Vegas Uncorked 2014
This was my first time doing Vegas Uncorked. I had the hardest time finding reviews on line prior to going, so now that I've been, I thought I'd post my thoughts for future interested parties.
We did 2 events (unfortunately the same day), both were ghastly expensive. We justified the cost thinking that to go to a really nice restaurant would cost the same thing, so why not get to try a really special experience for the same cost... right? Well, spoiler note: we weren't impressed, and wouldn't do it again. Next time we'll just book the really nice dinner instead.
We did Nobu Matsuhisa's Sip & Roll: Sushi making and sake tasting. It was $325pp. I had hoped to learn something, and maybe even get something for the price (a signed Nobu cookbook would have been a nice touch). But the instruction was pretty much non existent. Nobu was nothing more than an appearance, and did very little demonstration of his own. Instead there were about 4 tables of 10 people each, and each table had it's own sushi chef which made the sushi for us. I think there were 12 pieces of sushi all told, 5 of which were nigiri (one piece of fish over rice). The first two pieces were probably the best, yellowtail with jalapeño and snapper with dry miso. Other than that there were the sashimi and then 3 rolls: spicy tuna, california, and house special roll (rainbow roll) + 1 toro hand roll (1 piece each). The 'main' was a 1" square of marinaded black cod in a butter lettuce piece. All in all the fish was very fresh and delicious, and certainly plentiful enough, but not very inventive. Maybe I'm being hard, but I guess for the price I would have liked something more... recipes, a cookbook, chopsticks, anything. We even used those cheap wooden chopsticks that are found in the cheapest of places.
Grand Tasting ($225pp)
What a zoo! There were 104 booths, maybe 10% of those were celebrity chef (Ramsey, Giada, Michael Mina, Guy Savoy, Nobu, Joel Robochon, Morimoto, Mario Batali, Mary Sue Milliken / Susan Feniger), and half of those were actually there. They had too many people there. Once they opened the flood gates to let people in you couldn't move. You couldn't get to the booths or mingle around or go from one place to another... it was like a salmon swimming upstream against traffic whichever way you went. There had to be thousands of people in this small space all in a hurry to get somewhere.
The food? It seemed the worst food came from the most famous.. they just didn't seem to put a lot of effort in in.. but then feeding buffet style bites for the masses can't be easy. The best food came from the ones I had not heard of. Most of the food could be lumped into several pretty specific categories: 1.sliders - mostly burgers; 2. meatballs; 3. marinaded beef slices; 4. hamachi - some kind of raw fish with green onions, avocado, etc., with or without 'taco' shell (whether it was a taco shell aka Bobby Flay's Mesa grill, or a fried wonton aka Morimoto). Best of show was Joe's with their pork belly and scallop skewer. Worst of show was Bacchaanal Buffet - pretty, but tasteless. Standouts were Mary Sue Milliken and Susan Feniger's Border Grill (who were there the whole time) with their ceviche, tator tot and soup; Mario Batali's pork fat skewer (OMG); Fuke's burger was the best, the rest were mostly dry and over done. Morimoto's hamachi taco was very good - beat out Bobby Flay's hand's down.
There were some tasty bites, and some not so much. There was more than one could eat for sure, but give me a place to sit, a fork, knife and plate of food in a nice atmosphere over this food frenzy any day.
Bon Appetit didn't give out any recipe booklets, or gimmee's of any kind. I was pretty disappointed that I didn't get more for the huge price I paid.
I was offered tickets to the Grand Tasting for $100 and passed. I rather assumed these results. Had dinner at Twist the following night with Monsieur Gagnaire in house and was wowed yet again...a 4 hour experience cheaper than the retail tag on the Grand Tasting even after tax and tip.
I hate to say this, but after a lifetime attending these types of events as someone on the OTHER side of the table (i.e.: pouring the wine, rather than drinking it), I would NEVER attend one of these things voluntarily -- certainly not with the objective of tasting wine and actually learning something!
Sorry you had to learn the lesson the hard way.