An SF/LA Hound here reporting back from my last couple days in Vegas. I thought I'd give my impressions, with the hope that they could be of help to any other visitors. I’ll try to give a pretty detailed analysis of the food and my thoughts on the respective restaurants, as well as some practical tips if I can think of any.
Bottom line: overall I was pleasantly surprised by the food during this trip. Best lunch was at Bardot Brassiere, most interesting dinner was definitely Twist, but I had a great time at Bazaar Meat, too. Yes, I missed out on The Laundry Room last minute.
List of eateries:
Bardot Brasserie (brunch)
é by Jose Andres
L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon
Lotus of Siam (lunch)
Twist by Gagnaire
BARDOT BRASSERIE (at Aria)
- This was a pleasant surprise and probably one of the best brunches/lunches of the trip. The French bistro fare here was delicious and well-executed; our meal here was on all points significantly better than our meal at Bouchon the day before. We ordered the “Braserie Platter” ($55 – petite shellfish tower); steak frites ($29); and moules frites ($17). Nice crusty and warm epi bread came out quickly. Petite shellfish tower was a very nice value – including 6 kumamoto oysters, 6 beausoleil oysters, 6 littleneck clams, and 6 Mexican gulf shrimp (do the math and it's not a bad value at all). Accoutrements were a nice vermouth mignonette, cocktail sauce, and aioli I believe (but no horseradish). The shellfish was quite good – the shucking was skilled (significantly better than Bouchon’s shucking), temperature was correct, and the shellfish was of very nice quality. Not quite the level of Connie & Ted’s but really I don’t know anywhere else that is. With that said, this was some very quality shellfish, with the shrimp in particular being snappy, quite sweet, and not watery. Steak frites was skirt steak done to a textbook perfect medium rare. Very tender, and did I mention that it was cooked absolutely perfectly? Fantastic. Moules frites came with 29 mussels – 28 of which were pristine – and the accompanying Dolin vermouth sauce with garlic butter and aioli, fennel and shallots was seasoned perfectly. Bottomless rosé for $20 was a nice touch – they’re quick to refill and they give generous pours; its not Billecart-Salmon but it’s nonetheless quite a good value. French Mule w/ yuzu (and chartrueuse instead of vodka from a Moscow Mule) was pretty good. Bardot Brasserie is a Michael Mina restaurant, and while I’m not a fan of Michael Mina places in general (his “fine dining” restaurant in SF is quite mediocre, in my opinion), Bardot Brassiere was a genuinely pleasant surprise. Simple bistro fare executed well, attractive space that looks and feels the part, good value for this kind of food, etc. In my opinion, if you want a nice bistro brunch on a Saturday or Sunday, this is a perfect place to relax before spending a lazy afternoon at the pool.
BAZAAR MEAT (at SLS)
- Overall, this was pretty impressive. We ordered 9 dishes here between the two of us (we received 10) and we were absolutely stuffed – everything was good to great and there was not a single misstep. The menu is quite broad and there’s actually 5 kitchens here. Started with abalone sashimi ($35). You get one abalone sliced into ultrathin pieces so the plate is actually surprisingly long. Abalone was covered in a ponzu and dashi gelee, garnished with ultrathin negi, and served with ikura. Ikura’s clearly out of season so this is the frozen stuff, but overall the ikura was not bad, though it was a bit salty together with the ponzu gelee so we enjoyed the abalone and gelee first, then ikura by itself after. Pa amb tomaquet ($12) with Fermin salchichon from Salamanca ($20). Pa amb tomaquet (10 slices) was delicious and bright, and we enjoyed the Salamancan salchichon (12 pieces - very high quality) on their own. Classic 1950’s vittore carpaccio ($24) was excellent – very high-quality ultrathin beef garnished with capers, a light sherry oil, fresh micro croutons, marigold petals, micro green onions, capers, and shaved Parmesan. Fantastic – executed well with balance, e.g. croutons were not too hard, sherry oil was not heavy, etc. Classic tartare ($24) was one of the best of the night. This is quite a big portion! Mindful Meats sirloin with savora mustard, emulsified egg yolk, worchesterschire, capers, anchovy mixed tableside, then garnished with olive oil, sea salt, and marigold petals. Cubed sirloin was diced a little bigger than the beef in most tartares, so there’s a little bit of chew but it’s still very tender and they can afford to dice it bigger due to the meat’s quality. Lucia’s salad ($13) was an endive Caesar served individually like 6 lettuce-cups/tacos. Roasted leeks ($12) and cauliflower steak ($12) were nice (and on the house, too). Roasted Pulpo a la Gallega ($18) octopus with potatoes and pimento was thick with a nice char (though, to nitpick, it could’ve been a touch more tender). Wood-fired and veal chop ($42) with mojo verde was delicious – done perfectly and the thick-cut was never chewy. The mojo verde was a nice foil to cut some of the richness. Cocktails were pretty good – smoked bourbon manhattan and a couple daily specials (including a jalapeno air and grapefruit one). This is a fun, quirky, and nontraditional steakhouse in a sense but there’s so much more to the menu – you can do it tapas style, steakhouse style, etc. Honestly, I enjoyed this more than e by Jose Andres, even though I tend to quite like fine dining tasting menus. Bests of the night were the carpaccio, tartare, and veal, but the dishes were quite consistent we were impressed and had a great time.
