Food: Las Vegas


Food and Food: Las Vegas and Travels12 Aug 2009 01:18 pm

There are a few places to partake in high tea in Las Vegas, the more well known being at the Ritz-Carlton, Four Seasons and the Bellagio. In addition, the legendary Mandarin Oriental will be opening at City Center in December, bringing along their famous high tea served with Mariage Frères tea.

Wanting something light on our last day before traveling back home, we reserved a table at the Petrossian Bar at the Bellagio for high tea. While it would be too perfect if it overlooked the gorgeous gardens there, you still get an interesting view of the busy lobby or casino. Not your typical tea service. It is only served from 2-5, and reservations are mandatory, I believe.

For around $40 you get a pot of tea from the varied selection, as well as a choice of four sandwiches from a long-ish list, as well as fruit tarts and sweets and scones with cream and preserves.

Classy tray, busy casino.

Classy tray, busy casino.

sandwich selection

sandwich selection included salmon caviar, egg salad, ham + guyere, cucumber watercress and a non traditional chick pea red pepper.

cucumber sandwich comes in for a landing

cucumber water cress sandwich comes in for a landing

sweets

sweets

It was a wonderful snack, and we were well taken care of from start to finish. I can imagine returning with my mom or girlfriends to indulge again.

Food and Food: Las Vegas and Travels11 Aug 2009 12:08 pm

bar charlie july 10

Upon arriving in Las Vegas, we did three things: check into the hotel (this time we stayed at the Mirage, and got a free upgrade!), place some sportsbets and go for dinner at Bar Charlie again. Our first visit was so wonderful, a return visit was almost mandatory.

The last time we visited, we were the only diners for most of the evening. This time, there were two other couples eating. It helped the restaurant feel not as stiff, although it was much, much busier for the kitchen staff. Visiting on a Friday evening probably had something to do with it. Bar Charlie is also garnering more mentions on culinary forums as a “must visit” place, so I hope this helps it succeed. It truly is a fine restaurant.

I don’t have much to say other than that, except that this time the service was above par. Chef Hiroo Nagahara and his team were ultra friendly, despite being insanely busy. We were recognized and our return visit was mentioned by several of the staff. Everyone was very chatty, and it was a great evening. When the chef promised a printed menu for us when we left, I was not confident I would see it. Others had complained that they did not receive theirs, but I got mine, all tied up with colour co-ordinated ribbon and everything.

Again, we got the 14-course chef’s kaiseki. Here are a few of the highlights. As you can see, the descriptions of the dishes are very simple, but the dishes themselves were anything but. Another couple down the bar complained that there were many elements not mentioned on the menu, making it hard to record notes on the meal. Most dishes started with atleast six ingredients. That doesn’t begin to take into account the components of the various sauces and garnishes and powders.

I will maintain my viewpoint that Bar Charlie is one of the most complex meals and best values for high end dining in Las Vegas. But, enough. I’ll let the photos do the talking.

vesper cocktail
vesper cocktail to start. Plymouth Gin, Hangar One Vodka, Splash of Lillet Blonde, Orange Oil, Candied Organic Orange Peel
konoshiro, watermelon and yuzu. konoshiro is a Japanese variety of fish known as a “gizzard shad.” konoshiro sounds much more palatable and romantic, non?
santa barbara spot prawn in raspberry with tarragon
Mediterranean blue fin tuna tartare with hijiki seaweed and daikon
this was a close up of the tasmanian sea trout course. the tiny black dots? those are the eyes of the fry.
loved the “plating” of the big fin squid dish.
black bean tofu, beets in beet sauce with scallions. i am not a big fan of tofu, but this dish made me want to seek out a tofu specialty restaurant in tokyo next visit.
kurabota pork belly (braised) with green curry and braised red cabbage
soooo tender
braised miyazaki-gyu strip loin with asian pear and peach. this is wagyu beef.
let’s zoom in, shall we? this was like eating beef flavoured fat it was so rich.
cantaloupe sorbet with prosciutto chip and feta cheese
green tea sponge cake, carmellized peaches and plum sorbet
flourless chocolate cake with banana and roasted hazelnut
petits fours to finish

After a record four visits to Las Vegas since mid December, I don’t know when we’ll get back there again, but if we do…you know where I’ll be going again.

Food: Las Vegas and General and Travels17 Jun 2009 02:20 pm

vegas

Pinchy? PINCHY!?

Daniel Boulud Brasserie at the Wynn. We returned, hoping to sample a favourite dish. Unfortunately, their menu is seasonal and had changed since our last visit in February.

