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Vegas Pt. 2: Lupo, Prime, Alex

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Vegas Pt. 2: Lupo, Prime, Alex

Tom P | May 6, 2006 11:32 PM

LUPO – This was the one big disappointment of the week. We had reservations to go to Wolfgang Puck’s Bar and Grill in MGM, which I like very much, but we ran short of time and needed to eat fast and Mandalay. I figured since it was also a Wolfgang Puck restaurant, it would be good. It was very marginal, which is being nice. None of the food even came out hot, and every dish – lasagna, fettuccine Alfredo, roast chicken – was barely passable. Major disappointment. Not that I imagine they care too much, it was packed, an absolute zoo.

PRIME – I used to go to think Prime was the best steakhouse on the Strip. Then I fell in love with both N9NE and Mon Ami Gabi, so this was my first time in a couple of years to return to Prime. Well, N9NE and Mon Ami are both still excellent, but our dinner at Prime was, save Alex (see below) the best meal I have had at a restaurant in quite a while. Though I always think there is something a little odd about the way the restaurant is laid out, it is a beautiful room situated on the Bellagio Lake, with windows that face the fountains. The service is impeccable. I started with Shrimp Cocktail. I was served 4 beautiful shrimp, huge, perfectly cooked, with three delicious sauces. Another person at the table had a Watercress and Red Cabbage Salad that was excellent. The dressing was delicious and the salad fresh and crunchy. The steaks were also perfect. I had a Strip on a bone that could not have been better, and it was served with some asparagus that was the most tender and most buttery asparagus I have ever had. The béarnaise was top notch, and if you go, don’t miss the sauce with soy in it (I don’t remember the full name.) I am not a huge fan of soy, nor do I normally put sauce on a steak, but we were fighting over this stuff. Finally, Prime serves what are easily the best and most decadent Potatoes Daphnois you will ever experience. Do not miss these potatoes if you go. And you should go.

ALEX - This is simply a stunning restaurant.

The restaurant itself is gorgeous. Dark woods, reds, plush curtains, beautiful fixtures and china, a large staircase that drops from the bar to the dining room… it’s quite something. The service is wonderful. We were so well taken care of from the moment we walked in. And something I thought was very cool to see, particularly given I worked in the restaurant industry for a long time, was that when we entered, just before the restaurant was to open at 6 pm (we had show tickets) the entire staff had been gathered on the stairway and the manager was giving them what seemed to be a very interesting pep talk/description of the night. It was rather romantic to see them all gathered in their finest on the stairway, prepping for the evening.

You have a choice of either a long tasting menu, or three courses, Appetizer, Entrée, Cheese or Dessert. We did the three courses, which costs 120 dollars. It may sound like a lot, but given the service, the quality of the food, and the numerous extra courses we were served, it was well worth it.

After cocktails, we were given a tray with four small bites per person. I won’t even go into what they were, I don’t even remember all of them at this point, but each one was divine. Then came the bread: five different choices, all crispy and fresh baked, all wonderful, the best being, of course, the Pancetta Bread. (Is anything not improved with Bacon?) Then came the Amuse Bouche, White Asparagus wrapped in Proscuitto, over a White Asparagus Mousse. Very nice.

Next came Appetizers. One person ordered a veal dish that was offered in the tasting menu – they happily made a substitution. The veal was moist and flavorful, in a wonderful crust. Another had a Pea Risotto with Spring Vegetables that was incredibly fresh and bursting with flavor. I had the Oysters with Creamed Leeks, Caviar and Crisp Potatoes. Ok, this is one of the best dishes I have ever had in my life, Seriously. Do not miss this, even if, like me, you think you don’t like oysters. (I decided to be daring, since they were not raw.) Each oyster is, I believe, steamed and served on a crisp potato with everything else garnishing it. I was served 5 of them, they look like round hor d’ourves. These were bursting with flavor and texture. I would go back for the oysters alone.

Entrees next: I had a Squab with Foie Gras and Spiced Pineapple. It was just wonderful, moist and crispy both, and not too rich. The pineapple was grilled and so, so good. Another person had the lamb, served on the bone and, like the veal, was tender and flavorful, just exquisite. The third had the Short Rib. This was cooked so long and the sauce reduced so much it was one of the richest dishes any of us have tried. One thought it was simply too much, the other two (me being one of the two) just about attacked each other trying to finish off the sauce with our bread. The sauce was so thick, and so rich, it was almost like dessert. I would order it myself the next time.

Then, after the main courses were removed, we were served Cocoanut Tapioca as a kind of dessert amuse bouche. Along with the Oysters, this was, surprisingly, the best of the night. None of us even like Tapioca. And we all went nuts over it. A trio of lovely young ladies at the next table, who were about 10 minutes behind us in timing, also went nuts over this when they were served it. (They had never even heard of tapioca…made me feel rather old.)

Dessert was next. I won’t even go into it, I’ll just say one of us had chocolate, one lemon, one vanilla, and all were sublime. THEN we were served fresh Madelines, directly from the oven. I hate to keep saying it, but they were the best I have ever had. And then, with the check, a large selection of petite fours and chocolates were served. It just kept going on and on.

I’ve always said on Chowhound that Commander’s Palace is the best restaurant on the Strip. In some ways they are so different it is difficult to compare. But Alex may just best it. It was truly an experience well, well worth it.

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