While I was chowing around San Francisco this weekend, I was reminded that I still owed the board a report on my Vegas trip. I was travelling with a large group of friends so I didn't have as much control over where I was eating as I generally prefer, but things turned out reasonably well.
I Love Sushi (somewhere out in Henderson):
We didn't eat out a lot on this trip - renting a house with a full kitchen was a cost saving measure, after all, but a few of us had a hankering for sushi (because nothing says sushi like being in the middle of a desert, ya know?) and a fewer of us had some ill gotten gambling winnings and were offering to pay, so we set out to Henderson to visit I Love Sushi. I'd pulled this recommendation off the board, so I was going to be held accountable for the results of the trip.
They specialize in bizarre and esoteric rolls with interesting sauces. It's not the sublety of sashimi or nigiri, but it's a hell of an interesting experience.
Be forewarned that the menu is a little tacky (but no more tacky really, than the entire rest of Vegas) with options like 'Who's your Daddy?' and 'Who's your Pimp?' as rolls. Hiding behind those ridiculous names, though, were some fantastic dishes.
We tried a variety of things, most of which I don't remember anymore, but almost all of which were delightful. A spicy tuna salad was excellent, and ama ebi nigiri came with additional tempura shrimp (eyes in, which freaked out at least one of our party) that were soft and sweet and oh so good.
The unequivocal favourite of the meal was 'Tastes Like My Ex-Girlfriend' - this vulgarly named rolls mixed spicy fish with tempura crunchiness and a delicate, sweet sauce. It was inventive and nicely balanced.
They offer a variety of ice cream choices for dessert, including some tempura ice cream (green tea or vanilla), mochi (we tried mango and coffee) and plain ice cream (we opted for plum). All were generaly excellent, though some felt the tempura was too thick and pasty on the tempura balls. I've never had it before, though, so I have little to compare it to.
Five very full people on a bill of $125 before tax and tip is a pretty good deal - especially for a place creating really interesting dishes like I Love Sushi.
At $34.95 plus an automatic 18% gratuity for large parties, the Bellagio Buffet is not amongst the cheapest dining options in town, but with 25 people of varying tastes in tow, it's a decent choice.
The buffet offers a reasonable sushi selection and some excellent miso soup amongst the usual buffet fare. Carved meats ranked as bland, including some dull, tough and served practically cold 'kobe' beef.
Potatoes were a strong point - truffled mashed potato baked in phyllo pastry seemed to get better with time spent under the heat lamps. Perfectly tender roasted potatoes were also popular with my group. Rosti was served with an apple sauce so wonderfully sweet and spicy that I went back and had an entire bowl for dessert. The salads mixed on demand were great with well balanced and not greasy dressings.
Pastas were being ignored by most people and suffering badly from the neglect. They looked tired and old, and the cream sauces were visibly splitting in the heat. I tried one and it wasn't bad, but why bother? A much better choice were the Asian dishes which were being fired on demand.
In the non-sushi seafood department, there were lots of shrimp cocktail and crab legs. If you consider those the core of a buffet experience, there they were. Cooked fish was variable. Some nice Chilean Sea Bass was followed by pasty, overcooked salmon.
Desserts were a pretty universal success. It was largely a matter of personal preference which was best of a huge assortment. The only possible complaint was the random availability - with stuff coming and going, they were often out of things I'd just recommend to someone else. The one stand out though, was a bruleed pot de creme. Too bad only 2 of us managed to find them, and everyone else had to settle for normal creme brulee, which was nowhere near as good.
Service at the table was basic and fine, but I have to say, the host station did a great job of accommodating a party of 25 that arrived separately, paid separately and sat together.
Lotus of Siam:
I couldn't convince any of the 25 or os people I was in Vegas with that Lotus of Siam was the place to go and the thing to do. Bummer for them.
After they all left on their earlier flights, I hopped a cab from the strip and headed over. "That's one of our best!" the TI valet declared when I gave him my destination. "So I've heard," I nodded sagely.
The cab driver was somewhat less familiar with it, but did eventually manage to find it. It only took him two tries, which was a significant improvement on our morning cabbie who took three tries to find the Luxor!
I started with a lime drink and some of the beef jerky as an appetizer. It's as dense and chewy as what we see as beef jerky in North America, but also moist and full of fresh smokey flavours. Plus it's served warmed, with a sweet and spicy sauce. Beef jerky merely aspires to grow up and be this stuff.
My main was a catfish curry - more broth than sauce, really, without coconut milk. The flavours seemed almost subtle under the fiery heat - and that was at a pretty low number on the spice scale. I can only imagine a 10 would be deadly.
I couldn't decide amongst the various desserts - ice cream and fried bananas and sticky rice, oh my! The waiter had the kitchen throw together a sampler for me. The bananas wrapped in phyllo were delicately delicious with a little honey for extra sweetness. The coconut ice cream was divine, very mildly flavoured but with small fragments of actual coconut to punch it up. It's the closest I've ever come to finding ice cream as good as our Brazilian housekeeper used to make fresh every day for lunch.
I'd like to try LoS again with more dishes to share and more people to split the cab fare. The meal was a reasonable $30 with tax and tip, but then so was the total of the two cab rides. It's still totally worth it, mind you, but if I hadn't won $50 playing penny slots at the Luxor (I am a high roller, yes, I am), I probably would have cringed a little.