Spent some time in Vegas in August 2016. Took the opportunity to do some fun dining, here is my report.
Started with some pizza here with a friend for dinner. Loved this place. Nice atmosphere, great and friendly staff. Really good pizza and they have both craft beer and craft soda as well as an ok wine list. Just want you want in an artisan pizza place. My only complaint is that the pizza's only come in one size, 16 inches, which may be a little big for a solo diner. But then you get leftovers!!
800 Degrees (Monte Carlo)
Still in a pizza mood, I dropped by here for lunch the next day. I chose this place because it pops up on so many top 10 pizza lists for Vegas. God knows why! When I was in college we had a saying about pizza. I'll give you the censored version (removing the female objectifying portion): Pizza....even if it's bad, it's still pretty good. Well, this place is the exception to the rule. It's bad and it's just bad, there is no salvation.
When I walked in, I realized it was a build-it-yourself pizza bar, along the lines of Project Pie. Perhaps a direct imitation. I implore you, except no imitations!
First of all, they only have industrial beer and industrial soda. Craft beer and craft soda are so available these days that any kind of artisan pizza restaurant should have them. But then again, this is just a copy of an artisan pizza place. So that must explain it.....
As for the pizza, I ordered the thin crust. I might as well have been eating cardboard. No taste what-so-ever, and while it was crunchy, it wasn't crispy crunchy. Just hard, solid. Things did not improve with the toppings. Italian sausage had no flavor. Pepperoni was bland. Folks, there is a reason they call pepperoni pizza "Diavola" (devil) in Italy. It's supposed to be spicy! There was no flavor at all in this pizza.
Not only was this a bad meal, but it was a wasted opportunity to go to have a tasty meal. Since I don't live here and only have limited time in Vegas, a wasted opportunity is a real shame!
If a build-it-yourself pizza bar is what you crave, skip this place and go to Project Pie at the MGM. (Full disclosure, I've only eaten at the Project Pie in Hillcrest (San Diego), California. I hope and assume the one at the MGM is as good.)
Secret Pizza (Cosmopolitan)
My pizza cravings not satisfied, I immediately sought out this establishment. The secrets out! The only thing secret about this place these days is that it doesn’t have a sign on the door. To me this is what NY style pizza should taste like. It's nothing fancy, didn't rock my world or send me to the moon, but still a tasty slice of pie. Crust had good flavor, crispness and just the right amount of chew. Toppings were typical for what you'd expect. I wish they had craft brew and not just the industrial stuff, but I’m not surprised. I wouldn't say it's worth a journey if you are not already at the Cosmopolitan, but if you are here and have the munchies, it'll do the job nicely. (FYI: It's between Jaleo and a Sushi place whose name I do not remember.)
DOCG Enoteca (Cosmopolitan)
Dinner again. Sounded good on the website however good, but not great. I had a pizza because it comes up on some lists as the best pizza in town. (Can you tell what lists I was looking at before hitting town?) It was good, but I was disappointed in the crust. Not as much flavor as I'd hoped for. Toppings were nice and they have some combinations that you don't normally see.
As a wine bar, I have to say I was disappointed in the selection by the glass. Not a lot of choices. To call yourself a wine bar, you should have a lot of options by the glass, in my opinion.
Staff was friendly and the service was great. Ambience was pleasant. A solid option, but not great.
L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon (MGM Grand)
Time to leave pizza behind and move on to something more complicated. This is one of those places that you wonder if you even need to review, with its stellar reputation and food. But I'm here, so I'll think of something to say. Love the "sushi bar" seating around the open kitchen so you can watch the chefs. Wine list is what you'd expect, it's more for reading than for drinking as it is an impressive list of wines that only Bill Gates can afford. They could use more selections in the $75-125 range, a lot more; there are so many wines out there, there is no excuse for having primarily $200+ wines. As for dinner, well, there are almost too many choices for food. Ala carte, 5 course, 6 course, 9 course menus. My only complaint is that if you have the 9 course, everybody in your party must have it. That restriction sucks. It seems artificial considering if nobody orders that, then everybody can do all kinds of wildly different things if they want. If they can handle the variety in that case, I’d think they could handle it with the 9 course too.
But hey, the food is great, the service was great. Oh, yes, one more thing; we did not order a wine pairing as I think they tend to be overpriced. We ordered by the bottle. All-in-all I recommend.
Alize (The Palms)
The view, the ambience, the staff and service, all excellent.
The food was great as well. I didn't note everything we had, but I can say we had the Chef's tasting menu. 7 courses, plus a few extras (of course!). Very tasting and well executed, for the most part. There is always a dish that doesn't sing like the others, but that is essentially to be expected. For the price, $155 per person, it seems like a very good deal for what you get, as you can certainly pay more at other restaurants. One specific point I’ll make is that the seared Foie Gras was excellent.
My only complaints are my standard ones. It is a pet peeve of mine for restaurants to force the entire table to order a tasting menu. There are plenty that don’t, so it seems to me the ones that do should be able to handle the service requirements of not forcing it. Besides, really good service should allow the customer to order what they want. Secondly, yet another wine list designed to impress the reader but generally impractical to all but the uber wealthy. Again, not enough selections in the $75-125 range. Way too many wines $200+. If you can't order them, they might as well not exist, which means it’s pretty useless.
