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Four Days in Vegas: Twelve Meals, Eleven different restaurants reviewed.

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Four days in Las Vegas for someone who doesn't like to gamble and doesn't drink alcohol? Darn right, Vegas has something for everyone and for myself from 09/24/08 - 09/27/08 that was the Olympia, the Los Angeles Kings, and quite a few Michelin Stars.

Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner x 4 days equals 12 chances to experience the city's best and only one meal wasn't my choice. I'll use this thread to post the long reviews which will be posted complete with pictures of every item over at http://uhockey.blogspot.com/

09/24 - Payard / Delmonico / Le Cirque Tasting Menu
09/25 - Bouchon (special request Gnocchi for breakfast) / Table 10 / MiX Grand Ducasse Tasting
09/26 - Tableau / Burger Bar / Alex 'VIP upgrade' Prix Fixe
09/27 - Bouchon Brunch / Sensi / Craftsteak Tasting Menu

I will update as I complete reviews.

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  1. Can't wait to hear them. Changed my trip for next month so I can see the brillant Elton John perform so I'm starting to make my reservations now and want to see how your trip was before I make all of them.

    1. I'm anxiously awaiting your reviews uhockey. I am quite intrigued to hear about this VIP Prix Fixe at Alex. Looks like you really did it up on this trip. I don't gamble either, but I am a fine wine lover which Vegas is also great for (at a significant cost).

      Good luck on the boards. I happen to be studying right now (can't you tell?)

      1 Reply
      1. re: climberdoc

        I anxiously await your reviews--especially Alex (since it's my favorite--didn't know about the VIP upgrade).

      2. 09/24/08 Breakfast at Payard:
        http://uhockey.blogspot.com/2008/09/p...

        Tucked away in the corner of Caesars Palace it is no wonder that many people do not even realize Payard exists, let alone the fact that it serves up some of the most delectable breakfast items in Vegas. Known for his New York Outpost, Payard himself is rarely found at this location (unlike Jean-Philippe over at the Bellagio) but the shop, scene, and food are no less impressive.

        Arriving in Vegas around 8am local time after a non-stop flight, I got checked in and made my way to Payard by 10:05 for breakfast. Though the all-you-can-eat continental buffet was still ongoing, I first stopped in the Patisserie to browse chocolate and dessert selections, and to pick up some candies for my mother and aunt. While everything was beautiful and the crepes appeared wonderful, the prices were decidedly even worse than Jean Phillipe and the selection less impressive. After making my purchase I made my way next door for breakfast.

        Seating was readily available and the friendly attendant/waitress seated me near a window next to two rather crude foreign businessmen who preceded to discuss their sex lives quite loudly in public. Though the waitress once asked them to keep it down, it did not really help. So much for class.....thankfully they were easy to ignore as I watched the chef perform his craft at the wide open kitchen station in the middle of the restaurant.

        Coffee was pretty standard fare and was served quickly and refilled mostly adequately (I was empty for a good 5 minutes between cups 2 and 3) despite there being multiple servers who appeared to be standing around chatting amongst themselves. For breakfast I opted for the Almond Croissant and the Payard Chocolate Waffles with Nutella and Caramelized Bananas.

        Served first, the Croissant was heavenly with a buttery crisp crust surrounding a flawlessly fluffy center stuffed (and I mean jam packed) with almond compote. Sweet yet savory, this was and still is the best Croissant I've ever tasted in terms of texture and second best in terms of taste (sorry, the Almond Chocolate Croissant at Bouchon is a revelation.

        )

        My second dish was the Waffles and all I can do is be amazed. Small yet incredibly decadent, the portion was just right.....any more and I'd have been overly full. The waffles were soft and fluffy (unlike the super-crisp chocolate waffles at Norma's NYC) while the Bananas were perfectly sweet and succulent. The Nutella was more than ample, as well. All said, a beautiful and tasty dish that I'd certainly recommend.

        My only complaint aside from my co-diners and the coffee would be the fact that everything felt quite rushed....my whole meal lasting a mere 40 minutes and check delivered without asking if there was anything else I wanted. My server only visited the table when delivering an item or to collect the bill and the to-go coffee I was promised was never delivered. All told, fantastic food in a so-so environment with so-so service. High prices, but absolutely worth it, and a breakfast that would be "best of" in many other cities.

        2 Replies
        1. re: uhockey

          So far so good. I remember Payard's shop but must have missed the restaurant while I was down there. Might be worth the extra hour of cardio to have them waffles!!!!

          1. re: cgervais45

            The restaurant is really well hidden. I too missed it on my first visit. If you're facing Payard, the restaurant is to the left. It doesn't look like there's going to be a restaurant there, but keep going and you'll spot it.

        2. 09/24/08 Lunch at Delmonico:
          http://uhockey.blogspot.com/2008/09/d...

          Having taken the early flight to Vegas and catching a quick breakfast at Payard, a late lunch at Delmonico was just what the doctor ordered. Not a steak eater, the choice may seem a tad unusual until one realizes that this was now my fourth Emeril restaurant and fourth time I'd be sampling his take on Shrimp and Bread Pudding. To be fair, I find it unfortunate that so many people consider Emeril a "sell-out" because he is on TV....he is still a good cook with some great recipes and one of the few celeb chefs who actually keeps his restaurants open for lunch along with dinner.

          On first impression, Delmonico seems rather boring in design. A front bar/lounge and a back dining room with mostly whites and woods - Elegant but "home-y" would be the best way to describe it, yet slightly odd with the single spotlights peering down on each table. Arriving around 1:45 I was toward the end of lunch hour, but was seated immediately at a four top in the front.

          The menu and bread were delivered swiftly, yet despite my knowing exactly what I wanted it took 15 minutes before the waiter returned for my order. Creamy BBQ Shrimp with Fresh Baked Rosemary Biscuit, please.

          Order placed, I was given "bread" and "butter" from a side serving table....the bread was cool and dry while the butter was a block of ice....poor form.

          Unchecked upon until the arrival of my shrimp around 2:30pm, I sat and listened to the table behind me and took some pictures. Thankfully, when my meal did arrive, the Chef's cooking once again spoke volumes. 7 huge shrimp, 3 small rosemary biscuits, and a sauce that can only be described as a mixture of honey, hickory, and cream with a slight bit of spice....it was lovely. With all the shrimp finished and significant sauce left over, I requested more bread and this time was
          thankfully brought two piping hot rolls glistening with butter. While these were delicious and used for mopping up the sauce, it does not excuse the awful first bread service.

          With my main gone a different waiter appeared and asked if I'd like dessert. Darn right I said, having sampled 3 of Emeril's Bread Puddings in the past (one of them twice....we actually went back to Emeril's of Orlando for Bread Pudding after the version at Emeril's Tchoup Chop disappointed....not that I'm obsessed with bread pudding or anything.) On the menu at Delmonico? Banana Bread Pudding w/ Oreo Ice Cream.

          Served in a tiny pot, the moist and liquidy Banana Bread was fantastic, yet so hot that it had turned the ice cream into a melting puddle before it even arrived. The icecream itself was pretty standard fare and didn't really compliment nor detract from the pudding. Having had Banana Bread Pudding twice in the past, this was the worst of the three and nowhere near as good as the Sweet Potato Bread Pudding at Emeril's Fish House or the Bourbon Cinnamon version at Citywalk Orlando. As many have noted before, Vegas seems to have a thing for runny bread pudding, yet the three best I've tried in Vegas have all been the more dry version.

          All told, the shrimp was truly standout while all other aspects of the meal were pretty average....and the cold bread....poor poor from. From what I've heard the steaks here are delicious and I'd certainy return to sample other menu items, but given the vast number of Vegas choices (and two better Emeril restaurants, IMO) I doubt I'll be back.

          3 Replies
          1. re: uhockey

            Did you have a reservation for lunch or were you able to just walk in? I've always made a reservation there for lunch, but the place was never packed and it seemed unnecessary.

            1. re: Rick

              Walked in, the place was relatively empty.

              None of my lunches were reserved, all dinners were.

              1. re: Rick

                While you may not ordinarily need a reservation for lunch, on one of our trips to the V/P there was a huge convention and at lunch time ALL the restaurants we saw along Restaurant Row were packed with lines waiting to get in.

            2. 09/24/08 Dinner at Le Cirque
              http://uhockey.blogspot.com/2008/09/l...

              Arriving in Vegas earlier in the day, I'd been awake for nearly 20 hours when I stepped into the Bellagio for my 7:30 reservation. Tired but excited I walked in and mentioned I had a reservation for one to which the beautiful attendant stated "Ah yes, Dr. U, we've been expecting you." At this point I was handed off to a team of fantastic servers who showed me to my window-side 4-top and the extravagance began. I'll get my complaints out of the way early....there was a spot on the tablecloth approximately the size of match-head...no more complaints. Perfect service, flawless timing, full descriptions, elaborate presentations, the gorgeous interior and fountain show outdoors....and a customized tasting menu as follows:

              Amuse Bouche: Komomoto Oyster w/ American Caviar - I'm not an oyster guy, nor a Caviar guy, but the presentation was gorgeous and the flavors far more subdued than past tastes. While I cannot say I'll ever appreciate these two items as much as other haute-cuisine, I can definitely say I'll look forward to my next unexpected encounter.

