5 nights - need help with unique/different/new for a couple of nights
I'll be in Vegas for 5 nights - already have 2 nights covered: 1) e by Jose Andres, and 2) Raku. So I need help with 3 dinners.
Is there anything new on the strip that's noteworthy? We'd prefer contemporary/unique over old fashioned, and we're seeking a more upbeat atmosphere as opposed to something quiet. But food has to be really good. And it doesn't have to be expensive (would prefer less expensive, if possible). L'Atelier would fit the bill in terms of atmosphere, but been there and thought it was merely good to very good, so not sure we want to return. Is Guy Savoy's bar area still serving dinner? I can't find any internet links . . . what's it like? I might return to Sage because my dining companion has not been and I really enjoyed my first meal there. Also, we probably don't want to go to a steakhouse.
We might also add one more off-strip meal. We're probably going to skip Lotus of Siam - been there many times and we have great Thai in Chicago where I'm from. Since we're going to Raku, we'll skip Ichiza. Is there anything else off the strip that's particularly good for dinner in a Raku/Lotus/Ichiza way?
Finally, anyone been to Red 8 or Beijing Noodle No. 9 recently? Which do you prefer?
Thanks in advance for any help you can provide.
I just wanted to say thanks to everyone for the suggestions. I had wanted to make it to Bar Forte and El Gordo Taco, but we never made it to either spot - next trip. We didn't have a car and took two cab rides off the strip, to Raku and Kabuto. We mostly did buffets for breakfast/brunch, trying Paris, Wynn, Aria and Wicked Spoon (Cosmopolitan). Paris has really gone downhill in recent years - used to really enjoy it but it was truly (and shockingly) awful, with only the made-to-order crepes and creme brulee being worth eating. I used to think the Wynn buffet was very good but it too left us disappointed - decent, but very noticeable quality decline from last year. Aria and Wynn were similar in quality, both okay but nothing to get excited about. I would say Wicked Spoon really stood out in terms of both food quality and interesting choices, and was far better than any of the others.
We also had two small brunch/lunches at non-buffets: One was a return trip to China Poblano. Once again, I really wasn't super impressed. We shared two items, the bbq pork steamed buns (okay, but the buns were a little dry and the pork filling too sweet) and the Dan Dan Mian (hand pulled noodles were pretty good, but no noticeable Szechuan peppercorn or other heat, although flavor was decent). The problem with China Poblano is that they seem determined to please a heavy-drinking, 20-something crowd, and less willing to deliver the intense flavors that some of the menu items suggest.
We also had some dim sum at Beijing Noodle No. 9 at Caesar's Palace. I read elsewhere on Chowhound that the former chef at China Mama (which I've heard is a very well respected spot for dim sum in Vegas' Chinatown) is now at Beijing Noodle No. 9, so we figured we'd give it a shot (not wanting another pricy cab ride off the strip). While BN9 didn't deliver as good quality as we were expecting, we generally enjoyed the meal. We had the xiao long bao, which are filled only with pork here. They were pretty good - the wrappers perhaps a tad dry but not too thick, and the filling was tasty and full of flavorful broth. Far from the best XLB I've had, but respectable. Beijing pancake wrap with beef and cilantro was pretty tasty, although I expected the exterior to be crisp and it was lacking in this area - still very flavorful though. Pork buns were okay, but the buns were a little dry, a problem that also affected the sweet red bean paste buns. Finally, Dan Dan Mian featuring hand pulled noodles. A tad of Szechuan peppercorn could be detected, but very little. Still, a little more heat than the version at China Poblano and pretty flavorful. Overall, Beijing Noodle was decent and recommended if you would rather not leave the strip.
As for dinners, we ate at Sage, é by Jose Andres, Abriya Raku, D.O.C.G. enoteca and Kabuto Edomae Sushi.
I had an outstanding meal at Sage last year. This year, I was not so lucky. The meal started off with a terrific amuse of duck rilletes with olive and cherry. However, it went downhill from there. I started off with the grilled Spanish octopus with smoked potato puree, shishito peppers, preserved lemon and arugula. It sounded great, but really disappointed. The octopus was formed into cylinders that were far too chewy and lacked any grilled or charred flavor, and the entire dish was extremely salty. My main course - Iberico pork loin, crispy pork shoulder, spaetzle, creminelli mortadella and baby carrot - did not fare better. Again, way too salty and there was so little spaetzle and carrots so there was nothing to cut into the richness.
I didn't taste my dining companion's beef tartare or scallops with oxtail, but although he enjoyed the tartare, he was disappointed with the scallops and also found the dish way too salty. I'm not sure if there have been changes in the kitchen or we just caught them on an off night but this meal was pretty close to 180 degrees different from the one I enjoyed last year.
