Twist, Carnevivo, China Poblano, Nobu, Bouchon, trip report.
Just got back from a long weekend in Vegas. Hopefully this trip report will help others plan their vacation. I know I consulted Chowhound Las Vegas to help inform my decisions.
Everywhere we went service was good and efficient. I had the sense they are very accustomed to getting people to the theatre on time. My only observation is that across the board servers are more interested in getting you to order up rather than truly create an experience for you.
Based on the many reviews it seemed that if Twist was going to disappoint it was because it was too daring, so it was a surprise that it would disappoint for the exact opposite reason, that and that several dishes where poorly executed. I would like to give them the benefit of doubt because this was the day after Valentine's Day and maybe they offer a dumbed down version of their menu. I really expected much better at these prices. My wife ordered the 6 course vegetarian menu and I ordered the 6 course Valentine's Day menu which was still being offered as it was the only other 6 course menu other than the black truffle menu.
The amuse bouches were good with the parmesan sable being a favourite. My first course was sea urchin in a cream with roe, blinis, and a vodka granite with capers. This was the strongest dish of the night with clean, pronounced, and balanced flavours. My wife said her salad was aggressively tart.
Second course was lobster with diced persimmon and a potato fondant. I thought the persimmon paired very well with the lobster and the bisque which was used as a sauce. The lobster itself was quite chewy and impossible to cut with the fish knife which was set with the dish. One would think that at this level they would at least give you the correct cutlery for the dish.
Third course was a cod carpaccio with black truffles and a smoky sauce. This dish had one note; smoke. Fourth dish was seared foie gras which was quite good.
The main course was wagyu beef with a peppercorn sauce and broccoli. I guess the 80's haven't yet called the chef asking for their dish back. From the looks of things the beef was cooked sous vide but still managed to be quite chewy and had a little gristle. A dish that was both boring and poorly executed.
Desserts were 4 or 5 small plates and most pretty forgettable. The meal ended with some petit fours. I believe this menu was priced at $165 without wine or tip. Portion were small but enough to walk away satisfied. I will not return.
Second night was Carnevino were we ordered a la carte. Service was chummier but efficient. Portions were large, we had an app each, split a pasta app, split a 16 oz bone in NY strip loin, had 3 sides, and split one dessert, and we were full to the point of being uncomfortable without finishing some of sides.
I won't go into as much detail. Flavours were very bold almost to the point of being aggressive with black pepper being prominent on many dishes. An example of the level of flavouring was that raw garlic was used on the mushroom side. The food worked because everything was amped up so the dishes were balanced. My octopus starter was incredibly tender, which is what the lobster at Twist should have been like.
The steak, which is why people come here, was very good and the flavour from the ageing was noticeable. Wagyu beef when done correctly impresses more, so not the best steak I've had but I'm still glad I tried it.
My first time having Jose Andre's food and it won't be the last as this was clearly the best meal of the trip. Flavours were pronounced and distinct but not aggressive. The beef tongue taco was beefy, tender and the corn tortilla thin and flavourful. The Rou Jia Mo street sandwich was orgasmic. The bun reminded my of green onion pancakes without the onion and the meat was sweet and porky. We split the vegetable fried rice which showcased a multitude of colours and textures, and wasn't overly oily. To finish we shared churros, which were quite possibly the lightest and best I've had, and the tres leche cake. The tres leche cake was the best dessert of the trip, it was moist and rich but it was little thing like the cream subtly flavoured with rum or the pineapple with a hint of lime zest which set the whole thing off. If this was in my city I would go often.
NOBU (at the Hard Rock)
My last time at Nobu I had the tasting menu and this time we ordered a la carte as my wife doesn't like raw fish or some seafood. Dishes were good but lacked a unique pairing to set it off. An example would be the wagyu beef taco at $15 a pop, it was a small two bite taco of beef in a shell that's it. I can appreciate wanting to showcase this really good quality beef, and it was, but I was hoping for something with maybe a couple more ingredients and still managed to highlight the beef. Dishes which had a dipping sauce with ponzu had very little ponzu flavour. Desserts were quite good and the highlight of the meal.
This was breakfast on our last day. Everything had very good, clean, pronounced natural flavours. The bacon was very smoky but tasted of campfire versus hotdog. Croissants were flaky, they would shatter when biting into them. I've done Bouchon twice, both times for breakfast, I should really try them for dinner.
Interesting that Twist would put out beef of less than the utmost quality as I've never found a single ingredient there to be subpar.
Your comments about service, in general, strike me as odd as well - especially considering Twist, Carnevino, and Bouchon.
China Poblano's menu always interests me - just not enough to go back when there is so much greatness on Spring Mountain.
My comment about service is a little unfair because it didn't apply to Twist or Bouchon, and I did say "across the board". At Twist we quickly decided on the tasting menus without any interaction with our server and at Bouchon our server seemed out of it until we asked about Bouchon Bakery and their sandwiches, at which point she became genuinely exited about them. It was my impression at the other places. At Carnevino apps were described as being the size of a bread plate, and they were much bigger than that, China Poblano was about getting something on the table as soon as we had menus, and at Nobu I almost interrupted him through his speech about how the menu works and what to order because everything he mentioned my wife wouldn't eat.
My guess is that Spring Mountain offers good Mexican food? I imagine for a local China Poblano may not be as exciting if one or both of those cuisines are found elsewhere with similar quality and at a lower price.
Lastly I forgot to give a shout out to Frankie's Tiki bar which we loved for the kitsch and as a change from the usual Vegas.
re: Dave Feldman
The wife was lukewarm about her menu. Her only other vegetarian tasting, menu which she liked, was at Per Se so most comments were made comparing it to that. She found the dishes austere. She complained they consisted of solely vegetables and she felt they needed something else. I think she would have been happier if the dishes featured a starch or referenced something more familiar like gnocchi. They only dish with starch was the risotto which I tasted. The centre of the grain was a hint raw, which is what some people look for, but the outside texture was overly mushy, probably from over stirring at the end of the cooking process. It was listed as a parmesan risotto but tasted of cream. In all fairness this is a dish I find most restaurants fail to do well.
One last thing about Carnevino. Steak is a bit of a personal thing. We had steak last night at home. Over the years this is a dish I have come to perfect, or at least to my liking. I find I prefer a heavier char on the surface and finishing with a crunchy salt is crucial. Carnevino carves the steak table side, but this last step of sprinkling salt would make a huge difference.