Restaurants & Bars

Southwest Trip Report

Thomas W's 2006 Las VegasTrip Report. Includes Mon Ami Gabi, Delmonico, Bradley Ogden, Lotus of Siam and much more


Restaurants & Bars 4

Thomas W's 2006 Las VegasTrip Report. Includes Mon Ami Gabi, Delmonico, Bradley Ogden, Lotus of Siam and much more

Thomas W. | Dec 26, 2006 03:58 PM

I've posted my trip reports which are written for the newsgroup avlv here too and have gotten good feedback. The report is ver long, but contains a lot of meals in great abd good-value restaurants in Las Vegas. This time,I also included some photos, most of them of food items, which should make this post pretty much on topic.

Merry christmas, by the way.

Thomas W.

Trip Report 2006

Day 1: Going, Going, Gone

We started our trip at 6.30 a.m., took the bus and our local version of the Bullet train to Frankfurt airport, where we had the pleasure of standing in line for two hours. After having shown our passports to about 20 people, we passed security to finally, finally enter the line for the SECOND security check-up. You see, you have to do that twice to do it properly. Funnily enough, this only applies to flights heading to the US.

After a smooth flight, we landed directly in Vegas at Terminal 2 - no stopover, a first for me. This helped to arrive at 2 p.m., much earlier than my usual evening landing. We got our Hertz compact (a Kia) and headed for Barbary Coast. The other couples had a Jeep Cherokee and a Grand Am – I figured if we drove to a restaurant all together in one car, they’d probably choose one of the larger cars to go.Cars I wouldn’t be allowed to drive. You get my drift.

The nice lady at check-in smiled obligingly when I asked for a Strip view and I was excited when I realized it was the at the far left on that corridor. Unfortunately, it wasn ́t the big suite Andrew ́s got recently, though – that would have been to the right, I guess.

Room 202 was completely renovated and had a huge plasma tv and a comfortable king size bed. I ́m no big fan of the decor, but the rooms aren ́t as dark as they used to be any more. This was the first time I had trouble with noise at the BC. Traffic was louder than I remembered, there was quite a lot of siren activity and even the Fountains were pretty loud. My wife was in a very forgiving mood and didn ́t mind at all (the first night). The noise was in part due to the fact that this is one of the lowest rooms which is nearest to the intersection. The view was the best you can get from the BC, but was somewhat obstructed by a transparent ad (that promptly disappeared two days after we had checked out). New sleeker toilettries (a brand I didn ́t know).

As I ́ve mentioned before, this trip was a group effort. Our group consisted of three couples - besides the best wife on the planet (TBWOTP for easy reference), there were two more couples, both also having left their kids at home. There was a weird mixture of apprehension and elation. My mom told us repeatedly that everything was in control when we phoned her and TBWOTP began to relax.

After some consideration, I had chosen Mon Ami Gabi at Paris for the first outing. It was great to just walk over there, the evening was so mild that we could sit outside and the view at the Fountains is a great way to get yourself in a Vegas mood. Due to a gas leak, there wasn’t any hot food to be ordered but the problem was resolved as we were seated, so with a little extra waiting time, we could order what we wanted.

Mon Ami Gabi
The food isn’t bad at Mon Ami Gabi, but takes a back seat to the setting. The vegetarian sampler was overpriced at $17.95 for sweet potatoes, asparagus, beets, lentils. The onion soup for $8.95 was excellent, pepper steak was way better than I remembered and was accompanied by very good skinny frites resembling chips. The ahi tuna salad ($16.95) had great tuna, but a little too much vinaigrette, the bacon salad was pronounced ok. Great atmosphere, sitting outside in December at 6 p.m, sipping beers. ( ). We finished the meal with a round of Beaumes de Venice. Because of Beate ́s birthday, she was treated to a complimentary profiterole.

After that, we took a highlight tour of Bellagio. The conservatory ́s seasonal decorations were festive as usual, though the tree was a bit too garish for my taste ( ). I liked the cranberry sea and the nut reindeer. After a quick look at the Chocolate Fountain ( ) and Via Bellagio, we called it a night.

Here’s another shot of Paris by night, coupled with one we took the next day:

There was a lively discussion about what to do that night if we woke up early. I had suggested meeting at the Peppermill at 4 a.m., which was met by derisive snickers by the ladies who were taking some homeopathic medicine that would let them sleep like babies until late in the morning.

It was 8.30 Vegas time and 5.30 a.m. at home. TBWOTP assured me she was going to sleep until 8 at least.

