Food: Las Vegas


Food: Las Vegas and Travels01 Jul 2010 01:56 am

Mike and I talked a lot about restaurants going into the wedding. What restaurant were we going to host the reception dinner at? Where were we going to have the rehearsal dinner? Where were our parents going to meet over dinner?

And so on.

However, the most discussion we had was over our “honeymoon.” Honeymoon dinner, that is. Some people go on a fancy vacation. We just spent money on a fancy dinner.

Knowing that we wouldn’t be in Las Vegas for some time, there was only one choice: Guy Savoy. And once we decided (it was one of the simplest eating decision we made the entire trip) we talked about it almost every night going up to the trip. Mike stalked the Guy Savoy website for weeks, waiting for the Spring menu to be released. We discussed the champagne we’d get, the cheeses from the cheese cart and what breads were best with what. It was nearing on obsession.

Luckily the dinner did not disappoint. I was coming off of nearly five days of barely eating. I just lost my appetite – I heard it’s common for brides. The day of our dinner at Guy Savoy things were returning, though. I had a mai tai by the pool and relaxed, preparing for our meal. We took a taxi over to Caesar’s from the Palazzo, and strolled into the restaurant.

We were welcomed back with open arms. We were given special amuse bouche courses (three in total), Franck Savoy (Guy’s son) came out to greet us. There was an extra dessert course. If our first visit to Guy Savoy was memorable, this one was unforgettable.

The spring menu was fabulous, and featured many special items especially good at this time of year: asparagus, morels, so on. We indulged in the cheese course, though we agreed we would forgo it on our next visit after two tours of it. We got the six course menu elegance.

Although initially I thought I might take a night off of photo taking for the blog, I couldn’t resist once the first large course came out. It was just so effing amazing.

Asparagus “raw cooked” with lauris sauce. Lauris is a mayonnaise, cream and paprika sauce. This dish is a Guy Savoy speciality. I think the most impressive thing was the serving style. The mandolined “trees” of asparagus were stunning. Here’s the recipe. We also got a bottle of champagne to start off the night right.

Squab and morels with a miniature savoy cabbage. Not to be mistaken for a brussel sprout.

Admittedly the dish looks…well, bland. Even after doctoring it a bit in Photoshop. But the flavours were rich and creamy and anything but bland. It just lacked visual charisma, I guess. Sort of like when the snow melts off from Edmonton, leaving that horrible dry brown dead grass, until the spring starts to appear in green grass and trees. Or atleast until the street cleaners appear.

Always the charmer. Back off ladies, he’s mine.

Ah yes, the cheese cart. My old friend who I had dreamt of many times.

Between Mike and I, I think we got one of each kind of cheese. The aged Edam was my personal favourite. The ancient goat cheese (below, at 12 o’clock) was especially intense.

We also got a soup course (the Savoy traditional: truffle artichoke) and a fish course.

Hmm. Some kind of sorbet; lychee? This was a freebie. They were very good about adding in extras that night.

And then dessert.

First, the coconut, six ways.

Coconut shavings on top. Coconut sorbet and granita. Coconut tapioca and julienned coconut meat. Coconut cream. It was best when you hit all the layers and experienced each one. And yes, you could taste each one.

Chocolate praline chicory cake. Super rich chocolate fondant cake with crispy praline layer and roasty coffee flavoured chicory cream on a dish that was made for this dessert.

ALMOST too rich to finish.

Then, the dessert cart.

I went with a trio of all white desserts, because I could. One of my favourite things was the lime marshmallow. Last time they had several kinds of mini macarons available. This visit, many kinds of mini marshmallows. On Mike’s recommendation I tried a macadamia sable, but even one tiny bite was too much for me, and I had to tap out. I was fuller than full. I had to rest in the lobby for some time before being able to get into a taxi.

I got some intensely red tea, an herbal blend. Because who the hell wants to stay up all night in Vegas?

(Seriously, why didn’t I get a latte? I bet they’re incredible.)

Mike poses with a friend in the Bubble Bar of Guy Savoy. He was made up of tiny little … styrofoam bubbles? Ball bearings? I don’t even know. He was pretty cool though.

So: three amuse bouches, four courses, five dessert courses and a dessert cart visit – it capped off a wonderful week. And more than made up for a week of not eating.

Read about the first visit to Guy Savoy here.

Food: Las Vegas and Travels27 Jun 2010 11:34 pm

The only thing I may love more than restaurant design is hotel design.

Scratch that.

I love hotel design more than restaurant design. Therefore, it was with great interest that I checked out the new hotels of CityCenter in Las Vegas on the last visit. Overall, I found they were all pretty sterile, pretty clean, pretty new…then we went for lunch at Mandarin Oriental.

Angles of CityCenter.