              Bread Basket: Pretzel, Walnut Olive, French Baguette w/ salted and unsalted butter. The Baguette was crunchy and perfect for soaking up sauces, the pretzel crispy and salty outside and buttery soft inside, and the olive walnut simply sublime. Better Pretzel than Mastros or Yankee Stadium, Better olive than Gramercy Tavern. Runner up to Spago for best basket all time. Better yet - After the first three courses I'd eaten one piece of each and went to grab another piece of Baguette for sauces when the waiter whisked it away and replaced it with a piping hot fresh basket stating "it isn't as good when it cools."

              Course One: Lobster Salad w/ avocado, frisee, hericot vert, black truffle - A Le Cirque classic and for very good reason. Beautifully poached lobster over a puree of avocado and hericot verts, a layer or frisse, and a drizzle of black truffle dressing topped with a shaved black truffle. Delicious as it was decadent, a beautiful way to start. (note: the truffle was fresh and quite good, but certainly more for effect than taste....like plastic surgery on a super model....it was already great, but here is that extra unnecessary touch.)

              Course two: Sauteed Foie Gras w/ microgreens, petite chestnuts, white peach, blackberry, cranberry - Sublime. Fatty and flawless inside, just slightly crisp outside. Served warm and sweet with a brilliant contrast against the tart berries, crispy peach, and crunchy nuts with the microgreens added for texture. While not quite as innovative as the version at EMP, better in flavor.

              Course three: Crispy Sweet Breads w/ Fig and grape marmalade, veal reduction, butter basil foam, asparagus/heirloom tomato/mushroom salad - A substitution for the seasonal risotto and absolutely worth the decision. A single sweetbread panflashed and crisp served beneath an airy butter and basil foam over a flavorful salad the dish was further enhanced by the addition of two smears of fig jelly that provided a sweet component to the already incredibly savory dish. The veal reduction was poured in a small ring around the dish tableside and was my first experience with what the sous-chef could really do...until dishes four and five.

              Course four: Paupiette of Sea Bass with Pinot Noir sauce, crispy potato skin, microgreens and shredded savoy cabbage - Another Le Cirque classic and another winner in every way. Perfectly poached bass with a crispy paper-thin skin served over a crispy salad and covered with a sauce that can only be described as heavenly. Sweet and winelike yet bold and buttery, refined yet complex....more bread, please.

              Course five: Organic chicken w/ Foie gras macaroni, truffle, asparagus, tomato compote - My second substitution as I don't favor beef and a second wonderful choice. Clean and tasty chicken with thin shavings of black tuffle beneath the crispy skin served over a layer of long handmade macaroni and a transcendent sauce of mushroom puree and foie gras. Wonderfully crisp asparagus and a beautifully complex grilled tomato compote lent additional flavors to the dish, as well.

              Palate Cleanser: Tequila Sorbet with gold leaf, dragon fruit, dinosaur plum, coconut milk, and edible bowl - More pineapple than tequila, this sorbet was divine and a mere sign of things to come. The fruit compote was delectable and the coconut milk wonderful for offsetting the citrus. I'd like to say I knew the bowl was edible, but initially when I broke it I was worried....I think this was expected as my server then stepped in to suggest I "try a bite." The gold leaf....we'll chalk that up to extravagance, it had no flavor.

              Coffee: Not as thick as the house coffee at Bouchon and not as robust as other french restaurants, according to my server this was a rare Jamaican bean but according to my palate it was merely sweet and bold without trying to hard. The refills were more than adequate and considering the length of the day, the caffeine was welcomed.

              Dessert Fantasy: With common sense getting the better of me I actually excused myself from the table prior to dessert and went for a short walk in the Bellagio garden to help digest. Good idea, because the word fantasy was appropriate as I was brought not one, but two full portions. Really, is there ever "too much of a good thing?"

              Dessert number one - Chocolate Souffle with creme anglais, vanilla bean icecream: No cutting the top off here, instead pushing a conical sphere of icecream into the center and watching the molten chocolate from beneath erupt over top - impressive....and delicious. Light and airy, perfect and fluffy, slight hints of chicory. Everything a souffle should be, yet so large that it went unfinished...or perhaps that was because option two was even better.

              Dessert number two - Ice bowl with cherry ice, yuzu cream, strawberry sorbet, marinaded cherries: Appearing as a white cloud with pink flecks on presentation and suddenly erupting into swirl of colors with the addition of the sorbet, another unique presentation and even better flavor. Flawless and smooth lemon cream over a bed of cherries, perfectly tart sorbet...a contrast of warm and cold, crispy and creamy, tart and mellow...one of the best desserts to ever grace my tongue.

              Petit Fours - Lemon Meringue, Cherry Marshmallow, Strawberry Tart, Macaroon, Banana Cream puff, chocolate pretzel: As though the gluttony of the meal was not enough 6 petit fores finally arrived with all being beautiful, well constructed, and tasty, but the tart and cream puff simply fantastic.

              Finally, completely full, the check arrived along with a leather and gold jewelry box containing two truffles which were consumed the following afternoon. The first a cocoa dusted dark chocolate and the second a creamy vanilla with coconut flakes. Both, again, were wonderful.

              All told, the meal was unlike anything I'd previously experienced. Wonderful food, stellar ambiance, and the service lacking in no department. In a city like no other, a city that has something for almost anyone, its hard to get lost in the shuffle....to get overlooked in the big picture. With the recent influx of Savoy, Robuchon, Stratta, and others I think Le Cirque has become overlooked. From the moment I first contacted them for a complete menu to the moment I walked out the door I can honestly say Le Cirque was perfection.

              4 Replies
              1. re: uhockey

                Great reviews uhockey!

                You have gotten me very intrigued by Le Cirque. I am guilty of overlooking it. I've really never given it a serious thought until I read your review. I'm interested to see how you think it compares to Alex.

                What was the price of your experience there? The Bellagio website is very vague with only a partial menu with no prices. Perhaps that is part of the problem. I often find myself perusing menus online (instead of studying) and often end up going to places where I am excited by the menu. I would have trouble getting excited about Le Cirque based solely on the menu on the Bellagio site.

                1. re: uhockey

                  <sigh>

                  I had forgotten how marvelous our dinners at Le Cirque have always been. We'll be in Vegas at the end of October and Le Cirque might be just the thing to end our trip. I've been dithering about our last night - maybe I'm done...

                  Thanks for posting!

                  1. re: uhockey

                    *dies*

                    what an amazing review. I have been tempted by Le Cirque since reading Garlic and Sapphires. If you haven't read it, you should. You'd enjoy it, methinks.

                    1. re: lotta_cox

                      Glad to help. I'll check the book out sometime.

                  2. 9/25/08 Breakfast at Bouchon:
                    http://uhockey.blogspot.com/2008/09/b...

                    Thomas Keller needs no introduction…he is without a doubt the reigning sovereign of American “haute-cuisine.” With attention to detail that is unmatched and an approach to cooking (both as an art and as a business) that is beautiful and elegant, expectations are and will always be high entering one of his establishments. Having consumed ~$100 between two at Bouchon Bakery in NYC back in June, my expectations entering Bouchon Bistro on the 10th floor of the Venetian were high….at least 10 stories high.

                    Due to their rustic simplicity and historic preparation by poor persons utilizing limited ingredients, I personally believe gnocchi/dumplings (along with Bread Pudding) to be the ultimate foods by which to judge a chef and knowing that my time in Vegas would be limited, I e-mailed ahead approximately 2 weeks early and asked if it would be possible for the chef to prepare the Gnocchi a la Parisienne during the weekday breakfast hours. While an odd request for sure, my e-mail was almost immediately answered by General Manager Andy St. John who stated the chef would be delighted to prepare the meal during the day at no additional costs, no questions asked. Gnocchi for breakfast? Well, kinda…

                    Arriving at Bouchon around 7:30 I checked in with the host who introduced me to dining manager Robert who took me to my seat, indoors looking out at the pool given the bright sun and my fare skin. Water was delivered and I was given a few moments to browse the restaurant before my server returned. The simple bistro layout, the open doors to the pool and garden, the fresh smell of the baking breads….lovely. When Robert returned specials were discussed, despite already knowing my strange request, and I settled on a starter of the Chocolate Almond Croissant and a cup (make that about 6 cups) of coffee. See, the croissant was Breakfast…the Gnocchi just followed closely.

                    The croissant, like all of Keller’s pastries, was magical…the best croissant I’ve ever had in terms of flavor. Crispy and warm on the outside with chocolate drizzle and copious almonds, plus a flaky interior and a thick layer of chocolate gnache folded into the flaky dough and then loaded with chopped almonds. If I lived close to a Bouchon this would be a very frequent indulgence to say the least. The coffee...thick, robust, french pressed...the best priced cup of coffee in Vegas for sure.

                    A couple more coffee refills and it was time for the main course (consumed with water, not coffee.) Without further ado, I will just say that this dish redefined gnocchi in all ways. Unlike Italian gnocchi, the French style utilized butter in the noodles along with the potatoes and the effect literally creates a dumpling that melts on the tongue. Every single piece appeared hand crafted, perfectly tender on the outside, yet toothsome and textural on the outside. The dish was complimented with carrots, spinach, mushrooms fricassee and beurre noisette as dressing and the entire effect was simply perfection on a plate. I honestly cannot think of the last time it took me so long to savor each bite of a dish, but by all accounts I believe I ate each piece individually, slowly. Such simple ingredients, such flawless execution.

