Returned from a three-night visit to Las Vegas yesterday. Gastronomic goal: eat all fine dining dinners at the newly opened City Center complex.
Managed four dinners in those three nights (see comment below). Caveat: all these places have been open less than a month, normally a disqualifier for me to make any negative comments. However, given the enormous resources behind each of these projects along with the hype, I'm invoking an exception to the rule, noting that ymmv based on evolution over time.
So quick summary:
Julian Serrano (Aria): C. Underseasoned, undercooked and underimagined. Overall a big underachievement from the chef/operator at the wonderful Picasso. Pacing of service was screwy too. Soup courses just served when the squadron of hot tapas arrived. Sad especially at top dollar.
Sirio (Aria): A-. After the Serrano debacle above, was still hungry. Went upstairs to Sirio (named after Le Cirque boss and run by his son) and enjoyed a delightful cheese plate (a very generous serving), perfectly cooked risotto with abundant end of the season shaved Alba white truffle and then a type of molten chocolate cake with caramelized banana and banana ice cream. Would have preferred the main dining room to the still-nice bar/cafe area but we were late drop ins and said up front we weren't interested in doing a full meal.
Jean Georges Steakhouse (Aria): B. You spend a fortune to construct a stunning space but order heavy 6-top table tops that aren't supported their single support pillar base and wobble badly as a result. Ooops. Great steaks except for overcooking a couple of them by at least a few degrees. Ooops x 2. Some didn't like the char (I did). Various sides/apps/salads quite serviceable: sweetbreads with chestnuts fabulous as was a burrata with cranberry compote. Good desserts too. Service helpful but surprisingly unpolished and/or undertrained. Ass't Mgr. proudly told us this is number 29 for Brand. . .er Chef Vongerichten. It shows. With the abundance of excellent steakhouses in Vegas (Cut, Prime and The Palm my favorites), this is unlikely to be a return stop.
Twist by Gagnaire (Mandarin Oriental): A. Extraordinary by any measure. Compares favorably to Robuchon--much better suited to those who disdain formal, French-style fine dining service. Rank it near the top, on par with experiences @ Alinea, Tetsuya and Guy Savoy (Paris and Vegas). Not to say it was casual/eccentric in the wd~50 sense, but youthful servers well-conveyed the kitchen's spirit of joy and adventure. I had the tasting menu (six courses, $185) which was integrated seamlessly with meals enjoyed by others who did not partake in the Full Monty. Flavors and textures were creative but avoided the bleeding edge of modern gastronomy. We had table on the windows, with fine view of the Strip. Agree with prior poster on the wonders of the signature langoustine five ways. The foie gras "degustation", four variations shared by our table as an appetizer, was at once venturesome (foie gras terrine layered with fig jam and served with thin-sliced ginger bread toasts) and restrained (thick slice of perfectly seared and salted foie gras with barely a garnish). Decor was expectedly plush in shades of gray with mauve accents. Kitchen is lovely, though as yet incomplete (rotisserie not yet in service)--pastry station has slab granite all around and a view of the Strip; a nice distraction for the pastry crew; garde manger station is sealed off from the rest of the kitchen has its own a/c unit.
And one final note for those who care. . .Aria buffet doesn't hold a candle to its Bellagio counterpart. Gotta eat a hearty breakfast!!!
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