Here is a long trip report from a recent trip to Vegas. I have been going to Vegas for nearly 15 years and have spent anywhere from 2 nights to 4 months there at a time. Just for reference, when I think about food quality and dining experience I “grade” on a sliding scale taking into account price, ambiance, quality, complexity etc. etc.
We started on Wednesday by heading straight to LOS for lunch, ordered some fried eggrolls and beer right away because we were starving. Then we moved on to real food. Yum Woon Sen, glass noodles w/ chicken, shrimp and greens. Nua San Renu, BBQ beef w/ cabbage and tamarind sauce and Panang curry w/ chicken. We have had many meals at LOS, some great and some just ok. This meal reminded us why we keep coming back and why the CH reviews are so full of praise.
We were staying in the Wynn so that night we ate at Statta, Pepperoni pizza, warm goat cheese salad and pumpkin ravioli. 2006 Bodegas Fernandez Tinto Pesquera. This meal turned out to be far better than expected. Everything was simply the way it should be. Fine pizza crust that’s both chewy and crunchy. Proper and well balanced salad and perfect pasta dough with a nice filing that highlighted the pumpkin without being too heavy on the seasoning. The wine was drinking really well and by strip standards was a bargain.
The following day we headed out to Red Rocks to hike up Turtle Head Peak in preparation for a dinner at Alex. For those of you who are interested, Turtle Head is a steep scrambling hike that offers wonderful views of the desert, red rocks and the city. On the way back into town we made a fine discovery for lunch.
Mariana’s “Tu Supermercado de Confianza” at 3631 W Sahara is a Hispanic supermarket with an in house tacoria. We had pork, beef and tongue tacos and an ice cold lime aid. Tacos ala cart are $1.29 and they have a salsa bar that’s worth traveling for. Huge menu, everything made in house and barging prices. muy autentico! Our lunch cost less than 2 lattes on the strip, really!
Dinner at Alex started with a small plate of 5 tastes, the two standouts were the wonderful beans and the “best ‘cheese-it’ in the world”. Next was a perfect small dish of scallop and jicama followed by unbelievably light linguini carbanara and a positively stunning foie gras with pear. I can go either way on foie gras, this one I would order again in an instant. Lobster w/ fava beans and risotto done to perfection. Wagu beef and Dover Sole wrapped in prosutio. These both require some commentary. The Wagu beef was intellectually mind blowing. Take a steak and sear it to a thick crust on the outside but rare the way you want it inside. Then you put it into your mouth and it tastes like a combination of pot roast and ny strip with a texture that’s all slow cooked softness. Really incredible but personally I wouldn’t order again. I prefer my steak to have more chew and to be a little leaner. The Dover sole was probably as perfectly done as it could be given the combination of natural ingredients and human talent but it still ended up being the least interesting item of the evening. Next was a beautiful and delicious small dessert of tapioca and mandarin oranges. For the second, ordered dessert we had, puff pastry with plums and sour cream ice cream and a chocolate tart with mint marshmallow and mint ice-cream. This was followed by a third dessert, a plate of 5 petite fours and a “bushel” of mini madeleines that were just to die for. Dinner was accompanied by a bottle of 2007 Peay syrah La Bruma that I would highly recommend. It’s drinking well now and it worked reasonably with everything we had. Dessert included a glass of cherry infused Italian red wine that was truly fine and coffee. On the way out we were given a small box of mini macaroons that we couldn’t even consider eating. I ate them the next morning with my coffee and they were delicious. Pistachio and lemon. This is what high end dinning is all about. Perfect service, perfect food, no rushing, quiet, just fab!
On Friday we headed to Monta to get noodles for lunch, you should stop reading this right now and go get some noodles for yourself, they really are that good. We had Raman w/ pork and scallions. 5 stars
Friday night we had tickets to see Love at the mirage; if you haven’t seen it I can comfortably recommend the show as a typically impressive cirque de soil extravaganza.
We decided that we needed a little pre show fortification so we went to ONDA in Mirage for cheese and wine. All we had was a cheese plate and some wine so I can’t make any kind or recommendation of the dining experience but for what we wanted it was far better than expected. Comfortable laidback bar area and some staff who were very friendly. We had 5 cheeses w/ bread and some Schramsberg champagne. The highlight by far was the pairing of the champagne with the Tete de Moine cheese, this was an awesome combination that highlights all the best parts of food and wine pairing, elevating both far beyond the sum of two parts.