                    Certainly I love foie gras, blue lobster, diver scallops, and desserts considered to be delicacies, but I also appreciate when simplicity yields perfection. While I’ve not been to French Laundry or Per Se, both will have their time in the sun in the near future…but for now I will simply state that if it is the little things that count, Bouchon is doing ALL the little things right from superior service to setting to food. After breakfast I made my second of four visits during the trip to Bouchon Bakery for a carry-along snack…two days later I returned to Bouchon for Brunch, my only repeat of the trip….yes, it was that impressive.

                    5 Replies
                    1. re: uhockey

                      Thanks for the great review. I still have one more night open for my trip next month and I'm now considering Le Cirque. By chance do they have a patio or views of the fountains? I've never had Gnocchi but I might see if they will let me do that as well as it sounds delicous and different.

                      1. re: uhockey

                        Great write ups, thank you.

                        1. re: uhockey

                          Bouchon was one of our favorites too but we didnt' get the gnocchi or the croissant - I must make note of this for the next time we're in Vegas!

                          1. re: biondanonima

                            I don't think the gnocci is even on the menu. It was a special request by uhockey if I'm not mistaken. Right?

                            1. re: climberdoc

                              Gnocchi is on the dinner menu, not breakfast or lunch. The recipe is in the Bouchon cookbook, as well. Now, if only the nutter butter or carrot cake cookie were in that book.

                              As for cgervais requesting the gnocchi......way to be original, kiddo. If you've never tasted gnocchi, perhaps consider making a different special request?

                        2. 09/25/08 Lunch at Table 10:
                          http://uhockey.blogspot.com/2008/09/t...

                          Having gone to Delmonico just one day prior and leaving less than impressed with the overall experience, yet thoroughly pleased by the food I decided to hold off on more Emeril (or rather more bread pudding) until next trip and instead reacquaint myself with Mr. Batali at Enoteca San Marco. Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately?) my friend who arrived early on Thursday morning doesn't fancy Italian and Vegas' dearth of quality lunch options led us to Table 10 at the Palazzo. I've said it before and I'll say it again, regardless of others' opinions on Emeril his cooking is top notch, and his bread puddings and shrimp have never failed to be excellent.

                          Arriving at Table 10, one immediately notices the staunch contrast to Delmonico's white/wood/elegant setting with the fancy wrought iron gates out front and multiple colored tables, televisions, and wide open kitchen. Elegant yet trendy in a similar fashion to the New Orleans Fish House, yet more unique and upscale in appearance, decor, and service.....sort of bridging the gap between the casual Fish House and upscale Delmonico.

                          Seating was prompt and menus and water were delivered quickly. While the lunch menu was slightly more limited than dinner, the options were still substantial. I was slightly annoyed by our waiter who seemed somewhat bored and aloof as he mentioned their "famous signature dish" was the Maine lobster pot pie (the most expensive item on the menu.) First of all, a dish cannot be "famous" when you've only been open for a couple of months. Secondly, as a creole cook, Maine lobster is NOT signature....shrimp, crawfish, and jumbalaya, and bread pudding are. Third, this is Michael Mina's signature, not yours, so don't lie.

                          As I'd had breakfast at Bouchon followed by a stop at Bouchon bakery I must admit I wasn't entirely hungry, but my buddy had not eaten since flying in from Michigan. For my meal I selected two appetizers; the Jambalaya with andouille sausage, clams, and shrimp plus the rotisserie chicken pizza w/ mushrooms, garlic, and buffala mozzarella while my friend opted for the enormous plate of Jambalaya pasta. After orders were taken we sat and chatted and were delivered some of the most delicious sweet butter rolls I've ever experienced. All told I think I consumed 3 rolls but it very well could have been 5, they were that good.

                          Mains were served after approximately 20 minutes and everything looked and tasted great. The jambalaya was spicy without being overpowering and the roux was thick and hearty. Ample pork sausage, shrimp, crawfish, and clams were all present along with a well cooked rice that provided good texture and contrast. Not the very best jambalaya ever, but certainly an excellent representation. Similar to my dish, my friend’s jambalaya pasta contained wonderfully cooked egg noodles and a substantial number of jumbo shrimp plus shredded crawfish in a spicy broth.

                          While the jambalaya’s were excellent, the pizza was even better with a truly “cracker-thin” crust perfectly basted with olive oil and covered with fresh veggies, tender marinated chicken, and fresh/smooth mozzarella. While not substantial in portion, the price was right at $10 and I’d definitely put this on the list of best chicken pizzas I’ve tasted. Not quite as good as Batali’s pizza at Otto, but darn good.

                          For dessert, Bread pudding – a no brainer when dining with Emeril….though I must admit there wasn’t a single bad sounding option on the dessert menu. The bread pudding at Table 10 was exemplary consisting of a wonderfully tender Strawberry Brioche Bread Pudding, firm in texture and served hot with Toasted Almond Ice Cream on top. From the crunchy almonds to the tart berries to the smooth icecream this dish was fantastic and the second best of the 5 Emeril options I’ve experienced. Small in portion, yet just right for lunch, I would put it in my top 6 all time behind Gramercy Tavern, the two Bouchon Options, Dessert Truck, and Emeril’s in Orlando. My buddy, a fiend for all things chocolate opted for the Almost Flourless Bourbon Chocolate Cake with Tart Cherry Compote and Brown Sugar Crème Fraiche which he noted was very good, though not as good as the chocolate cake at Emeril’s New Orleans Fish House.

                          All told, I’d rank Table 10 as my favorite lunch in Vegas (compared to Delmonico, Mesa Grill, Burger Bar, Sensi, and numerous buffets.) Great quality, decent service, and a decent setting. Looking at the menu I’d probably not return for dinner since the best items are also available at lunch, but if I lived close to Vegas I’d certainly not turn down an invite for lunch or dinner. Best Emeril’s in Vegas and second best Emeril’s overall.

                          1. 09/25/08 Dinner at MiX:
                            http://uhockey.blogspot.com/2008/09/m...

                            MiX is a difficult review…on one hand you have fantastic service, incredible food, a view like no other, and a dining room that is simply jaw dropping in every way. On the other hand you have a lot of noise, servers who are overburdened, and a crowd that could care less about the food because simply being “seen” at MiX is apparently cool. Well ladies and gents, I don’t pretend to be cool, but I do pretend to know a thing about beauty, skill, and service…and MiX has all three.

                            Checking in with the hostess downstairs and creeping up the external glass elevator 64 stories above Vegas is a wonderful trip, yet as inspiring as it may be nothing can prepare you for the scene entering the bar….darkness and firey reds out front with a glimpse of white in the back. Arriving early we traversed the bar and entered the white…or should I say the light? It is hard to say anything about the dining room that hasn’t already been said. From the beautiful and sparkling multi-million dollar kitchen to the brilliant chandelier to the view that simple begs to be oogled, the setting is stunning in all ways. Seated at a table of two with my back toward the ceiling high windows I almost felt envious of my friend until I realized I had a clear view of the hanging baubles and the glorious kitchen.

                            After a short wait our server showed up and provided us with menus and the best darn bread basked I’ve seen in some time; Raisin Almond Roll, White Forcaccia, Tomato Basil Spiral, Rye, Jalapeno and pumpkin seed plus both unsalted butter and a salted butter with chopped peanuts that tasted like the most decadent peanut butter imaginable. Sampling each bread at some point during the evening and requesting extras of the Tomato Basil and Raisin Almond, all flavors were wonderful and complimented different aspects of the meal quite well.

                            To my surprise, my friend glimpsed the MiX Grand Tasting with Wine Pairings and suggested he was interested. As my pal is not the world’s most adventurous eater this was fantastic news to me as I’d been eyeing the tasting with a few modifications myself – specifically, creating a menu of all-Ducasse classics as opposed to the “MiX” of Ducasse items and plates specific to MiX on the tasting. The waiter assured me this would be no problem and didn’t even mind if my friend and I ordered different mains and desserts. Top notch! Not being a wine drinkier myself I will simply note here that my friend stated ALL of the wines were excellently paired and I was extremely impressed by the knowledge of not only the Sommelier, but the waiter himself who discussed Rieslings and Ice Wines with my friend with a great degree of expertise. All told my friend received 6 solid pours for $75 and was very pleased.

                            For myself, the focus was the food and the evening unfolded as follows:

                            “Amuse Bouche” - eggplant Caviar w/tuna picatta, crispy chip – A small blend of tender eggplant and spicy tuna plus a crispy triangle for dipping, this was a wonderful taste to begin the evening. Barely spicy with hints of tomato and basil, the texture was like a creamy tuna salad without the mayo.

                            Dish 1: KAMPACHI SASHIMI, GREEN CURRY EMULSION, SEAWEED SALAD – Perfect Kampachi with a fairly mild flavor, yet delectably enhanced by the green curry this dish was quite attractive and a good followup to the tuna. As good as the fish was, however, the seaweed salad was incredible and my only complaint could possibly be that there wasn’t ten times as much. Then again, had I known how much food was to come I’d have known better.

                            Dish 2: TENDER POTATO GNOCCHI, FRESH MORELS & ASPARAGUS WITH VEAL JUICE AND FLAKED PARMESAGNA – Knowing my feelings about Gnocchi, this dish was a part of the reason I’d selected MiX in the first place. Unlike Thomas Keller’s buttery Parisian version, Ducasse opts here to utilize the Italian formula of simple and tender potato dumplings with just a little salt and complements from the dense and woody flavor of perfectly tender Morels and flawlessly crisp asparagus. The veal juice and parmesagna added a salty and savory component to the dish. While not the best gnocchi ever, the texture and flavor were sublime and I’d certainly re-order on return visits.