Some notes on practical matters. 1) SLS is fairly off the strip, not walking distance from most hotels. 2) There’s go-go dancers performing on top of tables in the casino at like 10pm, so a heads-up for young families and people who may be sensitive to that kind of thing. 3) Others have mentioned it being expensive for what you get, but we thought it was a pretty good value, all things considered. For 10 dishes split between 2 people, it was about $100p/p for the food, which, when considering the variety of ingredients – abalone, carpaccio, tartare, salumi, octopus, veal, etc. – was not bad at all, and we were absolutely stuffed, we could’ve done with fewer dishes. FWIW, I think most groups of 2 ordered maybe 4 dishes altogether.
BOUCHON (at The Venetian)
- Fairly disappointing, and probably our least favorite meal of the trip. We ate at Bouchon in Yountville and while that wasn’t that notable, the Yountville location was still better than the Vegas outpost. We had ½ a dozen oysters, ½ a dozen littleneck clams, the merguez hash with poached eggs, coque madame, and a few cocktails. Oysters and clams weren’t shucked very well – bits of shell and sand in most of the pieces. We couldn’t understand the names of the oysters from the server’s description, but we assumed based on the cup and size that they were east coasters. Quite bland, which was odd. Accoutrements were fine, but the plates were never taken away – even through the end of the meal. When the food came, they left the shellfish tower and shells, even though space was quite tight. The hash and coque madame were pretty well executed though, good cooking on the eggs, but overall the dishes were a bit one-dimensional, particularly the hash’s textures of cubed merguez. Cocktails were not bad. Service was laughable – incredibly apathetic and not trying one bit. Overall, the main dishes weren’t bad, but it’s kind of hard to believe that this is a Keller establishment.
Other notes: Bouchon is located in the Venezia Tower, away from The Venetian’s other restaurants in the shops. Go to the Venezia tower by the hallway to the valet, take the elevator to the 12th floor.
é BY JOSE ANDRES (at The Cosmopolitan)
- My meal at é was good, and overall, I’m glad that I got to try it. Small-bite canapés composed a fair amount of the 26-course menu, but there were certainly some more substantial dishes and the meal was very filling. There’s a single menu ($195, only supplement was truffle shavings for $35). 3 options for wine pairings - $130 or $295 for all-Spanish varieties and $500 for a premium pairing of wines from around the world. The presentations are of course molecular and texturally very different (e.g. potato “glass”) though I was a bit surprised that most of the menu’s flavors were rather familiar. Though, I had just dined at Twist by Gagnaire the night before, and that was kind of an opposite meal – much more feeling of a “hotel restaurant” in décor, but the food was very inventive and layered at a nuanced level in terms of flavor pairings. More on that later. Anyway, the meal at é starts off with an oshibori for the next 6 or so finger food courses. We started with a representation of the forest – truffle sponge with rum, chocolate and foie donut, then I think we had a liquid foie and truffle “truffle” (rolled in cacao which looked like the soil in which one would find a truffle sitting naturally), and black olive flavored “olive branches” with piquillo pepper creme. I won’t go course by course, but to me the best dishes were actually some of the most familiar in flavors, e.g. the liquid spherified chickpeas with iberico lardo gravy and summer truffles; Merienda goat cheese and iberico ham bun; and recomposed live scallop with truffles and olive oil. At the heart of those dishes, the flavors are very familiar and almost comforting to a certain extent. There was a good deal of reworked Spanish classics, like a “dry” frozen beet meringue gazpacho, clam escabeche that looked like an orange portrait of the seashore an orange espuma, txipirones with saffron, etc. Lots of trompe l'oeil with the plating – btw, I think the plateware was by Luki Huber, who at one time produced plateware for El Bulli. The décor is very whimsical in presentation, much like the food – definitely a show and experience. In terms of flavors, the menu felt a bit safe, though I think that was perhaps a conscious decision to acclimate things for Vegas. I haven’t been to Minibar, but my guess is that’s a bit more forward. Wines were not bad (I did the all-Spanish option), though I’m not too familiar with Spanish wines (except we had the few I was familiar with - Tio Pepe fino sherry, Raventos i Blanc de nit rose cava). Anyway, over the 26 courses there were no missteps, and by and large each dish was pretty successful. The whole experience was well-coordinated from the friendly and professional service from start to finish (in part, it definitely feels like a very nice privately catered dinner party). The $195 price + $35 for black truffle shavings was a very good value all things considered (after all, it’s 26 courses), and a meal experience like this could command much more, especially being a private dining room in Vegas.
