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Please comment on these Vegas choices for New Year's and my 40th bday dinner

Hi all--I just spent a few hours going over recent Vegas postings, and would love some input.

We'll be in Vegas this year during the week of New Year's. My 40th birthday also falls during that week. Some background:
1) We live in NJ, just outside of Manhattan
2) We're wine geeks
3) I'll do high-end bills, but I prefer to have my socks blown off at places that are more reasonably priced
4) Places we don't want to go this time: LOS, Bartolotta, L'Atelier

For my birthday, I'm leaning towards Guy Savoy. My husband and I are really into wine, so I'm figuring based on LongIslandChef's posting that we might be looking at a $1400 bill. I'm wondering if we could go to the Bubble Bar instead and still have a wonderful experience for a lower price. Any thoughts?

Other possibilities for my birthday are DJT and Bar Charlie or Restaurant Charlie. First, does anyone know if DJT is indeed closed? Their website appears to still be taking reservations. I saw a posting that Donald Trump's personal chef had left the place....so if it is still open, does the current chef make it still worth a trip? Any votes for one of the three restaurants over the other two?

For breakfast, we adore Payard Patisserie (if you haven't had their eggs benedict, RUN directly to this place the next time you get off the plane) and Bouchon. Any other recommendations?

Dinner places I'm planning on that we've already been to: B&B, dB. I saw the spotty reviews for B&B, but based on the strength of what we've had there in the past, I'm going to roll the dice.

Dinner places on which I'd like feedback: Michael Mina. I've been to Nob Hill, and we're considering going again this time. Haven't been to Michael Mina. Is it as good or better?

We'll also go to Origin India for dinner one night.

Lunches: Enoteca San Marco and the burger at Bradley Ogden. Is Bradley Ogden open for lunch?

We heard from friends of ours that Rao's is worth a visit. They said it's not completely spectacular, but enjoyable. Any opinions?

For New Year's Eve, I don't need to go somewhere upscale, but we can. The same friends who recommended Rao's said they go to Mesa Grill every NYEve b/c of the good views of the ball dropping in NYC in the sports area. I like Mesa Grill quite a bit, but if anybody has a more exciting choice, that's great. I don't need to see the ball drop on TV, and I can go to Mesa Grill in NYC anytime. I WILL get cranky if service is poor on NYEve because the restaurant can't keep up with the crowd. (We avoid going out on Mother's Day and other big holidays for this reason.) So I'd rather go somewhere like Mesa if I can be reasonably assured the quality will be on par with a normal night as opposed to going somewhere fabulous that's suffering due to NYEve crowds.

Well, that sure is a lot of questions! Looking forward to advice.

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  1. One thing to keep in mind for New Year's Eve is that the Strip is closed to all motor vehicles, including buses and buses, starting around 6:00 pm. This means you will have to walk to where you are going to have dinner. In addition, you cannot enter through the back of the hotels since from Flamingo Road (where Ballys is located) to Spring Mountain Road (where Treasure Island is located) are closed for abour a quarter mile on both sides of the Strip.

    1. In no particular order, here are a few answers!

      DJT is open, but not what it was. By all accounts, it's now a perfectly adequate restaurant, but not a foodie's kind of place.

      Bar Charlie IS a foodie's kind of place. I prefer it to the restaurant side, because I get to talk directly to the chef. However, if you want something a little more intimate, the restaurant side would be better. The restaurant staff tend to be very accommodating. If you're interested, try calling them during business hours, and ask to speak to the sommelier about what he could do for you. Of course, Guy Savoy is also an excellent choice! Sorry, but I don't know if the Bubble Bar will meet your needs.

      For breakfast, you've already mentioned great choices. If you're looking for more, Tableau (at Wynn) is my second favorite, behind Bouchon.

      I've been to Michael Mina three times, so I obviously don't dislike it. However, I have a little trouble recommending it, and I'm not exactly sure why. Perhaps it's that the food is prepared well enough, but I just don't find it exciting. If you like what you see on the menu, you'll probably enjoy it.

      Bradley Ogden is open only for dinner. When it first opened, lunch was available, but that was long ago. The chef (Bryan Ogden, the son of Bradley Ogden) left a little while back, but I haven't noticed any change in the reviews.

      You say that "I'll do high-end bills, but I prefer to have my socks blown off at places that are more reasonably priced." One place worth considering is a relatively new restaurant called Raku. It's off Strip, so you need to drive or take a cab, but it's not far. It's generated quite a buzz among local chefs, such as Paul Bartolotta and Rick Moonen. Local food critic John Curtas called it "probably the single most exciting off-Strip restaurant to open in the past two years." Recently, it was nominated for a James Beard award as best new restaurant. Raku specializes in robatayaki (Japanese charcoal grilling). It's a tiny place and requires reservations, but is pretty inexpensive. If you want more info, I could go on and on...

      1. Michael Mina is pretty much the same as Nob Hill but the room is nicer and the waitstaff wear odd grey suits.

        3 Replies
        1. re: zippyh

          I respectfully disagree.