At midnight, my wife was very much awake and decided to take a bath. When it was my turn, I got a running commentary of some Sex and the City rerun set in Paris ("now she ́s phoning Miranda !" - "now the other three tell him to get his girl" - "now there ́s yet another commercial break !!! I hate American tv!").

Day 2: Drunk at Noon

At 4.30, we finally left the hotel room to get ourselves some breakfast. Of course we headed to the Peppermill, across from the boarded-up Stardust. How very fitting it was that the song being played when we entered was “Stardust”. On a side note, one of my favorite things about the Peppermill is its soundtrack which somehow fits my mood perfectly whenever I visit.

We had the small fruit bowl ($6.95) the (terrific) waitress advised us against because of it "being small" (of course it was just normally sized), a vanilla shake ($5.95) which was bigger than TBWOTP ́s head, a large fresh orange juice ($3.95) and an order of bacon and eggs with a bagel and hash browns ($10.95). You can have breakfast for a lot less money elsewhere, but for pure atmosphere, you can ́t beat the Peppermill. Love the clientele (there always seem to be cool people about in the wee hours), loove the lighting, and looove the Lounge.

We bought a Tracfone at Walgreens (thanks everyone for the help earlier) along with water and fruit and returned to the hotel for one more power nap.

I had to go through a lot of trouble to activate the phone - it required the zip (which fortunately I knew) and a pay phone without lots of background noise. They’re gonna ring the pay phone at the Flamingo to remind someone to reactivate the phone in two months. I didn’t realize you also had to pay for incoming calls (that’s not the way it works here). But it was good to be able to be called most places we went. Finally it worked and we were able to confirm that my daughter had indeed understood pretty quickly that grandma was in control of the chocolate now and had switched allegiance accordingly, which cheered my wife up quite a bit. My mom very wisely didn’t mention that by this time, my daughter had a) cut her hair herself, b) had clogged the toilet by throwing some mystery objects in them and c) eaten all the chocalate in her and her brother’s christmas calendars. We spent some time at our pool area (actually, the Flamingo ́s), enjoying the wonderful weather (supposedly 64 degrees, it felt like 74). We also checked out the great vintage photos near the Flamingo ́s valet.

Then we walked over to the Aladdin to reunite with our friends and to have lunch at Commander ́s Palace. We had made reservations online. The Maitre d’ Santino made his usual big show of welcoming us and you could have sworn he personally remembered every member of our party, even though only I was returning for the fourth time. Still, a very warm welcome. I really like the atmosphere of the restaurant, it’s very classy and the prices in the evening reflect that. Fortunately, the $18.80 lunch is still available, even though there ́s no mention of it on either the website or the outside menu. Each couple had one of the two courses you could choose from, so we all got to sample everything. Appetizers were a potato horseradish soup or a Caesar ́s Salad (with strange fishlike thingies on it. No idea what THAT might have been). Entrees were an excellent beef chile with rice or turkey sandwiches with sweet potato fries. The dessert choices were Bananas Foster or a Chocolate Pecan Pie. I ́m happy to report that the $0.25 Martini deal is still in place. I had resolved to be a good boy due to my afternoon’s meeting with Steve, but ordering them was too much fun, so most of us had three. The lemon drop and house martinis remain my favorites. There was live jazz music which I had only experienced on the weekend before. =ne of the best deals in the city.

There was much talk about what a great vacation destination Las Vegas is at this point. Most of it slurred.

We had so much fun we had spent 2.5 hours at the restaurant and had to hurry to the Venetian where the ladies were deposited at the Canyon Ranch Spa for the 3 p.m. Pilates class. I met Steve Friess from The Strip Podcast ( who is as nice and interesting in person as he is on the podcast. We met at the Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf. It was a bit daunting to find him, as he had no idea how I looked, had changed his hairstyle and, to make things really challenging, there are two Coffee Beans at the Venetian now. I still managed to find him and we spent an interesting hour talking.

Stepping out of theVenetian, I walked into a pretty spectacular sunset ( I was too lazy to walk up to Guardian Angel Cathedral which I regret now, always having wanted to take a look at the stained-glass windows. I walked through Wynn where the seasonal decorations were a bit boring and passed on the chance to buy the front end of a Ferrari for $15.000 and a giant cab line. It was a looong walk, undertaken mainly because the Walgreens where I bought the Tracfone didn’t include the pin number for the phone card on the receipt. After they had rectified that problem, I continued down the Strip to the Riviera. The Riv was full of people dressed in period garb straight out of a western. Finally, I arrived at the Hilton ́s monorail station where I boarded the monorail. This is probably the last time I use this overpriced bumpy ride ($5). I kicked myself for not having taken the Deuce instead. I got out at Bally ́s, returned to the hotel and cyber-taunted Andrew which cheered me up. Strangely, it seemed to cheer him up too.