                            Dish 3: MACADAMIA/PISTACHIO CRUSTED HALIBUT, ASPARAGUS CREAM, PARMESAN FOAM – The show stealer for my friend and a solid frontrunner for best-fish-dish-ever for myself, it is hard to describe the delicate nuisances of this dish without experiencing it. Perfectly poached fish with a crunchy yet sweet and nutty coating bisected a plate with asparagus and creamy asparagus cream on one side and a cheesy foam on the other side. While each flavor was superb separately, the combination was even more stunning with the cream and foam drizzled over the fish. A second dish featuring asparagus and parmesan, it is easy to see why Ducasse serves these two dishes back to back frequently and I cannot recommend the combination enough. In a weekend that featured tasting menu fish preparations by Le Cirque and Alex as well, this may have been the best fish dish of all, and that is saying something.

                            Dish 4: ROASTED MAINE LOBSTER “AU CURRY”, COCONUT BASMATI RICE, PINEAPPLE, RAISIN, AND PEARL ONIONS – Quite frankly I’ve no idea what Ducasse was thinking when he prepared this dish the first time, but the thought it was certainly inspired by a muse or a God. To be fair, the curry was understated so anyone ordering this for heat will be disappointed…..I didn’t order for heat. What I ordered it for was a fantastically prepared lobster served over sweet sticky rice and complimented by roasted onions and sweet fruits. While not quite as mind-blowing as the Lobster at Alex (which may be my favorite dish of all time,) this is the second best Lobster preparation I’ve ever experienced and it will haunt my dreams until I find a means to prepare it myself.

                            Dish 5: ROASTED DUCK BREAST, BLACK MISSION FIG, RADISH & BABY TURNIPS, FIG SAUCE – My first substitution and absolutely worth the choice. A well cooked yet juicy duck breast, skin on and perforated for complete cooking, the meat was not gamey at all and the earthy/meaty texture was wonderfully offset by the figs and fig sauce, yet given a crispy textural component by the radish and turnips. While the “worst” of the dishes in my opinion, the competition was pretty stiff and that is no disrespect at all. My friend opted against substitution and instead received the MiX house special of COLORADO RACK OF LAMB, ARTICHOKE & CITRUS CONFIT which he stated was the best Lamb he’d ever experienced.

                            Palate Cleanser: PASSIONFRUIT AND MANGO SORBET WITH COCONUT LIME FOAM – Served in a Martini glass, I believe the phrase palate cleanser was invented for this dish. I don’t even like Mango and this item impressed me. My buddy did note that in addition to the 6 glasses of wine he felt like this was a bit too much fluid, but did note that the flavor and texture were excellent.

                            Dessert: BABA AU RHUM, MONTE CARLO STYLE WITH SPICED RUM AND CRÈME ANGLAIS for myself and the CHOCOLATE AND MINT “AFTER EIGHT” FINGER for my friend – While I’m not a drinker, I am a fan of rum cake and rank Mastro’s Buttercake amongst my all time favorite desserts. As this dish represents one of Ducasse’s most famous dishes I couldn’t pass it up. A small cake was served along with a pot of rum and a second pot of crème which was then reconstructed by the waiter tableside, first pouring a little rum and then a dollop of cream with further customization allowed for the customer. While not QUITE as good as Mastros, the dish was a beautiful compliment to the meal and left a warm feeling in my belly for the rest of the night. My buddy’s After Eight Finger, which I was allowed a taste of, was quite small yet given the potency more than adequate. Think of an After-eight or Andes mint….multiply the intensity and quality times twenty…..you’re almost there.

                            Madelines : To cap off the meal we were served four of Ducasse’s signature Madelines straight from the piping hot pan along with a pot of warm Nutella. While I realize the tradition of the Madeline has been carried on by both Stratta and Boulud, it is my understanding that Ducasse was first and though I’ve not tried Daniel’s, Ducasse’s option blew Alex’s out of the water. Moist, creamy, delicate, and perfect with the Nutella…despite my fullness I’d have eaten twenty.

                            Service was awesome throughout though I definitely felt our server was rushed given the 6 tables he was to cover with minimal help…another server or a couple of attendants would have been all the better. Timing between courses was approximately 20 minutes with the whole meal taking nearly 2.5 hours and feeling perfectly paced. If I were to offer one complaint it would be the overall decibel level of the restaurant, which despite its large size was substantial distant from the bar and kitchen and downright LOUD near the bar. My second complaint would be the fact that the balcony at the bar was limited to bottle service only, despite our spending $450 for two on the meal. Sure, we didn’t have to pay the $25 club cover, but it would have been nice to relax on the balcony afterwards as well. Thankfully the bouncer was cool and let me step out for some pictures. On the way out the bar was jammed packed and the music bumping with many people on the dance floor. On descending the elevator there was a notable line of 50+ waiting to gain access, to boot.

                            All told, the food at MiX is nothing but the best…5 stars in all ways. Unfortunately, instead of being a 5-star dining establishment with 5-star service, MiX settles for excelling at the food and shooting to be trendy which creates the paradoxical “heaven and hell” feeling Ducasse stated he was aiming for with the restaurant/bar concept. As cool as that may be, I feel the two would be better separated. While many say “go for the view and skip the food,” I whole heartedly disagree and would put many of the dishes at MiX up against Alex, Le Cirque, Eleven Madison Park, Spago, and others coast to coast…but the service and scene leave something to be desired for the true foodie. All in all a great experience that I’d strongly recommend, just not quite as strongly as I’d recommend a few other Michelin Starred restaurants.

                            I will note, however, that if Michelin decides to start starring bathrooms, MiX deserves four.

                            6 Replies
                            1. re: uhockey

                              Uhockey.....you put me in my place about Mix. Out of Mix and Le Crique which one would you recommend? How much was the tasting menu at Mix if you don't mind me asking?

                              1. re: cgervais45

                                If one wants a club, a place to meet women (or men, or just rich people who are pretty,) and a superb view I'd recommend MiX. If one wants endulgant service where everyone is literally bending over backwards to make sure you are 100% comfortable, happy, FULL, and feel like royalty, then Le Cirque. Between the two I'd say my favorite dishes, in order, were: Le Cirque's Foie Gras, MiX's fish, MiX's Lobster, Le Cirque's fish, Le Cirque's chicken. For dessert, Le Cirque dominated.

                                1. re: uhockey

                                  Tasting at Le Cirque and MiX were both $145.

                                  1. re: uhockey

                                    Thanks and I"m excited to hear your Alex review. Just wondering, is Alex still $165 for pre-fix or have they gone up yet again?

                              2. re: uhockey

                                U-
                                I felt kind of the same way about Mix, but I was out on the patio so I was separated from the raucous bar area and could concentrate on the food and the view. I am happy that someone else agrees with me about the quality of the food at Mix.

                                1. re: foodgimp

                                  I can't fathom why so many have had bad FOOD experiences there. I understand if the "scene" isn't your thing.....my buddy is a "scene" kinda guy and vastly prefered MiX to Alex for that reason alone, but certainly didn't downgrade the food at either place.

                              3. 09/26/08 Breakfast at Tableau
                                http://uhockey.blogspot.com/2008/09/t...

                                Chatting on his Vertu in a strange language (something arabic I believe) I couldn't help but notice my neighbor's Constantin Patrimony series watch flashing in the sunlight of Tableau's patio...clearly there was money around. When the waiter arrived to refill his water and asked if he could get the check the man pulled out a money clip, peeled off two $100 bills and said "that should cover it" before getting up and walking away...the man had ordered a fruit plate. Tucked away in the gardens and pools of the Wynn Tableau is both rich and beautiful in appearance, much like its patrons. Sure I didn't expect low quality from Steve Wynn, but to say the clientele of Tableau was "well to do" would be a vast understatement.

                                Arriving at 7:45am I was greeted by the gorgeous lobby and the gracious hostess who asked whether I would prefer dining indoors or on the patio. As the patio was amply shaded and most of the patrons were outside I chose the patio and was subsequently offered a copy of the Wallstreet Journal, New York Times, or USA Today to browse. Seeing the headlines regarding the USC upset, I opted for the USA Today (clearly indicating my status compared to the rest of the diners who sat browsing the Times or Journal) and chose a wonderful table half sunny/half shaded with a great view of the pool and gardens. Water was filled and the menu was delivered while the waiter went to get my coffee.

                                Browsing the menu I was instantly captured by the pastry basket and the Peach pancakes, but not being hungry enough for both decided to ask the waiter what was available in the basket. Approximately 10 items were rattled off including an apricot tart, apple scone, and nectarine turnover. When I asked if pastries could be ordered individually it was explained that these were 'petite' pastries and if I wanted to try only one it would be free of charge. "A nectarine turnover and the peach pancakes, please." "Certainly, sir."

                                While I waited for my food I stood up and roamed the pools and gardens. Approximately 20 people were present at the time, all dressed either business casual or semi-formal and all dining on items ranging from the freshest appearing fruits to pastries to eggs and sausage that looked incredible. When I returned to my table (my tableau?) my coffee was waiting along with cream and sugar/spelda/equal. No nutrasweet was to be seen and when asked I was informed "Mr Wynn does not fancy nutrasweet." Fair enough (for what it is worth, Alex also didn't have Nutrasweet but noted they could obtain it immediately if I desired.