The hotel is stunning. Even just walking around the sparse public areas, it was easy to tell it was something different. The valet was friendly, less frantic. The elevator was plush. Yes, you read correctly: plush. There was a tufted velvet seat in case you were SO weary you could not bear to stand for 10 seconds.

There was calming minimalistic music chiming and droning through the halls. Lighting, reflective surfaces, texture all used to great effect. There is a sky lobby on the 26th floor. It’s a stunning hotel.

THERE IS A FREAKING PUBLIC BATHROOM THAT OVERLOOKS THE STRIP.

I’m easily impressed though.

Anyhow, we went for lunch at MOzen bistro, which is the “casual” restaurant at the Mandarin Oriental. I will admit it wasn’t high on the list of places to visit, but after six days of wedding shenanigans I was tired of making decisions.

MOzen does pan Asian cuisine well. Their menu, at first glance, is a jumble of random Asian foods. Indian curries, Singaporean hawker food, Japanese sushi, Thai noodles… it looks like a nightmare.

I’m happy to report, as with many restaurants, the pleasure is in the execution. There aren’t many places that do an amazing curry on the Strip, but I can fully support the curries that MOzen makes.

It’s not the cheapest restaurant – fitting for the hotel with some of the highest standard rack rates on the Strip right now as well.

High ceiling-ed dining room overlooking the other hotels and condos of CityCenter.

An amuse bouche of pickled daikon, pork tenderloin and curried potato salad.

Grilled stingray with sambal and lime, wrapped in banana leaf.

Sashimi and sushi rolls made to order. The mackerel was sliced a little thickly, but was still quite fine.

Mike got the lamb shank curry with naan. It came with a side of lentils and rice, and house made pickles – it was bloody huge.

I got the tandoori chicken tikka wrap with cucumber mint raita, a house salad and super crispy fries.

Mike’s parents joined us part way through. His mom got this gorgeous looking cocktail, made with gin and gold flakes. That’s all I remember.

At the end, peanut butter jelly macarons. The server called them macaroons which made me twitch a bit, but other than that and accidentally being sent a vegetable wrap (which they came back for quickly) there were no mistakes in service. It was attentive and kind, but sort of forced. The food is what shone.

I’ve heard they do a great breakfast, and they’ve just started a Sake brunch which looks like a classy (if drunken) dim sum.

Afterwards, we did a little tour of the public parts of the hotel and visited Pierre Gagnaire’s Twist. Next time, my friend, next time.

Then onto the monorail to travel to the Bellagio and visit the spring gardens. They were extra impressive this year. I enjoyed the giant ant sculptures and rose snails.

MOzen Bistro at Mandarin Oriental
Las Vegas
Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner daily

Food and Food: Las Vegas16 Apr 2010 11:34 pm

I’ve been spending a crap load of time trying to find a suitable restaurant in Las Vegas for the wedding rehearsal dinner this week. It’s kind of a nightmare, actually; far more difficult than picking the restaurant we are using for the reception dinner.

Anyhow, in my web wanderings I found this pretty awesome tool that I hope becomes popular. Maybe it IS popular in the States…I don’t know. It’s a system that makes group ordering for lunch or group functions much easier. It’s hard to keep track of money owing, coordinating who got what, etc etc., if you have ever done it. This tool accepts orders sent via an email link to a menu, and also allows for each person to pay for their own meal if need be.

A restaurant called Memphis Championship BBQ in Vegas uses it. Here’s a screen cap of the instructions:

Pretty awesome, right?

Alright. Back to restaurant research.

Food and Food: Las Vegas and Travels14 Apr 2010 09:33 am

(It took a while, but this is my last Vegas post from the trip in early March. In another month we’re back there again! Not sure how much food blogging that trip will garner though… -K.Z.)

For a long time, Italian was my favourite cuisine. In recent years, it’s really become Japanese food though. I’m not talking sushi or drive-thru restaurant rice bowls. I mean the good stuff: miniature octopi, pig ear, fish roe, dashi broth, tendon and above all, fresh noodles. It’s impossible to find in Edmonton, so I often save up my cravings for a mammoth meal when we get to Las Vegas. We chose to eat at Raku this past visit.

Raku, like Lotus of Siam, is a notoriously busy restaurant. I don’t know if there are any restaurants more buzzed about online in the Vegas food community than Raku, except perhaps Joel Robuchon’s Mansion. Odd, considering the two are at very opposite ends of the food spectrum. One is on Strip, the other off. One unearthly expensive, the other cheap (well, okay, maybe just affordable.) One French, the other Japanese. But they do share a very common thread: incredible cuisine.

Again, we arrived without a reservation (we’re terrible!) and were told we’d have 30 minutes to eat at the bar. If we were lucky. I was gung ho, but some members of our party were not. I thought we wouldn’t get another chance for some time to eat at Raku again, so we’d scarf and run. Turns out, they did find an actual table for us, and we took our time eating. All that worry for nought.