Still, despite my pet peeves, a fabulous experience.
Chada Thai & Wine
Finally another Thai restaurant that recognizes that German Rieslings are fantastic with Thai food (and vice versa!). This shouldn't be a big surprise considering that one of the owners was formerly the sommelier of Lotus of Siam, also here in Vegas. (LoS is world famous for their German wine list and Thai food and we are big fans and long time customers.) While it may not be fair, it makes it very hard not to compare this restaurant with LoS. We ended up here because LoS was too busy to get into and I heard that these guys were coming on strong as an alternative to LoS. We started with the crab lettuce cups and the spicy herb spring rolls. Both were very nice. For mains we had the Panang curry, Chu Chee shrimp and Pad Thai. These were also tasty. Service was fine, but the place was only half full, so that is what certainly should be expected. Ordered an amazing German wine to go with it all. Fabulous!! Saw the table to our left order a German wine and nodded approval. To the right they ordered a red wine. The Fools! Oh well, at least they had a decent list to choose from.
The menu is smaller than that of LoS, notably lacking the northern Thai specialties that LoS carries. Wine list is much smaller too, but still packs a punch. Physically, the space is a hole in the wall, so be aware it might fill up. But as my experience shows, if LoS (which was booked fully for the entire week I was here!) is full, look here! This is a very nice addition to the list of Thai restaurant options here in Vegas and we will be back. One other thing, parking is very tight. But there is a big lot across the street.
Last night in Vegas for this trip. First of all, I’m going to start off by saying I’m not a steak house kind of guy. So why am I here? Because I read about the great reputation and it seemed like a change of pace from the “French” inspired restaurants we’d been doing this trip was in order. If my opinion was based entirely on the food, I would say this was definitely above average. However, while I am not a steak house guy, I am a wine guy, and when I consider the wine list I have to lower it to below average. More on this later.
We started off with the Squash blossoms (delicious, though the chopped tomato tended to overpower the crab) and the Carne Cruda (delectable) followed by the beef cheek ravioli (fabulous! Note: not on the menu, a special). I should also mention the rosemary & thyme infused lard that was served with the bread: tasty and very interesting. Never been served lard with bread before. Homemade lard, by the way. They rendered the pork back fat themselves, so we were told.
The menu is a little weird in that there are a couple of seafood dishes and a seared Foie Gras dish that the waiter said were more like starters, but were listed down in the mains section. Being the Foie Gras freak that I am, I had to have it, so I ordered it as a side. While it wasn’t bad, I must say that I enjoyed the seared Foie Gras at Alize more.
For mains my wife ordered the veal tongue and I the dry aged New York Strip. With the steak I tried the red wine sauce, the steak sauce and the horseradish cream sauce. Of the three the steak sauce was the best. The horseradish sauce was too mild, needed a lot more pep (you wouldn’t order horseradish if you didn’t want pep, would you?) The red wine sauce was kind of bland. Didn’t really stand up to Bordelaise sauces I’ve had in the past.
For sides we had the Cipollini onions and the spinach. The onions were great, the spinach was supposed to be spicy but it wasn’t. I can understand making something mild when people don’t have a choice, when you need to cook for everybody. But as with the horseradish sauce, if someone orders it purposefully, in my opinion, it should be what they expect from the description. When I order a dish described as having hot peppers, or (as the waiter described) with lots of fresh horseradish, I expect it to have a kick! Otherwise I wouldn’t order it!
We closed with the Bomboloni (doughnuts) for dessert which were wonderful with the homemade jam. All-in-all, the food was just fine.
So, as promised, on to the wine! The wine list here SUCKS!!! Why do you ask? Because it is only meant to be read, not actually drunk from! Whomever picks these wines cares more about impressing people on paper than actually selling wine. I have this issue with many restaurants here in Vegas, but this one is the worst one I’ve encountered recently. There are ALMOST NO WINES UNDER $150. Three, maybe five-out of more than 100 wines? With probably 50 percent of the wines over $400 bottle? Ok, yes, I’m willing to drop $300-400 on food for two. But that doesn’t mean I’m also willing to drop $200+ on wine. There are tons of good wines that can be had for less than $150 at a restaurant. Even at three or four times markup. Why are none of them available here? Really a shame. Good food should be available with good wine at all price points. We are not all wealthy like Bill Gates! (And yes, you can order 10 or so wines by the glass, but while the total dollars is lower, the value is much worse!) So I paid $180 for a bottle of what I consider to be a mediocre wine (and no, the wines by the glass would not have been higher quality). I have better $20 wines at home (which would probably be $80-100 on this list). This list is a crime.
One other thing. This is a huge place. There is a main dining room, another dining room that I think is primarily used for groups, and a third dining room across the walkway from the entrance. The main dining room is a large and noisy place. The one across the walkway is quiet and more intimate. While I don’t know for sure how seats get assigned, I suspect that the more well-dressed people end up in the more intimate, quiet room, as it is visible to the passers-by that use the walk way. Might be worth keeping in mind when getting ready to come here...
OK, enough ranting and raving. Till the next trip!