Restaurants & Bars 14

Las Vegas Report: Soup to Nuts (long, w/pix)

The Dairy Queen | Feb 15, 200803:55 AM

Here’s a quick rundown from my trip to Las Vegas. Thank you to everyone for your ongoingly informative posts on this board, which I read regularly in order to plan my fantasy Vegas get-aways. This getaway, however, was real; hence, I get to post a report, for a change, instead of living vicariously through yours.

SOUP…Pumpkin Soup with huckleberry coulis and spiced marshmallow at Daniel Boulud Brasserie (at the Wynn)—awesome…imagine pumpkin pie as a beverage, except, served in a bowl and with a spoon.


NUTS…caramel popcorn from the honor bar at the Wynn “purchased” on impulse while watching the Lake of Dreams show and TI pirate battle from our suite…my advice, resist. (For those of you who have wondered but were unsure you could pull off an Indiana Jones by removing the popcorn with a swift sweep of the hand and replacing it with a bag of sand of equal weight all in 60 seconds so you could check the price—it’s $8.)

2am post-arrival-from-the-airport meal at the Golden Nugget 24 hour Carson Street Café. ~Turkey burger with cranberry BBQ sauce—not bad, but at 4am “home” time, we happily would have eaten a burger of made ground cardboard.
~Crab salad with avocado—okay. The avocado needed more ripening. I envisioned the salad as hunks of crab arranged artfully on a bed of crisp lettuce (what was I thinking?) not crab bits mixed with mayo…still, it wasn’t overly saucy. Not a bad choice for a 2am meal, but next time, I think I’d still head to Binion’s Coffee shop for their late night specials (available until 6am) or Golden Gate for their 99 cent shrimp cocktail. Also, I knew the Fremont (2nd Street Café, I think?) and the California (their 24 hour coffee shop) offered Hawaiian options on their menu, but I was surprised and impressed that the Carson Street Café offered at least one.

For breakfast. Not bad—every station had at least one “healthy” option, which was nice. I’d say the quality of the ingredients overall was a B minus. Not exceptional, but pretty good by AYCE buffet standards in the sub-$20 category. They had a lox & bagel station (the bagels themselves were forgettable); shrimp station; “Chinese” station with egg rolls (blah), and a really tasty and not too gloppy or limp veggie stir fry; building your own omelet (long line); Mediterranean station with hummus etc.; “international” with Jamaican jerk (forgettable); huge dessert station including sugar free options and breakfast pastries; fruit station with cottage cheese. The fruit station was a little disappointing as some of the fruit was canned. The winner here, of course, was the famous bread pudding with warm bourbon sauce. I had expected to mock it and expected to take only a bite or two of the serving I’d taken, but, after picking out the raisins (I hate raisins—even drunken ones), I finished off the whole thing, even though it was entirely too sweet. It was pleasantly firmer than I expected, though it in no way resembled anything that might once have been bread. I liked it and after making this post will be Googling “Wynn mother bread pudding recipe” so I can kid myself that I’ll make it at home. http://www.kimosvegas.com/index.php?p... I guess I'm still on the hunt for the recipe for the very essential warm bourbon sauce...

For drinks: okay, super campy and no chow, but a great place for drinks and to watch, from the balcony and up close to the canopy, the Fremont Street Experience.

GOLDEN GATE (their 24 hour café, downtown).
For “snack”: I had to have the 99 “classic” shrimp cocktail with the tangy sauce and served in the heavy, fancy glass. Thought briefly about upgrading to the “big” shrimp version for $2.99 but, in the end, my cheapness won out. The shrimps themselves were itty bitty, but they were packed in there. A great value. We also tried the $2.99 “pound and hound” 16 oz beer and Vienna hot dog special. Another bargain at $3.

I love the player piano and the old photos of San Francisco in this place. Dinner AND entertainment.

LOTUS OF SIAM (on E. Sahara)
For dinner: as expected, a wonderful meal. We had reservations for 7pm, but were starving by 4:30. We tried to call ahead, but the line was busy (and, throughout our meal, that phone rang incessantly—amazing!), so we just showed up around 4:50pm and they let us in anyway, even though they weren’t supposed to open for another 10 minutes. Astonishingly, we weren’t even the first ones there. We ordered (heat level 4 to 5—I wish we’d kicked it up to at least 6, but I was seized with fear and excitement in the moment of ordering).