After the show we walked over to Carne Vino. I have eaten at other Batali restaurants and they all seem to have distinct pros and cons and while Carne Vino is definitely not my favorite I will say it’s incredible that they can put out good food with any kind of consistency in a place so large. Carne Vino is HUGE. I recommend excusing yourself from dinner and taking a long walk to the back. Then leave whatever side of the restaurant you are in and go to the other half, it’s just as big. On to the important things. We started with Brussels w/ pancetta and papas and eggs. The Brussels were exactly what you would expect; the papas are mashed potatoes w/ bacon served with an egg on top that gets stirred in at tableside. For mains we had Lobster tortellini w/ tarragon and a New York strip. Batali pasta always seems to pass expectations and this was no exception. The ny strip (16oz for the single serving) was cooked perfectly although a little to oily in my opinion. The bread was ok but to make up for the mediocre bread it’s served with both butter and rosemary infused lardo. If you’re not scared, eat it, it’s good. For a pleasant surprise the wines by the glass offered far better value than the bottle list. Decent price, selection and huge pours. Hopefully they don’t read this or we will never see a pour of that size again. Although the food was good and the staff were friendly I don’t think you will ever find me at Carne Vino again. It’s too generic on all levels and I far prefer B&B.
Saturday found us hiking in redrocks again trying to detox enough to get through our last dinner. On our way back into town we stopped by Whole Foods for the salad bar.
Saturday night we went to the Mandarin Oriental bar for a drink, highly recommend checking it out.
Then we went to Sage at the Aria. First the general stuff, then the food. I really want to only say good things about this restaurant because I quite enjoyed it and there is something that I can’t put my finger on that I find attractive about the place. Unfortunately the things that were wrong were really wrong. To start, we showed up about 20 minutes early and despite the fact that there were a number of empty tables they wouldn’t seat us which would have been fine except the hostess wasn’t friendly about it and we had to make the suggestion that we sit in the lounge to wait. The space is comfortable and while the ceiling is high and the room is big there is plenty of space between tables and there are no noise problems. We had chosen not to order anything in the lounge but I noticed an appetizer that looked great (oxtail crostini) so when we were seated I asked to start with that. First I was informed that we couldn’t get anything off of the lounge/bar menu in the main dining room. With some prodding this changed to a “we are a yes restaurant” “I will see what I can do”. Hmm, ok. So we order, Ox tail crostini(we think), burrata cheese salad, gnocchi, risotto and sturgeon. One really nice thing about this menu is that all of the pastas are listed as entrées but can be ordered in appetizer portions. We also ordered a bottle or 2007 Evening Land Vineyards, summum, Chardonnay, this is important for two reasons, 1, this is the most amazing Oregon chardonnay ever! 2, it’s unbelievably expensive for an Oregon wine. i.e it was half of our total dinner cost and worth it. If you can afford it, try it. Ok, on to food. The Burrata cheese salad also has butter beans and artichokes. It’s fresh, light and wonderful. The gnocchi was perfect. At this point the sommelier comes out to apologize that we hadn’t had our crostini yet and that it had been a hassle to order. Unfortunately said crostini had also been delivered to the wrong table. The up side to this is that he sent us a “house specialty” the foie gras custard brulee and this truly is special. I don’t know how they make this and I don’t want to, it’s to die for. The next time I am in Vegas I will go to Sage and get this. Now the Ox tail crostini arrives, it was worth the wait. It’s awesome! This is another single dish worth seeking out. Now on to the risotto and sturgeon. The risotto (vegetable) was both incredibly complicated and wonderfully light. This may be the best risotto we have ever had. It is hands down the best vegetarian risotto we have ever had. I’m not sure about the sturgeon. To be honest I don’t think I have ever had sturgeon before and if this is how it’s supposed to be I will never have it again. Nothing good to say, tough, strong and tasting of primordial swamp. If I hadn’t been full I would have politely asked for something else. As it was I let it slide. We finished with perfect spiced donuts and coffee. Any modern high end restaurant that calls a donut a donut gets extra points by me. So where does all of this leave me? I will definitely go back to the main dining room of Sage one more time, if the service isn’t dramatically improved then forever after you will find me at the bar eating oxtail crostini and foie gras brulee.
One last important note, all breakfasts were the same, croissants and coffee from the “café at the drugstore” in the Wynn. The croissants are really good, so is the coffee and that’s all I need. Espresso drinks not so, just ok.
If you’ve gotten this far, thanks for reading!
Red Rock Bar
1729 E Charleston Blvd Ste A, Las Vegas, NV 89104