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Report: Las Vegas with Kids and In-laws (including a meal at é by José Andrés)

Chris VR Feb 28, 2011 06:48 AM

The experience of going to Las Vegas with kids and in-laws with plain, non-expensive tastes isn't as much of a Chowhound journey as others who visit LV manage, but we still found some decent food along the way.

1) Peppermill (menu at http://www.usmenuguide.com/peppermillmenu.html
)This was an early-ish dinner at a kitschy diner-ish sort of restaurant, chosen for proximity to our hotel, reasonable prices for my in-laws, and the availability of all-day breakfast for my picky kid. I'm not really a fan of places that give you an obscene amount of food, and this definitely falls into that category. Pancakes the size of hubcaps, salads that would feed an army... I just don't see the point. With salads, especially-- there's no way the average person is going to be able to eat such a mountain of greens, and my salad came pre-dressed, which nixed any chance of keeping it for lunch the next day. Steak and Mushroom Salad (13.95) consisted of Broiled tenderloin steak, mixed greens, red onions, cherry tomatoes, sauteed mushrooms and Gorgonzola cheese tossed in a balsamic vinaigrette. The steak was fine, cooked fairly close to the medium rare I wanted (although I did request rare because that seems to be the only way to actually get medium rare in many places these days), and a reasonable portion, as were the mushrooms. Actually when I think back on it, pretty much all I had left when I was done was mostly mixed greens, so it doesn't seem as wasteful as it felt at the time. The Manhattan I ordered was NOT oversized (which was fine with me) but it also wasn't that well balanced, either. My son wanted chocolate chip pancakes and although it wasn't on the menu, they accommodated us, but unfortunately they came with a big pile of chips on top in addition to what was already in the pancakes, and it was all melted so all we could do was sort of spread it over the top. He had no complaints, but to me it was waaaay too much chocolate. This was our travel day and I can't remember what anyone else had, but my overall impression was of a place I wasn't in a hurry to get back to.

2) Bonnie Springs Ranch (http://www.bonniesprings.com/restaurant.html
)After a morning of hiking at Red Rock Canyon, we stopped here because it was conveniently located. The service was very slow but it was a holiday and they seemed to be pretty slammed. The back room in which we were seated was oddly poorly lit, even thought it was the middle of the day. MIL liked her sliced beef, FIL seemed to enjoy his pulled pork. My Bison burger was a bit dry and overly charred around the edges. Again, not a meal I'd hurry back to.

3) Lotus of Siam
We went with a fellow chowhound who happened to be in town, and his family, and i"m so glad we had a larger group, which enabled us to order a wide variety of appetizers and mains. Much has been written here and elsewhere about LOS and I'm sure I have nothing new to add to the knowledge base, but I can say that I do think LOS lives up to its billing as the best Thai in the US. Each dish offered a distinct, individual, fresh taste. I especially enjoyed Norther Larb, Mee Krob, Plar Dook Kra-Prow Krob (Whole Catfish with garlic , basil and chiles) and Crispy Catfish pieces salad. I'm not a complete spice fiend, and some things (like the Mushroom Salad and a soup someone ordered) were just off the scale for me. My tastebuds are sill regenerating, I think, from that soup.

4) Wynn Buffet
I'm not a big buffet person, but the group wanted to do the "Las Vegas Buffet" and this was mentioned as one of the best. The weekday price ($35) was on the high side, but you could see they were trying to deliver for the price, with a really wide variety of options. The crab (opelio as well as king) was good, the shrimp were on the small side, but good. The prime rib was fine for me because I like it bloody rare. Desserts were mostly disappointing, with the exception of the fresh crepes and waffles. I've seen people describe this as the best buffet they've been to, and it was definitely a good one as far as buffets go, but it came nowhere near to the best I've been to (Orchid's brunch, in Honolulu).

