Food and Food: Las Vegas and Travels02 Mar 2009 09:45 am

At first, it was a joke. But deep down, I knew it was the truth. The reason for such a quick return trip to Las Vegas: to eat at the Border Grill.

Of course, there were other reasons, and other restaurants. But after hearing my parents gush about their amazing dining experience at the authentic Mexican eatery in Mandalay Bay, I knew we had to return. We ended up eating a few hours before our flight home (note to self: get entrees to bring home next time!) and I wasn’t feeling very well, so no photos. However, here are some of the other dining experiences:

Day 1: Ping Pang Pong

Inside the Gold Coast Casino (west of the Strip, at the corner of South Valley View Boulevard and West Flamingo Road) We had a car, but a cab or even the Rio or Gold Coast shuttle will get you there as well.

Drawn by rave reviews of the dim sum, we visited Ping Pang Pong as soon as we had our car rented. The Gold Coast casino is one of the sadder places I’ve been, but full of interesting folk and free giveaways: I saw many people walking around with “Swiffer” duster knock offs.

Since it was mid morning on a Sunday, the place was packed. We waited nearly 30 minutes for a table which was the only disappointing part of our meal. We gorged ourselves on seafood, dumplings, rice noodles, taro and BBQ pork buns. Everything was fresh, the sauces were incredible and were not just plain mayo or soy. The tea was a step well above average  and stayed super hot in its cast iron pot. Even the smell of cigarette smoke from the adjacent casino wasn’t even that bad. The dining room was efficient, and shaped into a lucky number “8” with most seating reserved for large groups, naturally.  It wasn’t the best dim sum I’ve ever had, but I would eat there regularly if I lived in Las Vegas. The total came about $30, I believe. It was a steal.

Unassuming entrance. There were at least 15-20 people waiting at any given time for a table.

Ceiling decor.

Day 1: Daniel Boulud Brasserie

(Inside Wynn Las Vegas)

It took a long day of shopping to be hungry for our late dinner reservation at the Wynn’s Daniel Boulud after eating at Ping Pang Pong. We had a hard time deciding where to eat. A return to Le Cirque, following our last triumphant meal? Perhaps a trip to the newly opened Sinatra at Encore? Mike read the description of the restaurant from the oversized glossy magazine promoting Steve Wynn’s twin properties earlier in the day, and it was incredibly persuasive. In the end, the promise of house made charcuterie at Daniel Boulud won us over, however.

Chef Boulud just took over Rob Feenie’s Lumiere in Vancouver. I had dined there nearly two years ago, in a meal that still remains fresh in my mind. As does seeing Feenie himself pushing dishes out of the swinging door to the kitchen. Boulud is a busy fellow and I doubt he is in his Vegas or Vancouver kitchen with any frequency, but I could be wrong. Either way, his direction has served well at Daniel Boulud Brasserie and the meal was great value and executed well.

To start, west coast oysters and the charcuterie board. The large glossy magazine had told us earlier that the Wynn has its own marine biologist to care for the multitude of lobsters and sea animals that are used in the hotel. The oysters were okay; nothing mind blowing here. The charcuterie, however, is worth a visit. There is an outdoor patio that was warm, even in Feburary, and I was fantasizing about returning to have a mid afternoon snack of pate and foie gras with a glass of wine on the patio. Meats of the day included chicken liver mousse, pâté of some kind, pistachio sausage, fig and duck terrine as well as a variety of cured meats, served with house made pickles and mustard.

Pickle platter

DB Burger

Skate grenobloise

(As you can see from the photo, it really needed more brown butter)

Mike went with the signature DB burger as a main, and I kept with the sea creature theme and had skate grenobloise. The burger was amazing: stuffed with braised short ribs, black truffle and foie gras, making it kind of hard to eat. It was shockingly juicy and meaty and a very over the top preparation for a burger. My skate was amazing; served in a rich brown butter sauce on a bed of roasted cauliflower, radishes and potato puree. Lobster is fine, but skate is finer. It has long been considered a ‘trash fish’ but it has a sweet, flaky texture and I would order it again if I ever saw it on a menu. The portions were a bit modest, but perfectly filling. I had no desire to feel nauseatingly full after with a visit to a tequila bar on tap, and instead just felt pleasant. Our server chatted with us for some time about Canada’s Yukon and the time he had spent there. It was a relaxed evening.

The patio overlooks the Wynn’s “Lake of Dreams” and there is a cheesy half-time show of sorts. Videos, music and inflatable animals are used to entertain the crowd for a few minutes every half hour. I found the food to be attention worthy enough and found the shows distracting. If you want to see it, however, it is also visible from the Parasol Down bar and SW steakhouse.

One of the shows at the Lake of Dreams

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