                                )

                                After approximately 10 minutes a fantastic yet dainty nectarine turnover arrived fresh from the oven. Crispy, flaky, loaded with fresh nectarines it was the perfect opener to the meal and I'd have certainly enjoyed many more had I ordered the basket. Another 10 minutes and a laugh at the Trojans passed, my coffee was refilled once, and then my pancakes emerged from the kitchen.

                                Described in the menu as Ricotta Peach Pancakes with lime butter and organic maple syrup, nothing could've prepared me for these pancakes. Fluffy and light, airy yet moist, sweet yet savory and absolutely jammed with fresh skinned peaches, the dish was presented with a simple dusting of powdered sugar, a side-pitcher of warm syrup, and a dollop on the side that tasted like a fresh key lime dissolved in butter. Having tried Ricotta Pancakes only once before but any number of stellar pancakes in the past, this dish was a revolution and I truly sat and savored each bite. Sure, $14 for three pancakes is not a bargain, but $14 for breakfast bliss? That is a bargain.

                                When I finished my pancakes and resisted the urge to lick my plate clean my waiter arrived and asked if he could get me anything else. "Perhaps a coffee to go?" "....don't twist my arm....how about another turnover too?" "Certainly, sir." While I didn't tip $185 like my neighbor, I certainly wish I could have.

                                On my way out everyone was very friendly, from the other waiters to the hostess, making each guest feel like their visit was truly valued. I was even invited to return for dinner, but when I told the hostess we had reservations for Alex that evening she noted "oh, excellent choice, perhaps some other time." All told the meal was fantastic and on par with Bouchon in terms of quality, presentation, and service. Go early, sit on the patio, eat, smile, and enjoy the richness of the food and the clientele...even if you yourself aren't rich...sometimes it's fun to see how the upper crust lives.

                                9 Replies
                                1. re: uhockey

                                  Great review, thanks for writing these up.

                                  1. re: spike42

                                    uhockey:

                                    I have hung around Chowhound for years, and I have to say that this is the best series of reviews that I have ever read. (I live in LV as well, so I am paying particular attention!). Thanks for the good work.

                                    1. re: Friend of Bill

                                      I do what I can. I write to help and because I enjoy doing so. :-)
                                      I'll graciously accept free meals from other chowhounders the next time I'm in Vegas as a "tip" for my reviews. ;-)

                                  2. re: uhockey

                                    If they breakfast bliss pancakes I can't wait to see what they have for dinner. Thanks for the great reviews and am looking forward to posting my own!

                                    1. re: kungfugirl

                                      Dinner menu was interesting, as well, but IMO there are vastly better choices....though their tasting menu is a bargain.

                                      1. re: uhockey

                                        I will let you know. 3 days and counting!

                                        1. re: kungfugirl

                                          Cool

                                    2. re: uhockey

                                      Nice reviews and pictures at your blog.

                                      BTW, I think you mean Sweet'n Low (Saccharine) aka the pink stuff.
                                      Equal is Nutrasweet.

                                      1. re: uhockey

                                        nectarines and peaches are my favorite stone fruit. my mouth is watering! i didn't even realize tableau did breakfast. I had an amazing dinner there once when the Wynn first opened. maybe their first month open.

                                      2. 09/26/08 Lunch at Burger Bar.
                                        http://uhockey.blogspot.com/2008/09/b...

                                        Perhaps it was Boulud, perhaps Keller.....at some point someone decided that a 99cent cheeseburger at McDonalds simply wasn't enough. Foie Gras, Truffles, Shrimp, Lobster.....you name it, you got it. While I do find it odd that I found myself being led into Burger Bar by my friend when I don't particularly like beef and don't eat burgers, I will admit to have had a few in the past and my all-time was the Thurman Burger in Columbus Ohio, a famous one in its own right. In a day that included Tableau for breakfast and Alex for dinner I must say I didn't expect much from the Burger Bar....but I was pleasantly surprised.

                                        While the Bar was located in a shopping mall at Mandalay Bay I didn't judge....most of Vegas feels like a mall anyhow and Per Se in NYC is located in a mall, as well. Arriving around 2:30pm there was a line...a good sign I guess....our names were taken and 10 minutes later we found ourselves seated at a 4-top in the middle of the restaurant. While the place was quite loud, conversation was quite easy and our menus were delivered quickly. With 5-6 bread options, 5-6 meat options, 40-50 topping options, plus desserts it actually took longer to order than we had imagined. Eventually I settled on the Turkey Burger on Ciabatta with grilled Shrimp, Pesto, and a side order of Sweet Potato fries while my buddy opted for the Kobe Beef Burger with Sharp Cheddar and Hickory Bacon on Whole Wheat with Spicy Skinny Fries and a sampler of beers.

                                        As the place was busy we chatted for a bit and I decided to get up and explore. Much to my surprise the kitchen was wide open for viewing and I wandered about to realize how fresh all the ingredients were, the bread being baked in visible ovens, and the meats stored in large lockers. Everything appeared very hygienic and clean, very much unlike your average burger shack. By the time I arrived back at the table my buddy was working on his beer and approximately two minutes later the food arrived. While I spent a moment dressing my burger and eating my incredibly garlicky pickle spear, I heard my buddy partially-moan....clearly he was loving this burger.

                                        Once my burger was adequately dressed and I had a large pile of ketchup for my fries it was time to dig in. Crisp ciabatta with a fluffy interior first greeted my tongue followed by the wonderful basil blast of the pesto mingling with plump and tender shrimp and well cooked yet juicy turkey. Great texture, quality ingredients, wonderful flavor, well cooked....what more can you ask for in a burger? I next dug into the fries which were simply fantastic and #3 only to Michael Mina's Duck Fat Fries and Michael Symon's Lola Fries in terms of crispy outside and soft/salty inside. I do find it rather unfortunate that the restaurant did not order an organic/original ketchup given the quality of the ingredients otherwise, but I guess a minimal amount of HFCS won't kill me.

                                        Having finished off our burgers and laughing more at the PTI analysis of the USC/Oregon State result my buddy and I opted for a dessert burger - the chocolate version featuring a split donut topped with a chocolate gnache puck, mango "cheese", and strawberries. Humorous in presentation and tasty in flavor, this choice was excellent and split down the middle this "burger" was just enough after the huge burger/fries. The mango cheese was especially surprising in its fresh taste and jello-like texture while the chocolate puck was so rich I doubt I'd have finished one myself. The donut was a tad dry, IMO, but didn't hurt the burger overall.

                                        All told I liked the energy and the food at Burger Bar. While certainly our most "low class" meal, I actually enjoyed the experience and the pricetag more than Sensi and Craftsteak and my buddy loved it which was excellent since he humored me in going to so many French restaurants on the weekend. IMO, foie and truffles are best served by a chef like Stratta or Savoy and not on a piece of beef and buried under toppings...the concept of the Rossini Burger is ludicrous and anyone ordering it is showing off and missing out on the opportunity for more originality and customization at a lower price. Regardless, to each his/her own and I think the concept of designer burgers has a lot to offer...even if the underdressed and uncustomizable option at Father's Office is still the standard by which most burgers are judged.

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: uhockey

                                          Hmmm, now I'm curious about what you'll say about Craftsteak, if you liked Burger Bar more. I like Burger Bar (Angus or Ridgefield, whole wheat bun, jalapeno bacon, mozzarella cheese, avocado). I like Craftsteak quite a lot now although I didn't like it on my first visit a few years back. I did not like Sensi at all - a poorly executed mishmash, to be kind. I live in L.A. and I don't use Father's Office as a standard. I think it's overrated, not that anyone cares what I think, LOL!

                                        2. 09/27/08 Brunch at Bouchon:
                                          http://uhockey.blogspot.com/2008/09/b...

                                          As I am a very healthy eater approximately 29/30 days each month as part of my lifestyle, I haven't even experienced the 20 best restaurants in Columbus, my home city. With that in mind, as a rule I generally don't revisit restaurants, especially when on vacation. How is it that I found myself back at Bouchon only 2 days after my original experience you might ask? Because dollar for dollar it is the best restaurant in Vegas. It's the same reason I found myself at Bouchon Bakery four times in four days. Call me obsessive if you like, I consider it a pursuit of perfection and as of yet I've not found anything in terms of food or service that Thomas Keller does less than perfect.

                                          Arriving for Saturday brunch around 7:50am the night after dinner at Alex one might assume I was both happy and full...and difficult to impress. One would be correct. With those things in mind, the Buckeyes and Gophers game was starting at 9:00am and I was meeting friends at the Palazzo Sports Book so an early trip to Bouchon was ideal. Seated outside I was once again greeted by the same fantastic service I received on trip one and was presented the specials including a phenomenal sounding Lobster gratin, Lorraine quiche, Strawberry croissant, and Cauliflower soup. While the gratin was incredibly tempting the draw of the French toast bread pudding was simply too much this time around and my neighbors had the cinnamon beignets which appeared heavenly. One French toast, one order of beignets, and a coffee please.

                                          Unlike the first time, for this meal I was started off with Keller's famous epi-baguettes which I first experienced in NYC back in June. Still wonderfully crunchy on the outside and soft and buttery within and served with that sinful sweet butter and raspberry preserves the baguettes were gone by the time my beignets arrived.