Aburiya Raku is a robata restaurant…mostly. It’s a dark cozy restaurant that appeals to a wide range of clientele. We saw a couple on a date, sharing a sake flight and Sapporo beers. A family with a child gobbling down chicken thighs on sticks. Businessmen, young, old; all brought here by the food.

Fresh tofu, green onions, dried onion and fresh ginger and dipping sauce

The menu takes some time to work through, and requires an imaginative mind. A plain sounding “tofu” belies what the dish actually is: fresh housemade tofu, creamy and sweet and salty and firm, lick-the-dish good. So, think outside the box and get something that might sound ordinary. Trust me, it will not be.

In addition to the menu the are, of course, nightly specials. These are brought round on a chalkboard. They threw our group into a tizzy and doubled our already substantial food order.

Kobe beef liver

Hell if I can remember. Roe of some kind, with tuna I think

Mackerel. Our server came over and deftly extracted the bones with just a set of chopsticks and a single carefully placed finger.

Pig ear: gelatinous, chewy and salty. The perfect savoury snack.

Baby octopi. I kind of felt guilty eating them, since they always grow up to be so cool and intelligent.

Raku is really fantastic. A wide selection of hot and cold dishes, from small to large, encompassing all palates and wallet sizes.

A sake flight. There are many to choose from, and they all come with detailed descriptions. As with the food specials, there is also a special sake flight selection that changes monthly.

Be warned that Raku only serves wine, beer and sake, not hard liquor like Ichiza just down the street.

Our problem was solved by hopping across Spring Mountain Road and going for dessert, more food and drinks at Ichiza after. I just had to have the honey toast…

Ichiza’s honey toast. On our last visit I saw this as we were leaving and had to pick my jaw up off the floor. It’s like a little bread fort, toasted, filled with ice cream and honey.

..and Evan just had to have the shochu.

Evan, pleased with his “mystery greens” shochu. Still no word on what the mystery green came from.

Both Raku and Ichiza are in the same vein, but with different execution. Ichiza does the lax party atmosphere well, with more pub food on the menu. After all, it IS an izakaya.

Raku is a bit more refined (in ambiance and decor), with simpler, yet tastier, dishes. I would never refuse either, but Raku is my personal favourite after trying both. It is also said to be the favourite of local chefs getting off work late as well.

It’s open until 3am every night but Sunday. Perfect for late night snackers.

Aburiya Raku
5030 Spring Mountain Road
Las Vegas, Nevada
Open 6pm to 3am every night, closed Sundays

Ichiza Izakaya
4355 Spring Mountain Road
Las Vegas, Nevada
Open for lunch noon to 2:30pm weekdays
Dinner 5pm to 3am every night

Reservations recommended for both, lest you be prepared to wait or be turned away.

Food: Las Vegas and Travels09 Apr 2010 06:40 pm

My parents have been in Thailand since January. They go for a few months every year, and although I would love to get over and visit them every year, it’s not possible. So instead I Skype periodically with them and hear about all the awesome food they are eating. Even decades after our first visit to the country, my dad is still astounded at the low prices and the deliciousness of every dish. We’ve really lost touch with freshness and flavour in many of our eateries here in North America, I’m afraid. This is especially evident when one compares food court food.

Although I cannot spare three weeks to make a good trip out of going to Bangkok, I can spare a few days off to go to Vegas. Luckily, one of the best Thai restaurants in the United States (so “they” say) lives there. Some say the best in the western hemisphere. Although I urged my parents to go on their last trip to Las Vegas, neither they nor I have had time to go until this past trip.

After drinking beer in the airport lounge in Edmonton (beer was flowing heavily there following Canada’s Olympic gold medal win in hockey) and snacking on little on the plane, Evan, Mike and I were ravenous upon touchdown in Vegas. I grabbed the rental car and we were off to find Lotus of Siam.

The King, and The King!

L.O.S lives in a strip mall east of the strip on Sahara Avenue, beside an Indian restaurant, a showgirl’s wig store and various Korean BBQ and Japanese joints. (And near to a notorious swingers club!)

I’ve heard the line ups are long and you would be crazy to show up with out a reservation, but luck was on our side on Sunday night. We had to wait a mere 10 minutes for a table, in a small waiting room where a single photo hung of the King of Thailand with The King: Elvis. That photograph blew my mind.

This restaurant has been in Las Vegas for a decade, and is different than most Thai restaurants you will find because they specialize in street food and northern Thai food. You’ll still see old favourites on the menu, but there are many other items you may be hard pressed to find even in some areas of Thailand unless your Thai language skills are strong.

We ordered tom klong pla-krob to start, which is a seafood soup enhanced with “smoked sheet fish.” They were out of the Cambodian smoked fish, so we got the soup with catfish instead. The soup was still great, with delicate fish and an acidic tang. I can only imagine what it would be like with the additional smoky flavour of the special fish.

