Restaurant Roundup: Las Vegas
Las Vegas – love it or hate it, it’s an experience. Truly Vegas has something for anyone, although that’s usually more of a food experience than a gambling experience for me. In fact I’m actually ok with not gambling at all, or spending an hour playing the penny slots, although when you are a group, and you are all together at your own blackjack table like we were during the day on Saturday of our weekend, well that’s pretty darn fun even if you lose a little! For me the shows are also secondary, if I have time to fit one in. But what is an absolute must for me in Vegas – well really, most anywhere – is making sure I experience the food.We arrived Friday afternoon and grabbed a quick burger to tide us over until our lunch reservations at Craftsteak, a Tom Colicchio spot in the MGM Grand that garnered the “best steakhouse” award a few years ago. I’m a Colicchio fan, as much for his food as for his work around ending hunger, so I wanted to dine here. Am I wrong in thinking the wine prices on Vegas menus are not marked up as much as in other cities? This Nicolas Feuillatte Brut Rose’ Champagne was less than double the store price, so of course, we indulged!When you’re with a large group, it’s great to get a bunch of things to share, like the prosciutto and figs, lobster bisque, caesar salad, and shrimp cocktail. We sipped, tasted, nibbled, and passed – and everything was well done.I don’t know what’s happened to me lately, but gone are the days when I consistently ordered a filet mignon at a steak place. Now I’m looking for something more interesting, and upon the waiter’s suggestion, I order the Prime Flat Iron Steak which was grilled to a perfectly medium rare. It’s a flavorful cut from the leg which can be tough if the gristly fascia is not removed. Mine was not, and friends sitting near me agreed it was the best tasting cut of the night.Sometimes steakhouse side dishes are mediocre or uninspired. Again, these were the opposite. I think Brussels sprouts might have outlived their time on the menu, but these were as good and bacon-y as any I’ve had. Instead of just potato dishes (which we also ordered), Craftsteak offered up Roasted Red Pepper Risotto that was perfectly creamy and al dente. Can’t you just see Colicchio all over this? I think every episode I’ve ever watched of Top Chef had a risotto disaster! The creamy grits with bacon lardons were irresistible, and on the waiter’s recommendation, we picked the simple sautéed spinach over the creamed Swiss chard. He was right.Here’s what my plate looked like when loaded up – and honestly, I only spooned the smallest of each side dish onto my plate (you’ll also see the mushroom medley in the center which always goes well with steak), and still, this looks like a last meal request if I’ve ever seen one!By morning, however, we were hungry again, and there is not place better for brunch in Vegas than Mon Ami Gabi in the Paris hotel. In fact, it’s so good we went two days in a row, and had the same sparkling rose wine with our meal. Here are a few dishes to try if you go:Any of the omelets – this one was spinach and goat cheese, served with great grilled bread and to-die-for hash browns.Quiche lorraine – a classic with bacon, onion, gruyere cheese – and just for good measure, get some of the date glazed bacon cooked extra crispy to go alongside it.Eggs Benedict – another classic, but they even offer a gluten free option if you need one.And just because life is short and should be enjoyed, get the crepes suzette for dessert – candied orange, fresh orange, a delicate crepe and the perfect sauce, all topped with a scoop of French vanilla ice cream. Really, isn’t this how a meal should end?On our final night, we made our way from the MGM Grand over to the Aria specifically to dine at Sage, which my daughter the chef recommended to me. While I’m not sure everyone at the table was happy with the choice (possibly too adventurous for some?), if you’re an adventurous foodie, this is the kind of James-Beard-Award-Winning-Chef restaurant that you need to put on our list.You either order by quantity – 2, 3 or 4 things from the appetizer and entree sections of the menu – or the whole table orders the tasting menu. That was too much for our group, so most of us ordered 3 things, which results in 2 appetizers and an entree. These first two are my husband’s: wagyu beef tartare with crushed caper aioli (many of us picked this as one of the best dishes of the night), slow poached egg yolk, and crispy chocolate; and Alaskan king crab with sun chokes, grapefruit and Belgian endive.I chose the roasted veal sweetbreads with glazed bacon, creamy white polenta and trumpet mushrooms; and the grilled Spanish octopus with Bloomsdale spinach, chorizo, aioli and marcona almond romesco. The octopus was the most tender I’ve ever eaten in my life, but unfortunately, it was served after the sweetbreads that were so rich and decadent that they could have been a meal in and of themselves.I didn’t photograph everyone else’s dishes as I didn’t want to rudely reach across the table of 8, but did capture this picture of my friend’s slow poached oraganic farm egg with smoked potato, shaved black truffles and toasted country bread. Other appetizers that the group enjoyed were the foie gras brûlée with huckleberry compote, toasted cocoa nibs and toasted brioche; the salt roasted beets with heirloom carrots, Manchego cheese crumbs and coriander yogurt; the roasted pear with blue cheese mousse, glazed bacon and walnut butter; and the lacinato kale salad with grape mustarda, red kuri squash, honey crisp apples and bellota ham. Can you tell how rich everything was? In hindsight we should have ordered just 1 appetizer each and passed everything around to share, as we were almost to full to enjoy the entrees.Veal cheeks with pickled vegetables, herbed spatzle and paprike jus was my choice – the veal cheeks were excellent, but I would have preferred a bit more spatzle and a bit less sauce.My husband’s grilled skirt steak with charred brassicas (the family of vegetables that includes broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and cabbage), sesame and miso soubise was fabulous – and so large that 4 people kept sharing bites of it.We couldn’t even finish all of our entrees (which also included Atlantic striped bass, scallops from Maine, venison loin, and Wagyu filet), but do you think we passed up a free dessert? This little shot glass was compliments of the chef – rosemary chocolate soup with a thin crisp of biscotti for dipping. It’s not on the menu, so I hope you get lucky and they still have it when you go. It was one of the most pleasant surprise flavor combinations I’ve ever experienced, and something you could easily do at home by infusing a sprig of rosemary into a cup of hot chocolate.
I think I gained 5 pounds in 2 days eating like this – hardly something I needed to do right after the holidays! – but I’m glad I had the experience. Here are details for you: