Lets get these reviews started...
Well, I'm back...Had an unbelievable trip. As usual, I didn't get to some of the places I had planned but did get in a nice amount of excellent meals.
Day 1 Sunday Brunch (Bouchon): I arrived at my hotel at about 11:30. Well its not my hotel, I don't own it, but you know what I mean. After paying an early check-in fee(what a scam) I had to decide between brunch and a concert at the Brooklyn Bowl. I had been up since about 5 am EST so I was starving. I bypassed the concert and walked on over to the Venetian and Bouchon.
The place was PACKED, kind of surprising for an Easter Sunday. Thankfully as a single diner, I could walk right over to the bar and grab a seat. Otherwise it was a 45 minute wait.
I sit down at the bar, order an iced tea and peruse the menu. I pretty much knew before I even sat down that I had to go for the Chicken and Waffles. Plus a side of fries. Yes, I'm a glutton lol.
The iced tea had a nice flavor, didn't need any sugar, which is rare for me. Before to long, the meal arrived. The Chicken and Waffles were even better than I remember. The chicken was so juicy, it literally squirted about six inches into the air when I cut into the breast. The fries where nice and crispy, loved dipping them into the chasseur sauce. The waffles were nicely flecked with bacon, but not overwhelmingly so.
The perfect way to kick off this vacation. I was so happy sitting at the bar enjoying this dish. The food was wonderful, the service was wonderful, great start...
Grade: A+ (only for this day and for brunch, you'll find out why as these reviews unfold)
to be continued...
Night 1: Noodle Asia
Yep, I made this mistake again. Why do I keep doing this to myself? I went to a concert at the Brooklyn Bowl(beautiful venue by the way)and had planned go to the restaurant there after the concert. I couldn't make a reservation because I didn't know what time it would end, but figured I'd still be able to get a table.
What the hell was I thinking? hundreds of drunk/stoned people walking past the restaurant all at once, I had no chance for a table. So I decided to walk around a little. As usual, ended up at the Venetian for a few drinks. Next thing I know its about 2am and I'm starved.
The pickings are pretty slim, especially without taking a cab ride somewhere, so it was between Noodle Asia and Grand Lux. I should've picked Grand Lux...
I walk in and sit at the bar, I'm one of the only people in the place, but everyone working there is acting like they're incredibly busy. I usually ordered the same thing so I decided to change it up. I ordered Pot Stickers and the XO spicy noodles. And an iced tea, of course.
The pot stickers arrive and they're huge. At first I thought this might be a good thing, until I tried one. First of all, the dough was so thick that I thought I must have just had a weird one. I cut into a second, same. A third, the same. So basically, they're dough balls with a little bit of meat in them. Oh, and they're also totally bland. Even a dousing of soy sauce barely helped.
Then the noodles arrived. At first they looked pretty good but then I tasted them. No flavor at all and no heat. Plus, the noodles were all broken as if they were completely overcooked even before stir frying them. I tried adding some soy sauce, still bland. It was as if their food was impervious to flavor. I know it wasn't me because I could taste the icea tea just fine. It was the only thing that actually tasted like something.
Bottom line, don't even bother with this place. I'll never make the mistake again.
Day 2 Lunch(Bouchon):
I had such a great time at brunch that I decided to run over to Bouchon for lunch. This time, the place was pretty much empty. I sat at the bar just like the day before and to my luck, the same waiter was there. I thought that was a good sign.
I decided to start with the Foie Gras terrine since I've always wanted to try it and for some reason never did. They brought me the little jar and a little plate of toast points. Immediately upon dipping my knife into the terrine there was a problem, I could barely get it out of the jar. Finally after a while it started yielding, but then would almost break the toast point when trying to spread it.. The taste? It was....good. I know that's such a blah description but that's all it really was. The texture was silky, when it would finally melt in my mouth. It seems like something that with a little tweaking could or should be mind blowing, but it just isn't there. One thing I did like, the waiter brought me a fresh plate of toast points when he saw mine running low.
For the main course I had the Merguez Sandwich. Why did I order this? It sounded interesting. I loved the pickled onions, the piquillo peppers, the aioli. I even liked the dill flavored roll. But the sausage, the sausage, the sausage...It was cooked through, but lukewarm to cold. It also didn't seem to have much flavor to it at all. The condiments completely out-shined the "star" of the dish, disappointing. The fries that came with the sandwich were the best part of this meal, by far.
