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Trip Report, December 2012....from fine dining to burgers.

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sedimental Dec 27, 2012 11:00 PM

We stayed at Mandalay this time for various reasons. Of course it is at the far end of the strip and we didn't have a car so we were a bit limited.

JALEO was really terrific. The menu is huge. The service was great and our server made really stellar recommendations with good advice about how many dishes to order from each category. The menu is in Spanish first, then English underneath so it is a bit cumbersome to read. We had the white asparagus with idiazabal cheese, the plate of cured ham from the “black-footed ibérico pigs”(both delicious and delicate) the semi-sweet goat’s milk cheese paired with raisin walnut bread and fig jam (meh, I could do this at home). The server suggested the “toasted slices of uniquely crispy and ethereal bread brushed with fresh tomato” and I am happy he did, it sounded boring and I would not have ordered it but was actually very nice as a compliment to rest of the lighter foods. We asked about the chicken fritters but the server discouraged us, he said “it is one of the most popular things we have, but it tastes like chicken pot pie”…”you don’t strike me as a chicken pot pie eater”. Good call.
The warm brussel sprouts salad with apricots, apple and serrano ham was good- but I was getting a bit “hammed out” by then, I would pay attention to that next time. The heavier dishes we chose were the veal cheeks and morels with olive oil potato purée and the pork and foie gras canelones with bechamel sauce. Both were amazing and very rich, I would highly recommend both. I chose a 2005 Rioja for the meal and all was well with the world. Coffee was tasty and served individually in press pots with a little sand timer/hour glass to tell you when to press the pot. Cute little gimick.

For a late night burger, we went to HOLSTIENS SHAKES AND BUNS at the Cosmo. Wow. Fun place. It is really intentionally loud with music and voices, staff is friendly and goofy (dancing to the music when not busy). We ordered two boozy shakes (a chocolate/banana/rum one -and an eggnog rum one) both were way too big to finish but they have “to go” glasses. The lobster and truffle mac and cheese was good (not a fake truffle oil flavor) and was served in a small, cute dish (perfect size) and we also ordered some sort of wagyu kobe beef burger (with nori? Wasabi?) whatever…was really good too. The portion sizes were big- but not too big and not exceptionally greasy for that type of food. We really appreciated that for late night food.

BORDER GRILL (of the “two hot tamale” fame) at Mandalay served a stellar brunch. Really exceptional! They offer you small plates, ordered three at a time, and bottomless champagne cocktails “mimosa’s” of various kinds (peach, guava, pomegranate, orange, etc). All the food was inventive and very, very well done! I don’t usually take photos in restaurants, but I did here. The food was visually beautiful. The green corn tamales, bacon jalapeno PBJ, Peruvian Shrimp and Grits, Yucatan Egg Benedict (with pork) to Plantain Empanada’s…something for every taste! Seriously big menu and variety! Friendly, attentive staff. I highly recommend. So inexpensive -just a great little restaurant with amazing value for a Vegas breakfast or brunch on the strip.

Dinner at GORDON RAMSEY PUB AND GRILL was really nice. We selected a nice beer from the big beer list at the bar while waiting for our table. The bartender gave us great advice about what to order and told a few tales about Gordon and the soft opening. Pretty funny. They have an interesting “vibe” there. The staffs uniforms were very “London/Mod/ Edgy” looking and the table and chairs were all so different. We sat at a (too small) small table with two winged easy chairs and ottomans. Not big enough for the food, it was really a juggling act (I hate that). Anyway, the complimentary bread plate of soft pretzels and two spreads was really fabulous…and I wish I had not kept eating it as the portions here are large. We ordered the fish and chips (natch) and the "truffle stuffed Cornish chicken under a brick" (Cornish Game Hen). Both were cooked to perfection and tasty. The fish was too big to eat it all, crunchy and moist inside- the chips were “cubed” and triple fried to have a very crunchy outside and a creamy inside. The chicken skin was soooo crisp. I have to say, the technical cooking aspects were noticeable here. We took the bartenders advice and ordered the sticky toffee pudding. Wow. The only drawback was that our server was absolutely terrible, really forgetful, and it almost ruined the experience. She was nice, just not competent that evening.