~Chicken wings deep fried until crispy then sauteed with chili, garlic, and topped with crispy mint leaves. These were good, and didn’t seem that garlicky, until I tried to spoon up some of the garlic that had fallen off the wings…oh my, so garlicky, and very good, though the texture was a surprise, as if the “sautéing” impaired the crispiness somehow.
~Moo dad deaw --Pork jerky Thai style--Deep fried marinated pork, served with spicy home made sauce. Of course we loved. it, it’s Thai bacon, what’s not to love? We didn’t find the spicy sauce that spicy (we expected to barely be able to tolerate it) but, it was good.
~Nam kao tod-- Minced sour sausage mixed with green onion, fresh chili, ginger, peanuts, crispy rice and lime juice. Fantastic while warm—I love the crispy texture of the rice. As it cools, the cilantro and red onion seem to battle for domination, so, finish this dish before moving on to other things so it doesn’t cool. This is now my new favorite dish at LOS (the previous favorite, still occupying a place of honor, being the whole fried catfish.)
~Kang Hung Lay (Pork Stew Northern Curry) –we loved this, too; the depth of flavor reminiscent of a good mole (even though, there was no chocolate in the pork stew, of course)—my only complaint was that the hunks of pork were so large. But, this dish is now up there in my personal LOS hall of fame.
~Nua nam tok--sliced charbroiled beef mixed with green onion, chili, lime juice & rice powder. This was very good, with the beef cooked to perfectly to medium rare with discernable grill marks on the outside. The sauce was great.

My only complaint? Geeze, why didn’t I order any veggies or noodles? I had really meant to order the drunken noodles and, in my excitement, forgot. I realize I did not have any veggie dishes on my list of things to try, so, I’ll be looking for some veggie dish recommendations next time. I might drop the wings and nua nam tok—though very good--there would be other things high on my list to try.

This little strip mall has all kinds of ethnic joints—any of those others any good?

Where the heck is it? I had wanted to go after our LOS run, but couldn’t find it. I thought it was nearish to the Stratosphere, no?

BINION’s ( 24 hour café, downtown)
For breakfast, we ordered the chicken fried steak and the eggs Rothschild. Quite good for the price, with the steak on the Rothschild competently cooked to order and the hash browns not-too-greasy. My only complaint was the watery coffee.

We still love the homestyle brews at this place. We tried a Porter (chocolately, as it should be) and a Nut Brown Ale—both fresh-tasting and true-to-type.

Overall, we loved staying downtown, the ease of wandering from one Casino to the next.

MESA (CAESAR’s, next to the sports book):
For brunch/lunch: Yeah, we had to check up on Iron Chef Bobby Flay (and, obnoxiously, though hopefully sufficiently quietly mutter to each other throughout the meal, wondering whose entrée was going to reign supreme, and challenging each other to throw downs etc.) After reading Bruni’s recent review of Flay’s NY restaurant, I’d expected to be disappointed, but…I guess I was star struck. I thoroughly enjoyed it, though, I wish they could have dialed the price down a notch or two. Very good service.

We ordered
~The ahi tuna nachos with the green chile (nice) and the honey mustard (too sweet) sauces and the blue and yellow corn chips. The yellow corn chips were oddly layered, but, a fine delivery vehicle for the tuna, nevertheless.
~The pork sandwich with the seasoned fries. This was spicy and knock-out fantastic. The fries were good, too.
~The famous spicy chicken and sweet potato hash with poached eggs. Nice, but I couldn’t finish it—just a little too rich and a touch two sweet. (But, of course, I’ll be Googling that hash recipe... http://cybermeals.com/food/recipes/re...)

Oh, and brunch comes with a basket of lovely breads. And, naturally, rubes that we are, we got a kick out of the “MESA” butter stamp. I order the pear cactus iced tea and thought it was fine, not exceptional, though it was accompanied by a small carafe of simple syrup.

We’ll be back for the pork sandwiches.

For dinner: we were seated under a heat lamp, alongside the Lake of Dreams and, corny but true, loved every minute of it.

We ordered the prix fix, a fantastic deal I thought.

~Caesar salad with avocado (very nice)
~Coq au vin (wonderful—and a giant portion—jidori chicken, which sounded like an impressive pedigree even before I googled it)
~Chocolate hazelnut fondant—nice, not too rich, in part because it was a small serving

~Pumpkin soup (see above)—like liquid pie in a bowl
~The Original D.B. Burger—would it be blasphemous for me to say that we weren’t as blown away as we wanted to be? We ordered it medium rare and, though the foie gras and braised ribs in the center of the burger were identifiable, the combination resulted in an overall texture of mushy. It was interesting, but nothing either of us would order again. And the fries were pretty ordinary (we preferred Mesa’s, actually), though the three sauces were fun and the presentation, with the “D” and “B” toothpicks was cute.
~Pair of ice creams—rocky road & vanilla

And, oddly, itty bitty blueberry muffins. Tasty, but odd, we thought. Overall a fantastic meal and probably the best value we encountered at the Wynn. I wish D.B. would open an outpost in the Twin Cities.