Yet, Sage was still better than D.O.C.G., a Scott Conant restaurant inside the Cosmopolitan. A pizza with prosciutto, arugula and parmesan featured a very soft and undistinguished crust of the type I'd expect to find hanging in a grocery aisle. Spinach ricotta gnudi were the size of meatballs, all wrong texturally, and did not taste good. Semolina pasta with housemade sausage, olives and porcini featured well cooked and flavorful pasta, but relatively bland and too-lightly seasoned sausage and very little in the way of porcini mushrooms. Overall, D.O.C.G. proved to be a very bad choice.
Kabuto turned out to be quite the gem and I would highly recommend it to the lover of pristine and simply prepared nigiri. It's been several years since I was in Japan, but the Kabuto experience is pretty close to what I remember experiencing eating excellent nigiri in Tokyo. When you arrive in the strip mall housing Raku and Kabuto, you'll see the sign for Raku but Kabuto (on the left, before you get to Raku) has no sign.If looking at Raku from the street, Kabuto is on the left side of the same small mall before you get to Raku, with a narrow horizontal window to peer into to make sure you're in the right place.
Kabuto apparently gets most of its fish flown in directly to the restaurant from Toyko’s Tsukiji market, but I know that we also had tuna from Spain. At Kabuto, you can order off of the menu, choose the nigiri menu ($48 for 10 pieces, plus a glass of sake, a hand roll, green tea and dessert) or the omakase menu ($80 and includes I believe 6 pieces of fish, but not sure of what else). We chose the nigiri menu, and added a couple of extra pieces each.
I can't remember each piece we were served in the precise order (and I'm not great at identifying each piece below), but it included baby amberjack (shiokko), jack mackerel (ma-aji), salmon roe (ikura), striped pig (inaki), ocean trout (umimasu), see eel (anago), tuna (akami), medium fatty tuna (chu-toro), tamago, tuna hand roll, kamashita fatty tuna (kamashita; we ordered this as an addition) and sea urchin (uni; also ordered as an addition).
We sat at the sushi bar (there are only 2-3 other tables and I think 8-10 seats at the sushi bar - reservations are a MUST) and were mesmerized by the precision and intensity of the sushi chefs. Each item was delivered one at a time, delivery timed perfectly, fish not at all cold and stunning in flavor. We were not given soy sauce or wasabi. Rather, the sushi chef delicately handled the rice and fish and seasoned each item with aged soy and wasabi (and perfectly I might add).
I can't decide whether I enjoyed Raku or Kabuto more, and I suppose your preference will depend on the experience you prefer (if you want sushi, definitely Kabuto). Regardless, I would say that Kabuto is a must visit on your trip to Las Vegas.
I posted pictures of my visit to Kabuto (and will add pictures from é and Raku later) here: http://lthforum.com/bb/viewtopic.php?... Also, I'll follow up later here with my thoughts on é and Raku.
During my visit to Vegas, I also dined at é, and while I thought it was a very good meal, I did not think it was nearly as good as the similar concept meal I enjoyed at Next in Chicago for the El Bulli menu. And é was priced almost the same (if not slightly more) than Next's El Bulli menu and I thought Next was far superior.
One aspect of the meal I enjoyed was sitting at bar and watching the preparations. Food-wise, however, not everything impressed. The meal started with a sherry-based cocktail that was pleasant, but perhaps not so exciting.
We then moved on to the clavel, a rose that tasted largely of raspberry, set atop a mold shaped like Jose Andres' hand. Tasty, sweet, and an interesting lead-in to the next bite.
The next bite was a macaron of idiazabal cheese. While I enjoyed the flavor, the interior of the macaron did not offer the smooth filling promised (mostly crunchy).
I really enjoyed the next bite, honey-caramelized pork rinds - delicious.
We then moved on to a tube of apple and blue cheese, which had the texture of something between a foam and a marshmallow. I thought this was fine, but the apple came through more than the blue cheese, and I would have preferred the opposite.
Next up was a nitro almond cup, combining the flavors of almond cream and caviar. Other than the always enjoyable flavor of caviar, I didn't find this dish particularly memorable.
This was followed by crispy chicken skin in escabeche, which also featured chicken gizzards and thyme air. I didn't enjoy the chicken skin that much as I found it had a burnt flavor.
But the next couple of courses I enjoyed quite a bit. First, neulas, which was a thin biscuit surrounding a truffle cream, and topped with purple basil blossoms. I thought that both the flavors and textures were outstanding.