                                          The beignets, as expected, were incredible. Having tried the custard and Raspberry filled versions at Bouchon Bakery the day before I opted for the donut-esque versions this time around which were served with a beautiful apricot jam and a pot of warm Nutella. Light, airy, sweet, and still warm/glistening the beignets were much more than a "donut" and when dipped in the Nutella were even better than Ducasse's famous madelines from two nights prior. Magical. Losing myself in the morning sun, wonderful taste, and bold coffee I slowly indulged until all the jam and nutella was spent.

                                          Plates cleared and table dusted off for posterity, my coffee was refilled and returned along with the French Toast. Smaller than expected, yet delicate in appearance I dug in slowly expecting to be amazed...and amazed I was. While small, the taste was compact and potent with a creamy texture of butter cut by the texture of spiced apple and the fragrance of cinnamon. Syrup was utilized sparingly, yet wonderfully to create a masterpiece without overpowering with sweetness. While not a "true" bread pudding in the sense of the one served at Bouchon Bakery, this is my second favorite bread pudding ever behind only Nancy Olson's life-altering version at Gramercy Tavern.

                                          Meal finished I paid my bill and thanked my server for the wonderful meal. All things being equal I would have returned for a late brunch around 2pm in order to check out the gratin or chicken and waffles, but after hanging out at the Sportsbook for a few others my buddy made other plans. Oh well, at least I made my fourth and final stop at the Bakery on my way over to the Palazzo for some mid-game snacks.

                                          Two meals in four days, four stops at the Bakery, and a previous visit to the NYC location back in June...certainly not normal for me...then again, there is nothing normal about Bouchon; it is fantastic. With fellowship interviews coming up later this year I fully expect myself to wind up on both coasts for interviews...if schedules work out, a trip to French Laundry, Ad Hoc, and/or Per Se is almost a guarantee. Until then, Thanksgiving will certainly feature the Bouchon Cookbook quite prominently

                                          1. 09/27/08 Lunch at Sensi:
                                            http://uhockey.blogspot.com/2008/09/s...

                                            To be fair, Sensi really didn’t have much of a chance....not that it tried too hard either. A meticulous planner, my dinner reservations going into Vegas were mapped out months in advance and my breakfast details planned out extensively. While my lunches were unscheduled, I generally knew where I wanted to go and generally went there. When my best friend decided at the last minute that Enoteca San Marco wasn’t something he was interested in and suggested “something asian maybe” I remembered hearing good things about Sensi and turned to it as an alternative since my buddy had been so agreeable to places like MiX and Alex which weren’t really his “scene.” Tucked in the back of Bellagio and pretty tough to find, unfortunately Sensi wasn’t tough enough to find.

                                            Seated immediately near the admittedly awesome bread prep station, our ‘waiter’ Jeremy W briefly asked “sparkling or flat” and my friend stated flat. We were brought an already opened bottle of Fiji and two glasses of ice. When I suggested tap water would be fine, the ‘waiter’ stated “Well, the bottle is already opened.” The bottle cost $8 and was not comped despite our not wanting it. Approximately ten minutes later menus were brought and essentially dropped off without explanation. The waiter then returned approximately 10 minutes later with some Naan to go with our empty condiments (every other table was served fresh soy, salt, mustard, and tomato pepper chutney with their Naan…I had to stand up and get my own. Orders were taken and this was the last we’d see of Jeremy until he delivered the bill.

                                            Browsing the restaurant I must admit the décor was beautiful and watching the chef prepare the Naan was interesting. After one basket of the delightful and doughy yet crisp bread topped with spicy chutney a non-descript server arrived and removed our basket, later returning with fresh bread. This was the best service we received at Sensi.

                                            After around 20 minutes our mains arrived, myself ordering Oven Roasted Diver Scallops with Basil Risotto, Zucchini, and Eggplant and my friend opting for the Shrimp and Beef with Duck Fried Rice. All things being equal, the food was decent but certainly no better than I’ve had at far cheaper restaurants with vastly better service. My scallops were a tad overdone but certainly fresh and tasty while the Risotto was soft yet consistent and contrasted well with the vegetables. My friend additionally noted his dish was “pretty good.” Portion sizes were adequate but certainly not excessive considering the $20+ pricetags.

                                            Another 15-20 minutes passed after the meal and thankfully I was seated close to the server’s station where I was capable of filling my own glass with tap water because during that time no on arrived at our table. Eventually Jeremy reappeared and without asking about dessert or anything else he delivered the check and collected our dishes. “Have a great day” he said. To be fair, it wouldn’t have taken much to be a great day after such a disappointing meal with such lousy service. The total bill was $56.03 and our most affordable meal of the trip. No tip was left as no tip was deserved…I’ve had better service at Denny’s.

                                            The only plus of the meal was that on the way back to the sportsbook and gaming floor we had to pass by the beautiful Bellagio gardens and Jean-Philippe where I ordered the best Tiramisu I’ve ever had. Moral of the story? If you’re on your way to Sensi just stop, grab some tiramisu and gelato and watch the chocolate fountain.

                                            8 Replies
                                            1. re: uhockey

                                              So sad about your Sensi experience. I've always wanted to try Sensi since Bellagio is my hotel of choice. I guess I'll keep walking past it and head over to Jean Philippe for the tiramisu. (I always test my dieting resolve by taking a grand tour, but not buying. Since you classed the tiramisu as the best, and since you have great taste, I'll break down and throw the diet to the wind). Thanks for all of your great reviews!

                                              1. re: ellenost

                                                Pfff, dieting in Vegas is for people in the Olympia, only.

                                                1. re: uhockey

                                                  I was actually joking. I never diet when I'm in LV.

                                                  1. re: ellenost

                                                    Nor I. :-)

                                                    1. re: uhockey

                                                      I guess you're not going to answer my question uhockey. Oh well.

                                                      1. re: climberdoc

                                                        Climber-
                                                        Cimber-
                                                        I can take a shot at your question. I am 46 and have the same metabolism problems you do(probably worse since I am older and use a wheelchair), but I just make sure that I take full advantage of my hotels fitness center especially the morning of my big meal. I also walk(push) everywhere I go on the strip. It doesn't cancel out my calorie intake, but it does help!

                                                        1. re: climberdoc

                                                          Actually, I did answer it. And like MANY posts in this thread, it got edited out (my convo with LVmanager re: foie and my Alex review.) Clearly the mods are strict.

                                                          1. re: uhockey

                                                            I understand.

                                                            I can't tell you how many articulate, well-thought (if I say so myself) posts I've had edited out. There's no arguing with God.

                                              2. FYI: My review of Alex cannot be posted here because I know an attendant at the resaurant. The review, plus pictures can be found in my blog. Like all of my reviews, the one of Alex is totally unbiased, but I understand the moderator's point that knowing someone creates the chance for shilling. I assure you, had Alex been awful, I'd have said it. :-) Thanks to all for reading.

                                                1. Thanks again for all the detailed reviews. I FINALLY made all my reservations, with the help of reading some of your great reviews, and will not look back or 2nd guess myself like I did the first time. This trip should blow my first trip out of the water in food and entertainment. I will be comparing Le Cirque and Picasso this trip which should be intertesting.Thanks again!

                                                  1. 09/27/08 Dinner at Craftsteak

                                                    A fan of Chef Colicchio's simple approach to locally grown high end ingredients and a general appreciation of great food and "vegas-y" steakhouses I was very much looking forward to our experience at Craftsteak - so much so that we left the Los Angeles Kings game (my favorite team since age 5 and the reason we came to Vegas in the fist place) with 10 minutes to go in order to arrive for our 9:30 reservation. I must say, in a weekend that included meals featuring the vision of Stratta, Keller, and Ducasse it was only Colicchio who failed to impress.

                                                    Dressed in hockey jerseys and jeans, much like 50% of the MGM that evening, my friend and I arrived approximately five minutes early and checked in. While our reservations were clearly listed on the sheet, the hostess gave us an odd look and suggested our table would be ready "in 15-20 minutes." While I realize Craftsteak tries to be "fine dining," I doubt we were under dressed given the multiple persons inside wearing lounge shirts and jeans, but regardless her attitude was less than enthusiastic. Given the wait, I wished I'd have stayed for the end of the game.

                                                    After approximately 10 minutes our table was ready and we were led through the surprisingly huge and equally dark restaurant. While there is certainly something to be said about mood lighting, I much prefer "soft" light like Alex or Spago Beverley Hills compared to darkness like Lola or Mastro's. Seating was comfortable and the table was huge. The decor was heavy with lots of dark woods and the noise level was excessive, but certainly not annoyingly so. As we sat, water was filled and menus were delivered. All was well so far and then things decidedly went down hill. While the food was certainly good and ample in portion, the service, feel, and attitude left A LOT to be desired.

                                                    First off, our waiter (Team #6, Cashier JR T) did not introduce himself for 15 minutes, actively avoiding eye contact when it was sought. Thankfully the water and bread servers were on the ball. When the waiter did introduce himself it was as though it was an epic hassle for him to explain the family style menu. Additionally, though the MGM site lists $100 and $110 menus with chefs vs. personal selection, the waiter acted unaware of these entirely. When he finally did concede that the site had these options, only the chefs choice was offered.....and stuck to.....without question.

                                                    While the online menu suggests three mains, three salads, three appetizers, three sides, and three desserts we were only offered the option of two appetizers with all other items to be selected for us. When I attempted to order the scallops and the foie we were informed that both were out of stock. Fair enough, the place was busy and my buddy already ordered his 10oz Filet cooked rare so I opted for the Yellowtail Tuna with olive and tomato cooked as rare as possible. These choices made our waiter disappeared and we were brought the much hyped bread and butter. While the bread was good, it certainly wasn't on par with the similar version served at Table 10 or Delmonico and the butter was rather cold.

