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Aug 18, 2010 02:52 PM

Annual visit - How's my lineup

Time to drop the kid off at college in Southern California and then head to vegas for 5 nights, which since its the beginning of Sept. encompasses our anniversary. We are not big gamblers so stay out at the Marriott resort in Summerlin.

Last year we ate at

Mesa Grill
Joel Robuchon
Origin India
Daniel Boulud
L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon

Previous years ate at Vintner Grill, Aureole, Red Square, Rosemary's, Todds Unique, LOS.

Wanted to go with 5 new restaurants this year so my reservations are as follows:

Border Grill (We recently rented the movie Tortilla Soup so wanted to check this out)
Alex (our anniversary dinner)
Julian Serrano (opportunity to check out the Aria)
Nove Italiano (opportunity to check out the Palm on a Saturday night)

So, is there anything you would change?

I will report back as I did last year.


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  1. I'd do Sage rather than Julian Serrano.
    They also do a lot of interesting small plates.

    1 Reply
    1. re: zippyh

      I completely agree with that recommendation.

    2. I am reporting back as promised. We stuck with my original plans:

      Not much to add beyond what most people say. Food was very tasty. Got to experience many difference dishes, without it costing a fortune. I did a Sake flight; my wife ordering a special cocktail. Fun to see that part of Las Vegas. Have never been there before.

      Border Grill (We recently rented the movie Tortilla Soup so wanted to check this out):
      Very tasty. Started with the Chicken Tinga Empanadas followed by the Yucatan Pork. Yum! My wife had the Fish Tacos Ensenada. She liked it but said one of taco's fish tasted off. She wasn't that hungry so she didn't care, but mentioned it to the waiter just to alert them. Sangria was just OK and not nearly as good as what we had at Julian Serrano.

      Alex (our anniversary dinner): We both had the three course prix fixe. While overall very good, I believe Joel Robuchon is a better value. The net of it is that the bread cart at Robuchon is a differentiator for me. That may sound silly, but even with the extras they give at Alex, I was wanting more as dessert approached; so I went for the cheese cart. That was not the case when I ate at Robuchon, because I found the breads so interesting and tasty, and ultimately so satisfying that a cheese course was unnecessary. So in the end, Alex cost about $100-150 more than Robuchon, and not really better. I would give Alex a few extra points for atmosphere. They had great music playing. Wine list was expensive as expected, though I found a great Howell Mountain Zin for $90. They do lose a few points for having to ask for another roll (OK, I like bread). Also, one of the little extras was a little rabbit canape; this tasted good, but I was happy the thing fell apart on my plate because that is when I noticed a little bone that I pushed to the side. So, if we do this again next year, I believe we may go back to Robuchon.

      Julian Serrano (opportunity to check out the Aria): We thought this was terrific. Every dish we ordered had vibrant flavor, and was beautiful to look at. Sangria was outstanding. Service was pleasant and professional.

      Nove Italiano (opportunity to check out the Palm on a Saturday night): Did not think much of the Palms Casino, but thought Nove Italiano had a sexy vibe, great service, and the food was excellent. We shared the Shrimp Francaise which reminded us of a restaurant we used to go to in NY years ago. We then both had the Osso Buco and the Death by Potatoes--Also ordered the risotto of the day, which was probably overkill at that point. All good. The make your own cannolis were wonderful and fun. I think the only negative I have is that the wine list seemed unnecessarily expensive.

      So, all good choices, and I am already looking forward to picking a new group of restaurants for our trip next year. Let me know if you have any questions.

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

      Nove Italiano
      4321 W. Flamingo Rd., Las Vegas, NV 89103

      1 Reply
      1. re: Ian F

        Thanks for the excellent report -- looks like you did awfully well!

      2. Did any dishes stand out @ Julian Serrano's? I'm staying at Aria in November and trying to decide between Sage and Julian Serrano.

        20 Replies
        1. re: Bran808

          The ahi tuna tempura, mixed seafood ceviche, brava potatoes, chicken croquetas, and pintxo de chorizos were all good. I think we had a couple of specials too but can't really remember the details.

          1. re: Ian F

            Ian, great post. We have Alex booked for our anniversary next month, but I'm thinking of switching to Robuchon based on your recommendation. We also LOVE Julian Serrano--and totally agree that the sangria rocks.

