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First attempt at Trip Report (Jan 16-19)

snow78 | Jan 23, 2015 05:52 PM

First attempt at Trip Review. Pardon:
- The quality of photos, these were all cell phone pics;
- As we were M-life members and staying at Aria, our first dining choices have always been MGM properties due to convenience and wanting to garner more points; and
- Limited budget.

1. Sage, Aria, Las Vegas
First stop was Sage at Aria. It was an unexpected visit as we got in late, had issues with the room and was just plain tired. We walked in without reservations and was able to sit at the bar at about 8pm. If we wanted a table, we would have to wait 45 minutes. Service at the bar was pretty good but the chairs were not comfortable.

The kushi oysters were amazing and I love how consistent the quality of oysters are at Sage. The scallops were fresh but the main star of the dish was the braised oxtail which was really flavorful and melt in your mouth. As for the steak, I am glad I paid the extra for the steak. The steak was tender and well marinated. I savored every bite and wish I could have more. However, the tasting menu was just the right size and I was pleasantly full at this point. The dessert was disappointing as the deconstructed lemon cheesecake just did not work for me and was just plain weird.

2. Raku, off strip, Chinatown, Las Vegas
After much anticipation, I finally had my Raku dinner. Due to over expectations, Raku just didn't do it for me. Maybe it is because I didn't order the right food or my expectations were too high. The consolation was that dinner was surprisingly cheaper than we budgeted for at $70 for the two of us.

The tofu was ok only as I can find similar quality fresh tofu over here in Sunnyvale, CA. I would say the best part of the tofu was the green tea salt for the fresh plain one and the sauce for the agedashi tofu. Similarly, the toro was also just ok to me, as I preferred Kabuto's preparation and not Raku's preparation, but Raku's soy sauce was really good and I wish I can buy a bottle and take it home. The chawan mushi was a huge disappointment, as the texture was rough and it was really salty. I could not detect any foie gras taste to it and if the piece of meat on top of it was supposed to be foie gras, it tasted like pork instead. The yakitori were ok, but pretty tasteless except for the bacon wrapped enoki. But how can one go wrong with bacon? The oyako don was the biggest disappointment. The rice was soggy, chicken chewy and the egg overcooked.

3. Sweets Raku, off strip, Chinatown, Las Vegas
With a heavy heart, I trundled over to Sweets Raku and my night turned ok then. We had to wait a short while, but it was like a 15 min wait at 8pm. At Sweets Raku, I had a difficult time making my decision as such treats (getting to go to a non MGM property AND off strip!) are rare. But I was alarmed to see unfinished desserts when I was seated at the bar, thinking, "Uh oh, has their quality gone downhill?"

The answer, was no. The desserts were still good but maybe not to everyone's taste. I prefer desserts that are not too sweet or heavy. Don't get me wrong, after a 3-course dessert at Sweets Raku, one is bound to be stuffed to the gills but it just doesn't feel as heavy as regular American desserts do.

Anyway, we settled on Stella (strawberry tiramisu) and Jack in a cup (chocolate soufflé with banana pudding and vanilla custard). The first course was the mango sorbet and mint jelly. I hate mint jelly and the mango sorbet was way too tart for me. I long for the mango ice cream at JP Patisserie or the lychee sorbet I had the first time I was at Sweets Raku. Ah wells, Sweets Raku made it up in the main course with Stella and Jack in a cup. After a bite, my husband jealously guarded his Stella and refused to share anymore. The bite that I had was good, the bottom layer was surprisingly crunchy and the custard and strawberries a good contrast to the sweet layer. Ah wells, I had my soufflé and it was well prepared. The chocolate soufflé at the top was more like a punch to your face in terms of sweetness and how chocolatey it was but this was most probably due to my disinterest in chocolate. However, the custard melded the soufflé nicely with the banana pudding. One huge minus to the soufflé was that it had rum soaked raisins in it. I have been staying away from alcohol and the rum was really heavy! The cream puffs were as usual heavenly. I can eat 10 of these but that would not be good for me :(

I bought some macaroons from Sweets Raku and took it back to my hotel to have it later. I don't have much experience with macaroons but these are the best macaroons I have tasted. Great bite that crumbles softly in your mouth with the right amount filling. I wish I could choose my flavors but they come in a multi flavor pack that leaves me with an uneaten pistachio macaroon. Otherwise, all were good.

4. Don't waste your time at:
- Aria Café's burger: Dry, tasteless and just difficult to finish. Fries were horrid frozen ones as well. Ugh.
- Bellagio's Noodles for Malaysian food: I was craving for Malaysian food and made the mistake of going to Noodles to try their Malaysian food. I was deciding between char kuey teow (fried flat rice noodles) or curry laksa and the waitress recommended the laksa as it was authentic. No, it was not. I never had a worse bowl of laksa before and even instant noodles in laksa flavor taste better! Their roti canai/ prata taste worse than the ones I make at home from frozen packages!! At least the curry they serve with their roti was decent. It was just decent and not good. UGH!

Sage $89 Tasting Menu

Top: Amuse bouche, Kushi Oysters; Center: Scallops with Braised Oxtail, Flat iron Steak ($15 extra)
Bottom: Lemon Cheesecake

Raku

Clockwise from top: Raku tofu, Toro tartare, Agedashi tofu, Oyakodon, Foie gras chawan mushi, Chicken thigh yakitori and in the center, enoki mushroom wrapped with bacon yakitori. Missing from picture: Kobe beef and kurobuta cheek yakitori.

Sweets Raku

Clockwise from top: Jack in a cup (Chocolate soufflé with banana pudding and custard), Stella (Strawberry Tiramisu), Cream puff with vanilla custard and strawberry jam, Two cream puffs and Mango sorbet with mint jelly

Hope the above helps and please let me know if you have any questions!

Raku,
Sweets Raku
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