On previous trips to Vegas I’ve always been budget-minded when it comes to food. This time, I decided to go the opposite direction and sample some of the more expensive or “fancy” food the town has to offer.
Black Bear Diner - Black Bear is not fancy or expensive, but I arrived in Vegas about 5:00p.m. and was picked up by my Aunt and Uncle at the airport. I had plans to see LOVE later in the evening, so we wanted to stop off and get something quick before I checked into the hotel.
We ended up at Black Bear Diner on W. Tropicana. Black Bear is a small chain of restaurants concentrated in the Western U.S. I ordered the Chorizo Scramble: scrambled eggs with among other things, chorizo. The scramble was also served with a huge mound of hash browns. Overall nothing special here, but Black Bear is fine for a quick meal.
Bouchon Bistro (Venetian) - Located on the 10th floor of Venetian, Bouchon Bistro is Thomas Keller’s (of French Laundry fame) upscale casual offering. I had heard that the Vegas location is not as good as the original Bouchon (a Michelin one-star establishment in Yountville, CA), but I was still eager to try some of Keller’s recipes.
I opted for the Oeuf Au Gratin: two eggs cooked in mornay sauce, served in a cast-iron dish with lardons and tomato coulis. The dish is also served with Lyonnaise potatoes. The main dish was wonderful. Very rich and very cheesy (in a good way), and the tomato coulis provided a great burst of flavor in certain spots. The potato side dish, on the other hand, was ordinary at best. I also ordered a banana nut muffin that had a wonderful streusel topping. I found the service here to be somewhat lacking, but I have experienced worse. I would definitely return to Bouchon for the Au Gratin and the muffin, but I would order a different side dish next time.
Mesa Grill (Caesars Palace) - Mesa Grill, a Bobby Flay-owned restaurant near the Sportsbook in Caesars Palace serves Southwestern-influenced cuisine. I sat at the bar and opted for the Blue Corn Pancake with Barbecued Duck as an appetizer. I followed that up with the Pan Roasted Florida Black Grouper, and finished off the meal with the Chocolate Espresso Layer Cake.
I enjoyed each course -- the Grouper was served with an excellent Chili-Tomato Sauce and some barbecued red onions that were very tasty. The definite highlight of the meal, though, was the Espresso Layer Cake. In between the layers of chocolate was an espresso butter cream frosting that I could have eaten by the spoonful.
I had intended to have dinner at Restaurant Guy Savoy, but learned that it’s only open Wednesday through Sunday. More on Guy Savoy later...
Spice Market Buffet (Planet Hollywood) - I had heard good things about the Spice Market Buffet at Planet Hollywood, so I decided to give it a shot. I started out the morning with plans to do the breakfast buffet at Paris, but the line was long and not moving very fast when I passed by.
The Spice Market for breakfast turned out to be a mistake. I’m sure the lunch or dinner options would have been far more interesting, but the breakfast selections were ordinary and not very good. I started with some Eggs Benedict that looked good, but would have required a chainsaw to cut through. A helping of home fries were cold, and a donut turned out to be stale. I did find some corned beef has that was okay, and a tray of lox that I enjoyed. I might give Spice Market another try, but definitely not for breakfast.
Emeril’s Delmonico (Venetian) - I hadn’t intended to dine at Delmonico, but the dessert menu caught my eye as I was wandering around Venetian. I noticed a Chocolate Brioche Pudding with Chocolate Ice Cream and decided I couldn’t pass it up. I intended to have dessert only as I knew I would be eating a big dinner later in the day, but once inside I couldn’t pass up an entree either.
I went with the BBQ Shrimp served with Rosemary Biscuits. The shrimp were big and the sauce was okay, but the dish would have been better if the shrimp had been served on top of something. I did enjoy the rosemary biscuits. In fact, the biscuits were the most flavorful part of the dish. I would have liked to have seen grits or mashed potatoes served along side so that the sauce could be soaked up.
The aforementioned Brioche Pudding was nice, although the title of “Best Brioche Pudding” still belongs to Comme Ca in Los Angeles.
B&B Ristorante (Venetian) - I was most looking forward to Mario Batali’s restaurant in Venetian as its menu is almost a carbon copy of Batali’s famous Babbo in New York City.
While I didn’t intend it at the start, my menu for the evening turned out to be the “All Organ Meat Extravaganza.” I started off with the Tripe “alla Parmigiana.” The sauce was rich and a little spicy, the perfect accompaniment to the tripe. As far as cow stomach goes, the tripe was tender and flavorful...an excellent start to the meal.
