Vegas Trip Report
Just recently returned from Vegas. Learned a lot from visiting the Board to research. Many thanks.
As a point of reference, we were in Vegas with a large group and did not know our full itinerary much in advance so it was a little hard to plan. We stayed at the Tropicana (again it was a group trip) which was nice enough but pretty far away from the majority of the places we wanted to try. In the future, I would stay closer to the center of the strip (Aria, Mandarin Oriental, Bellagio, etc.) We don't mind at all walking to dinners (up to 2 miles), but walking the strip is just a totally different experience. Lots of smokers, jostling with crowds, a lot of pedestrian walkways that force you up and over streets and it just takes a lot longer than you think to get from point A to point B.
Lotus of Siam (off Strip):
Went here for lunch twice (only open for lunch M-F). If you get there around 11:30 you will get in just fine. They do not make reservations for lunch. We took the monorail (which I recommend if you come from the far end of the strip) to the last stop then walked about 10-15 minutes to the restaurant. This was a much cheaper option when starting from the Tropicana, which is all the way at the other end of the Strip. If you are staying at the Stratosphere, however, you can just walk or take a cab.
We ordered off the menu both times and did not try the buffet. We ordered Tom Ka Gai soup, Crispy Duck in Panang, and Short Ribs in Khao Soi. We are pretty tolerant of spicy food and found a level 5 to about right for us. Anything more than a 6 would probably have been unpleasant for us. All the dishes were good, but the Panang dish was my favorite. I love that curry. The second lunch featured Panang curry with chicken, Pad Thai, and pork larb, all excellent! Highly recommended place.
Bouchon (Sunday brunch):
Very crowded. Put our names in and were told it was going to be about a 30-40 minute wait. They told us we could wait at the bar and when we got there we noticed 2 empty seats at the bar (which are first come, first served). We often prefer bar seating so it was a no-brainer and we sat right down without a wait. We had the donuts (the best of the dishes), roasted chicken with waffles, and croque madame. The coffee wasn't great and although the entrees were good, they both came to us warm, not hot. Had they been hot, we would have enjoyed our experience much more.
Thought about dinner here, but heard the cocktails were good and we were not sold on the menu so we opted to try it out by sitting at the bar. We each ordered a cocktail and split the BBQ shrimp appetizer. The appetizer was very good and the cocktails were OK. I had the Bacon Bourbon Manhattan, and could not detect much bacon/smoky flavor and there was a slightly soapy aftertaste to it. They did include what I assume to be a house made cocktail cherry (I was warned it had a pit in it), which I appreciate as NO ONE should be using those plastic maraschino cherries any more. EVER. OK, rant over. However, strangely, the cherry had no flavor whatsoever, and I ended up spitting it back in the glass. Not sure what went wrong here as I make my own cocktail cherries and it is really not all that hard. My partner's cocktail was better but I don't remember what it was.
After our appetizer, we went over to Public House for our dinner and we clearly made the right choice. We sat at the bar again here and the vibe was great and lively. Cocktail/beer menu (and possibly wine) were offered on an iPad. We opted for a cocktail (their version of the Boulevardier, which they make with Aperol instead of Campari). We each ordered one, but I asked for Campari in my version and we tasted them side by side. Prefer the Campari version (less sweet), but overall did not care for their proportions; I like the bourbon to be a bit more prominent.
On to the food. We had the burrata cheese appetizer with chicharrones and grilled nopales and we enjoyed it very much. We then split the Pub Burger, which was excellent! Would definitely return here.
By far the best meal of the trip. We arrived early and wanted to sit at the bar for a cocktail but they told us we could be seated right away so we opted for that. Still wanted to try a cocktail, though, so we perused the menu (also on and iPad) and made our selections. The cocktails were excellent (the best of the trip).
For dinner we opted for the full chef's tasting menu (with wine pairing) but did not specify that we wanted them to wait until we were done with our cocktails. We should not have had to do that and our amuse and first wine pour came with only half our cocktails consumed. That was the only service gaffe, however. I should say in their favor that they were kind enough to let us split the wine pairing, which we did to bring some moderation into our evening more than to save money and it was greatly appreciated. A beer pairing was also offered with the tasting menu.
The amuse was a raw oyster with some frozen mignonette-type sauce. Can't remember the details, but it was good. After that we had the King Salmon Belly then Foie Gras" Brûlée". Let me stop here. All of the dishes were well executed and we enjoyed them all. But the Foie Gras" Brûlée was the best dish of the evening and the best dish of 2013 for us so far. It was a large serving of foie under a cap of bruleed sugar/cocoa nibs with shaved torchon of foie on top and lovely pieces of brioche. Seriously decadent and great. Other dishes included Maine Day Boat Scallop, Bacon-Wrapped Rabbit Saddle, 48 hr Beef Belly, Grapefruit Semifreddo. There was also an intermezzo palate cleanser that I liked better than the desert (semifreddo), which was a frozen custard I think with black Sambuca "caviar" - very clever and tasty.
It was all good and I would go back again for the Foie dish alone in a heartbeat.
Yes, somehow I missed Le Cirque in my initial research. As I mentioned, we did not know until last minute (literally) when our free time would be so it was hard to make a bunch of reservations.
We will return for 2 nights in October, and I was thinking or Twist and Sage, but clearly need to to reconsider.
An excellent report -- thank you. Based on your comments, I'm going to have to give the Public House a try, as well as make a return visit to Sage.
I thought I was alone in my disappointment in Bouchon's coffee -- it's weak and flavorless. A real misstep in a place of that caliber, and I find it hard to return for brunch because of it.
Thanks again for the great write-up.