L’ATELIER DE JOEL ROBUCHON (at MGM Grand)
- We were going to watch the fights at MGM Grand Garden Arena, so we needed an early and pretty quick dinner reservation in the hotel. L’Atelier was a good match, and we had the Menu A prix-fixe done within an hour. Menu A ($81, plus supplements) consisted of 1 amuse, 2 appetizers, 1 main plate, and 1 dessert - it was doable within an hour, and it was actually quite filling. Amuse was a warm shotglass of foie gras, port reduction, and parmesan foam. Not bad, but it was quite savory and huge umami for an “amuse bouche.” For appetizers, we had the La Dorade Royale, tuna belly Nicoise salad (supp. $10), tomato gazpacho w/ burrata cream, and soup a l’ognion. La Dorade Royale was a king snapper ceviche with a cilantro and avocado cream base, espelette pepper, and microgreens – a very nice take on ceviche, clean and cool with nice brightness from the cilantro. The soups were quite creamy. For mains, the suckling pig confit with savoy cabbage and ginger was good but the pig kind of tough. The tagliatelle with lobster, lobster bisque espuma was a bit better. The combination of lobster bisque espuma and espelette pepper gave the pasta dish a curry flavor, which made sense given Robuchon’s Asian predilection. Sorbets were good in flavor but too soft for my liking (but that’s the style at L’A). Décor wise, L’Atelier at MGM is a facsimile of L’Atelier St. Germain, but my experience at the latter was a bit better, as expected. Ingredients were quality, cooking and preparations were on point for the most part (except the tough pork), cocktails and service ok. It’s not the most exciting food anymore, but it’s rather solid and it fits the bill, especially if you want a semi-casual and flexible tasting menu before a show.
LOTUS OF SIAM (off the strip)
- There’s a lot of coverage on LoS already so I won’t go into too much detail, but I thought the meal was good and very authentic from what I could tell. Got a cup of tom kha kai ($5.95), deep fried spicy chicken wings ($8.95), and green chili dip “nam prik noom” ($11.95). Tom kha kai was absolutely delicious but unfortunately lukewarm, spicy chicken wings were fantastic, nam prik noom was good though not quite what I expected. The chili dip was a cold mash of roasted green chilis, garlic, and onions, and it was reminiscent of spicy cold smoked eggplant. It came with pork rinds and cold steamed vegetables like cauliflower, green beans, cabbage, and carrots. Damn the chili dip really crept up in spice. Anyway, LoS has a nice by-the-glass Riesling menu, but the bottles are an even better value, e.g. 2008 JJ Prum Graacher Himmelreich Kabinett (retails for ~$29-$31) was only about $40 here.
Practical note: cab from MGM cost me $25 each way, so overall including transportation costs, lunch may not be that cheap. My meal for 1 person was $59 otd with a beer and glass of wine, and with about $50 in cab rides, the lunch cost me a touch over $100…for me, it wasn’t something I’d repeat if solo, but it could be more cost efficient with a group or rental car. On another note, I thought that their sister restaurant Renu Nakorn in La Palma was on par.