The ladies weren ́t that happy with Canyon Ranch Spa, as there are spas a lot bigger with lots of wellness options near our home. Especially the lack of a good relaxation room with an option to lie down wasn’t well taken. Still, they had a good time.

We all went to Ellis Island at 8 for the steak dinner and piled into the biggest car. As was to be expected, there was an one hour wait, so after some discussion we decided on the Triple 7 Brewpub at MSS. The navigation system in that fancy shmancy car took us via the freeway and we enjoyed pizza, a steak, a burger and some salad, along with two of the beer samplers ($73 before tip). The food was ok, nothing that special, but we liked the atmosphere. We watched some rodeo on the screens. The fertiliy rate of those cowboys can ́t be too good - considering how they get whipped around by these horses. The noise in the brewpub was deafening, even though it was only half full.

Taking up some of the suggestions here, we then looked at the new pool at the Nugget which really looks great and then spent some time on Fremont (on the picture, you can make out the tube for the slide - The ladies all had been downtown some years ago and everybody detested the canopy over Fremont. We didn ́t stay for the lightshow, as it was getting late. We crashed at 11.30.

Day 3 - The Queen and I

I got up at 4 a.m. and let TBWOTP sleep some more. Leaving the Casino for the parking garage, I overheard two twentysomething guys in the elevator. "she ́s gonna be pissed" - "well, the other girl was worth it" - "how are we going to find her ?" - "she ́ll be waiting at the garage". Sure enough, the rather pretty girlfriend was waiting on the third floor of the garage, ready to blow fire. The guy really smoothly and convinvingly just said "baby, where were you ? I totally missed you all these hours" and totally got away with it. Nicely played, my friend, I thought as I, driving away, told his girlfriend the truth.

I drove Von ́s and Walmart for water, soft drinks and fruit and also found some Cars toys for my son. It’s always easy to tell the cashier you want for the Club or whatever it’s called, because you’ll get the discouns without actually having to apply. The unregistered card works even on subsequent visits.

BOB very nicely had sent me a lot of coupons which unfortunately were cursed, as I lost two $10 matchplays at Ellis Island and Terrible ́s. Undeterred, I put $3 in a video poker machine and, getting four sevens and a full house, made the $20 back. I accumulated a whopping 34 points on my player ́s card.

Mount Charleston

TBWOTP and me then drove to Mount Charleston, one trip I was doing for the third time now. She was impressed with the beautiful scenery and most of all with the abundance of Joshua trees. I really like how the vegetation changes as you climb the mountain.We had a look around the lodge and visited the ski area. The weather was wonderful, the sun was shining and life was good. There wasn’t any snow on the ground, but that night, it snowed quite a bit.
On the way, we stopped at a supermarket and took this picture of a fire engine.

Lunch with the Queen at Delmonico

One of the highlights of the trip obviously was going to be meeting Donna and her cousin Mark at Delmonico for lunch. She invited us most graciously to share her food comp, as she had hit a huge jackpot the day before. Obviously, she was thrilled to hear all the details about my big video poker (in case you don’t remember: four sevens AND a full house, all in one session !) win which I described in excruciating detail.

I don ́t have to mention to everyone vaguely familiar with avlv what a terrific person Donna is, so I won ́t. But I have to say that I ́m a bit freaked how young you Americans look. I thought Tom in CT ́s wife (who looks about 20 years younger than she is) was a big exception, but when I showed the picture of Donna and Mark ́s to our friends, they refused to believe they were older than I am. Well, they are. Quite a bit, actually. It must have to do with living in special places. Or I just look old.

As Donna’s not only nice, but extremely generous as well, she even brought some gifts, including some kitchen utensils we had talked about earlier online. All this helped to make me promise that I wouldn’t tell Matt I was the only one who brought his Cheapoveas cap (he’s probably not reading such a long report. I hope.).