For breakfast: we were disappointed that we couldn’t be seated poolside, but they don’t start poolside eating until 9am and, as you can tell, we had practically been starving ourselves to this point, so we just couldn’t wait to be seated outdoors. We ordered a stack of the blueberry and a stack of the buttermilk pancakes, both served with whipped butter and a carafe of warm maple syrup. We’d heard rumors that the Wynn had shrunk the size of the big as your plate, thick as a book pancakes, but, no, they were still gigantic. And fluffy. And fantastic. Next time, we’ll order them to share.

On a different day, we came back for lunch and ordered the pesto chicken sandwich+fries (fine) and the lamb pita with couscous—very nice.

RED 8 (the WYNN)
For lunch: I had to get my dim sum fix in, so we popped in for har gow, siu mai, and steamed pork buns, all competently executed and bursting with fillings. We also ordered some fantastic stir fried greens, not on the menu, by pointing at something delicious-looking being served to the table next to us.

For dinner: the best breadbasket on this trip, seriously perfect rolls. We ordered the filet mignon and the bone-in NY—both very good and cooked perfectly to order. Each came with a blue cheese-stuffed and rosemary sprig speared profiterole (the cheese was great on the steak; the pastry itself was blah) and a trio of sauces, classic steak sauce (too sweet), béarnaise (adored by my dining companion), and a jalapeno tropical sauce. I thought none of them enhanced the steak (wet-aged, corn fed Midwestern prime beef cooked over an open flame, for those of you who need to know those things.) Our sides, potatoes au gratin and the broccolini with garlic and aged goat cheese, as well as my Caesar salad (very garlicky with ultra crisp romaine; also, dramatically presented with a parmesan crisp and garlic-paprika crouton “sheets”, plus a ball of white anchovy) starter were all very good. My major disappointment here is that there was no lake of dream-side seating and the overall atmosphere was hectic and cramped. We liked the little, square after-dinner truffles (mint was the flavor of the evening), though, at this point, we were growing very weary of everything at the Wynn being named for or initialed by SOMEONE--it's all so very eponymous. Service was exceptional.

On our after-dinner stroll through the Wynn we encountered the Country Club Steakhouse, which offers patio dining overlooking the waterfall at the 18th hole and has a nice, relaxed atmosphere. I would love to find out if the chow is good here because the setting is lovely—nicer, I though, than SW. I also gawked at Alex (stunning), Okada, and Bartolotta—all beautiful. My giant complaint about the Wynn is that you can’t get out of the place without spending about $75 minimum for any meal for two, even at their “casual” eateries. They have an adorable café called Sugar and Ice (right next to Bartolotta and on a faux lake/waterfall) near the entrance from the Strip that makes its own ice cream and has soups, sandwiches and even bread pudding style French toast that I would love to try one of these days.

BOUCHON (the Venezio Towers in the VENETIAN)
For breakfast, we came for the glorious bread pudding style custard-y French toast with the maple syrup (wonderful but, seriously, way too rich for me after only a couple of bites)…Oh, you’d better believe that, I’ll be Googling that recipe, too, but I’ll make them “mini” sized. Found the gnocchi, but I guess I'll have to buy Keller's Bouchon cookbook to get the French toast recipe... http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/foo... The “jardinere” breakfast was a fantastic value. For $22, you got two pastries (we chose the pastry of the day, a strawberry croissant covered in a sugary crumble), French style gnocchi (which were incredibly light and airy—what tater tots aspire to be, I think), two slices of toast (with butter and raspberry jam), two eggs, and a dish of fried potatoes. A meal for two, really, if they’d let you share. Good coffee. Fancy still French water when we meant to ask for tap water.

GORDON BIERSCH (at the airport): I only mention this because I was so excited to see it when I stepped off the plane and so disappointed to later discover that they serve only packaged sandwiches (fine, and better than the Burger King across the hall) and no garlic fries. ☹

And, since I’m cataloguing for you EVERYTHING I ate on this trip, the pillow chocolates at the recently remodeled Golden Nugget are the same as the pillow chocolates at the Wynn, at easily half the price. Ooh, but the best "free" chocolate was the dark chocolate that came with our post-dinner coffee at Daniel Boulud.


Here are some photos of varying (ranging from dreadful to more dreadful) quality.

Photo #1 Golden Gate's 99 cent shrimp cocktail & $3 "pound & hound" special.

Photo #2 Lotus of Siam Garlic Chicken Wings

Photo #3 Lotus of Siam Minced Sour Sausage & Crispy Rice (Nam kao tod).

Photo #4 Lotus of Siam Pork Beef Jerky (Moo dad deaw).

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