Additionally, we got kang ka noon; a spicy jackfruit curry (on the left). I found this dish lacking a bit. The jackfruit wasn’t as sweet as I hoped, and didn’t exhibit a sweet/sour dichotomy as I had hoped. It did have an interesting texture, but was lacking depth.

We also got sticky rice and Northern larb (sometimes known as lahp.) It was minced pork, with herbs and dried red chilis. The thing that makes it different is that it does not contain lime juice, as other (ie., Laotian) lahps do.

Our dishes came out in order of heat, ending with the nam prik noom or green chili dip. It looks a lot of a tomatillo salsa, right? It’s roasted green chilis mixed with garlic and onion, served with cooling steamed vegetables like cabbage, asparagus, green beans and cucumbers. It was super spicy, but not in a hot wings kind of way where you can only taste heat. There were some interesting flavours going on. I really appreciated the vegetables.

The restaurant is currently overhauling its decor and adding a wine room to support their enormous wine list. The restaurant itself was huge, and I couldn’t imagine how incredibly busy it could get.

We started off slow and then ramped up the heat. Although my dad likes to ask for things Bangkok Street Hot at Edmonton restaurants, I don’t think I would recommend it at Lotus of Siam. They’re serious about spice. Our server asked us what level of heat we wanted for each dish, applying the unuseful scale of 1-10. Then he said “10 can make Thai people cry.” So we stuck to an upper limit of 7, which I found hotter than most four chili dishes at restaurants here at home, but still edible. (Can restaurants find a better way to rate heat, please? PLEASE?)

Overall, I really enjoyed our visit. We seemed to order well, too, since I enjoyed almost all of our dishes. It was a great way to start the trip.

Lotus of Siam
953 E. Sahara Ave
Las Vegas, Nevada
(702) 735-3033

Food and Food: Las Vegas and Travels29 Mar 2010 07:45 pm

Sinatra opened with the rest of Encore in December 2008. It is, for all intents and purposes, a themed restaurant, based around: you guessed, Frank Sinatra.

I remember reading about it and Switch (a restaurant that changes decor several times as you eat) and thinking how insane it was that Steve Wynn was building something so tacky and tasteless.

However, after eating there I can only say it’s done in the classiest of ways. Sure, there is a constant hum of Frank Sinatra tunes as you eat (there is a three or four hour loop of his hits playing), and he looms over your table on larger-than-life portraits, peers at you along side Steve Wynn from the menu and is the namesake of a few menu items (for instance the Sinatra Smash cocktail or Osso Bucco “my way”), but these are all small details compared to the delicious Italian classics that come from the kitchen.

The restaurant is an homage to Frank Sinatra, and would go down very well with super fans. I am not a fan. I mean, I know of him, and I can name at least two songs, but I did not want to dine at Sinatra because I love Ol’ Blue Eyes. I went for the Italian, and suspect many of the other diners did as well.

The restaurant was but 50 steps from our hotel room door, and was an extremely busy place. You could barely make out the strains of Frank over the buzz of diners. We had to wait a few moments for a table, and grabbed cocktails in the lounge while we waited. Extremely strong cocktails. I always say this about Vegas drinks, and maybe it’s because I’m a light weight, but maybe it just because they know how to pour a drink there.

Mike’s limoncello-raspberry cocktail and my modern Manhattan.

Packed! With many large parties.

It was still too chilly in February to sit on the patio, but I heard it’s quite lovely.

Lasagne bolognese: Screaming hot layers of pasta with a rich meat sauce and creamy cheese. I kind of felt like it could have used some spice to kick it up a notch, but it made for a very satisfying dinner. It’s also piqued my interest in making lasagne at home sometime soon.

The menu is well cultivated, with a cross section of the most famous Italian dishes, but nothing extraneous. Four kinds of pasta, a smattering of fish and meat dishes, and that’s it. You’d think it would be easier to pick meals, but we still struggled.

Mike got the osso bucco, which was outstanding. The marrow turned into a beefy jelly inside the bone, with the meat staying succulent and tender outside. It came with a refreshing gremolata.

One of our appetizers was crab risotto cakes, on a tomato sauce. Extremely tender seafood set in a crisp risotto case. Just the right size to balance the two, but three on a plate for two people made fighting over the last one necessary.

Pannacotta. I haven’t had truly memorable pannacotta since last year, but these were a reminder of how good it could be. Even the fruit was a reminder of how good fruit could be. (Ugh, is summer here yet?)

Overall, I enjoyed our visit to Sinatra. Considering we were waffling over where to go that evening and eventually just went with the closest restaurant to us we were interested in, our decision turned out to be a good one.

Service was well practiced, and I really enjoyed our server. She was friendly, helpful when we needed her to be and just brash enough to have made Sinatra proud. Although I admitted I was not a Frank fan, she still brought over some books the restaurant keeps on hand for fans. It was kind of cool to see what the Rat Pack used to get up to in Vegas. I think they’d have kept well-worn seats at a place like Sinatra.

