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Las Vegas Trip Report (long)

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I just returned from my semi-annual business trip to Las Vegas. This trip was seven days, which is longer than usual. It seemed like Mother Nature wasn’t pleased with Las Vegas while I was there. Daytime temperatures ranged from a high of 115 to a low of 103. Of course it was usually a cool 85-90 in the evenings.

It seems that the sagging economy hasn’t affected tourism in Las Vegas yet. The casinos were packed, and although I had less trouble making reservations for dinner than on previous trips, the restaurants were still busy.

My wife is pregnant and for the past few months has craved comfort food. I have eaten more pizza, hamburgers, hot dogs, and pasta than I wish to remember. Thus, since my wife was not along for this trip I planned on trying all the types of food that I hadn’t eaten over the past few months.

Before I get to the food though, I must mention the golf. I played at the TPC Canyons, which is an amazing course. The carries over deep canyons and the sloping greens made for one hell of a hard course. The front nine was deceivingly easy and I played fairly well on it. However the back nine was impossible and the temperature (112) plus the high winds gave me troubles. I hacked my way around the back shooting a 48 to go with my 42 on the front. Sunday after some work setting up our booth in the morning a few of us snuck over to play the par three course at Angel Park. It’s twelve holes of very short par threes. We managed to have a great time despite the 115-degree heat.

Dinner on Saturday night was at Lotus of Siam. For the few who don’t know about LOS already, it is arguably one of the best Thai restaurants in America. Interestingly enough it is located in a strip mall about a mile off the Strip in Las Vegas. Why? I have no idea. The last time that I was in Las Vegas around six months ago I ate at LOS and became friendly with the owner who is named Bill. Luckily Bill remembered us and was happy to order for us again. We started with the minced sour sausage with fried rice. The individual grains of rice are actually deep-fried and they along with the sausage and generous helping of chilies make for a wonderful combination. As our other appetizer we shared Thai beef jerky which was very good, but not exactly what I’m looking for when I’m eating dinner. Bill then brought out chicken soup from their northern menu. He said that the northern menu incorporates many Burmese tastes and flavors. This soup we awesome. However, it has some roasted jalepenos in it that also made it one of the hottest dishes I had every eaten. I needed plenty of liquid to put out the fire. We also had a pork stew from the northern menu. Bill kept telling us it should be another hot one, but we found it to be mild compared to the soup. If you’ve been to the top of the mountain, it’s all down hill from there. The flavors were amazing and the texture of the pork almost like brisket. I was a big fan of this dish. We then moved onto a beef salad with lime, lemongrass and chilies. I could eat this stuff day in a day out. The layering and complexity of the flavors is amazing. One of their signature dishes is called “Catfish in the Garden”. This is a whole fried catfish on a bed of greens. We had tried that dish the last time we were at LOS. This time we tried a different type of whole fried catfish that was equally tasty. Dessert consisted of mango and sticky rice. The best part this great meal is that after a generous tip and all this food, dinner for three came to $110. By the way, this was too much food for three people.

Sunday night we hosted the corporate dinner at Yolies. This Churascuria (sic?) was the perfect place. After a few caprinias (the Brazilian version of a margarita) the mood was festive and people were ready for some food. The servers began with sausage and chicken. We then moved onto turkey. From there it was pork, and then two types of beef. I can’t forget lamb either. This was serious protein overload. Suffice it to say I walked away from this meal ready for a treadmill!

After two nights of huge meals a few of us were looking for something light. I was ready for the coffee shop in the hotel, but as a faithful foodie I was compelled to try Fiore’s. This is a restaurant in the Rio that cooks most things using the rotisserie. I wanted some seafood and ordered a tuna steak rare. I’m always surprised when restaurants serve thin tuna steaks. They are almost impossible to cook properly and I had to deal with it being cooked closer to medium. I was too tired to mention it to the waiter and I ended up sharing with the others since there was a lot of food on the table. We had a 99 Pouilly Fume that went well with the seafood. I can’t recall the producer. This was essentially some of the only wine that I had while in LV. Frankly I was disappointed with Fiore’s. We didn’t have a reservation, but when we walked in at 7:00 and asked if they had a table available they told us no. Meanwhile I could see the entire dining room behind the Maitre’d and could see that half the tables were empty. He told me that they were being held for 7:30 reservations. I knew that since there was a convention in town there would doubtlessly be cancellations and told him so. He seemed apologetic, but still wouldn’t seat us. When we came back about 30 minutes later the restaurant was still half empty as I suspected it would be and the Maitre’d seemed happy that he could now seat us. Holding tables for reservations is a tough thing, but this guy probably should have had a better handle on the situation. The food was good (with the exception of my tuna), but the prices were outrageous. I believe that the economic slowdown will hurt many of the high end restaurants in Las Vegas, especially with businesses looking to cut corners. For the prices that Fiore wanted, the food needs to be great, not just good.

