fact, they are not. I don't really dig steak, but I wanted to try the sweetbreads and pastas.

                        Craftsteak.....I'll write the review later......they just didn't do things right.....but in followup they admit their mistake and wish to make ammends (too bad I only make it to Vegas once a year.)

                        Of the places I went, I found Alex to be the most creative by far, but certain dishes at each place were mindblowing.

                        In terms of food I have a VERY hard time choosing between Alex, Le Cirque, and MiX.

                        1. re: uhockey

                          Uhockey - Interesting about craftsteak - we almost went there instead of N9ne last week - but table/time wise N9ne was working out better for our large party. Looking forward to your review.

                          1. re: St Paul Susie

                            The food was incredible.....the service was pretty horrid. Review will be done probably this weekend.

                      2. re: uhockey

                        Historically I have enjoyed eating at Circo in Bellagio. There is something about it that always seems extra scrubbed and immaculate. The setting is lovely, overlooking the Bellagio fountains.

                        Unfortunately, it has really gone downhill. That isn’t to say the food is terrible; it just is not up to the price tag, or comparable to other great Italian restaurants in Las Vegas.

                        They used to have a duck pasta to die, but it is no longer on the menu. No problem. But when asked why, the waitress said that it is a heavy dish and they take it off for the summer. I guess she doesn’t know that Christmas is winter. That speaks to her ineptitude though, not the food. The salmon was bad, and the tuna tartar was marginal at best.

                        The real problem with the dinner was the service. They have lost some fine staff and it really shows. I don’t know the reason, nor it is not my issue. Our server was awful. I guess she thought since she worked in a casino it was OK to bluff.

                        She did not know the menu well, and was totally unpolished. The service was incredibly slow. I had to ask three times for the check and then she brought the check for the party next to us. Furthermore, they had confirmed a window table for us, but did not honor.

                        You would think in this economy, and with the restaurant extremely empty, they would at least try to act as if they care.

                        Barry Shulman

                      3. For fine dining I'd go for Joel Robuchon, but it's not a contemporary dining experience - it's truly fine dining. Yowza good. Be warned though - the mark up on the wine list is shocking.

                        Bouchon is marvelous - don't miss the salmon rillettes.

                        I really liked B & B when we were there last October, and in about 4 weeks we'll be there again. I know it's gotten good and bad reviews on CH but I had no complaints. The Mint Lamb purses are so good and I'm still thinking about the little donuts with the chocolate...

                        Here's the link to that post : http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/453027

                        Have a great time in Vegas!

                        1. Cathay House for the best dim sum in Vegas
                          Champion Noodle House on Spring Mtn Rd for Taiwanese style soup noodles and hot pot
                          Food Express has excellent Cantonese for cheap
                          KJ Kitchen on Spring Mtn for Cantonese (I think they're better than Food Express)
                          Can't tell you about any Chinese on the strip b/c all the Chinese locals hit the Spring Mtn Rd area.

                          1. So I've definitely settled on the following for dinners: Bouchon, L'Atelier de JR and Lotus.

                            For one of my other two dinners, I definitely want omakase and sushi, and I was just bumping this for any additional comments. Any more thoughts?

                            Then for my last dinner, I'll decide between B&B, Mix and Alex . . . partially dependent upon how much my dining companions are willing to spend . . . Alex if $$$ are not an issue.

                            I'll probably do dim sum for one lunch. Planning on Origin India for another lunch. But I'm also curious what people would recommend as far as Asian noodles on the strip.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: BRB

                              Noodles at Bellagio isn't too bad for on the Strip. They're also open late.

                            2. I just wrote this in another thread where someone was asking about eating in Vegas. I live here in Vegas. I have tried many, many of the Italian restaurants in town. The best is Bootleggers by a landslide. It's on Las Vegas Blvd but not on the Strip and not in a casino. Do a Google on it to find it. TRUST ME! The restaurants in Vegas are not all on the Strip inside casinos.

                              7 Replies
                              1. re: Illuminatus

                                Illuminatus would you rate the atmosphere or the food at Bootleggers as the best by a landslide. I might agree on flair and all, but food? For a "Vegas Italian" experience, I'd rather recommend Piero's over Bootleggers?

                                1. re: worldwidestuff

                                  Can anyone explain why they like Bouchon so much? We have reservations for our upcoming trip, but the menu seems like standard French bistro/brasserie fare. What does Keller do that makes this place so fantastic? I've been to hundreds of bistros with the exact same menu and as good as one is, they're all on par.

                                  BTW, we have a dinner reservation, not breakfast. Any insight would be great.