5) Serendipity 3
It's been a while since I've been to the original in NYC, which, I know, is a tourist trap, but I am a sucker for the frozen hot chocolate. Prices here for lunch were astoundingly high for average-sized portions, but I was surprised at how good everything was, which lessened the blow of paying the check. Chicken Soup was a rich, flavorful broth, with not overcooked carrots and celery, and a lot of noodles and white meat. My beet salad was billed as 3 kinds of beets over greens (although I only spotted 2 types) with goat cheese and some sort of dressing. It was a very good salad. My husband liked his sliders although they were a bit dried out. The hot chocolate was as good as I remembered, as was the Classic sundae I ordered. If I had to eat on the Strip again, I'd go here again.

6) é by José Andrés
This was our big blowout meal, and what a meal! The in-laws took the kids so we didn't have to worry about anyone's food issues, and could just enjoy the meal (I don't think young kids would do well here... I''d be surprised if they were permitted.) We didn't take any pictures and I don't think I could give a better summary of the food than kevineats did so I'll just link to his review at http://www.kevineats.com/2011/01/e-by... I thought it was such a fantastic meal, with whimsical but always thoughtful and most of all, flavorful courses. I read a few reviews on Yelp that criticized because the courses were on the sweet side, but I didn't gave a problem with that. Yes, there was a bit more sweet than savory or salty, but I was happy to just experience the food without allowing my preferences to detract from what was being served. The Yelp reviewers complained specifically about the foie gras, feeling it was ruined by the sweet citrus sauce, but I thought the entire dish worked well, although I suppose I'd agree that the dish didn't focus on the pure taste of the foie gras. My favorite bites were: caramelized pork rinds (sweet, salty and pork, sigh, I'm in love!); perfect baby artichoke with runny soft quail egg center, topped with caviar; Apple "Brazo de Gitano" and the spherified apples & red wine in one of the dessert courses. From the moment Anthony greeted us at the Jaleo podium, we were impressed with the amazing hospitality from him, Stephanie, and the chefs. Edwin Robles was our main chef and did a fantastic job of explaining what he was doing, the best way to eat what we were served, and answering all of our questions. There were only 6 of us, and we enjoyed the conversations with the other diners, Anthony and Stephanie about the Las Vegas food scene. They have served fewer than 200 diners since they opened in January, and they really seemed like they were enjoying it as much as we were. As others have said, $250pp isn't cheap by any standard, but we left feeling like we'd received a bargain. I was definitely full (almost uncomfortably so) at the end of the meal!

7) BLT Burger in Mirage Hotel
The lamb burger was excellent, although I think I was still full from the night before, and only managed to eat half of it.

8) In and Out Burger
I've read a lot on Chowhound about it over the years and I can agree it was one of the better fast food burgers I've had, although the fries were a bit too mealy/dry for me to really enjoy.

-----
Lotus of Siam
953 E Sahara Ave Ste A5, Las Vegas, NV 89104

Bonnie Springs Ranch Restaurant & Bar
1 Gunfighter Ln, Blue Diamond, NV 89004

é by José Andrés
3708 Las Vegas Blvd S, Las Vegas, NV 89109

  1. d
    Dave Feldman Feb 28, 2011 07:07 PM

    Chris,

    That has to be one of the widest range of establishments for a relatively short stay that has been posted here in a long time. Very cool!

    I'm curious why e has such stringent reservation requirements when the menu doesn't seem to change much and the evidence seems to be that they aren't filling up. I hope the same fate doesn't befall it as happened to Bar Charlie.

    5 Replies
    1. re: Dave Feldman
      Chris VR Mar 1, 2011 03:46 AM

      Thanks! I'm not sure it's the case that they aren't filling up as much as they are dealing with flaky diners. Our meal, for example,was supposed to be 8 but 2 cancelled at the last minute. There are lots of valid reasons that would happen, but without waitlist management and credit card holds, I'd imagine it does leave them in a place where they may not be able to meet costs if it happens frequently enough.

