Trip Report Dec 2005, Part One
Just a quick warning: this is a trip report with lots of restaurant review, but also lots of other stuff. I posted it on the newsgroup avlv earlier. In the past, some people on this board have found the trip reports useful, which is why I post this one, too. Enjoy. I hope.
Sa 12/10 Sometimes I wonder if it´s all worth it. My trip took 19
hours this time and I wasn´t even delayed. But then the lights of the
Strip engulfed me (I had plenty of time to savour it, even in
december, as traffic was gridlocked once again) and it all felt right
I was spending the first night at Tuscany, which had some distinct
advantages: the rate ($42), the pretty nice room (L310) which even
came with a Strip view, a fridge and a coffee maker and could have
easily housed more than one king bed. Even better is the walking
distance to Ellis Island, especially when one has a free drink coupon
and isn´t afraid to use it. Their eggnog is pretty good and I liked
I had the steak special again and was surprised how good it was - I
didn´t rember the steak being that tasty ($4.95). The server asked me
if I was from Paris - definitely a first for me. Final advantage of
Ellis Island: you get City Life there - where I learned a) that
there´s an imposter band called the Peccadilloes in Las Vegas and
b)that a local Strip club offers a "Toys for Tatas" special - you
bring a toy and get in free.
Gambling alert: I used my first matchplay coupon for $5 at blackjack
and promptly lost. Down $5.
I went to bed at 10.30 (7.30 a.m. my time) and slept 4 hours.
Up at 2.30 a.m., I washed up and headed for the Hard Rock, always a
good place to people-watch on a saturday night. I felt dramatically
underdressed but that didn´t keep me from winning my $10 matchplay on
roulette. I then went to Smith´s for some grocery shopping and checked
out the xmas display at Sam´s Town, my first time there. This is a
really enjoyable lights display set in their Mystic Falls area.
Admission is free and it´s a good place for some photos.
I made a quick stop at the Longhorn and walked out with $30 about 4
minutes later, having used the matchplay and the free Ace from LVA. It
was the first blackjack of my storied blackjack career,too (after
exactly four hands). I was up $35.
Every stay in LV proves again the value of this group for me. I
certainly wouldn´t have had breakfast at Blueberry Hill without Walt´s
enthousiastic report earlier this month and I really liked the place.
The blueberry pancakes ($6.90) were very good. I liked the casual
diner atmosphere and the fact my waitress called me honey. A fine
place to enjoy one of the perks of a LV weekend stay, the LVRJ sunday
Back to the hotel for an extended phone call with the best wife on the
planet. After a shower I joined the slot club at Tuscany. In their
current promotion, you may grab a card which is preloaded with an
amount from $5 to $500 ($15 in my case) you may use in pretty much all
the machines. I cashed out $3, $38 ahead. On my way to Mandalay Bay, I
passed a Burger King. Quickly.
Before meeting David and Roz for lunch, I shopped a bit at Urban
Outfitters, one of my favorite stores in LV. We had lunch at Burger
Bar, where I chose the Angus burger with (excellent) caramalized
onions, avocado and sweet potatoe fries. Great food, probably my best
burger yet, and I loved those fries. David´s skinny fries were rather
ordinary in comparison. Roz seemed happy with her Ocean salad. I
didn´t find the prices as outrageous as has been reported, the value
was very good. I liked the surroundings, too, and will definitely
return. I watched the master turning $100 into $200 playing blackjack
and then received my faithful scooter back which he had stored
graciously in his garage.
I checked in at the MGM and scored a Strip view room (21320) at the
Grand Tower overlooking Mandalay to Monte Carlo. The room was
perfectly ok, but nothing to get excited about. A bit larger than
usual, it featured a few old movie star pictures, a comfy king size, a
couch and a desk. The bathroom was a bit boring, it had a tub / shower
combination. I liked the one at Tuscany better. The cool thing about
the room offer was that it included a $35 dining credit, a $25 spa
credit and a $35 credit for any shop or restaurant at Desert Passage,
all for $79. I toured the property for a bit and didn´t recognize the
Strip entrance area, with the new bar and poker room. I also entered
the pool area for the first time, some people were even swimming. It´s
a pretty good pool area which could be great with a bit more tropical
theming a la Mirage. I liked it better than Caesars or Bellagio´s.