            1. re: loriannkru

              >> "Ian, great post. We have Alex booked for our anniversary next month, but I'm thinking of switching to Robuchon based on your recommendation"

              We dined at Robuchon and Alex back-to-back a few weeks ago and while we enjoyed the Alex meals we both felt that Robuchon is clearly better. You can understand why one is a Michelin 3* and the other a 2*. Food was superior at Robuchon and they are going 'over-the-top' on several things, which makes for a more memorable experience.

              Ian mentioned the bread trolley (5 choices at Alex, 12-15 at Robuchon), I would also mention the free gold limo ride to Robuchon (nothing comparable at Alex), the amuse-bouche (Alex was serving a nice tasty tomato soup when we ate there, Robuchon has this over-the-top caviar with king crab dish that has been offered for some time now), the dessert trolley (five petit-fours at Alex, a cart with 45-50 choices at Robuchon -- we exercised restraint and only had 19), and the parting gift of sweets (Alex gave us a bag of 7 small tasty macaroons that dissolve on your tongue, Robuchon gave us a bread loaf-sized pistachio cake).

              The four course meal at Robuchon is a bit more expensive than the four course Farmer's Market meal at Alex ($168 vs $150) and water is included at Alex while you are charged $10/bottle for Evian at Robuchon, points in Alex's favor, but Robuchon offers free tea or coffee at the end of the meal.

              Alex is fine but the overall experience at Robuchon was much more impressive, and the food was much better off the prix fixe menu for the 3 prix fixe meals we've had there (I wasn't as impressed by the 16 course degustation menu though).

              1. re: willyum

                Well, that seals the deal. Thank you SO MUCH, willyum! I will definitely report back. We'll be there 5 nights during Thanksgiving. Can't wait!

                1. re: loriannkru

                  Actually, since I've also dined back to back at Alex and Robuchon, I found that Alex blew Robuchon out of the water. Robuchon was "good", and perhaps I would have enjoyed it more had I not had a magnificent dinner at Alex the night before. But after dining at Alex, Robuchon just didn't measure up for me. I've been back to LV several times since my first dinner at Alex, and I always make sure to include a dinner at Alex on each visit. I particular I found the service to be much more attentive and warm at Alex. Thought the food was much more creative at Alex too. You won't have a bad meal at Robuchon, but you'll have a sensational meal at Alex.

                  1. re: ellenost

                    For sure at any one meal it’s possible that someone will prefer one restaurant to another. Although my wife and I have both had our best meals ever at Robuchon off the prix fixe menus (me on our first visit, her on our second visit) I was a bit disappointed on visit # 2 with the degustation menu since I didn’t like the ‘cilantro gazpacho’ and part of one other entrée, and her lamb brochette was just a bit chewy on the first visit.

                    But if you look at the consensus opinions of those who are lucky enough to dine at this class of restaurant often it seems clear that Robuchon comes out ahead. Here are four examples:

                    1) Michelin is the most prestigious and sends reviewers multiple times, trying most items on the menu, before publishing their rankings. Robuchon is the only Michelin 3 star in Vegas, with Alex one of the three awarded 2 stars (with Picasso and Guy Savoy).

                    2) Gayot rates Robuchon # 1 for Vegas restaurants with a score of 19/20 (I’ve only heard of a couple of 19.5’s and one 20/20 in France). Alex, Picasso and Guy Savoy are each rated 18/20, still an excellent score.

                    Interestingly enough Robuchon, Picasso and Guy Savoy are all included in the Gayot 2010 “Top 40 Restaurants in the US”, but not Alex. (Many people rate Alex ahead of Picasso, showing how subjective these ratings can be.)

                    3) Chowhound Larry G dines frequently in Vegas and has posted descriptions of over 90 restaurants. He rates Robuchon # 1, Guy Savoy # 2 and Alex # 3 …

                    4) This lady is trying to dine at all 21 of the Forbes/Mobil 5 star restaurants and then rating them … here’s the link to her site … click ‘view’ under ‘Profile’ for a detailed write-up on the 12 she’s visited to date.

                    She enjoyed her meal at Alex, rating it 8/10 (behind five other restaurants) and commenting “Alex provided a very enjoyable meal, with a well thought-out modern menu, featuring delicious French Riviera flavors, classic techniques, and lovely seasonal ingredients”. But she was blown away by her meal at Robuchon, rating it 10/10 (the only perfect 10 thus far), commenting “This was the most perfect culinary experience we have ever had!”