                                  1. re: grimaldi

                                    Isn't the whole point of a bistro to serve reliable, relatively simple meals? I don't know whether the Bouchons were developed because of a genuine fondness for bistro foods, or because Keller wanted to develop something much more easily replicable than Per Se/French Laundry. I guess I don't agree with the premise of your statement -- in my experience, there is a gigantic gap between superior and inferior bistros/brasseries. If you expect avant garde bistro fare, whatever that is, you won't find it at Bouchon.

                                    I haven't eaten at Bouchon at dinner, so I can't comment about that, but there have been scads of posts about it.

                                    1. re: grimaldi

                                      Bouchon isn't standard French bistro/brasserie fare in any way.
                                      Here's what I wrote last year:

                                      "Bouchon : We had the Terrine de Fois Gras Canard and Rillettes aux deux saumons – fresh and smoked salmon rillettes. Of the two the Salmon was my favorite far and away and I love pate. It was light and fresh and amazing.
                                      Salade Maraichere au chevre chaud - salad with warm goat cheese.
                                      Gigot d’Agneau – slices of lamb leg with polenta and summer squash - the lamb was a bit rare for my tastes but Mr CF is always willing to help me out so it was all good. The sauce with this was absolutely incredible, I used my bread to soak it up, I was not going to let that go to waste!
                                      3 cheeses w/honeycomb - I don't know what the cheeses were, they were all good. So good that since we were finishing with them I wasn't interested in dessert. Our waiter brought us Profiteroles and little chocolate cakes w/ice cream anyway - a sweet thing to do."

                                      Last night at dinner Mr CF and I were talking about Bouchon, specifically the salmon rillettes and the lamb - these were amazing. If we're still talking about a dinner we had a year ago, amazing might not be a descriptive enough word.

                                      We have reservations for next Thursday - I can hardly wait.

                                      1. re: Cookiefiend

                                        People who come to Bouchon Bistro thinking there going to have a meal like they would at Per Se or French Laundry will be VERY disapointed as Keller didn;t open Bouchon Bistro for it to be compared to the likes of those great restaurants but for people to enjoy a great bistro without having to leave the country. I have eaten there for both breakfast and dinner and enjoyed my meals VERY much.

                                      2. re: grimaldi

                                        That question made me think about my own likes about this place. It is a well phrased question actually.
                                        Being from Europe, maybe this place was the closest in character inside the US? I ate @ bouchon numerous times and never came away disappointed.
                                        I am a casual eater, so once in a while we would just drop in and dine at the Bar.
                                        I really think it is the whole package. especially if you reside in Vegas.

                                        1. re: worldwidestuff

                                          Last night was my first meal of the trip. We dined at Bouchon. Overall, a good not great French bistro experience. The meal started with an excellent loaf of French bread delivered to the table . . . as good and crusty as one could hope for. My carrot soup w/ pecan creme fraiche (a special) was excellent . . . light, creamy, and the pecan creme fraiche added a nice touch. My companion ordered a salad which I cannot recall except that the vinaigrette was outstanding but the portion size was inexcusably small. My main course, the roasted chicken, was both good and not so good. The Keller roasting method delivered a beautifully moist bird with a perfectly crisp skin. However, the bird was slightly under-seasoned and under-salted. On the other hand, my pommes frites (a side) were way too salty. This was too bad because otherwise they delivered a perfect flavor. No question in my mind that the cooking method involved beef tallow, a major plus in my book. And the texture of the frites was also excellent. Service was very nice. As for atmosphere, I guess you cannot find a true French bistro atmosphere in Vegas -- the land of the big and gaudy, and not the land of the quaint bistro -- but oh well. All in all, a good meal but it did not deliver the perfection one would hope for from a Thomas Keller restaurant. Nonetheless, a pretty good start to my trip. Tonight, it looks like Shibuya at the MGM Grand . . . so more to follow.

                                  2. Shibuya was dinner #2, and it was both outstanding and disappointing at the same time. Let me start with the decor. Sharp! Modern, striking, beautiful wood decor, black floors, sexy lighting (ok, the tables look cheap, but no big deal). But how about the food?

                                    Well, a starter of yellowtail with shichimi pepper, yuzu juice and a garlic-ginger soy offered a beautiful piece of fish with a delightful combination of salty sweet soy and a little salty & sweet pepper and yuzu. Even better was the whitefish with a miso yuzu emulsion, bits of crunchy rice and black Hawaiian salt. Again, a beautiful piece of fish served at room temperature, a perfect balance of salty-sweet, and the textural contrast offered by the crunch rice finished this dish perfectly.