Although I’m not sure I would elevate Sinatra to the “must visit again” list on the Vegas restaurant compilation, it was a memorable, romantic meal. I would definitely return to the bar again for a nightcap before stumbling up to the room at Encore.

Sinatra (at Encore)
Las Vegas, Nevada
open for dinner only, 5-11pm

Food: Las Vegas and Travels22 Mar 2010 09:29 am

People at work often ask me why I go to Las Vegas so often. Although I have many reasons, the biggest is that each trip, I leave things undone. There is always another restaurant to visit, or revisit. Another round of pinball on the CSI machine to play. Another hotel room to check out. You get my drift.

This trip, we did a few things I’ve been meaning to do for a while

  • eat a great steak
  • visit the famous Lotus of Siam Thai restaurant
  • hit up a spa

We chose Carnevino as the place to eat our steak. After reading about the insane riserva cut: or super long dry-aged steak they prepare, what better place to check out? I was a bit nervous over the Mario Batali name being attached to the restaurant, but seems like every restaurant on the Strip is a diffused celebrity chef owned restaurant these days. They can’t all be bad, right?

Why did I waste a shot on the menu? WHY??

Unfortunately, my camera died half way through the meal. Sometimes I like that though because it saves you all from sad poorly lit photos and it allows me to eat in peace. However, because I have such a poor memory it makes recalling the meal difficult, and I feel like something lacks in my post when I retell it. So, forgive me for this post.

I think the coolest thing about visiting Carnevino is that for one of the first times we’ve eaten in Las Vegas, we had a good sized group. Mike’s parents had planned a trip to Arizona and drove down from Edmonton. They decided to detour for a night and visit us in Vegas. So five of us, including our friend Evan, ate out that night.

We started with some Grey Goose in Evan’s room. He classily chilled it in the ice bucket for us. The beer in our room had unceremoniously been plunked in one of the sinks.
Still: better than the trash can we’ve used before.
Look how good the boys look!

When I walked up to the podium – without a reservation – the hostess assumed it was just Evan and I since Mike had gone to meet his parents and guide them through the massive Venetian/Palazzo hotel complex. “Twenty minutes,” she said.

“Actually, there will be five of us,” I explained.

“Oh, that changes everything!” she exclaimed, and whisked us away to an amazing six person table in a private alcove. The benefits of a group!

In our dining nook. That bottle in front of Mike’s dad is beer, not wine.

The restaurant is cozy, yet huge. There are actually four different portions, split up across a casino walkway. The place was buzzing with people, including several large groups. And that was after the pre-theatre menu rush.

While the cocktail I wanted (“American Honey”  Pappy Van Winkle bourbon, ginger ale, fresh ginger and bourbon infused honey) was out “we need to infuse more honey,” the server said, apologetically; I sprang for a Japanese beer I knew I liked. Although nothing is draught, they do have a fine selection of beer, which Mike’s dad liked.

Hitachino Red Rice ale and Evan’s focaccia. And that’s all she shot.

We received warm cheese croquettes to start, followed by bread with the most flavourful spread I’ve ever had. I know I say that every time I eat some new topping, but Carnevino’s pork lardo grey salt “butter” takes the cake. Real butter cannot compete with pure pork fat. I could imagine it on popcorn, crackers, someone’s body.

Here’s the trick about Carnevino. They bring you a large menu that from the outset seems easy. Appetizers, and steaks. Add a wine menu (okay, novel) I feel confident in tossing right away. But then, the beef tasting menu arrives. Then the special seasonal additions. Soon, you’re lost in a flurry of “we’re getting this” or “did you order that.” They should consider dimsum style carts.

We started with many different appetizers, including Carne Cruda alla Piemontese (Piemontese style steak tartare, with mushrooms), extremely thin but explosively flavoured beef carpaccio, a selection of house cured meats (you know we can’t stay away from the charcuterie!), and some mouth watering pork fritters. Less inspired lentils with guanciale. A small fort of Caesare’s “Tuscan Fries.”

Because we couldn’t decide on main courses, we also got half orders of pasta, just to try them. (All excellent, especially the gnocchi.) I suddenly became happy we were hidden from the restaurant under our mountain of food.

Not yet half way through our appetizers (making this more of a family style meal) the mains arrived. For Evan, sweetbreads. For Mike’s parents, enormous racks of lamb. Mike and I shared a 9-month dry-aged riserva ribeye, 1.5″ thick.

It’s carved tableside, the server deftly slicing it off the bone, which is presented as well. The server need not have told us to be sure and eat it, I’ve been stripping steakbones since I was seven. Thanks, tips.