                    We’ve dined at six of these restaurants since May (two of them multiple times) and using her scale I’d probably rank Robuchon and Alinea “9”, Le Bernadin “8” and Alex, Kai and Addison “7” (in that order) for the meals we enjoyed there. All provided very good dining experiences but the meals at Alinea and Robuchon were simply better (to us) by a comfortable margin.

                    1. re: willyum

                      Actually I don't care what anyone else thinks about Robuchon or Alex, so please do not cite me a list of completely irrelevant comparisons. I'm from NYC, and dine quite often at our top restaurants (as well as at other top restaurants in the US and internationally). The OP and loriannkru want to know what we thought of Alex. I'm giving them my opinion based on my experiences at the two restaurants. As far as I'm concerned, the only opinion that matters to me is mine. If you prefer Robuchon, that's your opinion, and you are certainly entitled to it. FWIW, we in NYC think Michelin is a joke; they rate mediocre restaurants high, and great restaurants low (and in some cases snub fantastic restaurants).

                      1. re: ellenost

                        .....I agree that willyum shouldn't have thrown out all those comparisons, but to be fair - your chefs DO care about the Michelin Rankings - a lot. Your diners act like they don't because EMP doesn't get super ratings - I admittedly went to EMP a while ago, but I agree with their 1 star ranking - it was no more impressive than Gramercy Tavern and certainly not as good as The Modern, IMO.

                        To say Michelin Stars don't matter is myopic. Your opinion is a valued one on this board - both to you and others...........but so is Michelin's.

                        For my dining dollar, Robuchon toppled Alex.


                        1. re: uhockey

                          Well, I've decided that one way to solve this dilemma is to just go to both. (Next I'll ponder the dilemma of how to also still pay the mortgage.)

                          TRULY appreciate everyone's thoughts, and of course, will report back!

                          1. re: loriannkru

                            Awesome - we're heading back to Vegas and December - doing a dessert, cofee, and cheese tasting at Robuchon for 4 after dinner at L'Atelier. Should be superb.


                            1. re: loriannkru

                              I think your idea of dining at both Alex and Robuchon is a great idea. I'm returning to LV in April, and I've been toying with the idea of returning to Robuchon for the tasting menu (I, of course, will also return to Alex). I'll try to go to Robuchon before my Alex dinner. I look forward to your reviews.

                            2. re: uhockey


                              I've truly respect and look forward to your reviews, and have taken your recommendations many times. I do, however, respectfully disagree about Michelin with regard to their NYC ratings--it goes beyond their awarding EMP only one star. BTW, you must be shaking your head in amazement that one of my favorite restaurants, Momofuku Ko, continues to receive 2 stars. There has been much debate/disagreement on CH and other foodie websites as to the wisdom of Michelin. Certainly, all chefs respect and covet the stars. I'm of the camp that is somewhat surprised with the star system in the US, expecially since I have for many years used the Michelin guides for selecting my restaurants when I traveled to Europe. Since I respect your palate, I will give Robuchon another try when I return to LV in April.

                              1. re: ellenost

                                I'll be back in NYC in February and shall, as usual, use your reviews and recs as a guidepost.

                                I agree that the star system in the US is strange - I just don't put Casa Mono on the same level as EMP, The Modern, etc. Additionally, while Ko pissed me off it was more "attitude" than the meal received which was good, but overpriced. I'll admit a fondness (albeit a weird one) for eating Foie Gras while listening to Beastie Boys "Sure Shot" though.

                                I'll see how I feel about the star system when Michelin Chicago comes out - but on the large part I've found them to be accurate with 3 outshining 2 outshining 1.

                                I think the "money" at Robuchon is best spent not on the 16 course meal, but picking and choosing his classics on the much cheaper a la carte. Like I said, Alex was VERY good, but just a few steps below what Savoy and Robuchon are doing. I'm going to Twist in 2 months, and Melisse in Los Angeles a few days later - it'll be interesting to compare and contrast.


                                1. re: uhockey

                                  Thanks uhockey for the compliment and recommendation to go a la carte at Robuchon. I was looking at the "sample" menus last evening, and I think I will find more to my liking going a la carte, and maybe adding an extra course.

