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Apr 30, 2014 07:15 PM

4/26/14 Dining Report - Grand Lux Cafe, O Face Doughnuts, Buldogis Cafe, STRIPSTEAK


Having been fortunate enough to travel far and wide to sample some of the best dining our country has to offer it was after great deliberation that I decided to schedule a joint birthday celebration for my mother and aunt at Michael Mina’s STRIPSTEAK; a friendly relationship with one of the restaurateur’s managers allowing me to arrange a special five course tasting menu nearly a week in advance that should have been perfect but in execution was anything but. Surely one of the more trendy Mina properties, lodged in Mandalay Bay with high ceilings, slick design, and plenty of polish to compliment the thumping music it was just moments before our 7:00pm reservation that we presented to the hostess stand and quickly whisked to a table along the back wall it was with ample pleasantries that we were greeted, a trio of $15 cocktails to compliment the duck fat fries soon in hand but something immediately awry as the area’s temperature trumped eighty degrees – a trend to continue for the next two hours despite repeated complaints and the apparent efforts of restaurant manager Ashley to contact maintenance as beads of sweat rolled down our brows. Suffering largely in silence so as not to disrupt the celebration but clearly uncomfortable it would not be long after seating that our five-course menu would commence and wanting for a truly grand experience each round of food arrived as a trio, items including the “Instant Bacon,” Bone Marrow, Spinach Souffle, and Wagyu vs. Wagyu truly exemplary while the foie gras, chicken, and halibut were inexplicably overcooked to the point where the first two were nearly inedible while the later – a gift from the kitchen – was saved only by its aromatic sauce. Eventually moved to a table in the front dining room for a breath of fresh air mid-way into a main course where veal was presented instead of the pork that I’d ordered it was at last in the finale that STRIPSTEAK would prove most impressive with a trio of world class desserts followed by the restaurant’s signature beignets but with both managers avoiding our table as the $500 tab for Chef Gerald Chin’s uneven cooking arrived I could only shake my head wondering when Chef Mina last stopped by Mandalay Bay, a stunning departure from memorable experiences at Bourbon Steak, Wit and Wisdom, American Fish, or Arcadia.

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  1. Buldogis Café -

    From a small storefront and food trucks peddling Korean inspired hotdogs to a proper restaurant serving up breakfast, lunch, and dinner one could best describe Boyzie Milner’s new Buldogis Café an expansion on concept; all the familiar faces accounted for and joined by a few new friends in a homey little space on Spring Mountain Road. Originally opened as early as 7am but since trimming its hours to an eleven o’clock start it was just after 1:15 on a Saturday afternoon when my family and I entered the lightly decorated space and without another patron present as Biggie Hypnotize’d us a bit too loudly from overhead the menu was perused – a quintet of items both time-tested and trendy ordered and paid for at the counter even though full table service was provided by the lone waitress/server/busser/hostess from beginning to end. Beginning first with three Buldogi classics, two all-beef hotdogs and one order of fries, it should go without saying that both the franks and the house-made toppings were excellent and although fries proved a bit limp the combination of garlic and pork proved surprisingly light, the later gracing the briny Gang-nam for a smoky sapor that I only wish would have been present in the watery ham atop the underwhelming, bready, and overcooked Monte Cristo that arrived alongside an equally doughy waffle thankfully rescued by reference standard Korean Fried Chicken, crispy and lacquered with briny soy-caramel – by far the best bite of the afternoon and the best Korean Fried Chicken I’ve found in town. Obviously a work in progress and still looking to find its footing amongst the staunch competition of Spring Mountain suffice it to say that sticking to the classics is a safe bet at Buldogis café while wandering to more Americanized novelties is a risk; one Milner and team might better approach by being as creative as they are with the dogs – the pork belly and a quick trip to the deep fryer could do wonders for that sandwich.

    1. O Face Doughnuts -

      Cleverly named, conveniently located, and featuring the skills of a true pastry chef one might say that 6th Street’s “O Face Doughnuts” is Sin City’s first true ‘gourmet’ doughnuttery and officially open now for just one week my first take on the place can best be summed up with one word; Potential. Owned by Sonny Ahuja and featuring the talents of Crystal Whitford, both present when the doors to the cutesy space clicked open at 9:00am, the most conspicuous item missing as I arrived was unfortunately that which I had come for…the fried dough inexplicably delayed as a team of four worked diligently in the open kitchen to feed a growing crowd. Clearly working out kinks on the fly but never once frazzled as each of several dozen options were rolled, fried, and glazed it was nearly one hour and one hundred patrons into the morning that I watched Whitford and her team work before I made my eight selections and paying the $18 tab my sampling began, a piping hot apple fritter tinged with crispy bacon proving closer to monkey-bread in its large pull-apart structure and supple crumb. Moving next to a duo of classics, suffice it to say that whatever led to the morning delay and rushed prep-work yielded far too oily an old fashioned along with a flaccid yeast-raised ring but moving on to the filled options the chef’s skills shined as house-made creams, compotes, purees, and curds all impressed inside yeasty pockets with an array of delicate glazes. A strong believer that failing to prepare is preparing to fail but also attuned to the difficulties intrinsic to opening a new business I look forward to seeing how O Face grows and evolves but based on first impressions and a brief conversation with Chef Whitford and staff as they worked I’m rather confident O Face will soon find its footing and fill a long empty gap in DTLV.

      1. Grand Lux Café (Venetian) -

        An ‘upscale’ concept from the team behind The Cheesecake Factory I’d probably walked past Grand Lux Café one hundred times before realizing the ever bustling restaurant was open 24/7, a strong selling point given my early waking hours that led to further investigation of a menu that seemed perfect for a touristy weekend with visiting family. Somewhat brasserie in design with gold garnish and heavy fabrics plus a “patio” on the casino floor it was moments to seven on a Saturday morning that our trio was seated overlooking the Venetian’s lingering late-night revelers alongside the morning check-outs and with immense menus soon perused selections were made – a sweet and gluttonous affair slow to arrive and marred by slow refills as staff seemed to be idling into shift change. Admittedly more than a little puckish when plates were delivered nearly forty-five minutes later it was with relieved but bemused smiles that the three of us first laid eyes on the constituents of our $80 affair and although what was ordered would have been better suited for a half-dozen, the majority of it was worth the wait – an aggressively spiced carrot cake loaded with nuts plus shredded coconut and some of the thickest custard-drenched French Toast I’ve found both amongst the city’s best.

        1. When I went to American Fish, I was really disappointed with what I had there (cioppino and scallops). Michael Mina in Bellagio, despite the pot pie, a couple of years earlier was also a disappointment. I really wonder what is the deal with Michael Mina's restaurants. I feel that Andre/ Sage/ Picasso is better.

          1 Reply
          1. re: snow78

            I enjoyed American Fish quite a bit, but definitely agree that Andre's, Sage, Savoy, Robuchon, and Twist are superior - as are other spots in different genres in town. I personally feel Picasso is one of the most overrated restaurants in America, however, so I cannot support that one.

            For a restaurant to botch a pre-set menu with the GM theoretically overwatching the experience, however, is inexplicable.