                                                    Salads arrived in a matter of minutes and consisted of the Butter Poached Diver Scallops with Fennel (I thought they were out?,) Satur Farm Mixed Lettuces with Olive Oil and Vinegar, Heirloom Tomatoes, and Prosciutto San Daniele. Admittedly all dishes were good with the scallops and Heirloom tomatoes being particularly excellent. The scallops were butter braised and lightly poached with a perfect sashimi-style inside and lightly crisp exterior. The tomatoes were amongst the best I've ever tasted with a mild olive oil and balsamic marinade bringing out the acidic and sweet flavor of each of the 5+ varieties...as my buddy does not like tomatoes I was given the bulk of these lovely items and was grateful to oblige.

                                                    Soon after the arrival of salads and appetizers we were brought our mains and sides which consisted of the aforementioned 10oz Fillet and Yellowfin Tuna with Olive and Tomato tapanade, Whipped Yukon gold potatoes, Mixed Mushooms (Lobster, Hen of Woods, Shiitake, Chanterelle) in Garlic, and Sweet White Corn. As was the case last year in Vegas my buddy got me to try a piece of steak which he claimed was better than the Grade 12 A5 Waygu at Alex....it tasted merely like beef to me but he claimed it to be the best steak he'd ever tasted. My tuna was quite excellent and cooked flawlessly with the interesting contrast of sweet tomatoes and bitter/briny olives forming an excellent medley of flavors. Not the best yellowtail I've experienced, but certainly fantastic.

                                                    Like the mains and appetizers, the sides were delectable and featured a stockpile of woodsy mushrooms simply presented and delectable in taste - I was particularly thrilled to get such a large lobster mushroom as it lags behind only a morel as my favorite fungi. The corn and potatoes were equally simple yet wonderful with the corn almost 'sugar-sweet' and the potatoes velvety, buttery, and wonderful.

                                                    The meal was slightly sabotaged here, once again, by our server who committed multiple mistakes.
                                                    Number one: My friend ordered a half bottle of wine for $65. Once again in his avoidance of us the waiter forgot (admitting this and apologizing later) until after appetizers were consumed and mains/sides delivered....and considering we were essentially rushed out the door by 11:15 (we received mains at 10:25) wine consumption was anything but leisurely.
                                                    Number two: More bread was promised.....it was never delivered. When sides were given and we were asked "is there anything else you would like?" I stated we'd like to try the Sweet Potatoes.....they were never delivered.
                                                    Number three: Well, read on...

                                                    Dessert was next and given my love for bread pudding and souffle (and the rave reviews I'd read of each) I specifically explained to my waiter, in great detail, that these were my favorites and that I'd heard good things about the versions at Craftsteak. In response to my accolades the waiter simply noted "we do lots of great things" and proceeded to serve us NO bread pudding or Soufflé. Admittedly the desserts that were served were quite good and consisted of melon and fresh strawberries with grape and raspberry sorbet, Cinnamon Monkey Bread with Pecan Toffee and Caramel Ice Cream, and Chocolate Lava Cake with Espresso Ice Cream. While the melon and grape sorbet were misses for both of us, the Monkey Bread was sublime and tasted like a more natural and more delicious cinnamon roll while the chocolate cake simply oozed with delicious filling when poked and was quickly devoured by my friend who ate past the point of satiety just to finish the cake. Sure, these were good, but to rub salt in a wound the neighboring table received the souffle which looked amazing and I got a glimpse of the bread pudding being enjoyed by a diner at the bar on the way out. All told, the food was excellent, though not any better than steakhouses like Nero's and Mastro's where I can get what I ask for.

                                                    From a chef that demands perfection, I felt Craftsteak was anything but perfect and in a city with hundreds of hundred-plus-dollar meal options it would be very difficult for me to justify a return visit. While I certainly didn't expect the exquisite service of Le Cirque or Alex, I do expect my server to treat me with respect and do his/her best to make my experience memorable.

                                                    While I'm not the sort to complain after a meal, my disappointment and hope that this wouldn't happen to future visitors led me to E-mail the restaurant my opinions. Two days later I was contacted by the General Manager with an apology and an offer to refund our entire meal cost. Feeling uncomfortable with this I politely rejected and simply told him I would very much appreciate if my thoughts could be forwarded to Colicchio himself as not to taint his beautiful concepts and cooking. The manager agreed to this and invited me back for "special" experience on my next visit to Vegas and promised to make amends...I'll consider it, but honestly with all the options in Vegas and my living in Ohio I don't even know that I'd return for free.

                                                    15 Replies
                                                    1. re: uhockey

                                                      A fair review, I think. I do like Craftsteak but after four or so visits, the service has been somewhat mixed. In fact, we were so put off by our server on our first visit a few years ago that we waited at least two years to return. My specific complaint at that time was that the menu was written in such a terse manner that you absolutely had to engage in detail with your server in order to gain a grasp of what was offered. On that occasion our waiter acted as though that was a giant PITA to him and I was made to feel as if I was a moron and/or hopelessly unsophisticated in the ways of dining in restaurants of the caliber of Craftsteak (neither of which are true, IMO!). However, our next visit was a 180 degree turnaround in terms of service. Additionally I believe in the ensuing time they added some descriptives to the menu so as to make it relatively more user-friendly.

                                                      There's no excuse for what happened to you, especially with regard to dessert. I am heartened to hear that the GM offered a generous make-good (and did so in a timely manner), even though you graciously declined it. I would be happy to partake of the offered "special" experience but it's probably not transferrable!

                                                      1. re: Debbie W

                                                        "Dressed in hockey jerseys and jeans, much like 50% of the MGM that evening".

                                                        No excuse, bro. Dress better next time. Seriously.

                                                        We could use a Mastro's here (even with all of the steak places we have).

                                                        1. re: Friend of Bill

                                                          Hey "bro," I consider a Kings jersey a hell of a lot better dressed than a polo or a Tommy Bahama shirt....both of which I saw in Craftsteak. I also saw a party of ~20+ jersey wearers in a back room......if their service was awful I feel sorry for Craftsteak as a restaurant.

                                                          1. re: Friend of Bill

                                                            What niche do you think Mastro's would fill in the upscale steakhouse category that isn't already filled by Craftsteak, CUT, Charlie Palmer, Prime, Delmonico (not a fan), N9NE, Stripsteak, SW, The Palm, Envy, Circus Circus, etc.?

                                                            1. re: Debbie W

                                                              Buttercake and Dungness Crab Gnocchi. :-)

                                                              Also, to Bill, I wore a T-shirt and Jeans to Bouchon and MiX and was treated as well as I was in Armani at Le Cirque and Boss at Alex.

                                                              1. re: uhockey

                                                                Yeah theres no "Dress Code" in Vegas dude. If I'm paying the kind of money that Vegas restaurants are charging then I should be able to wear flip flops and a Guns N Roses T-Shirt and be treated like royalty. Thats one reason I keep booking trips to there because its such a easy going place.

                                                                1. re: cgervais45

                                                                  There is very little that ruins a meal more than that. Question - would you do that in a New York restaurant? Paris? Enjoy your stay here, eating among other like-minded folk in wife beaters.

                                                                  1. re: Friend of Bill

                                                                    I agree with Bill that the GnR shirt and Flipflops is a terrible call. The high end places DO have a code; Alex, Wing Lei, Le Cirque (probably Savoy and Robuchon) but I don't hold Craftsteak in such regard.....the service certainly wasn't on par, nor the innovation or formality.

                                                            2. re: Friend of Bill

                                                              Maestro's was in the works - thought it was gonna be in city center. delmonico's was supposed to be moved to cosmopolitan but with the financial problems there, not sure if that will still occur. I am a fan of maestro's but geez, we definitely have a variety of steakhouse's already.

                                                              1. re: kjs

                                                                I don't dress like that eithier I was simply making a point. Las Vegas and New York are two totally different cities when it comes to being laid back than one another. While Alex and Picasso may have dress codes they know theres going to be those customers that win BIG in Las Vegas and didn't bring so called "Dress Code" clothes and after witnessing several people not dressed properly I don't think Las Vegas cares to much about what you where more than how much money your bringing in. But I think a GNR T-Shirt is more dressing than a Kings T-Shirt....lol :) JK! Flip Flops were going a little overboard. Maybe Crocs :)

                                                                1. re: cgervais45

                                                                  Actually, at Alex they do enforce it as of recently, no matter what the case.

                                                                  It is "wear" not where, also.

                                                                  And my Robitaille Kings jersey is worth more than the average suit of a vegas restaurant visitor.

                                                                  There is something to be said about looking classy in a classy place. People who can't do that should probably just stick to "casual" dining for the sake of those enjoying a good meal.

                                                                  1. re: uhockey

                                                                    "There is something to be said about looking classy in a classy place"

                                                                    I agree. Sorry if I came across as some sort of snob, but I enjoy the dining out experience (and this is a terrific restaurant town, at all ends of the spectrum). I tend to overdress when I am going out. But when I am in a "nice place", part of the appeal for me is the surroundings, where it appears (even if those appearances are misguided) that others are showing respect for their fellow diners, for the chef, for the experience. Sitting next to someone in a sleeveless tshirt, maxed out in ink, doesn't do it for me, and I don't care how much money he or she may have. It cheapens the experience. And the bottom line is - I am the one spending the money, and if it is devalued, it bothers me.

