Two New Mexico Chowhounds just back from our latest visit. We stayed a day longer this time so there's even more to report on than usual. Here's the rundown:
Monta - finally made it here, and I'm glad we did. We both had the tonkatsu ramen with one order of extra pork which we split between us, which made for a perfect quantity of meat. This was great stuff, as good as I remember getting at any of the top ramen houses in NYC. Accompanied by a nice but unnecessary order of gyoza. Sweet, efficient service, but there's a good chance you'll have at least a short wait if you arrive at a peak hour.
Kabuto - we've always ordered omakase before, but since we were generally less enamored with the sashimi and cooked items we decided to go for the 10 piece nigiri option with supplements this time. Service was excellent as always, and it was a great meal overall, but we both noticed some consistency issues with the nigiri - the rice to fish ratio was way off on one of my pieces, and another was completely overwhelmed by wasabi. Perhaps not coincidentally, this is the first time we weren't seated at Gen san's station. I still consider this an essential Vegas meal, but in the future I might make an earlier reservation or specifically request to sit with Gen san.
RM Seafood - we finally got around to trying this place on our last visit despite the fact that we almost always stay at theHotel, and were sufficiently impressed to warrant a return visit. Nothing we ordered required any serious skill in the kitchen but between the pristine oysters, amazingly sweet Alaskan king crab, and serviceable steamed clams, this was a decadent and very relaxing lunch (they also have a very nice Edna Valley Albarinho served from keg that pairs perfectly with the food). I don't know that I'd recommend this as a dinner destination, but the flexible menu and relaxed atmosphere make it a perfect lunch spot.
Cut - I am rarely knocked out by restaurant service, simply because it doesn't matter all that much to me compared to the food and wine, but Cut is an exception. Our server was simultaneously crisp, efficient, friendly, and engaging, and overall provided one of the best service experiences I've had outside of a Danny Meyer restaurant. She decanted the bottle of wine we brought expertly and graciously, and was on the spot throughout the entire meal. First courses of bone marrow flan and oxtail boullion were excellent, as were the sides (potato puree and Tuscan beans), but we were both nonplussed by our steaks. My wife's 21 day Illinois bone-in ribeye and my 35 day Nebraska strip were both perfectly cooked but curiously lacking in flavor, and in the case of my strip the problem was exacerbated by the aggressively seared and seasoned crust, which tended to overwhelm the already mild flavor of the beef. I had some reservations about coming here given the emphasis on the more exotic Wagyu/Kobe cuts, and I'm starting to think this may not be the best choice unless you're prepared to make that kind of investment.
Border Grill - we wrote this place off years ago, but since we were hanging out at the Mandalay Bay pool all day it was a practical choice, and I'm glad we gave it another try. The cocktails were so-so but the trio of salsas served with the complimentary chips was outstanding and the fish tacos were reference standard.
Raku - our first time here, and a bit of a rocky experience, but ultimately satisfying. We had some difficult understanding our server, partly due to a speaker directly overhead and partly due to language barriers, and she didn't show much interest in explaining things (she dropped off the blue fin tuna sashimi sampler without identifying the three different cuts and was little to no help with the sake menu). We also experienced an inexplicably long wait between our first two courses. Service aside, the meal had some definite high points, including the aforementioned tuna sashimi, my wife's foie gras custard, and pretty much everything off the grill (especially the beef tenderloin with fresh wasabi and the pork cheek). The only real miss was a pricey, dry, overcooked fried smelt off the specials menu.
Milos - we stopped in here for lunch twice, and between the two visits sampled the meze plate, tomato salad, grilled octopus, smoked salmon, lavraki, lobster pasta, and the Milos special (from the a la carte menu). I've heard some grumblings about declining quality here, but based on these two visits the only evidence I can see to support that is the elimination of the walnut cake dessert option - everything else is as good as ever. I think we will finally bite the bullet and splurge on dinner here next time.
Pinot Brasserie - we selected this place for a small family get together for two reasons - a glowing review from John Curtas at eatinglv.com and the fact that they allow BYO with no corkage charge. No real surprises, but the lobster bisque and escargots were very well executed and the steaks were perfectly cooked and served with a very flavorful mushroom/spinach/potato side. The lobster component of my wife's surf and turf seemed a bit skimpy, but aside from that everything was first rate. If you need a conservative and quiet choice for a family or business dinner this could be an excellent pick.
Forte - I will admit that I had to be dragged here, but I'm glad I went along for the ride. Everything was just superb, with special accolades for the Bulgarian mixed grill and the Adjarski Khachapurri (bread boat stuffed with cheeses and a fried egg). I didn't get to sample the borscht or the stroganoff but they both also received rave reviews. Prices are almost ridiculously gentle given the quality.
Valentino - the pasta tasting here blew our minds on our last visit, but it appears they have already begun to wind down operations in anticipation of closing later in the year. The formal dining rooms were closed, so we were seated in the casual grill, no tasting menus were offered, and we were presented with a two page wine list (I assume the larger list may be available, but since we brought our own wines I didn't inquire). All of our pasta courses were outstanding (delicate lasagna, a very bright tasting spinach and tomato cappellacci, and a special of fettucine with scallops, mushrooms, and Australian black truffles). My main course of lamb shanks with mushroom tortellini was excellent, but the osso buco received mixed reviews from my companions. The kitchen is still turning out solid food overall, but don't come here expecting the sort of formal dining experience they delivered in the past.
One editorial note - I've read that the Venetian chose not to renew Valentino's lease because they wanted to bring in something with more of a celebrity chef pedigree to fill the space. It's never been difficult to get a table here even at prime time, and I understand that the market dictates these things, but it's still a little disheartening to think that food of this caliber isn't sufficient to keep an establishment going.
Another superb visit - looking forward to our return in February!