At this point I was torn over what to do next. Most folks would order an appetizer, a pasta, and a main course, but there were four or five pastas that I wanted to try. I decided to order two pastas rather than a pasta and an entree. My server, who was very helpful and friendly throughout the meal, encouraged me to do this since I couldn’t decide on one pasta.
I started off with the Lamb’s Brain “Francobolli.” Many might be turned off by a dish like this, but I’m always open to trying new things. The Francobolli are small, postage-stamp-shaped pastas that are served with a wonderful lemon and sage sauce. The lamb’s brain has a much milder flavor than one might expect, and I would recommend it to any adventurous eater.
Continuing the exotic trend, I ordered the Beef Cheek Ravioli with Black Truffles and Crushed Duck Liver. As good as the previous course was, I enjoyed this one even more. Imagine the drippings from the best pot roast you’ve ever made and you’d come close to how the sauce on this pasta tastes. I could have eaten a second helping.
For dessert I ordered the Chocolate Pecan Budino served with Smoked Beer Gelato. I’m familiar with Mario’s Butterscotch Budino at Pizzeria Mozza in Los Angeles and was expecting this to be a pudding. This dish, however, is a disk of smooth chocolate on top of crushed pecans (with a consistency similar to a graham cracker crust). The beer gelato was a nice complement--it was very dark and rich, and a beer flavor definitely comes through. Though not what I pictured, the Budino was fantastic. B&B turned out to be my favorite meal of the trip. I told my sever that I was tempted to come back for dinner the next night in order to try all of the other dishes that sounded so good.
Red, White & Blue (Mandalay Bay) - My Aunt works at Mandalay Bay so I decided to meet her for lunch at Red, White & Blue (on “Restaurant Row” near the Convention and Event Centers). I ordered the “Dean Martin” sandwich: pastrami and sopressata on pumpernickel. This sandwich was quite good...and huge. I tried my best, but ended up having to leave about half on the plate.
Restaurant Guy Savoy (Caesars Palace) - I returned to Restaurant Guy Savoy (on the second floor of the Augustus Tower near the wedding chapel) and was able to get in this time. I decided to dine at the Bubble Bar rather than the main dining room. At Bubble Bar, one can try various “small bites” (four “bites” run $40) or order a “big” bite, and entree-size portion for the listed price. I opted for four small bites, which included Oysters in an Ice Gelee, Artichoke and Black Truffle Soup, a Beef Shoulder Ravioli, and a Chicken and Foie Gras Terrine. All four bites were wonderful, but the Artichoke and Black Truffle Soup, (served with Black Truffle Brioche), and the Foie Gras Terrine (served with a Black Truffle Vinaigrette) were outstanding. I concluded the meal with a Chocolate Fondant, a dessert similar to B&B’s Budino - a smooth layer of chocolate on top of a praline crust. Excellent.
I arrived at Guy Savoy on the early side (5:45p.m.) and ended up being the only one in the restaurant for a while. Even as I left about 7:30p.m. only one other party had arrived. Maybe everyone else had plans to arrive later, or maybe this is just another sign of the tough economic times.
When I first walked in I did have one of those “what am I doing here” moments, but the hosts and serves quickly put me at ease. The service couldn’t have been more friendly or accommodating. On the one hand, this may have been because I was the only one there, but I would like to think I would have received this level of service even if the restaurant had been full. Restaurant Guy Savoy certainly deserves its Michelin two-star rating.
Tacos & Tequila (Luxor) - Located on the second floor of Luxor near the Bodies and Titanic exhibits, Tacos & Tequila (or T&T) is a fairly new entry into the Vegas dining scene.
I met my Uncle who works at Luxor for lunch. He suggested T&T and I was in the mood for Mexican, so this worked out well. I ordered the Alambre tacos: skirt steak, bacon, Oaxaca cheese, and green chili. These were excellent, and served with black beans and rice. T&T also offers chips and two salsas before the meal. A green tomatillo and a chipotle. Both salsas, and T&T’s own hot sauces, were excellent.
I finished the meal (and my food tour of Vegas) with T&T’s Tres Leches. Outstanding. I would return for the tacos and the tres leches. If anyone is so inclined, T&T offers a $150 margarita. I didn’t order this, but I would certainly be curious to taste one.
This food tour had many highlights, and I don’t think I walked away disappointed with anything (the Spice Market buffet was the only exception). My meal at B&B tops the list, but I would consider a return trip to all of the restaurants on this next time I’m in Vegas.
Thanks for reading... If anyone has questions about any of these restaurants, feel free to ask.
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