My buddies and I have an annual trip to Vegas for a long Elite 8 weekend, and this year I thought I'd actually report it. I'm part of our Los Angeles-based contingent, and we drove into town just in time to pick up the East Coasters at LAS. We spent the first Saturday with a lunch at In-N-Out (more for their benefit than ours, though even the Angelenos had never seen animal-style fries before) followed by idling the afternoon away at the Monte Carlo Brew Pub pounding away the garlic tater tots, peel 'n eat shrimp, quesadillas and about fifteen liters of beer among five of us. Lots of cheering and yelling and shuttling to the sports book, of course.
On a side note, it's kinda sad that the Brew Pub doesn't actually brew any beer.
Sunday night, mainly because I personally boycotted PF Changs, I floated the idea to go to Pampas instead, a Brazilian BBQ in the former Desert Passage of Planet Hollywood (the former Aladdin). The sirloin, sausage and barbecued chicken were great, though they curiously littered their filet mignon with parmesan cheese, giving it an awfully unappetizing odor. Overall, it was a bit of a disappointment.
That night there was a bit of carousing up and down the strip. We ended up at Trader Vic's and I ponied up to the bar and asked for a Nui Nui. "What is it?" the bartender asked. Feeling a bit of disappointment that an establishment with a classic name can't make a classic tiki drink, I opted for a mediocre zombie instead (a drink that, frankly, should have pasted me to the floor, but was fairly weak and quite forgettable).
Monday night, we headed off to Nero's in Caesar's Palace. We'd gone to Nero's before and always been happy but while the dinner we had there this past weekend was very good, it seems to have slipped a bit. Gone was the great bone marrow topping, and even their side dishes failed to wow as they've done before. It seems to indicate a regime change in the back of the house. While I'm easily the foodie-est in the group, it's not like I'm making comparisons to L'Atelier or anything. I guess it still speaks well that I've got no complaints about the meat (though it wouldn't have killed them to trim the silver off my $50 New York steak) and our apps (lobster bisque and crab cakes) were still top notch.
I'm thinking next year we'll end up at Mon Ami Gabi instead. I was hoping to find time to go to Lotus of Siam, but I had an early meeting on Tuesday, so those northern Thai dishes will have to wait (I wanted to compare them to Los Angeles' Jitlada with its southern Thai specialties and Portland's Pok Pok with its Isaan menu).
Also, are there are any suggestions for great cocktails? I'm not a vodka cranberry popped collar striped shirt kinda guy, and while I have no problem ordering a gin and tonic while I'm shooting craps, I prefer to saddle up to a bar where the bartender is an actual mixologist. Any suggestions for bars that makes great classic cocktails, especially stuff like sidecars and prohibition era drinks like last words and corpse revivers? My reference points are The Hungry Cat in Los Angeles and Teardrop Lounge in Portland, so points are added if they're actually squeezing fresh citrus or making tonic and grenadine in-house.