The steak is so delicate it cannot even be cooked in the same way as a regular cut of beef. It’s gently warmed to the side of the grill. The first bite was…well, weird. It’s an ancient steak, after all. It’s been gently aging in a warehouse off Blue Diamond Road in south Vegas for months, collecting a fine patina of mold, waiting for this very moment.

Not to get too nerdy, I’ll keep it simple. The texture was slightly springy; nearly compressed – like a cured meat or very firm sausage. It smelled of a thousand BBQs, or like the first grilled meats our ancestors ate eons ago. The flavour? Complex. Hints of blue cheese, a certain gamey-ness wild game shouldn’t actually have and such deep meat flavour, I may not have to eat a steak for months to come it left me so satisfied.

All that for just $100 an inch.

Carnevino is definitely a special steakhouse. Thoughtful touches are evident everywhere: housemade everything (even the soap in the washroom is from reclaimed grill grease) as many locally sourced items on the menu as possible in a desert, attention to detail and (mostly) charming and helpful staff.

I can’t say for sure we will be able to return on our next visit, but it’s definitely on the rotation for future visits.

If, like me, you are more interested in the process of dry-aging beef (something a few places in Edmonton do, for example the newly opened Real Deal Meats) here’s a document you might enjoy reading: Dry-Aging of Beef – Executive Summary by Dr Jeff Savell.

Carnevino
in Palazzo Las Vegas
Taverna menu available noon to midnight.
Monday – Friday dinner only, 5 – 11pm.

Food: Las Vegas20 Mar 2010 09:50 am

braised miyazaki-gyu strip loin with asian pear and peach.

After his second tour of Las Vegas, Charlie Trotter has once again withdrawn from the food scene there, closing Restaurant and Bar Charlie (via Eating Las Vegas’ John Curtas. If you need more “main stream media” confirmation, NYTimes is reporting the same.)

A swirl of rumours had surrounded the restaurant in recent weeks, with massive changes to the dining hours (Bar Charlie was only open Thursdays and Fridays, recently) and hints that the kitchen team was being broken up and dispersed to other Trotter restaurants.

This saddens me greatly, but I’m extremely happy I had the pleasure of eating there. All the best to Chef Nagahara and his team. I know they’ll go on to great things.

Now, all I have left is sweet sweet memories:

Food and Food: Las Vegas and Travels12 Mar 2010 10:49 pm

I realize that I probably expend more time and effort researching, eating at and blogging about Las Vegas restaurants than Edmonton ones. I hope this doesn’t irritate my readers. I just simply find Edmonton’s food scene uninspiring and tiresome lately, even with an influx of many new restaurants into the city. But that’s okay. It just keeps me eating at home more often and saving more money for my next trip to Vegas. (Which is in May, by the way.)

This most recent trip was four nights in early March, and with a group of friends and acquaintances. We flew in with our friend Evan, and hit the ground running. Within 40 minutes of landing we were en route to our first restaurant, and the next morning chowing down at M&M Soul Food cafe.

I fluked into finding the place online when I was jonesing for fried chicken one night, and thought I might research places to eat it in Las Vegas for the forth coming trip.

My tweet about the experience read:

Besides the obvious reasons of green cards and a job, the reason I don’t live in Las Vegas is because I would have out of control cholesterol levels and would never stop eating.

Anyhow, our breakfast was amazing. Seven of us crammed into a corner booth and I think we managed to order most everything on the breakfast menu by the end of the meal.

Chicken and waffles. (cinnamony, light and fluffy waffles, that is)
Fried okra.
Ham steak.
Corn cakes. (Don’t get pancakes. Get corn cakes.)
Eggs.
Cornbeef hash.
Sausages.
Muddy water. (sweet tea and lemonade)
Macaroni & cheese.

We were animals.

It’s simple diner food, but it’s done well, and it hit the spot. Their fried chicken is juicy, with a light crispy cornflake batter. Some people think that Tim Horton’s coffee is the bomb, and that it is so good because it is brewed again and again in the same percolators and pots.

I think this is why M&M’s fried foods are so good. The same oil and fryers, used again and again. My fried okra was fresh okra, not frozen. The mac and cheese wasn’t anything too special, but it was creamy and had that special “cheezy” tang you can only get with some kinds of “cheez” sauce. My corn cakes were the real stars of my sides, however. Unfortunately I dug into them last, and they had gotten a bit soggy and steamy by them. Eat them first, is my recommendation.

Of what I tried of the other plates, the waffles were to my liking. Perfect oblong grids, cinnamon flecked, at once crispy and fluffy. The sausage was fried, and a bit greasy, but flavourful and a bit peppery.

Service was splendid. A wrong order was righted right away, and coffee cups were kept full. Our waitress inquired: “Y’all aren’t from around here, are ya?” No ma’am. But we’d like to be.

The bill came to about $100 for all of us, and powered us up for a day of shopping. And now I don’t have to dream about getting my hands on non-Colonel fried chicken every night.