I hadn’t had my fill of Lotus of Siam yet, so Tuesday night found us back at the same table. Once again we asked for Bill, but he was out. His wife Saipan (the cook) came out and with some translation help from our waiter she ordered for us. We wanted the minced sour sausage with crispy rice again. This dish is an absolute must when at LOS. We also try the prawns wrapped in bacon and then warped in a wonton wrapper and fried. I had tried this dish six months ago and it was every bit as good as I remembered it. We had a noodle dish that I unfortunately can’t remember now. We also had the prawns in curry sauce. This is one of the best sauces that I’ve ever tasted. There were other dishes too, but after being back for almost two weeks I can’t recall which ones we tried. I am already looking forward to going back again in February.

Wednesday night I was at Nobu in the Hard Rock Hotel. I’ve eaten at Nobu in NYC several times and this was my second time at Nobu in LV. The food is great. However the restaurant itself is a scene like you wouldn’t believe. I always feel that this place is missing the class of its sister in NYC. Still we enjoyed the miso glazed black cod, black sea bass, seared tuna salad, and a good deal of sushi.

Thursday night was just a casual night at P.F. Changs. This Chinese chain produces some good food at reasonable prices. It was just what we needed after a long week of work. Some drinks and a lot of hot food.

All in all a successful trip that will be repeated again in February.

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  1. Mike,

    I was wondering aboutthe qualite of the food at Yolie's. I've heard there have been some complaints about the quality going downhill. I know several other Brazilian competitors have opened in the past two years.

    Really enjoyed your report.

    7 Replies
    1. re: Dave Feldman

      Dave,

      Sorry for the dealy in replying. However due to the tragic events in lower Manhattan I am without e-mail, internet access or voicemail. I can only check my e-mail or the internet about once a day when a co-worker with a modem is generous enough to allow me to use his computer.

      Yolies is good, but certainly not great. Certain meats were better than others. The sausage, chicken and beef were excellent (a tad on the salty side), but the lamb, pork, and ohter meats were good but Ididn't ask for seconds.

      As always LOS was outstanding. I may be forced to miss my upcoming LV trip this February as my company is rethinking their commitment to the trade show that we go to twice a year. This could be a major blow to to my twice a year culinary and golf tour (while working of course).

      I'll have to lobby hard to continue to go to LV.

      Take care,

      Mike

      1. re: Mike C

        I'm sorry that you were inconvenienced by the WTC disaster, but am happy that you are safe.

        If your business on't fly you out to LV, do what I do. Go to Vegas and make eating at LOS a pivotal part of the trip. No one seems to think twice about folks going off for a week to a spa. LOS is just as rejuvenating!

        1. re: Dave Feldman

          A friend who lives in Las Vegas told me last night that National airlines is going out of business and offering incredible deals on fares to/from Las Vegas.

          Hotels are slashing their prices, too.

          I'm thinking of heading down just for a couple of days to take her to Lotus of Siam (g).

          1. re: Ruth Lafler

            I'll be saddened if National Airlines goes out of business. I've used it exclusively to go to Las Vegas in the past few years. It's usually cheaper than the alternatvies, had friendly service, and a few extra inches of legroom in coach.

            National has been Chapter 11 for several months, and has gotten permission several times to get extensions from the court as suitors and current investors (Harrah's is a major owner) sorted out possible reorganizations. Before the WTC disaster, it was highly unlikely that National would fold completely, but now I fear for its survival.

            National is offering amazing fares right now, and waived advance purchase requirements on many others. I don't know whether other airlines would honor National's tickets if it does fold, so in a sense, buying a National ticket for too much in the future is a little bit of a crapshoot.

            Good luck!

          2. re: Dave Feldman

            Fianlly got my e-mail and internet access back. There hasn't been a final decision yet on our participation in the semi-annula trade show in LV. I probably won't be going in February anyway since my wife is due to give birth in mid-late January. However, I will manage to get to back to LOS one way or another. I'm hooked.

            BTW, I don't know if anything in LV can be theraputic. I seem to come home from LV exhausted and feeling like I need to spend the next six months on the tread mill. :)

            1. re: Mike C
              j
              john gonzales

              Plus your fantasy baseball team goes into the crapper while you're gone!!!!!!!!!!!!

              1. re: john gonzales

                Don't I know it! One minute I'm making a run at that guy in first place (who is he again?) and the next minute I'm struggling to remain in 4th.

                Good to see you here too.

                MC