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Trip Report (long): Lotus of Siam, Sweets Raku, Blossom, Border Grill, Bouchon Bistro, Noodles

TorontoJo | Mar 27, 201404:01 PM

Just returned from 3.5 days in Vegas and wanted to report back on my experiences:

The highlight of my trip. Had lunch here two days in a row and had:

#11 Garlic Pepper Chicken Wings
#14 Nam Kao Tod (ordered this one both days!)
# 56 Nua Sao Renu
Northern Larb
Sea Bass on Drunken Noodles
Panang Short Rib

Everything was really, really excellent. The wings were addictive with the fried garlic/salt/pepper seasoning. The crispy rice in the nam kao tod had me swooning -- it was like an entire plate of the crunchy rice from the bottom of a bowl of bi bim bap, but bursting with a dozen flavors. The Nothern larb was very different than the larb I've have in the past, but I loved it. The sea bass was fried perfectly and the dish was wonderful, though I would have liked the noodles to have been easier to separate. The panang curry instantly converted my sister and niece into Thai curry lovers. My least favorite dish was the nua sao renu -- I felt the flavors to be too one-note compared to the other dishes we had. Service was efficient, though slightly scattered. The place was packed both days. I have NO idea why anyone would waste their time on the lunch buffet there. I wanted to shout at everyone that they were wasting their time. But I refrained. :)

The other highlight of my trip was definitely the desserts at Sweets Raku. I loved the space and am intensely envious of the frickin' awesome convection and steam ovens they have. Enjoyed watching the pastry chef prepare everything (definitely sit at the bar, not the tables!). Had the 3-course prix fixe and supplemented with an extra dessert (plus I sampled my 2 DC's desserts, of course). The last course, labeled "petit four", is actually a cream puff. It was the single best cream puff I've ever had -- hot, crispy, flaky pate a choux with ethereally light pastry cream. Once again, swoon worthy. The "main" desserts were all very different and all excellent. A special shout out to the "Angel Cream" which is the lightest, airiest cheesecake you will ever encounter.

Blossom was fine. The highlight was the fresh Goby fish, steamed and served with ginger, scallions and a lightly sweet soy sauce. The fish was perfectly steamed and the classic sauce really let the fish shine. Expensive at $60/lb, but it was loved by all. Garlic stir fried ong choy, shredded pork with dried tofu and Chinese sausage fried rice rounded out the meal. All the other dishes were prepared very well with quality ingredients, but the dishes lacked any hint of wok hay. But it fit the bill, and was followed by dessert at Sweets Raku, so there were no complaints about our evening of eating. And truly, that fish was excellent.

Border Grill was in my hotel and satisfied my rather desperate need for Mexican food. The Yucatan pork tacos were a very respectable version of cochinita pibil and my DH enjoyed his brisket taquitos very much. The one fail for me was the "black bean stuffed corn tortillas" used for my tacos. A completely superfluous flourish that made the corn tortillas a greasy mess. But given my complete lack of good Mexican food in my current locale, I quite enjoyed my lunch here. Though it's quite possible that my enjoyment stemmed from being able to sit outside and look at blue sky and palm trees a half hour after flying in from a cold, snowy clime.

The weekend brunch looked quite appealing, but I didn't have the appetite for an all-you-can eat lunch.

Noodles at the Bellagio was a quick, light meal before seeing O. Nothing to recommend this place other than its location and wide variety of mostly Chinese menu items and pseudo-reasonable (for the Strip) prices.

Last meal in Vegas was lunch at Bouchon Bistro. As with all Keller restaurants, it was reliable and tasty. Having recently made his quiche Lorraine, it was nice to be able to try his quiche in a restaurant. The croque madame was lovely, as were the sourdough waffles. The sticky pecan bun was sticky goodness and the cinnamon sugar beignets were...not. They were basic cake doughnuts. Delicious, freshly fried cake doughnuts, but doughnuts nonetheless. Fortunately, my niece loves doughnuts. Also picked up a couple of sandwiches at the bakery for my flight home. Way better than anything one could buy at the airport!

So that was my brief trip. The food made up for my intense frustration related to staying on the Strip (and lack of direct route from any point A to any point B). Thanks to all the previous 'hounds for posting about their experiences at various places over the years! Researching Chowhound is one of my favorite parts of trip planning.

Pictures are from Lotus of Siam and Sweets Raku.

Sweets Raku,
Border Grill Mandalay Bay,
Bouchon Bakery
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