                                  My sister and I tried Twist this past April, and we were unfortunately very underwhelmed by it. I adore foie gras, but the foie gras tasting was one too many variations (same with the lobster). The amusing part was watching the waiter try to position all of the plates on our table for two. I think he had to remove the bread plate altogether. The food was good/very good, but at least one or two of the variations for each dish didn't quite work. I'll look forward to your review.

                                  1. re: ellenost

                                    You can see from my Robuchon review that I did 6 courses and added one from the tasting - they were incredibly accomidating and the seating/atmosphere is sublime. I'm taking mom/aunt/sister there at Christmas for a dessert tasting I had them set up for us - Kamal is perhaps the best pastry chef I've encountered.


                                    1. re: uhockey

                                      uhockey wrote >> “I'm taking mom/aunt/sister there at Christmas for a dessert tasting I had them set up for us - Kamal is perhaps the best pastry chef I've encountered.”

                                      Ah, this brought a smile to my face … on our recent visit to Robuchon the server who waited on us first time stopped by and welcomed us back, apologizing because she was working the other side of the room and couldn’t stay long (she ended up coming by three times to chat). While talking to her I mentioned how much we enjoyed their desserts and that next trip in November we were thinking of ordering an extra one or two desserts from the a la carte menu, maybe “La Sphère de Sucre” (Light yuzu cream and raspberry sorbet) or “L'Aloès” (Fresh aloe and passion fruit layered over cheese cake). She remarked “Le Soufflé” (Warm soufflé perfumed with dark chocolate) was her favorite, one we should not miss.

                                      So later in the meal when I get the first of my two desserts from the degustation menu she brings my wife an unexpected, compliments-of-the-house freebie L'Aloès, which was really nice since my wife had a lot of down time waiting for me to eat (I had 16 courses, she had just four). She was purring and humming about this dessert and said it was the best dessert she had ever eaten.

                                      Ten minutes later they bring the dessert she had ordered off the prix fixe menu, “La Myrtille” (Blueberry compote and lemon brulee, finished with a violet milkshake). The humming sound started up again and she said damned if this dessert wasn’t even better than the previous one. I laughed and said she was like a 14 year old girl who just discovered boys and claims each kiss was better than the last one.

                                      Our first-visit server arranged for Chef Le Tohic to stop by our table and we chatted a bit, which was enjoyable. When he left my wife said “forget him, bring that pastry chef out here. If he’s cute and promises to make these desserts for me every night I’ll marry him!” I was laughing so hard I thought I was going to fall out of my chair …

                                      1. re: willyum

                                        Both Le Tohic and Kamal came out during my meal and Kamal made Le Sucre (pictures in blog) after I remarked that I'd heard so much about it yet it was not on the menu.

                                        To say Robuchon pays attention to the "little things" is an understatement. It's not on par with The French Laundry where they google you and look at their retrospective log of oher Keller spots you've dined at, but it is close.


                            3. re: ellenost

                              >> "Actually I don't care what anyone else thinks about Robuchon or Alex, so please do not cite me a list of completely irrelevant comparisons"

                              I wasn't posting the comparisons for you, Ellen, since you've already made up your mind (and I respect your opinion, though I obviously disagree with it).

                              I posted them for the people on the thread who are trying to decide between Alex and Robuchon, in the belief that the more opinions and head-to-head reviews one reads the better choice one will make. Basically almost every reviewer (especially those who review restaurants for a living) prefers Robuchon, which is telling. Also telling that some rate Alex below Guy Savoy.

                              >> "I think the "money" at Robuchon is best spent not on the 16 course meal, but picking and choosing his classics on the much cheaper a la carte."

                              I agree with Uhockey that the 16 course degustation was a bit underwhelming, especially for the $385 price, but I think the sweet spot is either the 4 course or 6 course prix fixe menus ($168, $215) at Robuchon (wife gets 4, I get 6 except for the time I did the 16 courses).

                              I looked at the a la carte menu last time (to make a switch ... you have to ask for it separately) and the prices are actually very high for entrees, in the $125 - $150 range, $40 - $50 for apps, $30 for chees, $25 for desserts IIRC.

                        1. re: uhockey

                          I also enjoyed the Yucatan Pork entree at Border Grill recently. The serving of achiote pork was very large and my plate included grilled pickled onion, guacamole, fried plantains, refried black beans, Spanish rice and 3 handmade corn tortillas. Here a few photos I took.

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