I decided a good way to stop wallowing in self-pity because of my prematurely aged looks would be to concentrate on the food. Here is what I had:

Pancetta wrapped scallops on grits, a perfect appetizer, as the scallops were big and juicy and perfectly complemented by the pancetta and grits (which I liked a lot). A glorious bone in rib-eye, cooked perfectly medium-rare, and, though big, quite easily finished by yours truly, parmesan truffled potato chips (which are the best things made out of potatoes I ́ve eaten). I had to try the banana cream pie which I shared with TBWOTP. Hilde also had a great salad and the bacon-wrapped halibut with shrimps. I can ́t recall exactly what the others were having, as we were too busy having fun (or, heaven forbid, to take notes). We spent a wonderful two hours in excellent company and were sad we had to leave, but we had a date with Mac King and they had to return home. It was one of my two best meals in Las Vegas, actually equally enjoyable as Robuchon.

The steak looks pretty charred on this picture, but was cooked perfectly:

Wiser men than me have stated that Mac King is the Best.Bargain.In.Las.Vegas and of course, that still holds true. For $8.95, we got some acceptable cocktails and 75 minutes of great entertainment. The show hasn ́t changed that much from when I saw it several years ago, but I still enjoyed it immensely. It was even nicer to share it with my friends, who hadn ́t been before. I used a coupon from a visitor ́s magazine to get a free book afterwards.

We visited the Outlet Mall south of Mandalay Bay next and got some stuff for the kids. Later, we stopped at Target for even more shopping, like games and dvds. We crashed at about 9.30, not having had to eat a single bite since lunch.

Day 4 - Luck Be A Lady

I did my usual solo excursion at 4.a.m. (internet at the Coffee Bean, some more basic shopping at Walmart) and had the spectacular “sausage in a french toast roll with worked-in maple syrup” (they called it something more appealing) at a Del Taco (only in America, folks). We met the others and drove to TI, all six of us crammed into one car again. We visited Wynn ( ), where my wife decided to gamble. She had gotten the gift of Megabucks for her birthday - a friend had given her $3 for each day we were there. She wasn ́t sure she needed to play seven times (you don ́t need more than 2 or 3 Megabuck jackpots after all), but Wynn seemed like a good place to win, since the last two Megabucks actually were won there. We found some mysterious penny Megabucks machine and she got it to display some weird blue flashes. It turned out that she had won $35. She invested them in the heavenly patisseries from the chocolat shop at Wynn Esplanade. Great stuff, especially the Stetsons ("Le chapeau") at $6.50.

Ra Sushi
Bento boxes, udon noodles, sushi, all for $7-9. At lunch, the atmosphere was lively, but not as loud as reportedly in the evening. Opposed to what I had read in a guidebook, the sushi was excellent and everybody was happy with the bento boxes containg teriyaki chicken and the like. We had dessert in the food court, eating the delicious patisseries from Wynn.

It was time to check into Caesars now. As you may recall, there were several threads here lately about the best rooms and how to get them. I had toyed with using the $20 trick, but I didn ́t do it, because it takes all the fun out of an upgrade for me and I wanted to see what I could get by talking in one of the hotels with arguably one of the biggest difference between ordinary and spectacular rooms. We struck pay dirt, as our check-in clerk was a guy who not only bought our 10-year anniversary story, but who also was scheduled to go to Germany in three weeks and had lots of questions (my favorite: where exaxzly is the Autobahn ?). We answered as good as we could and asked him, as discussed here before, for a) a mini-suite b) in the Augustus Tower c) with a Strip view d) as high up as possible. What we got was even better: room 3451. I really liked the keycards which I just HAD to steal - they had a kind of a hologram depicting Caesars now and 40 years ago, depending on the way you turn it.

Room 3451 at the Augustus Tower (this one ́s for you, Hog)

I ́m not too good in describing rooms, but I`m going to try here because we liked the room so much and I ́m sitting at the desk looking out across the Central Strip right now as I type this at 5 a.m. The room is at the very end of the hallway, sharing a door with abigger suite (3452). After that door, you enter some kind of smallish vestibule with the two doors of the two rooms. Upon entering, there is another anteroom (?) with a walk-in closet and the best mini-bar I ́ve seen. Straight ahead is the bathroom with a huge jacuzzi tub and walk-in shower and a plasma tv. All the usual amenities, plus the mother lode according to Cheapovegas, a sewing kit, 2 small bottles of Scope, a vanity kit, and a toothbrush plus Colgate toothpaste. No additonal tv in the toilet, though.

The main room has views in two directions, due to its position at the end of the hallway. There is the aforementioned view towards the IP, Harrah ́s and the Venetian down to the Strat and a bit of downtown. There ́s also a view down Flamingo, which is pretty nice in itself. In the distance, the mountains can be seen very clearly which my mife liked most of all (me, I like those pretty blinking lights).