                                                                    Love your reviews (and I LOVE Bouchon, but I have only had the roast chicken there - I need to expand my horizons!)

                                                                    1. re: uhockey

                                                                      I was at Alex and Guy Savoy in June and noticed many casually dressed diners at Alex (jeans, t-shirts) and men without jackets at Guy Savoy, despite a policy of "JACKETS REQUIRED."

                                                                      So, maybe Alex has stepped-up the enforcement of its policy, but not when I was there.

                                                                      We also ate at Craftsteak and thought that "nice casual" was perfectly appropriate.

                                                                      1. re: ejs1492

                                                                        Alex now officially has an enforced dress policy listed at the door. No "jackets required" but specifics that cannot be worn.

                                                                        Craftsteak, IMO, should be do-able in a t-shirt and jeans.....the service warrants no better.

                                                                        1. re: ejs1492

                                                                          I called Guy Savoy before my last trip (between 6 months and a year ago), and was told that jackets were requested but not required.

                                                            3. Various Days, Snacks at Bouchon Bakery:
                                                              http://uhockey.blogspot.com/2008/09/b...

                                                              "In the end, a great meal is not about the food and the wine. A great meal is an emotional experience. We try to make it an extraordinary one by creating a beautiful place, one filled with staff who cares about it as they do about their home, and care for you as the most important guest in it...a great meal is not one that fills you up. A great meal is a kind of journey that returns you to sources of pleasure you may have forgotten and takes you to places you haven't been before."

                                                              With quotes like that you know his food is not a joke, and I will admit a bias to Thomas Keller's concepts and food. From peanut butter and jelly to quiche to gnocchi to bread and butter to cookies and cakes the man simply does amazing things with food. The best french toast I've ever eaten, the best quiche, the best cookie....and service that never fails to make you feel like the most important guest on earth. With those things in mind my Vegas vacation entailed two visits to Bouchon Bistro and four visits to Bouchon Bakery for mid-day snacks.

                                                              On day one, selections after lunch entailed a Red Velvet Cupcake and Keller's seasonal bread pudding. Consumed in the Venezia Gardens/Pool area outside Bouchon Bistro, I can definitely say the cupcake was the best Red Velvet I've ever consumed. Creamy cream cheese and creme fraiche frosting with a hint of cocoa served over (and throughout) a moist and delectable cake with strong hints of cinnamon and chocolate, plus the earthy taste of the beat sugar used for sweetness and color....sublime. Better than Crumbs, Beasley, Yummy, Sprinkles, and even Doughboy's famous version. Even better than Piece of Cake in Columbus, my previous favorite. After the cupcake I shopped Vegas for a bit and then ate the Bread Pudding rewarmed in the hotel microwave. Sweet but savory, dense yet not "wet," and loaded with cranberry, raisin, and white raisin....awesome. Not as good as the french toast version at Bouchon Bistro, but in my top 5 Bread Puddings, for sure.

                                                              Day two selections, after breakfast at Bouchon, entailed two beignets and a Macaroon. A flawless Coffee Macaroon was first and was just as flawless as the Caramel one in New York in June. Airy, crisp, sweet, and flavorful. Not as good as the Macaroons at Pistacia Vera, but close, and much larger. The Beignets selected were small filled donuts stuffed with Vanilla Custard and Raspberry jam. Both were light and flavorful, still warm, and the fillings were potent without being overpowering of the buttery beignets. Personally I enjoyed the unfilled Beignets at Bouchon Bistro better, but these certainly best Dunkin, Krispy Kreme, Bob's, or other "donut" shoppes.

                                                              Day three, stuffed after dinner before and planning for Alex in the evening, a single Carrot Cake Sandwich Cookie was chosen. As good as the Cupcake and Bread Pudding were, this was the "bar raiser" in terms of wow factor. Having had the TKO and Nutter Butter while in NYC, I really didn't think cookies could get better. WRONG! I like Carrot Cake and I've had some good ones, but this thing was surreal. Smaller than a hockey puck it literally weighed approximately 8oz and was absolutely loaded with the fibrous texture of carrots, yet perfectly balanced and soft like a cake. Hints of cinnamon and vanilla plus the subtle taste of pineapple in the frosting....I wish this recipe were in the Bouchon Cookbook. Actually...why doesn't Keller share the recipes for all three cookies in his next book?

                                                              Day four, after brunch at Bouchon with the transcendent French Toast and unfilled beignets, I opted for a single Banana Nut Muffin which I consumed with the coffee at the Palazzo sportsbook while watching Terrell Pryor ascend to king of Columbus back home. After consuming the muffin I only wished Keller would take Bouchon Bakery nationwide so I could consume all of these things back home. Weighing in at likely a pound, the texture was on par with the carrot cake and the flavor equally subtle yet fantastic. Sticky sweet, topped with a cinnamon crumble, and perfectly moist....I was sad that some of it stuck to the paper, despite being overly full.

                                                              Between Alex, Le Cirque, MiX, Craftsteak, Bouchon, and so many other highly regarded restaurants in Vegas I definitively had a GREAT culinary trip....my only regret is that I didn't have more room in my stomach. If I had, I'd have certainly filled it with more goods from Bouchon. Impressive goals often lead to impressive results. "Respect for food is a respect for life, for who we are and what we do." -- Thomas Keller

                                                              1. And that's a wrap ladies and gents. :-)

                                                                I'll probably be back in about a year for Frozen Fury XII, but perhaps sooner as my sister will be graduating from art school in May and we're going somewhere as yet undecided. As her favorite artist is Picasso and I've held of on Picasso on my past two trips with a goal of taking her someday, perhaps this will be the opportunity.

                                                                13 Replies
                                                                1. re: uhockey

                                                                  Thanks uhockey - I have been hanging on this thread ever since you started it. I am looking forward to using your opinions on our next trip!

                                                                  1. re: uhockey

                                                                    Yes. Great reviews. Much appreciated.

                                                                    1. re: uhockey

                                                                      Thanks for the epic, uhockey!

                                                                      Boy, you really like Bouchon's sweets. I've only had a few in Las Vegas and wasn't excited about them. Will have to give them another try.

                                                                      1. re: Dave Feldman

                                                                        The Red Velvet and Carrot Cake are incredible, the rest simply great versions of things done 'well' at many places.

                                                                        1. re: uhockey

                                                                          u, I've been meaning to ask you ... how did you go about making the substitutions on your meals? Did you email/call in advance?

                                                                          Also, did you specifically request your substituted dishes, or did you more generally say something like, "I don't really like X, would you please have the chef substitute something else for it ... maybe something with Y as the primary point of focus?"

                                                                          I'm just curious, because after having read your menus, many of those are dishes I would LOVE to try on my upcoming trip.

                                                                          1. re: a213b

                                                                            The gnocchi I wrote ahead.

                                                                            Everything else was accomidated on the fly.

                                                                            1. re: uhockey

                                                                              Cool thanks.

                                                                              Did you tell them that you wanted, for example, to substitute a fish dish for the beef ... or were you more specific?

                                                                              Or, did you just say, "I am not a big fan of beef, please have the chef substitute something else as he sees fit"?

                                                                              1. re: a213b

                                                                                Every substitute was a menu item and I said "I want that one."

                                                                                1. re: a213b

                                                                                  Yeah most places will let you sub a tasting menu item for a item on there other menu without a problem as long as its around the same price.

                                                                                  1. re: cgervais45

                                                                                    Great reviews, uhockey. Just got done reading the entire thread. I have a few random questions: I too am a huge fanatic of bread puddings and souffles. If you haven't already (or in case I missed it) would you mind giving me a list from best to worst of the ones you've had in LV? Also, you said when you were about to leave MIX there was a line of 50+ waiting to use the elevator. As a dining guest of the restaurant, did you have to wait as well or was there an elevator set aside just for dining guests? I would think after a long meal with wine I wouldn't want to be bottled in a noisy, packed place like that. Finally, you must know in advance where you "might" be going on your next trip? Since it appears you and I share similar tastes, I'm curious what you may have planned in the future.

                                                                                    Thanks again for the reviews.

                                                                                    1. re: grimaldi

                                                                                      Best in Vegas Bread Puddings: Bouchon French Toast, Bouchon Bakery, Emeri's Fish House, Table 10, Bellagio Buffet. Wasn't so sold at Big Als at Orleans or any of ther other Buffets. Delmonico's was ok.

                                                                                      There is only one elevator at MiX, but if you have reservations you circumvent the line.

                                                                                      Next trip, depends who I go with. If I take my sister for her graduation, Picasso is on the list. If not, then probably somewhere else. "Musts" on the next visit will be Guy Savoy and Alize as well as Bouchon for dinner. Possibles will be Nobhill, Stripsteak, Circo, Stratta, Restaurant Charlie and whatever Keller is supposedly building at Palazzo.

                                                                                      1. re: uhockey

                                                                                        Rumor has it to be Burgers and Half Bottles which is Kellers next line of restaurants he suppose to open in Las Vegas, Napa Valley and possibly NY. Even though I doubt we need ANOTHER Burger Joint in Las Vegas I will defently be in line for any Keller restaurant as he is freakin Chef God!

                                                                                        1. re: cgervais45

                                                                                          I've had his banana nut muffin - unbelievable!