                                    My lobster miso soup was also very tasty. There were maybe a handful of chunks of lobster in the soup, and while the miso soup was not the best vessel in my opinion for the lobster, the soup was still very nice.

                                    Easily the best part of the night was the Kurobuta pork.crisp which was six pieces of braised pork, each chunk inside of a spring roll skin, deep fried (presumably) and open on the ends (thus served maki-style), topped with a perfectly seared tofu, a nihon glaze (seemed like a soy sauce glaze variation) and also served what I assume was a sriracha sauce. I can hardly describe just how good this dish was. But if you are as big a fan of pork as I am (especially Kurobuta, but also bacon, belly, spare ribs, you name it), you owe it to yourself to try this dish . . . maybe the best pork dish I have ever tried.

                                    From the sound of my review, you'd think I loved this place. Well, not completely. We also ordered a dragon roll and a rainbow roll. These were downright disappointing . . . fish not all that well cut, rice not holding together, and the flavors were just not that impressive. This is the kind of maki people "settle for" when they want a cheap night out. When I told the waiter how we thought everything was very impressive except for the maki, he agreed that maki is not their strong point. Why didn't he tell us this when we were ordering. Oh well. I'm guessing whatever issues they have with maki don't necessarily affect nigiri since my two cold starters offered excellent pieces of fish, but I don't know for sure.

                                    But with the exception of the maki, my meal at Shibuya was stellar and I'd be excited to return and try more items (and another order of the pork). Just avoid the maki.

                                    1. Sadly, L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon was just not what I expected it to be. Good? Yes, but not much more. Let me start by saying I love the decor . . . sharp, sharp, sharp! And getting to sit at the bar and watch the kitchen work was pure entertainment.

                                      As for flavors, the meal (discovery tasting menu - $148 - for me, a la carte for my companion) started on a good note. A foie gras parfait with port wine and parmesan foam was pure delight. This gave me high hopes.

                                      The next course, a langoustine carpaccio with a roasted poppy seed dressing simply lacked imagination. The fish was nice, but the dish just seemed to lack imagination or special flavor. On the other hand, my companion's fresh anchovies with eggplant confit and what I believe was a basil pesto was stunning on the both the plate and the palate. This was perfection.

                                      My next course, quail egg on confit peppers supposedly contained Iberico ham, but the ham was not noticeable. Worse, the flavors and textures were not memorable in any respect.

                                      The meal followed with poached oysters, creamy pumpkin soup with chestnuts, sea bass on baby leek salad . . . all of which were fine (the pumpkin soup the best of the bunch), but all of which did not showcase the talent I expected to find in the kitchen.

                                      But then came the quail stuffed with foie gras, served with truffle mashed potatoes. The quail was beautiful - perfectly cooked, wonderful flavors. The mashed potatoes here were beautifully rich and buttery, but did not deliver as much of the truffle flavor as I hoped for.

                                      My companion had the burger with foie gras which was very nice, but unreasonably priced at $32. An equally good, if not better, version can be found in Chicago at Sweets & Savories for $17. The real problem with the dish were the crinkle fries which were no better than what you'd find in an Ore-Ida bag. Oh well . . . but don't get me wrong. The burger itself was cooked perfectly and the foie gras addition was great.

                                      Desserts were also ok, nothing special. The dessert called Pomme tasted less of apple and more of the lemon creme brulee which overwhelmed the apple flavors.

                                      Service was relaxed, excellent and friendly. The only negative was the cold hostess who took several minutes to even appear, and saw no issue with telling you to wander the casino for a while since your reserved table was not yet ready. But other than her, service was outstanding.

                                      So overall, I'd say L'Atelier was a good meal, but greatly disappointing in terms of my expectations. I actually preferred what I was served at Shibuya. I just found that L'Atelier did not really do anything texturally with the food to excite me, and the flavors did not show off what I assume (maybe incorrectly) was a lot of skill in the kitchen.

                                      On another note, never made it to Lotus of Siam as the wait was more than an hour (no reservation) and I had a show to get to.

                                      2 Replies
                                      1. re: BRB

                                        It's too bad you didn't enjoy LDJR more. We dined at the location in NYC and had a fantastic experience. Ironically, because of our wonderful time there, we will not go to the one in LV. I don't think it would live up to our expectations and there are just too many restos in LV to try before we start duplicating any. I'm from Chicago as well, and I'm thoroughly enjoying your references and comparisons to our local elite. Keep it up!

                                        1. re: BRB

                                          I was also disappointed at L'Atelier when I dined there in the summer. I'd like to try JR next time to see if it deserves the three Michelin stars.