Overall grade: Tough one here, but extremely disappointing meal... C-/C
I like both that you obsess about where to eat before the trip, carefully weigh the options, and then veer off-course based on whims or wanting to return to a place you loved. To me, this is an essential part of a real vacation -- calling audibles, following your instincts, even if it means not being able to complete your to-do list. Sorry in this case it was a disappointment.
re: Dave Feldman
To me, thats half the fun of the a trip like this. You just have to take the bad with the good, and there's always a bit of both. As you'll see from this trip, I'm not afraid to go to the same place multiple times. Ended up at Bouchon three times and at Yusho three times. My next review tonight, day 2 dinner, will be the first trip to Yusho, and I almost didn't go!!! Some places I didn't go for a schedule reason, others just wasn't in the mood.
Presented in the FWIW Dept., I will say that I too am somewhat -- well, one might say "obsessed" with pre-planning meals¹ and the like when traveling, and yet am never so rigid that we can't take the proverbial "left turn" at the last minute . . .
That said, I have to say that I've been more disappointed with Bouchon than *any* other "celebrity chef" restaurant in Vegas. Admittedly, I have not been to all of them, and can count the number of true disappointments (i.e.: "why go back?") on one hand, but Bouchon . . . hmmmmm.
Perhaps it's because I live in the SF Bay Area and go to Bouchon in Yountville several times a year (Napa Valley is an hour away), but something has happened to the Vegas Bouchon. When it first opened, I was very impressed and thought it might even be better than the original. Subsequent visits, however, have been very disappointing to say the least, and we've crossed it off our list of restaurants to go to when in Vegas. There are too many options which are altogether better.
¹ We have to go to Vegas twice this Fall, and I've just started looking at places -- old favorites and new options -- for dinner. OK, even I'll admit that's crazy, but not necessarily when one needs to figure out how far in advance to make reservations for places like é (or Tickets in Barcelona).
Night 2: Yusho...and the dinner that almost wasn't.
After having that large, yet unsatisfactory lunch at Bouchon, there was no way I would be hungry for a 6pm dinner. I cancelled it and since I was seeing Penn and Teller at 9pm, figured my chance of a good meal that night would be slim to none.
The show ended around 10:40 and took a cab back to home base before going back out. I'm in my room, its a little after 11pm and begin to search opentable. As I scrolled down, a whole lot of nothing. Until I get to the end, and there's Yusho. Talk about luck!!!
I make an 11:45pm reservation, jump in a cab and I'm on my way. The restaurant is on the far end of the casino, near the blue man theater. Arrived about 11:20 and greeted by one of the managers who seats me at the "bar"
As soon as I hear they offer an omekaze menu, I knew that was the only choice. I also ordered a gin and tonic they make with a flavorful syrup. Strong but damn good, and I'm usually a beer guy.
Here's where things get a bit interesting. As I'm drinking my gin and tonic the waitress walks over and starts asking me what I like in a sake. I named a few characteristics and she precedes to recommend a sake. As she's pointing it out, I see her kind of covering up the prices of the bottles. Little did she know I already looked at the prices and that particular one stood out because the bottle costed $2400!!! What am I? an idiot? I mean come on now. I told her I'll stick to the G&T.
Then the food started coming, one course after another. Started with the Housemade Pickles. Carrots, lotus root, baby cucumbers, all pickled with a beautiful bright sour flavor and the more of them you eat, the more a little heat comes out.
Some highlights: The foie gras. I loved how they composed one bite onto a spoon and left the rest for you to mix and match as you wanted.
Logan Poser Ramen. Another sour-y flavored dish, perfect noodles, cucumber, a nice crispy piece of lightly breaded pork on top.
Tempura veg. Wasn't greasy at all, beautifully crispy and thin coating.
Chicken drummies. Came on a dish with 2 "drummies", and two "wings". This night, I loved the drummies, the wings did absolutely nothing for me. The grilled scallion under the "wings" were damn good too.
Blood Sausage on top of a potato cake. This was the part of the meal where it started to become a bit overwhelming, but I loved the taste of the sausage. I believe it also had some pickled onion on top.
Misses: Beef wrapped in nori. The beef was perfectly medium rare, but the thing had zero flavor. Which I was actually a bit happy about since it was finally the last savory course.
The desserts. Both of them...The espresso ice cream itself was pretty good, but the homemade poprocks just didn't work. I don't even remember what the little crispy things sticking out the sides were.
The homemade doughnuts with purple potato puree. Not only was this crazy heavy for a dessert, it just wasn't very good, at all.