      1. re: Chris VR
        j
        jsa056 Mar 1, 2011 11:30 AM

        I'm gonna second Chris here. The night I was there, Anthony called me around noon because 4 in the 8:30 seating had canceled that day, and a party of 6 (!!!!) had just called to cancel for our 5:30 seating and he didn't want us eating alone. He was able to fill all the seats for the 8:30 seating but only 2 more for the 5:30 seating. When we spoke that night, he talked about how he didn't want to start asking for credit card holds, but in Vegas there are just too many last minute cancellations.

        I for one hope they do start taking them. I want e to be around a long time.

      2. re: Dave Feldman
        l
        LVI Mar 1, 2011 10:15 AM

        I think é is a different animal all together. Bar Charlie was one of my favorite dining experiences in Las Vegas, ever. But what sets é apart from Restaurant Charlie and Bar Charlie are the extreme pricings at the "Charlies" and the space. By that I mean Bar Charlie was close to $400pp and they had over 10-12 seats (probably more) if I am not mistaken. Restaurant Charlie was a different concept but the prices were not that much cheaper. And it was a very large space. The menu at Jaleo is diverse not only in the cuisine but also pricing. It appeals to the masses, if you will. é is only 8 seats. As far as credit cards are concerned, they should require people to give them their cc numbers. Vegas tends to make us all (speaking as a tourist) flaky at some point and if you get on that "magical" roll on a craps table or just decide to have just 1 too many, you have to be held responsible if those seats go unused for the evening.

        -----
        Restaurant Charlie
        3355 Las Vegas Blvd, Las Vegas, NV 89109

        1. re: LVI
          kevin h Mar 1, 2011 11:35 PM

          Bar Charlie was one of my favorites as well. I was sad to see it go. However, it really wasn't necessary to spend $400pp to have a good time there. Here was a very good experience at half the cost: http://www.kevineats.com/2009/06/bar-...

          That being said, 4 of the 8 people during my seating at é cancelled as well, so I certainly understand the holding of CC numbers.

          1. re: kevin h
            l
            LVI Mar 2, 2011 04:21 AM

            Ahh, some of those pictures bring back such fond memories. I had two of the most outstanding meals I have ever had at Bar Charlie. What an experience from beginning to end. But I have to say that $400 is what a complete meal there would cost, which included drinks, tax and tip. The 14 course tasting was $250 as you mentioned but when you add in the $175 wine/drinks pairing, it well exceeds $400 level. Charlie Trotter has always pushed the envelope, which included his pricing. é 's all in pricing is $250. I hope it is anywhere near as good as Bar Charlie (I will be finding out on 3/18) and will withstand the test of time better.

      3. kevin h Feb 28, 2011 03:15 PM

        Thanks for the linkage Chris. Regarding é, were you even allowed to take photos? I've heard that there's now a photography ban in place.

        4 Replies
        1. re: kevin h
          Chris VR Feb 28, 2011 03:25 PM

          They didn't tell us not to. What they said was along the lines of "the chef would prefer you focus on the food, but if you do take photos, please make them flash-free. But really, just eat." I knew you had your great photos so I didn't think too much about it. Your meal was identical to ours except my husband had one substitution (for allergy reasons) at the Cigala with Roses course. His was a lemon foam with white asparagus.

          I think our wine pairings were slightly different than yours... that was the one bit of information they didn't include and I was too soused to ask for :-)

          1. re: kevin h
            DarinDines Feb 28, 2011 07:42 PM

            The confirmation form explicitly states: We respectfully request that guests refrain from the use of video or still cameras as well as mobile phones during dinner service at é.

            Time will tell how strict they are on it.

            1. re: DarinDines
              Chris VR Mar 1, 2011 03:41 AM

              I didn't get anything like that, but from a discussion I had with Anthony, they have had to change a few rules along the way after we made our reservation (such as needing to take credit cards to hold the reservation, due to last minute cancellations.)

              1. re: Chris VR
                z
                zippyh Mar 1, 2011 11:53 AM

                When we went the Saturday of Superbowl weekend, we were the only couple at the 8:30 service. The others had cancelled last minute.

                Before dinner, Anthony said that cameras were okay, just no flash.

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