Apart from the very comfortable beds (two pretty big queens, into one of which both of us fit quite nicely), there was a comfortable sofa, three chairs, a couch table with a touch screen phone (pretty cool) and the desk I mentioned. Huge plasma tv on the wall. As I ́m writing this, my wife is waking up, muttering something like "ermglbs, 100 year Grand Marnier". More on that later.

Though it didn ́t bother us in the least, there was some wear and tear in the room. The wallpaper was a bit frayed over the jacuzzi, one lamp was missing, there was a stain on one of the chairs - minor stuff, but curious in one of the finer rooms of the city which can’t be older than a year or two. I really liked the pictures on the wall, though. All in all, this was a decoration scheme much more to my liking than the Venetian ́s.

Of course we had to check out the jacuzzi and after a foam frenzy, our friends came over to gawk. I was presented with a tie for the evening ́s plans, and it was insisted that a jacket would be mandatory. I HATE ties and I ́m not a big fan of jackets, but these were very nice. I have to admit it felt pretty good to walk through the Palace being dressed much nicer than most other people. I won ́t make it a habit to dress like that on vacation, though. We took a pleasant stroll through the pool area in the fading sunlight and did some more shopping at the Forum shops.

There even is a picture of me:

On each trip, I like to splurge on one big meal. By all means this Big Meal had taken place at Delmonico the day before. But here I was with reservations for Bradley Ogden. What`s a guy to do ? I figured since there were two of us, two big meals would be perfectly ok.

One aside: over the course of the last days, my wife had come to appreciate all the stuff I ́ve learned on this group quite a lot. So it was possible to take a few notes on the food between courses to better remember them, which wouldn ́t have played out too well in other circumstances. Did I mention she ́s TBWOTP ? Most other times, I wrote this report while being unable to sleep or while waiting for her in a store or something.

I was surprised that I was the best-dressed person in the room. No other guest was wearing a tie, and there was only one with a jacket. Never thought I’d feel overdressed in a gourmet restaurant, but here I was.

We started with a Dirty Laundry ($14, good), and a Raspberry Lemon Drop ($14, excellent). Strangely for that kind of place, there was no amuse guele. Our starters were Salt Cured Foie Gras Torchon which was heavenly ($22), and Organic Red Kuri Squash Soup 19, seared foie gras, tonka bean, hedge hog mushrooms which was also excellent. Entrees were the Nantucket Bay Scallops 39, potato croquettes, organic sunchokes, vanilla bean, and supposedly the probitively expensive triple seared japanese kobe new york strip, sage gnocchi, parsnip, chestnuts 33 per ounce with a 4 ounce minimum - which they were out of (and which the vaguely familiar rapper look-alike who seemed to hug every single member of staff at the next table got 45 minutes later). So I had to make do with the ribeye with mashed potatoes, heirloom carrots and roasted beets which were very good ($48), but lacked the fabulous creole rub of the Delmonico bone-in ribeye from the day before. The scallops, while good, also paled in comparison to the Delmonico appetizer. My wife ́s next cocktail was the Ultimate Margatini ($20) with 100 year Grand Marnier, Sweet and Sour, Lime and Don Julio Anejo. I had a Fat Tire ($5) – got to love a deluxe restaurant with Fat Tire on tap. I ordered the dessert cocktail in a glass (Key Lime Pie, $14,). TBWOTP had Pear Tart and Maple Panna Cotta with Pear Sorbet ($14) which was pronounced to be very good, while I had the American Artisan Cheeses ($22). That was a special treat, as Americans usually aren ́t supposed to know anything about good cheese (as the cheese selection in your average American supermarket strongly suggest). Fortunately, the cheese menu at Bradley Ogden showed otherwise, with wonderful cheeses such as Ficsalini bandaged cheddar, Roth Gran Queso, Rogue Cremery Smokey Blue, Westfield Farms Hubbardston Blue, Rouge et Noir Triple Cream Brie and Pleasant Ridge Reserve, all of which were accompanied by great garnishes. A real treat.

The total came to $249 before tip. It was a memorable meal.

We reunited in our room with two our friends who had brought some liquor, and had a lot of fun swapping old stories from the last 20 years, looking out of the window from time to time. We went to bed well after midnight.