Then was the Ferran Adria version of the olive - a black olive sphere that was delicious; at Next I had a green olive - I enjoyed both immensely.
Then, my favorite dish of the night, bocata de bacalao - cod (cheek?), caramelized onions and fried brioche, and it was outstanding.
Perhaps I've had too many liquid spheres of late, so the cava sangria sphere didn't excite me much (the new foam?), but it was tasty enough.
The next course did not impress me at all. Artichoke puree with vanilla, I just didn't get this at all.
Lobster with citrus and jasmine air showcased perfectly cooked (and plentiful) lobster, but I thought that the jasmine air was just a bit too aromatic.
Another one of my favorites was the chickpea stew with Iberico ham. If I'm going to register one complaint, it's the overuse of spheres (here, liquid spheres in the place of chickpeas). That being said, this course was delicious - my second favorite (after the bacalao) of the savory courses.
I thought I would love the turbot and bone marrow, but ultimately I found too many flavors fighting for respect, and I never quite figured out how to bring it all together. In some ways, this is where é misses the mark. You see them preparing much of the food, it's all quickly plated, but you really have to push and keep pushing to find out all of a dish's components, the inspiration, and how they should be eaten. It's almost as if they have concluded that most people don't want to be inundated with these details, whereas I think diners want the entire story.
But the next course was another one of my favorites, and really pretty simple. Wild mushrooms, in broth, in papillote cut at the table, and then topped with rosemary air. Although the air could have offered a bit more rosemary, it was all still very delicious and the richness of the mushrooms was sensational.
But then another small crash - secreto of Iberico pork and squid. Sounds great, so how could it go wrong? The pork was dry and a bit tough, and the squid very chewy. I never could have imagined I would not have enjoyed this dish - okay, but fell far short of expectations.
However, I was very impressed with the desserts. First, a cheese course of La Serena sheep's milk cheese with orange pith puree. Somewhat simple, but also outstanding.
A very light flan that was a beauty to watch being plated, and served with an equally delicious orange ice. An outstanding flan, and I love flan.
And yet I might have enjoyed the chocolate and olive oil even more. Dark chocolate and fruity olive oil combined - I would never have known just how good they taste together.
We were then treated to a coffee-rum drink - we had watched the rum burn off while a couple of the previous courses were being prepared.
Then, a rice pudding of sorts (flavored with lemon and cinnamon) and encased in a crispy ice cream cone that was somewhere between a sugar cage and a waffle. Delicious!
Cocoa paper with dried strawberry seemed simple and light, but delivered nice chocolate and strawberry flavors, even if the chocolate reminded me a bit too much of Cocoa Krispies.
Finally, a 25-second cake and "air" chocolates, white and dark. These were fine, but the worst of otherwise stellar desserts.
I enjoyed é, but I found that the meal really gave me that much more respect for what the folks at Next in Chicago have accomplished.I simply enjoyed the flavors far more at Next. Also, Next employed so many more techniques than é, which really shows in the different textures and presentations seen throughout the evening (too many damn spheres at é). Would I recommend é? That all depends - I would say that most of the meal was very interesting, and I obviously enjoyed many of the flavors, but at $400, I just didn't think it matched up in terms of similarly priced meals, and didn't showcase enough modern techniques. But if you're looking for modernist cuisine/molecular gastronomy and don't otherwise have access to it, I would highly recommend a visit to é.
Also worth noting is that é now takes reservations 90 days out.
No question - I had no luck getting the Next El Bulli tix on my own, but was lucky enough to get invited by a friend. I've been able to score tix for every other Next menu on my own however, although living in Chicago makes it easier because I can adjust my schedule easier than someone out of town who needs to first arrange for a single dinner, and then schedule a vacation around that date.
Finally, my thoughts on Raku. Raku was terrific, as you'd expect. Although we may have wanted to do the Kaiseki menu, this has to be arranged at least three days in advance, so keep that in mind (I forgot). In retrospect, I think that we were able to sample more dishes by not going the Kaiseki route, so really no big deal.
We started the evening off with a special of tuna - fatty and fattier - that we were told had just been flown in, and it was really tremendous and pretty much on par with the tuna we enjoyed at Kabuto, except that the fattiest piece of tuna at Kabuto was fattier, richer and even more delicious.
Next we were delivered two separate dishes, soft boiled egg and deep fried bean curd with mochi, which we ordered off the Oden portion of the menu, thus served in broth. Both were nice, although neither stood out in terms of the better flavors of the night. The broth itself was good too, but still not particularly exciting.
