Questions about Alex at Wynn
New to Chowhound. I've never done fine dining before but decided to try an upscale restaurant for an upcoming trip to Vegas. After readings lots and lots of reviews, I've settled on Alex at Wynn.
I'd love to save as much as possible since I'm on a budget, though obviously, this dinner will have to be a bit of a splurge, so I'm willing to spend extra if it's worth it.
A few questions:
I'm probably going to go for the prix fixe menu for the variety of options at a lower price, but I'm wondering if the Taste of Wynn menu would be just as enjoyable despite the more limited options. Conversely, is the tasting menu worth the $60 extra over prix fixe? Do you get more amuse bouche with the 7-course tasting menu?
In a table for two, can one person get a 3-course menu while the other gets a 7-course menu? Is sharing of plates allowed?
Any recommended seating areas to request? Do window seats have a great view? I'd also like to get great pictures inside the restaurant while seated at our table.
Thanks in advance for your feedback! Sorry for the barrage of questions. I'd love for this to be as memorable as possible since we probably won't have the opportunity (read: budget) for such a splurge for a while. I'll be sure to come back with a review after our trip at the end of the month.
We recently dined at Alex.
The only issue I'd have with the ToW menu is eating so early.
I don't think you get any more "extras" with the tasting menu.
We did the 7 course and enjoyed it quite a bit. Even with the tiny courses, everything is so rich and intense it ends up being a lot of food. I can imagine the next time we go ordering the 3 course and adding the cheese course.
I saw another table where it appeared two people were getting the 7 course and the third wasn't so I don't think you'll have a problem.
There's really no view plus it'll probably dark by the time you're going so a window table isn't going to get you anything. The room itself is the view.
Dined there a couple weeks ago with my wife -- some replies to your Q's ...
"wondering if the Taste of Wynn menu would be just as enjoyable"
Probably be fine, if you're OK with going early ...
"In a table for two, can one person get a 3-course menu while the other gets a 7-course menu?"
I had the four course menu (Farmer's Market Menu), wife had the standard 3 courses and they were fine with doing that. I'm assuming no problems with the 7 and 3 courses split (the night before my wife had 4 courses at Robuchon while I had 16 courses, so I think in general Vegas restaurants are much less restrictive on mis-matched coursing than in some places).
"Any recommended seating areas to request?"
As you walk down the steps we were seated to the right and I think if we ever returned (my wife is insistent we will never return since they screwed up her waygu beef though) I would ask to be seated on the left. The kitchen area was to the right so we had a steady stream of servers passing by carrying plates to the other tables. It was not terrible but the left side would have had much less traffic.
"Do window seats have a great view? "
Didn't notice any outside views myself but we were seated facing back towards the stairs.
"I'd love for this to be as memorable as possible "
Should have a very good time ... my meal was very good and my wife's was fine except for the waygu ... looking forward to your review.
I had the waygu beef in April, and it was cooked perfectly! (I don't want to scare off the OP from ordering the waygu). If the beef wasn't cooked properly, it should have been sent back to the kitchen. I am certain that the kitchen would have had no problem preparing it to your wife's liking.
I'm planning on trying the Taste of Wynn menu at the Alex, which currently features a Wagyu entree. Do you by chance know what cut the Wagyu is? (For Taste of Wynn, I can't imagine it being a prime cut). ? Also, while I have no doubt that the dining experience will be sublime, my only concern is that I'm going to leave hungry! ha. (I read one guy's post somewhere who said he left hungry and wanting to go to McDonald's). I don't expect to be bursting at the seams, but will I at least be satisfied? Thx!
"Do you by chance know what cut the Wagyu is?"
I was the one who posted above about my wife being disappointed in the Alex wagyu. To backfill a bit, we had only had wagyu once before, a couple months earlier while dining at Alinea in Chicago. This was one course in a 23 course tasting menu at what is generally conceded to be the best restaurant in the US at the moment.
The Alinea wagyu was the best piece of beef I ever tasted, extremely tasty and flavorful and so tender you could cut it with a fork. Not knowing any better we just assumed it tasted this way because it was, well, wagyu, and we were eager to get it again when we went to Alex.
When my wife was served the Alex wagyu she was extremely disappointed as it tasted nothing like the Alinea wagyu and was not especially tender or flavorful. I took one bite and agreed (and was glad I had not ordered it myself). It was not bad but it basically tasted like average roast beef to me.
After I had posted in this thread earlier I started wondering about the differences and read up a bit on waygu, noting there were various ways to cook it and many different grades and sources, with a lot of misleading advertising, especially people claiming "Kobe" when it was definitely not Kobe. Alex is not misleading, they state they used "Snake River Farms" domestic wagyu, btw.
So I posted on the Chicago board asking what the differences were between the disappointing beef served at Alex and the heavenly beef served at Alinea and basically it came down to two reasons (you can read the whole thread by going to the chicago board and searching for "Alinea waygu").