Day 5 – Showy and Pretentious

Despite the later bedtime, I was still up at 5. After some TR writing, another jacuzzi session and stuff, we started our shopping time at the Forum Shops. We then drove over to Premium Outlets downtown, where we were scheduled for lunch with our group. We had the terrific Makino buffet ($14.95) which our party enjoyed immensely. Everyone was very happy with the restaurant. Sadly, no seaweed salad, though. Everything else was as good as it was on my 3 or 4 previous visits.As I have said before, even desserts are good at this place, something rather rare at Asian restaurants. The best buffet bargain in town, if you ask me. I’ve yet to go in the evening, but I very much doubt that it can be improved by crab legs or the like. After that, we shopped some more and then had to scrap our plans to visit Red Rock because of traffic.

2 Makino pictures:

Instead we headed to our last hotel. I had been warned that THEhotel would be pretentious and showy, but I have always liked its public areas. We came across a rate of $140 a night, including Shark Reef passes, $35 free play and two admissions to the bathhouse. For the first time on this trip, there was a line at check-in, taking about 15 minutes. I tried my usual shtick telling the clerk that she might be the very first person in the US to pronounce my last name correctly on the first try and was taken aback when she did just that. It turned out that she was German herself. We scored room 36805 and she threw in passes to the Foundation Room. No evidence of the reportedly snooty service.

Room 36805

This is a real suite, consisting of a living room, a bedroom and two bathrooms, for a total of 750 square feet. The living room has a couch, a big plasma tv, a dvd player, a work desk with a swivel chair plus a fax machine and a mini bar (with jelly beans !). The bedroom has two queen beds, another tv and a quite beautiful cupboard. The rooms have killer views across the Strip, being high enough to look over the pyramid and just a few floors below Mix, though the windows were a bit dirty. You could see the (huge) difference when looking from the balcony of Mix lateron. The bathroom had a huge tub (we fit into it side by side) and walk-in shower. Very nice toilettries. Pretention won out at the toilet, with toilet paper being labeled as "THE tp".

I have to say that this hotel room was just the nicest one I’ve stayed in in Las Vegas. Which obviously makes me (all together now) showy and pretentious.

We met our friends who were extremely happy with the choice of hotel (I couldn’t help reminding everyone what kind of hotel $140 buys you in Manhattan in December) and headed to Burger Bar. The group had two pitchers of Anchor Steam and everyone assembled their own burger. I had a black Angus with avocado, blue cheese and onions, along with the excellent sweet potato fries. We also tried the red wine and shallot reduction which was very good. The total bill came to $140 before tip and tax, with 10% off thanks to the coupon book we got at check-in.

Rather dark picture:

We then went to Mix where there ́s no cover charge when you have a room key (nobody checked anyway). We took the hotel elevator up (no checking of hotel keys here for the whole three nights we stayed there – that was a bit strange). The elevator delivered us to the entrance of the Alain Ducasse restaurant (has to be seen to be believed, although I certainly wouldn’t call it comfy). We walked the few steps over to the bar.

Even though I had shown everyone quite a few pictures before our trip, my group was very impressed with the view and the design. We checked out the spectacular restrooms and managed to loiter for 20 minutes without consuming anything (the prices on the menu for a drink were about as high as some of our more memorable meals had cost). Last time I was here, it was about 6, so there were very few people. It was more crowded now at 10, but still ok. The (tiny) dance floor looks rather psychedelic with all those lights (see photo). We went back to one of the rooms, tossed back a few bottles of Samuel Adams and went to bed around 10.

Pictures of the view, the bar and the dancefloor:

Dark but intriguing pictures of the restrooms:
(top left: the facilities, top right: a glimpse of the view, boottom: the urinals. Try hard, it’s worth it.)

Day 6 - Rocks and Roll

We drove at 6 a.m. to Red Rock. The weather was perfect, cool and clear. The mountains were glowing in the red light, and as we drove the scenic drive ($5 per car), the sun went up completely, changing the colours of the rocks with every minute. We ́d never done Red Rock in the early morning and with this light before. Stopppping frequently, the quiet was another blessing. We only saw 3 other cars in the whole area. Highly recommended – one of the other couples went in the afternoon for sunset and came back very impressed too.

8 pictures:
And 5 more:

After that, we had a quick peek into the Red Rock Casino. I was very impressed with this one - great design everywhere. There aren ́t too many places on the Strip which measure up to this one design-wise. Too bad their prices are so prohibitive.

We took a photo of the Strip in the distant haze which came out nicely (from the parking lot).

We stopped at Fry’s ( ) for a short shopping spree and dropped off our passengers at THEHotel. Then we drove to Green Valley Ranch where we strolled through the District and checked out the new restaurants. Then TBWOTP attended the Pilates class at the spa (a measly $10). She liked this spa much better than the famous Canyon Ranch. The pool area and the spa are very nicely done. After that, we met David and Roz for coffee at the Coffee Bean at Green Valley.