On the other hand, the house-made tofu really stood out. We couldn't decide if we wanted it served regular or fried, so they said they'd split it in half for us - great! The regular house-made tofu is terrific:
But the house-made fried tofu, Agedashi Tofu, that was served later in our dinner was even better, much better and was one of my three favorite bites of the night. It's fried, served in a dashi broth, with mushrooms, shredded nori and topped with salmon roe and green onion, and served with a large dab of chile paste:
From the Robata grill portion of the menu, we enjoyed the shishito peppers. Very fresh and with a light dose of peppery heat, nicely flash fried and served with a mound of bonito flakes.
Continuing with the Robata grill portion of our meal, we enjoyed the perfectly cooked yellowtail with a soy sauce glaze. But I found the direct-flamed eggplant to be rather boring. Eggplant, slightly charred, with bonito flakes - just didn't excite me.
Raku's miso soup (of course, "Yummy Miso Soup" on their menu) is one of the best I've tasted, and not the afterthought it is at so many lesser Japanese restaurants.
We were then bombarded with a number of proteins from Raku's Robata grill, and they really shined. All were perfectly cooked and juicy. My favorite was easily the Kobe beef outside skirt with garlic. Words cannot describe how delicious this was - tender but not too tender, great beef flavor and grilled beautifully. Almost as good was the Kurobuta pork cheek, so flavorful and surprisingly tender. One of the better filets I've tasted, Kobe beef filet with wasabi was as tender as you would expect, again cooked perfectly, but more flavorful than most filets. Duck with balsamic soy sauce was very good, yet not quite as good as we had hoped. I think I would have liked some textural distinction between skin and meat, maybe a little more char even. Still, quite tasty.
Then, another huge star, the "Juicy Deep Fried Chicken," which is on the appetizer portion of the menu (but note that dishes are not served in the order one from the west might expect upon reading "appetizer"). Well, Raku does not lie as the chicken was really juicy. More importantly, the crisp and brittle and utterly delicious skin and sauced greens made for one of the best fried chicken experiences one could imagine, and I am a tremendous fan of fried chicken. I believe the chicken skin is removed from the meat before frying, to allow it to get so crisp and brittle. I had been to Raku before, but did not order the fried chicken. That will not happen again - this fried chicken is a must order.
Can't remember exactly what the rice balls were - grilled and maybe fried. They were quite, but probably did not stand out (or maybe we were getting full). Finally, miso with crab. Well, I know Raku's miso is terrific, and I love crab, so what can be wrong? Well, just a bit more work than I was wanting, that's all. Flavor was terrific, but I wouldn't do it again.
Raku is an outstanding restaurant, although I rarely hit it on trips to Vegas. As I've noted before, I simply prefer other Asian cuisines and have a hard time missing out on Lotus of Siam, and I often have limited off-strip trips. But do not interpret my preferences as an endorsement of Lotus over Raku (or Kabuto for that matter) - just a matter of preferences. But even despite a couple of dishes that didn't excite me, overall this was a really tremendous meal, with the Agedashi tofu, the fried chicken and the Kobe skirt steak being my three favorite dishes. And returning to the same strip mall two nights in a row, for Raku and Kabuto, made for quite the little trip to Japan (too bad I missed Monta, same strip mall).
If you're interested, I posted pictures of my meal here: http://lthforum.com/bb/viewtopic.php?...
Okay - off to a great start with 3 dinners booked for end of June, beginning of July: Sunday at e, Monday at Raku and Tuesday at Kabuto. We're still undecided about Saturday and Wednesday. Sage is a strong possibility. Also considering Comme Ca, Bouchon, DOCG and American Fish . . . and of course Lotus of Siam. The only reason we might not go to Lotus is that we've both been there a few times - I couldn't possibly say anything negative about the food.
At this point I think we're considering places in the price range of the ones I mention as possibilities above, so if you've got any other suggestions (or comments about the possible choices) or reasons I really should consider trying one of these spots, please let me here from you. Having been to Sage and Lotus though, I know what I'm getting from those two.
Let me ask for opinions of a few other places I have come across:
Kabuto - anyone been? How good is the sushi? How hard is it to get into and do they take reservations?
DOCG - considering for a casual meal, maybe pizza - any good?
American Fish - menu looked interesting.
Might opt for Comme Ca or Bouchon - been to Bouchon in Vegas once and thought it was decent. Not sure if it was an off meal . . . I know little about Comme Ca.
As you can see, I'm a little bit all over the map here, but appreciate any help you can offer.
e and Raku are still definites, and LoS a strong possibility . . . maybe Sage and then 1 or 2 others depending upon your thoughts.
