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Sep 30, 2008 04:56 AM

quick vegas trip report

A very quick report on 3 days in Vegas...

first, the out of the way (off the strip)

Lotus of Siam - yes, go there, it's as close to a sure thing as you can get in Vegas, with the wine list of any German reisling lovers dreams. sea bass with drunken noodles was the dish of the trip.

Mariana's Supermarket - want some very good, authentic Mexican that's dirt cheap? this is your place. amazingly good lamb burrito, yummy pozole, great selection of meats for tacos, etc. and you can pick up some detergent and eggs when you're done.

Orchids Garden - solid dim sum, not spectacular, not bad.

Sen Sushi - Taka level, Nobu level, whatever you want to compare it to, it's very good. ex-Nobu sushi chef, prices that will have you swearing off the strip sushi joints forever.

On the strip...
Bartolata at the Wynn - way overpriced, tacky decor, mediocre to good to almost very good food. no way I would ever recommend this place. the same bottle of JJ Prum Riesling Auslese we had at Lotus of Siam was literally 3x as expensive here. not surprising. (great wine by the way, we did not choose to order it at Bartolata)

Red 8 at the Wynn - very good upscale Chinese, not too bad on the value scale actually and pretty authentic. really good pork buns. they also have chicken feet, what more could you ask for?? (actually, the chicken feet was the least interesting dish we had, I'm not a fan)

A bunch of photos, food and otherwise, at

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  1. Similar thoughts about all the off-strip places as you, although perhaps I'm not quite as enthusiastic about Sen as you (but I've only been there once).

    If you like Mariana's, as I do, try La Mexicana ( It doesn't have the charm of Mariana's to me, but I think the food quality is a little better and it also offers daily specials.

    2 Replies
    1. re: Dave Feldman

      Thanks, yeah on Sen, maybe not quite that great, but very very good. I did the omakase, and there was not a single miss amongst probably 8 different courses. Nobu-like black cod, a really good filet mignon cooked dish, some lovely and interesting nigiri, great dark chocolate cake with green tea ice cream to wrap things up. The table also ordered a bunch of different rolls, all solid, though I think the omakase is the way to go.

      1. re: biskuit

        That makes more sense to me. As I said, I only went to Sen once, but I actually liked the cooked dishes more than the sushi.

    2. I had a completely different take on Bartolotta. We did the family style tasting and it was quite memorable. The service was attentive. This is one of my favorite Italian and seafood restaurants. The sea bream flown in from Italy the day before and deboned tableside was to die for. We were brought a number of fresh, handmade pastas which rivaled Batali's.

      I don't get too worked up over prices on the strip. Everything on the strip is gong to be overpriced compared to the rest of Vegas. The prices are justified (in my mind) by the novelty of having so many worldclass venues within a few minute cab ride of my hotel. If I were a Vegas local and had to brave the traffic, crowds, parking and whatever other annoyances driving to the strip from my comfy home entails, I'd probably diss on it as well.

      5 Replies
      1. re: climberdoc

        I probably would have enjoyed it more if we went for the family tasting. We tried the highly recommended grilled scampi, at $20 each, it was a somewhat overcooked jumbo shrimp. Not only bad value, but not very good food at that.

        The pastas we tried were not quite Batali level, but were just a notch below that, so very good, but puny portions especially given the prices IMO.

        1. re: biskuit

          biskuit - nice report . i am a big fan of Sen. sounds like we had a similar meal - the omakase at $85, it's a steal compared to the Strip ! It's funny, i've been to 4 "ex-Nobu chef" places and they all serve the miso black cod or something damn close to it ! Good stuff.

          i still haven't hit Bartolotta - one of these days .....

          1. re: kjs

            A quick tip on Sen - if you plan to go there more than once, and enjoy an omakase evening, have them file your name and the date you were there. They will do an entirely different omakase for you on future visits. We have done this four separate times, and enjoy the creativity that they bring to the table. We do call for reservations first, to give them some preparation time, and they will even take requests. On one particular evening they had softshell crabs as a special, and we asked if they could incorporate a crab into one of the courses. They did it quite well, and a much different presentation from the posted special.

            1. re: kjs

              It's amazing how many "ex-nobu" sushi chefs there are in this world now. A good trend in my book, though I'm sure mr. nobu is not so thrilled about being the sushi boot camp of the world.

              1. re: biskuit

                Nobu has profited from the "exes," though. Who knew, when he started Matsuhisa's in L.A., that Nobu would proliferate all over the known universe? He's been able to drag his charges from his thriving restaurants to new ones.

        2. Only thing I like at Mariana's is the agua's frescas.
          The sweet bread is good, but not nearly as in Mexico
          I have'nt found ONE Mexican resturant here that impressed me.
          For casual Los antojos on Eastern and Sahara is the most authentic.
          Upscale would be Isla at the t.i.

          8 Replies
          1. re: ChrisG.PersonalChef


            Have you been to La Mexicana? I think it is far better than Los Antojos for antojitos, but then I think Mariana's is, too.

            1. re: Dave Feldman

              I have not been to la mexicana I will try soon.
              What do you order?

              1. re: ChrisG.PersonalChef

                I usually order tacos. But look at the little blackboard on the right side of the counter as you enter. I think the lengua is especially good, but I like them all. The specials can be great, especially soupy/stewy stuff, menudo, tripe, etc. Every time they have chivo on the menu, they run out right before I can order it. Lots of the Mexicans seem to order the burritos.

                1. re: ChrisG.PersonalChef

                  And here's a recent thread that I started. I forgot to mention the carnitas torta, which is also a fave of mine:

                  1. re: Dave Feldman

                    I went there. I thought it was weak.
                    I repeat: There is no good, AUTHENTIC, Mexican food in Las vegas for the average Joe. Local food critic john Curtas seems to agree-

                    1. re: ChrisG.PersonalChef

                      I'm not sure what you mean by "authentic." As I said in my initial post about La Mexicana, it's primarily an attempt to serve the antojitos that is popular among Mexican-Americans in southern California, and I think it does it well.

                      Perhaps you might enjoy Los Molcajetes. I wouldn't particularly trust John Curtas on Mexican food, but he enjoys LM.

                      1. re: Dave Feldman

                        And you wouldn't trust him because...?
                        Authentic can apply to anything antojos included.
                        if you could find it IN MEXICO, in a traditional setting
                        it might be authentic.
                        Watch Rick Bayless shows on pbs he goes over all this stuff.
                        if its Mexican American then call it that.
                        Otherwise... it's 2010 and there is STILL nothing
                        quality, authentically Mexican and consistent around here.
                        When I want Mex-American under 10 I go to Chipotle though.
                        Quality ingredients and pretty consistent food.

                        1. re: ChrisG.PersonalChef

                          Why not trust John Curtas on Mexican? He raved about Los Antojos, which I assume typifies everything you don't like about Mexican-American food. He proclaim that topolobampo and Border Grill as the two best Mexican restaurants in the country.

                          But he loves Los Molcajetes, so maybe you will, too.

                          Border Grill
                          3950 Las Vegas Blvd South, Las Vegas, NV 89119

                          Los Molcajetes
                          1553 N Eastern Ave, Las Vegas, NV 89101