We had planned to meet our friends for a picknick lunch at Lake Mead. As it became pretty overcast, they called us to let us know that there was a change of plans. So we had lunch at House of Blues instead. We had a pulled pork sandwich (very good, $6 with LVA coupon) and the Caprese (tomato/mozzarella, excellent , $6 w/coupon). We trecked the loooong way to the South Lagoon Pool then which was anticlimactic. After more shoppong at the outlet mall, we went to see the Fab Four at the Aladdin (2-4-1 at about $29 each with tax). Ok venue, the music was too loud, but the show was excellent. I was especially impressed with A Day in the life which is hard to pull off live. They should lose the Sullivan guy, though.

Dinner was at Lotus of Siam ( ). We had 6 appetizers (including two orders of the crispy rice, 2 salads, a very spicy soup from the Northern Thailand menu and a satay). Everyone besides the soup recipient was quite happy. It was a bit tough to order as the waitress kept telling me what to order (“You can have the red snapper !”), which was charming and helpful, but also a bit annoying, as I had just managed to find a consensus in my party on which entrees to order. We finally settled on the very good dunken noodles with beef, a very good red Curry, a rather disappointing pad thai and the utterly wonderful whole fried catfish ($28.99). Everything else was less than or around $10. After a shared order of sticky rice with bananas and coconut ice cream (which was good but less so than some of the more enthousiastic reviews had lead me to believe it would be), the check was $160 before tip.

Returning to THEhotel, we took in some of the Rockstar Karaoke at the House of Blues which was really good. Only a few singers sucked, but the three men band was a nice touch and the girl who sang Sweet Child of Mine could be on Idol. Unfortunately, 40 Deuce was closed (we had another coupon for free admission to that place – the ad which was playing in the hotel elevator was pretty cool – much more so than the soft core porn that passed for the Mix ad). I called it a night at 12.30.

Day 7 – Pin the Pasties on the Showgirl

I actually slept until 7.30 this morning. We met the others for coffee and the couples split up: one to the Mojave desert, one to Valley of Fire and we went to Desert Passage to shop some more (the Gap has closed in Germany, if you can believe that). They had some big sale, so TBWOTP was very happy. I wondered around the mall and got the coupon book, which had no valuable coupons at all. This mall is nice to look at, but doesn’t have many stores which interest me. I updated my PDA at the Coffee Bean and bought my wife something nice at Victoria’s Secret. After that, we went to Zia ( great place for cheap dvds) where I got the Showgirls Special Edition ( (I had a bit of ‘splainin to do at this point, (“a great Vegas movie” and so on)) and then to the Pinball Hall of Fame ( on Pecos and Tropicana. I played about 5 machines, including my absolute all-time favorite: Haunted House. Bliss.

We picked up some unremarkable sushi for a light lunch, bought some more used dvds at Blockbuster and returned to THEhotel where TBWOTP spent some time at the Four Seasons pool (just sneaked in) and at the Bathhouse spa, using one of the free passes we got, while I parlayed the $35 free play into $30 cash. After that, we used the free Shark Reef passes. Very nicely done aquarium, but I probably wouldn ́t pay $16 for it. The jellyfsh tank is way cool, though, bathed in a blue light. The audio wands’ narration (included) was pretty boring.

We had a lively discussion on where to go to for our last dinner. I had thought of Rosemary’s, but decided it was too much of a hassle to get to with 6 people. We finally agreed on a buffet and chose Wynn. I had eaten at Wynn on my last trip and had liked the food as much as the atmosphere. The price has since gone up to about $36, and the quality has improved further in comparison to my last visit a year ago.

Here ́s an overview of what was on offer: Duck confit salad, huge and excellent Alaska snow crab legs, sushi (acceptable for a buffet that’s not specialized – even the sushi at the Sterling Brunch was disappointing), dim sum, nicely done carrots, mahi mahi, red snapper, tuna, lamb filled tomato, excellent mushrooms, Manhattan clam chowder, three great farm cheeses. I didn ́t try the turkey, prime rib, pasta station or wok station. Plenty of chinese and italian dishes. Short Ribs and baby back ribs. A Caesar salad with anchovies. Several very nicely packaged little salads. A wonderful dessert selection with about 30 different selections, though no ile flottante. All in appealingly small portions, accurately labelled.