M&M Soul Food Cafe
3923 West Charleston Boulevard (at Valley View)
Las Vegas
Open 7-8pm
Breakfast served til 11am.

Food: Las Vegas and Travels28 Feb 2010 06:09 pm

holiday

Credit: Rob LaRosa

I’m gone to Las Vegas until Friday. With so much going on at work (Olympics! Bacon stories! Photo contests!) and in my personal life (gown fittings! menu planning! not to mention Heavy Rain coming out on the PS3!) this trip kind of snuck up on me.

I’ve left the laptop behind, but I’ll try Tweeting from my cell when possible. I would leave a list of planned restaurant visits, but to be honest: I have no idea what lies ahead. Normally I have a list of restaurants longer than my arm to bring with me, but this time it’s all in my head. We’ll see what I get to. (Hoping for Sage at Aria, high tea at the Mandarin Oriental and late night snacks at Raku, though.)

Food: Las Vegas19 Dec 2009 03:10 am

This started as a list of ridiculously expensive items in Las Vegas, but that seemed too boring after a time, since the pricey shit all features gold leaf. So here is a mix of otherworldly expensive items and just plain ridiculous “Only in Vegas” edible items.

10. Decadence D’Or

decadence

This cupcake (which is a bit non-traditional as you can see) is all over food and Vegas blogs this week. Coincidentally, the shop selling it, Sweet Surrender in Palazzo, just opened (*cough*PRstunt*cough*)

At $750 this dessert costs about the same as 5 nights at the Palazzo in Las Vegas, or 600 macarons from Duchess.

So, I hear you asking: what the hell?

Well, if you want the rigamarole, here it is. It’s made of a special Palmira Single Estate chocolate, from the Porcelana cocoa bean. (This chocolate is available in Calgary at Choklat). There’s a little Tahitian Gold vanilla “caviar” from the Vanilla tahitensis plant, topped with exclusive Louis XIII de Remy Martin Cognac, with some gold flakes hand placed on top. As opposed to a robot doing it, I suppose. I’d pay more if a parrot did it though. They should look into that.

Interesting fact: search “Tahitian Gold vanilla caviar” and nearly ever Google hit is about this damned cupcake. You know what vanilla caviar actually is? It’s the seeds of the vanilla bean. That’s right, the seeds (sorry, “caviar”), are those things you have probably scraped out yourself if you’ve used a vanilla bean. The press release says that it is “the world’s most labour intensive” fruit. This is because any type of vanilla fruit is crazy and takes a long time to ripen and is hard to pollinate.

9. Off the menu deals

credit: vegasandfood.com

credit: vegasandfood.com

These aren’t so much ridiculous as awesome. At Mr Lucky’s 24-7 Cafe at the Hard Rock, they have two off menu specials. One is the Gambler’s Special. It’s an 8 oz. steak, shrimp and mashed potatoes for $7.77, available all day and all night. The other is $9.99, available 4pm to 4am and it is all you can eat prime rib, with baked potato and veggies, plus a soup or salad. But you know the buffet drill to fill up on the good stuff, right? Meat and King crab legs only! Screw the veg!

8. Golden Opulence Sundae

dessert

This gilded pile of poop is the $1000 Golden Opulence Sundae, sold by Serendipity 3 at Caesar’s Palace. It is perhaps best known for being incredibly overpriced, but also for its cameo in an episode of 30 Rock.

I guess I could give a run down of what is in this thing like the other shit I posted about, but it bores the hell out of me. Basically this has gold foil and caviar, and you get to keep this crappy classy goblet it comes in. Serendipity 3 also came out with a $25,000 “Frrrozen Haute Chocolate”. Google it, okay?

7. 6 pound NASCAR Cafe burrito bomb

credit: VegasRex

credit: VegasRex

Okay, so I have blogged about this before. It’s a 6 lb. burrito available at the NASCAR Cafe at the Sahara hotel. I think the most ridiculous thing about it though is that they give you two free tickets to the Sahara roller coaster if you eat the whole thing. SERIOUSLY? Maybe it’s just good marketing. I know after I yak, the first thing I want to do is eat again. (For real!)

Better get this $19.95 deal before the Sahara shuts down though. They’ve recently shuttered two of their three hotel room towers, and closed their buffet. Maybe because this thing has been feeding entire families since its launch.

6.  Ménage a Trois

$3000 cocktail

This is the Ménage a Trois, available at Tryst at the Wynn. In addition to gold syrup and high end liquors such as Hennessy Ellipse cognac, Cristal rose champagne and a special Grand Marnier, you also get a souvenir. This time, not a tacky glass, but something sure to come in handy: a gold straw with a diamond embedded in it.

Well, handy if it was the 80s, and you knew Stevie Nicks.

5. Krug Tasting Menu

krug guy savoy vegas

This past summer, as people were losing their houses and jobs all over the world, Guy Savoy in Las Vegas opened their Krug Room. The specially decorated room (the first in North America) pairs a six course seasonal tasting menu with six Krug champagnes from 1985 through 1995.