Completely disagree with you on E, unless it is your 1st time at E. Please do not get me wrong as if you read my review of E I think it is an absolute FANTASTIC experience. But that was then...@ $250 for all...$450 I hear now and they are not NEARLY as generous as they were in the past. I sent 2 of my best friends recently and they loved it...lamented the $ but LOVED. But that is my beef. For $450 I would take Joel Robuchon or Guy Savoy. E is an experience to do 1 time. The experience has not MATERIALLY changed and therefore I would find it very hard to spend >50% more to return, unless it were comped.
Having spent 15 years in Chicago myself I am a huge lover of the thai scene there. However, I would argue that Lotus is beyond compare with them all, even Arun. The only reason I say that is I, like you, have been to Lotus countless times and for some reason, in the last 1.5 years I feel that their quality has gotten even better, IMHO (minus the soft shell crab salad which has gone the other way). I am craving my return in Sept.
As far as other meals, I would skip Guy Savoy (dont get me wrong, it is excellent. In this economy there are other places that I would go before dropping the amt of coin GS commands).
Red 8 will do to scratch that particular itch. But you have a car so do yourself a favor and drive up Spring Mtn road to China Mama. Earth shattering culinary delight it is not. HOWEVER is it really very good (zero atmosphere) and I will be returning. Also, Pho Kim Long is excellent.
And finally, last but certainly not least (as a matter of fact, one of my favorites) is El Gordo Taco. It is a MUST!!! Next to the Encore, authentic CHEAP and delicious tacos. From steak to stomach (yum), from spicy pork to head (yum). Eat them all as they are all worthy.
We might end up at Lotus just because we both like it quite a bit. Next time in Chicago try Aroy, TAC Quick, Sticky Rice or Spoon - 1/4 of the price of Arun . . . and better.
Now that I found out Guy Savoy doesn't do bar menu anymore, we will definitely be skipping.
I've looked at China Mama and noticed that they do XLB which I always love (well, when done right) so that might be an option. Then I read that China Mama's former chef moved over to Beijing Noodle No. 9, which is why I am even considering the latter, but I want to make sure that the quality is there.
Also, will definitely hit El Gordo . . . sounds like it's right up my alley for a quick bite.
If you are really into Thai food, I think you owe it to yourself to go to Lotus, and order some dishes that are unavailable in Chicago. As far as I'm concerned, Chicago is only behind L.A. in its depth and quantity of Thai food (although I'm not arguing necessarily that any one restaurant in L.A. is superior to the best of Chicago). I haven't been to Chicago in several years (hope to remedy that this summer), but I was very impressed with Spoon and especially TAC (I don't consider Arun close to their class in food quality), and have never been to Sticky Rice. But I do feel that Lotus is much superior to any one of them, especially for its sauces and grilling. If time were limited, I just couldn't imagine going to, say Bouchon or Comme Ca for lunch or dinner when LOS was an option.
I haven't been to LV since Kabuto opened. I've heard good things.
re: Dave Feldman
No arguments on Lotus here Dave . . . and I'd put Lotus well above Arun. In my opinion, Arun is at best the 6th best Thai restaurant in Chicago . . . no insult to Arun's . . . more about the state of Thai food (and impressively northern Thai food) in Chicago.
By the way, since you've been to Spoon and TAC, put yourself in the hands of Aroy next time in town.
My apologies, I didn't notice that in your reply to LVI you indicated that you have been to Lotus before. No reason for my post then!
I've eaten Polish many times in Chicago, but never had Bulgarian or Russian there. Bar Forte is a cool place, open until 3:00 a.m.. Not fine dining but great fun with a pan-European menu with an emphasis on Eastern Continental. I tend to eat a lot of Thai, Japanese, and Mexican food when I"m in LV, so Forte fills a niche for me.
You might want to consider Mundo for some upscale mexican food. We have gone there numerous times and would highly recommend it. Not your typical Tex Mex place. Link is below:
As a side note, all of the restaurants in Aria are offering three course meals starting at $39. (Details in the Coupons and Deals thread under Sticky Topics at the top of the LVCH Board)
re: Dave Feldman
When was the last time you were there? Our first visit was just OK, but subsequent meals have been quite good.
I enjoyed the carnitas last time we ate at Mundos, especially liked the cucumber and habanero salad on the side. The pork tenderloin has always been good and my wife enjoys the shrimp diablo with the fresh corn tamale on the side. Daughters favorites are the pork tenderloin and the scallops.
For starters we like the skirt steak skewers accompanied by the jicima, green apple slaw and the Mundo chopped salad.