          I really enjoy Nobhill and have had some wonderful meals there but Michael Mina is head & shoulders above. The service is much tighter, the food is cleaner, and the space is gorgeous. I would recommend it, if for nothing else, the Lobster Pot Pie. I had this as a "side dish" to our group's meals and it was one of the tastiest things I've ever had. Also the Caviar Parfait is certainly all it's cracked up to be. I'm not a huge caviar fan but this blew me away.

          1. re: azbirdiemaker

            I was just speaking about the food when I said they were more or less the same.
            I've had the Lobster Pot Pie at both and they were pretty much the same.

            I definitely agree that the space is so much better at MM over Nobhill.

            We've had somewhat odd servers at MM. One reminded me of the Serge character from Beverly HIlls Cop. Another reminded me of Mike Meyer's Dieter character from SNL. They were perfectly fine servers, just somewhat odd personalitywise. They actually made the meals more interesting.

            1. re: zippyh

              I hope you don't mind me jumping in on your thread...my hubby and I are headed to Vegas in Sept for my birthday and was looking at both Raku and Bar Charlie. I know that Raku is strictly Japanese but it seems that Bar Charlie is more "asian influenced" in it's food style. If I were to choose between these two places could anyone please lend some advice? BTW, we too are winos, so I was thinking that Bar Charlie would have superior wine choices. Thanks much!

        2. In regards to Guy Savoy, you can get an amazing memorable meal there for far less than $1400. My wife and I have dined there 3-times. The most expensive was doing the Prestige (10-course) with wine pairings and it ended up being a bit over $1000. They have a 4-course option (TGV) for around $180pp as well as a pre-theatre option (3-course) for around $100. As long as you don't go crazy with wine you could do the pre-theatre option and get out for around $350. We've done all 3 of these options. All of them come include multiple visits from the bread cart and a visit from the dessert cart which has to be seen to be believed. I've walked out stuffed to the gills on each occasion. However you decide to order, it will be a evening to remember.

          Mesa has always been great quality and attentive service for me. Seems like as good a choice as any if you have to venture out on NYE.

          Bar Charlie is downright fantastic! You can't compare it to Raku. They are completely different experiences. Allow them to pair your courses. They will do a combination of wine, beer and cocktail pairings all of which are very well-thought and intriguing.

          What about going to Raku on NYE? It may be a bit less crazy than the strip venues.

          Enoteca is great for lunch or an informal dinner. I've enjoyed my experiences there much more than B&B. I'm confident that if you keep pushing B&B that they will let you down.

          My favorite lunch venue has become The Country Club at Wynn. They also serve a great burger as well as a creative, well-thought, well-executed menu with a great view of the golf course. It as if you left the Vegas Strip for a few hours and turned up on a golf course in North Carolina. The sweet corn chowder is the best I've had and they even gave us the recipe.

          As mentioned, Michael Mina is very good and there is nothing wrong with it. It just wasn't memorable for me and I will likely not go back. Someone mentioned the caviar parfait. It's very good but does not hold a candle to the "Colors of Caviar" at Guy Savoy. You'll be paying a lot more at GS though.

          Sounds like a great trip.

          1 Reply
          1. re: climberdoc

            The problem with Raku on NYE is that Spring Mountain Road is closed just west of the Strip to traffic.

          2. I am from San Francisco Bay Area. I loved Mina's food when he was cooking in the kitchen, but that was many years ago. These days, he is more into business building . The food at his restaurants is still satisfying, but hardly exciting. His cooking style is fairly complicated, and difficult to execute in the hands of less talent.

            1 Reply
            1. re: foggy_town

              totally agree! His restaurant in Scottsdale at the Princess was a big disappointment. These star chefs need to keep a better handle on their chefs. And I LOVED his cooking...one of my faves.

            2. Thanks to ALL of you for the great information. I'm going to cut the Mina places entirely and stick with Bar Charlie and give Raku a go.

              One more question--I watched reruns of Top Chef Masters this weekend, and Hubert Keller caught my attention. I don't think I've seen stellar reviews of Fleur de Lys in LV, though. Any opinions on that restaurant?

              1 Reply
              1. re: loriannkru

                This is old information and probably best on the California board but I found Fleur de Lys a top-notch place. If you are in the area thought, I'd opt for La Folie. Again, it's a matter of what you get at a high end place for the price.

              2. I went to Guy Savoy and Restaurant Charlie for dinner in January. I thought RC blew away Guy Savoy for value, taste, presentation, creativity etc. The menu items at Guy Savoy, I thought, were fairly ordinary. The "off the menu" stuff, however, was really good (bread cart, dessert cart, amuse). Don't get me wrong, Guy Savoy was great but, you will spend a mint. We spent over $1000 (even though my wife barely drinks and a friend had bought us a bottle of Champagne for that dinner). I had the 14-course dinner with wine at Restaurant Charlie. Everything was fabulous and it was nowhere near the price of the GS dinner. I've done a lot of high-end places and I'm finding it difficult to be "blown away" when the final tab is considered. Restaurant Charlie did it though. Have fun!!!