I’ll admit that the room looks a bit like a boardroom in this photo, but is actually warm and cozy in person. I guess it is the gastronomic version of a fashionista gaining access to Vogue’s wardrobe stores…or something like that. The meal will set you back $750. But that’s not the worst part. There is a minimum of six people. So it’s really $4500. Awesome for a small wedding party if you ask me…

Moving on:

4. UFO (Unidentifed Frozen Object)

credit: EatingLasVegas.com

credit: EatingLasVegas

RM Seafood does a 4x4x2 ice cream challenge: a plate of 16 kinds of ice cream in a grid. Diners are encouraged to guess what is what and get the dessert for free if they get them correct. Flavours of the past have included lobster roe, rhubarb and white pepper, as well as more pedestrian mango and strawberry.

3. 80 oz. margarita guitar drink

credit: Cainrocks.com

credit: Cainrocks.com

This thing makes me shudder. It is also so awesome, I must post both a photo and a video of it. I think of sweet syrupy “margaritas” and salmonella, at the same time. I hope they all make it home with the tourist who purchased them, where they are whipped out at big parties. I don’t even know how much they are: any one know? My guess is $50, based on how much the long yards of margaritas are.

2. 777 Burger

777 burger

This the monsterous 777 Burger from Le Burger Brasserie at Paris Las Vegas. It’s a Kobe Beef and Maine Lobster Burger, topped with caramelized onions, Brie, crispy prosciutto and 100-year aged balsamic vinegar, served with a bottle of vintage Rose Dom Perignon champagne. The cost? $777 of course. No word if it brings you any luck at the table.

1. Dinner in the Sky

This looks 'shopped. I can tell by the pixels and from seeing quite a few 'shops in my time

This looks 'shopped. I can tell by the pixels and from seeing quite a few 'shops in my time.

In recent years I have had probably five truly terrible meals. I’m being quite broad here though: usually the food was bad, but sometimes the company was bad, sometimes the restaurant was gimmicky, sometimes generous dollop of all three with a dash of bad service.

Dinner in the Sky just seems like a bad idea. Kind of like those cheesy “dark” restaurants from a few years ago. I had to admit I’ve never eaten DINNER IN THE SKY! though, so maybe I’m mistaken. The premise is such: you’re on a platform in the sky (ahem, sorry, Sky Table) 170 feet in the air, eating “fine food” from “Sky Chefs.” Is this an episode of the g.d. Jetsons? At least the view will be amazing.

In addition to barely finding anyone online who mentioned the food itself, it also concerns me the Dinner in the Sky site spends more time talking about what happens before and after the meal:

Each guest receives the VIP treatment. We offer pick up and drop off at your hotel, a red carpet reception, complimentary photography and access to our Sky Lounge, a fun and festive place to party down or just relax before and after your flight!

Bottoms up! Or…maybe not.

Honourable Mention:

Couture lollipops from Sugar Factory at the Mirage

there's a sucker born every minute

there's a sucker born every minute

A piece of candy to match my outfit? Man, it’s almost like I’m a raver again. The colour-coordinated lolly (seen here, the Kim Kardashian special) with matching, interchangeable bedazzled handle, and protective enclosure (to save it for your future daughter, I guess) runs $25. Getting it stuck in your hair while puking at the club? Priceless.

Food and Food: Las Vegas and Travels13 Aug 2009 12:50 pm

And just to finish things up, a random assortment of Vegas photos. I also blogged about the Pinball Hall of Fame on my colleague Ben Gelinas’ blog, Button Mash. “A Pocketful of Quarters in the Ultimate Vegas Arcade.

Since I was “in the area” while at the Springs Preserve, I swung by one of the homes Michael Jackson and his children lived in while they were in Las Vegas. I felt a bit shy getting out of the car, but the security guards (one of them in the car in the shot below) were nice. I viewed some of the letters and memorial items left on the gate, and left.

MJ02

MJ01

UFC 100 was held at Mandalay Bay. It was all anyone was talking about in town for the few days after…it was a big deal. I was really happy to be able to attend. There were thousands of rabid fans, and many Canadians. It was a great night.

Lesnar declared the winner

Lesnar declared the winner

Crowd favourite Georges St. Pierre (left) vs Thiago Alves

Crowd favourite Georges St. Pierre (left) vs Thiago Alves

randoLV01

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Mandalay Bay empties out

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Fun signage in the men's change room at Barney's

Tuna Tartine at Bouchon's brunch

Tuna Tartine at Bouchon's brunch

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At the Pinball Hall of Fame

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$5.95 shrimp "pancake" at 2am. The restaurant offers up pho 24 hours a day, dream come true. It also has the best name: Pho Kim Long.

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Mirage pool view

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