As the spa was included in my rate anyway, I decided to check it out.
My wife loves spas in Europe, I don´t. I found out pretty soon that I
don´t like american spas, either. It was no big deal, a steam room, a
sauna, a whirl pool - and a rest room with a high-volume football
game. Somehow, I don´t like to start conversations with naked men.
Some MGM observations: it´s big place. No, really. But I liked better
than I thought - it´s often put down (at Cheapovegas, for example),
but it´s got a lot going for it, the great (and great looking)
restaurants being one of them. The look of Fiamma or Shibuya is really
To use up my food credit and quite a bit more, I had decided on
L´Atelier de Joel Robuchon which has recently opened near the Mansion
at MGM. It´s a wonderful restaurant, in basic black with lots of
colourful food as decoration. There´s a long counter, ideal for solo
diners, and just 4 tables. They don´t take reservations. The only weak
point is the closeness to the casino, leading to quite a bit of noise.
The kitchen is directly behind the counter, so you can watch all the
details of your food being prepared. The tasti menu at the proper
restaurant runs at $360, so $95 seemed downright reasonable (when you
reason you´ve already paid the $35 and are $38 up for the trip). The
restaurant was quite busy for a sunday early in the evening.
Here's what I had.
L´avocat, a layer of tomato cucumber jelly and a layer of avocado
creme, was good, but didn´t blow me away. I´d have liked a bit more
bite. The bread served with it was fantastic, though.
Next was the Langoustine Carpaccio, served with pepper, salt, chives
and poppyseed. This was quite wonderful, if not exactly filling. The
two gentlemen to my left were having fries and ketchup with it.
Les huitres were three oysters in a butterlemon and chives sauce. They
were tiny, but tasted great. I could have eaten more of the quite
wonderful sauce, too.
L´oeuf is an egg mushroom creme which is a specialty of Robuchon. It
consists of 4 layers in a martini glass: parsley, mushrooms, an egg
which is poached by the heat and a mushroom foam on top. This was the
best dish yet, simply amazing. It didn´t play too well with my
friendly southern neighbors to the left. Obviosly they were getting
cranky, because the fries were gone. One complained that it would have
been better without the egg. The waitress (very nice, BTW), fought
valiantly and that without the egg, one might simply eat mushroom
soup. "At least that´s something I would have known", he replied
mournfully. Just why he had chosen this particular restaurant wasn´t
entirely clear at this point, as he continued to curse this damn
French cuisine. Probably just a misunderstanding, what with french
fries and all.
The next course was the best yet: an ethereal foie gras mousse with
pear pieces, a thin slice of fried pear and a bit of fig. My neighbors
pronounced the pear to be good and ordered more ketchup.
Lightly smoked salmon followed, with watercress and potato slices.
This was very good, but not quite up to par with the menu items I had
sampled before. It was a bit too salty for my taste. My neighbor asked
the waitress whether meatloaf was available. It wasn´t. They ordered
more wine and began to laugh hysterically.
The entree la caille was quail, filled with foie gras and accompanied
by the best mashed potatoes I´ve ever eaten. They were crowned with
two black truffle shavings. I usually don´t get the hoopla about
truffles, but this was dreamy. The quail was excellent too, crunchy
and tender and perfectly balanced with the foie gras. The gentleman to
my left sent back his steak and began a lengthy discussion about
whether the import of french potatoes was really necessary, since
Idaho produces famous potatoes, too. The waitress seemed to reach the
limit of her patience and told him "M. Robuchon doesn´t like Idaho
On to desserts. Cranberry milkshake with chestnut ice cream was an
excellent combination, with the light bite of the berries
complementing the chestnuts. As with every dish of the night,
combining the single ingredients was essential.
The last dessert was the chocolate one, with different layers which,
mixed together, tasted very good. I still liked the cranberry desert
I´ve read different opinions about the amount of food, from ample to
"needed a snack pretty much right away". Due to my earlier restaurant
visit, I was perfectly happy with the amount of food. If this had been
my only main meal for the day, I might have been disappointed.
My friends and neighbors discussed whether they´d have any of the
dishes again, the consensus being that the steak wasn´t too bad, but
the french fries were pretty good. The rest - forget it.
I´d eat here again in a heartbeat - if I had the money to do so more
often. For once, it was a great experience. With a vow to move a lot
the next day, I returned to my room.