Overall grade: B+/B
Monday night, 11:30pm and I could still get a meal like this? You have to love it.
However, when it comes to Yusho, and this trip, the best was still yet to come.
Wow that is interesting, the complete opposite from my experience. It almost seemed like maybe they forgot to season mine since there was literally zero taste. Not even a hint of an attempt to season it.
As for the desserts, like I said I thought the soft serve itself wasn't bad, but keep in mind that I never, ever drink coffee. Love the smell but not really a fan of the taste.
Had no idea they serve the same ones in Chicago. Truthfully though, I'm not sure I even need a dessert after so many savory courses.
The second meal there was truly amazing, I'll get to that review soon. The Chef really went all out for my dining companion and I that night. A few of the courses were spectacular.
Day 3: Went to the baseball game at Cashman Field. Tried real hard to find something, anything chow-ish there, but nothing. Couldn't even find fresh roasted peanuts. Was a good game though, 51's won the game 21-9. But the first inning took 45 minutes. The whole game about 4 hours. Didn't even have time for a good lunch when I got back so I had to wait until dinner...
Night 3: Saw Elton John at Caesars(great Show) and was planning to go someplace there for dinner, but just couldn't find anything I was in the mood for. Ended up back at the Venetian, for a change, and after a few laps around restaurant row I decided on B&B and the Pasta tasting menu.
They sit me at a two top in the dining room near the back wall but facing the hallway, which I kinda liked for people watching. However as soon as I sit down, a "lady of the night" walks by and starts staring me down. I kinda look down and away but for about five minutes she stands there and stares. As you can imagine, it was real comfortable(not really)as I'm sitting down for dinner.
I was very happy they had the same beer as last year that I really liked called Friska, so I started off with one of those.
Then the food started to arrive.
First was the complimentary crostini with the chickpeas. Its the same one they've been giving for years and truthfully a bit boring, didn't help that it needed a bit of salt.
Then the pastas started to arrive...
Course one: Tagliatelle with asparagus and luigi guffanti butter. A nice start. The butter sauce was light, the asparagus was shaved thin and cooked by the hot pasta when mixed.
Course two: Goat Cheese Tortelloni with dried orange and wild fennel pollen. The sauce for this was actually the same luigi guffanti butter sauce as the first dish, but the addition of the pollen and orange completely change the flavor. Plus, the orange notes in the beer I was drinking went perfectly with this dish.
Course three: Alberto's Pyramids with san marzano "passato"...The waitress started telling me a whole story about how Alberto invented this dish and so on, but I could swear it used to be called Jose's Pyramids. So what gives? The dish is the same as it used to be, but I did like the sauce better this time. Had a much better, fresher tomato taste to it.
Course four: Beef Cheek Ravioli with black truffle and crushed duck liver. This dish was preceded by another story about how this was the dish that made Mario famous. Spectacular dish but was lukewarm by the time it arrived.
Course five: Black Spaghetti with n'duja and Sicilian pesto. Do you think I got another story before this dish? If you said yes, you were right!!! About how n'duja has the highest spice to pork ratio in the world and so on...The dish was amazing but yes it was very spicy. The waitress said she's never seen anyone eat the dish as fast as I did lol.
Course six: Handrolled Pasta Sfoglia with sage pastry cream. The story for this dish was about how it was an amazing 1000 layers of pastry. Well, maybe they should stop at 500 because this damn thing was as hard as a rock. I could barely cut it without almost flying off the plate. The pastry cream was nice though.
Course seven: Chocolate Budino with warm chocolate. Basically a small chocolate souffle with a rich chocolate sauce they pour into and on top of. How could you go wrong? I was stuffed at this point but still ate most of this.
One thing I didn't like about the night. The "Mario worship" the waitress at times displayed, it was a bit much.
Overall grade: B+/B
Funny part of the night: the waiter who waited on me last year recognized me. In the middle of dinner he walks by, looks at me, thinks for a second and then turns and smiles and says "I remember you from last year".
More random thoughts the FWIW Dept. . . . .
B&B is one of the other disappointments (Bartalotta, the final one), especially after Babbo in NYC. Now to be fair to B&B, this was not long after it first opened, and perhaps the kitchen and wait staff weren't yet "in sync," I don't know, but it was a disappointing meal. Indeed, it was -- to me -- what has always (traditionally) been wrong with Vegas "celebrity" restaurants: they phoned it in.
Clearly this has changed over, say, the last 10 years or so, but I think you know what I mean . . .