Dinner one night at SAGE. Of course, it was excellent and memorable. The service was outstanding. I tend to chat with the servers a bit and ask their opinions about food and drink. Our server was great. We went with the chef’s Signature menu with wine pairing- and decided to choose all different items to be able to taste everything. I ordered a supplement of foie gras brulee (10 bucks extra) served with a Tokaji. It lives up to it’s hype, but my tummy had a bit of trouble with starting out with such a sweet dish and sweet wine… with so much more to come. The oysters were great (and I am from the PNW and know oysters) these were delish! We also had scallops, beef belly, octopus and wagyu sirloin. Deserts were works of art and the wine pairings were *spot on*. Really a good value (extra foie dish and 2 coffees, with tip) was still under 200 per person.

Misc eatings/drinkings:

I had read about SECRET PIZZA (Cosmo) from various sources- so when we arrived a bit hungry, we thought this might hit the spot until dinner. Honestly, some of the hype kind of ruined it for me-someone even said it was “the best pizza in Vegas”….well, it is not so “secret” and not so great. It’s a basic “cardboard box” style (thin and skimpy) NY pizza which is not my favorite to begin with. The crust was decent, topping flavor was lacking. I had the white pizza and that was much better than the pepperoni. The wine they served from a box was almost entirely undrinkable – really bad, but I drank about half of it before throwing it away. There is drinkable boxed wine so I don’t know why they served that swill. 2 slices and 2 bad wines for a bit over 20 bucks was not a good value and I wouldn’t go again unless it was a “half drunk/late” night thing…and I would order a beer next time...or just go get a Nathans hot dog.

So, we were staying at Mandalay Bay this time and I had not been to a Vegas buffet in years. I really wanted to try Bacchanal (other end of the strip) but the wait was always extremely long (hours). We were tired (okay, a bit hung over) so we just went to the BAYSIDE BUFFET at Mandalay Bay Hotel for Brunch because we could get right in. Dear Lord, it was terrible!!! I mean…BAD...really bad. The hot items were cold, the crab legs were crappy, the crepes were from a box mix, the “Chinese food” that I tried (because all the Asian folks were trying it) was just garbage. The only thing I actually ate was cold shrimp with cocktail sauce and croissants. Seriously, believe the reviews as to how bad this is, I should have...but I thought…how bad could it be? Well, now I know.

Brunch-ish at RAFFLES CAFÉ in Mandaly Bay was unexpectedly good. Maybe after our abysmal Buffet experience there- we were easy to please. But we had a regular breakfast, cooked well, nice artisinal type toast, and a nice club sandwich (same bread) with really excellent french fries. The strip is tough for breakfasts, this place was decent.

The CHANDELIER BAR at Cosmo was just so darned beautiful and such a good spot for a relaxing cocktail and for people watching. Some high profile person came in with body guards. A drunk bride in her white dress got into a fight with her wedding party. Free entertainment :)

The bar at ARIA (Casino floor) had great live music, comfy seats and couches, a happy, calm “grown up” vibe- and decent drinks.

The coffee shop at Mandalay Bay serves coffee that I considered undrinkable. It was muddy and bitter.

  1. BubblyOne Dec 31, 2012 04:58 PM

    What a lovely report! Thanks for taking the time to post. I'm guessing the Gordon Ramsey is in the spot that replaced one of my favorites Bradley Ogden in CP?

    1 Reply
    1. re: BubblyOne
      s
      sedimental Dec 31, 2012 11:54 PM

      Probably. It's the new GR "pub and grill" at CP. THis was the first time i had been there. I can't remember what was there before. Now they have a bar area on one side and the dining area on the other. You can get food on both sides. I think the food was better than Todd English PUB but both have the loud music, frantic vibe, and very "different" outfits that the staff wear. Must be an English Pub Thing :)

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