A revealing and shocking if candid overview of my plates:

After dinner, I had another treat in store for my party. We headed over to the Sahara to see the Checkmates (no cover, one (very mediocre) drink minimum). As usual, they were great and my whole party was very happy with the show. They played a host of songs from the 60ies and 70ies and we got reated to Sweet Louie’s Barry White. The guitarrist made a big show out of his solos –in the beginning I thought it was for comic effect, lateron I wasn’t so sure.

We stayed for a whole set and then moved over to the Monte Carlo ́s brewpub (where parking officially isn ́t possible anymore) for a little Purple Reign. Back at Mandalay Bay, I won $15 at the tables, and we called it a night at 1 a.m.

Day 8 - Regrets I have a few
but then again too few too mention

We got up at 6.30 and started packing. We had managed a late check-out at 1 p.m. (any more would have been charged another $100). The guys met up and went to Ellis Island for a manly brunch of steak specials ($15 with coupon before tip), which were excellent as usual. Of course Delmonico ́s steak is better, but not 20 times as the price tab would indicate. I was surprised that people still smoked in the restaurant and that thee still was a smoking section. I played a $10 blackjack matchplay and got a 10 and a four against the dealer ́s 6. She busted, proving BOB`s coupons weren ́t cursed after all. Thanks again, BOB !

We returned to the MB just in time for check-out (we had got a late check-out at 1 p.m. – 2 p.m. would have cost an ridiculous extra $99) and the realization that the ladies had somehow decided that lunch would be consumed together. Strangely, that wasn ́t what we had discussed earlier, but since we ́re no fools, we went to Red White and Blue for a quick lunch which was pretty good. One of the guys tried to redeem his free play, but somehow he didn’t get it to work.

The ladies had visited New York New York while we were gone - as you may remember that was our original destination.

We had to leave for the airport now and met at Terminal 2, which I hadn ́t used to depart before. It ́s only got 8 gates and shops are pretty boring, but security was very quick. I called Donna to thank her again for our great lunch date and her kind words here on avlv afterwards. The flight departed on time and was pretty bumpy. We got home 17 hours after we left the hotel in Las Vegas. And that was a quick connection without delays.

Some rather wobbly final pictures out of the plane:

Some random notes:
-The street leading of Flamingo to Caesars ́ is officially named "Caesar ́s".
-Best new Ben and Jerry flavor: Pumpkin Cheesecake
-I was surprised how loud the city seemed to me this time, echoing Max’s sentiments from a few days back. Not only at Barbary Coast, but even at the high-level rooms Caesars and MB there were frequently blaring sirens to be heard.
-Best Las Vegas Souvenir: the great Las Vegas swatch I was presented by my friends for planning the trip (the strippers or under the strap)
Runner ups: the 750 piece puzzle depicting the Strip from Mandalay Bay I finished in two days ($7.95) ( and the flashing mini Welcome to Las Vegas sign I brought ($13.95).
-Most widely heard christmas song this trip in the malls: Santa Claus is Coming to Town

What I would have liked to do, but couldn’t work in
-Village of Lights
-several matchplays
-several coupons, espcially the drinks at Ellis Island
-“Love” at the Mirage (dark)
-winning big
-didn’t make it to the Gambler’s Store
-didn’t get to visit several of my “usual” casinos (Hard Rock. Palms, NYNY...)
-even more people watching (it’s something to watch the clientele at THEhotel, immediately followed by Eillis Island’s)

Trip summary:
After some trips with my wife and the three solo trips in the last three years, this was my first trip with three couples to Las Vegas. All in all, it worked very well. There were a few snags when a couple was late (I hate to waste vacation time standing around, but that ́s just me), but as they all are pretty independent and did lots of stuff by themselves, that wasn ́t a big problem (having three cars helped. A lot). We met for most of the meals and the general consensus was:
- LV is a fantastic town for food on all kinds of levels of sophistication (my friends also ate at Blueberry Hill which they loved (they got the same 70-year old waitress I got on my last trip, who calls everyone “Honey” and “Darling”))
- They loved the desert scenery
- They couldn ́t stop wonder how many people were gambling ("it ́s 7 a.m. - and there they are, sitting at the slots!!!")
- Initially, I was teased for bringing two empty suitcases. In the end, they almost had to buy new ones. And ours were full.
- Spas in Europe are nicer.
- There was some scepticism about whether a week in LV would be too long. That went away as the week progressed.
- They were really, really happy with the hotels.

As always, thanks to everybody who knowingly or unknowingly assisted in planning the trip. And of course to everyone reading all that jazz. Merry christmas, everyone.

Thomas W.

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