First, Alinea was using A5 grade wagyu (probably from Japan based on when we ate there) while the SRF domestic wagyu is somewhat lower grade. Here's a quote from a knowledgeable poster on the Chicago board thread:
"SRF wagyu is a notch above most prime beef for sure, but it's nothing like the bms #12 wagyu you can get from saga/ohmi/matsuzaka/kagoshima in japan. That stuff is just way ahead of anything coming out of snake river farms. Even SRF's highest quality wagyu would only grade at about bms #10 in Japan, and most of it is bms #7."
So that's the first reason, higher grade meat (and the answer to your Q, I guess).
The second reason was that Alinea chef Grant Achatz is a big fan of cooking en sous vide (vacuum sealed at low temps for a long time) and that's how he cooks his wagyu. He can do this because he has a fixed menu and a known number of guests each night, while it's not as practical to cook sous vide at a restaurant with multiple menu items.
So anyway, sous vide cooking with A5 grade Japanese beef => perfect waygu, flavorful and incredibly tender.
Again, not saying the Alex wagyu was bad but compared to the Alinea wagyu it was very disappointing. How much was due to our expectations I cannot say as other people have liked the Alex wagyu, but I was not impressed with the one bite I had.
We just returned from Vegas, as well, and ate at Alex. My husband had the Wagyu beef, and it was not overly tender. It had good flavor, but was not a melt-in-your-mouth piece of beef. We love Alex and have been twice. Once we had the Taste of Wynn and once the Prix Fixe menu. I would say that the service is a notch better when you are not ordering the Taste of Wynn -- we had the exact same waiter and he was a bit more brusk when we ordered the Taste of Wynn. Not rude, but not quite as warm and talkative -- kind of like.... here's your Taste of Wynn menu, choose, so I can move onto another table. As I mentioned in another posting, the stars of the Alex dinners are always the amuse and appetizers for me. This past trip it was a duck pate, the custard with duck confit, the gnocchi/chicken oysters and a cheese-filled pastry. I do believe that you get a couple extra bonuses when not ordering the Taste of Wynn, a second amuse (the divine custard/duck confit) and a tapioca palette cleanser (also delicious). I ordered the potato-wrapped sole off the prix fixe and thought it was very good, although it didn't wow me as much as the amuses. All said, we would definitely return. ps, my favorite bread is the peppercorn-brioche roll.
Thanks everyone for all the great feedback. I was all set to try Alex for the total dining experience (at such a great value with the Taste of Wynn) and was super-psyched to see Wagyu on the menu (b/c I'm a steak kind of girl and have always wanted to try Wagyu), but am now thinking maybe I should instead splurge on a Wagyu at CUT (would try the Kobe, but a little beyond my budget). Would the Wagyu be any better there? (but if I recall correctly, it's also SRF Wagyu, so maybe it won't make a difference?). I guess I have to get my priorities straight ;)...is it all about the steak (in which case, I guess I would go with CUT) or is it about the total dining experience and having the chance to eat at one of Vegas' best restaurants (on the cheap, relatively speaking). I guess I should take advantage of Taste of Wynn...I mean, Wagyu will always be on the CUT menu and I can always go to the one at home in LA for a special occasion one day. ;)
I've had the wagyu at both CUT and Alex, and loved them both. Both were incredibly soft and flavorful (haven't been yet to Alinea--trip planned to Chicago next October for my sister's birthday). I would still choose Alex over CUT for the overall fantastic dining experience. I'm returning to LV this April, and plan to revisit both restaurants. Alex remains my favorite LV restaurant for "splurge" dining, and CUT is my favorite steakhouse.
willyum has a great answer above, including the note that there is no true Kobe beef in the United States. I have just a few things to add. I'll save the kicker for last.
The last time I checked, the beef from Snake River Farms wasn't even true Wagyu. It's an Angus-Wagyu hybrid. I seem to recall there's a place in the US raising true Wagyu, but I'm not sure. In any case, willyum is right that the United States stuff isn't on a par with the best available from Japan.
In terms of bms (marbling score), don't expect to find #12 - it's exceedingly rare, even in Japan. BMS 10 is just fine (well, it's a lot more than just fine).
As of about a month ago, THERE WAS NO JAPANESE WAGYU AVAILABLE IN THE UNITED STATES. In the spring, Japan had an outbreak of hoof-an-mouth disease. All beef shipments from Japan to the United States were blocked. In July, I went to the branch of CUT in Las Vegas, and the chef there said pretty much the same thing; as a result, CUT only offered Australian Wagyu, of a somewhat lesser quality. The current online menu (dated October 11) shows this as still being the case.
Japan has declared the incident over, but news articles seem to indicate that it will be some time before shipments to the United States will be allowed. I've read estimates of a few months, to the middle of next to year, to even longer. Does anyone have better information about this?