We had the seafood platter however, which was absolutely amazing. It featured oysters, lobster, shrimp, crab, mussels and clams. We only got the petit size, but a wedding party ordered the large, royale, one nearby. It was shockingly “Vegas sized”, with multiple tiers and dozens of sea dwelling creatures.

vegas

vegas

Two visits to Border Grill at Mandalay Bay this trip. Fresh tortilla chips, and lamb tacos and beans and guac and margaritas and… man. It was so good.

vegas

Our last huge meal at B.G. sunk Mike, and he had to have a rest after wards.

vegas

Oh Panera, how I love thee. Free wi-fi, wonderful baked goods, great soups, sandwiches and salads…it’s like Tim Hortons – only delicious.

vegas

My room in the “West Wing” at the MGM. It looked like something from the set of “Alien” when I came home one night. Thankfully the blackout curtains really work. $59 a night!

I had stayed in one of these rooms with my friends Matt and Amy a few years ago, when they were brand new. They’re already showing their age. The one good thing about these rooms is that they are close to the poker room. In the world’s largest hotel, you’d be surprised how important that can be.

However, looking back, I probably would have continued my stay at the Palazzo, to be honest.

vegas

vegas

Pool survival kit.

That drink was totally illegal but totally necessary as it was hotter than hell. They do bag searches when you go into the pool at the MGM, so I had to sneak this “Route 44” sized cherry limeade from Sonic in. I don’t know why they do this, but there is a sign up claiming it’s for “guest safety.” Other hotels seem to have a handle on “safety” so I suspect it’s for “guest fleecing.”

At the Palazzo, they put your drinks (even outside liquor!!) into plastic cups, and you can bring in your own water. Not that you need to, as there are filtered water coolers all over at the Palazzo/Venetian pool complex dispensing free water. At the MGM they have a snarky bar tender who bitches about giving you more than one cup of water.

The MGM dropped a few notches in my books this trip, and I’m not sure I will ever stay there again.

vegas

Never mind the bad angle on my pale legs … can you spot the Euro??

vegas

I LOVE the typefaces and look of this party truck.

I wonder if they do weddings…?

vegas

vegas

Food: Las Vegas and General and Travels16 Jun 2009 09:03 pm

rhum bar

rhum bar

rhum bar

This spacey looking bar is RHUMBAR at the Mirage. We met up with some friends from Vegas and L.A. there, following the UFC fight.

The place is nice – even if we were stuck inside. They have a patio, but it was packed. (On a related note, Vegas on a long weekend is INSANELY fun and busy. Nice to see it picking up again there. The deals are definitely attracting some visitors.)

The bar features, you guessed it, rum. The drinks were strong and delicious, and although we did not receive the education on rum as we received on tequila from Treasure Island’s Isla bar, I would return.

vegas

vegas

May long weekend in Vegas means sky high rates on Friday and Saturday night. $39 hotel rooms morph into $390 hotel rooms…at least price wise. The photos above are from our ballin’ room at the Emerald Suites in southern Las Vegas. Most places were sold out come Saturday, so I took what I could get. The cost was $75.

Seems like a decent deal until you consider what we got for $25 more at the Palazzo…

vegas

vegas

vegas

Palazzo pool fountains, with a view of the “Wynn-Core” complex.

vegas

vegas

vegas

vegas

vegas

View from Daniel Boulud next door at the Wynn.

vegas

vegas

Turn down pillow chocolate!! I saved it until we got home to Edmonton. Too bad it had melted and turned chalky in the Las Vegas heat in the meantime. A few hours in the car really murdered it.

I can’t rave enough about the Palazzo. It’s like the Venetian, only newer. Easy access to the parking garage, entrance to the Venetian and Palazzo pool complexes, comfortable rooms and beds, and just overboard on amenities you don’t even really need. (Three tvs in a Vegas hotel room? That’s just overkill.)

Food and Food: Las Vegas and Travels14 Jun 2009 11:21 pm

I was alone in Las Vegas for two nights, and decided to visit another restaurant by myself. I made the reservation, knowing that if I did not, I would chicken out.

So for 7:30 pm on a Wednesday evening, I reserved dinner for one at Joël Robuchon at the Mansion at the MGM Hotel. I have walked by the doors and peeked at the menu so many times on other visits, I have lost count.

The restaurant is one of a select few in North America to receive three Michelin stars for 2009.

Joël Robuchon

JR

The doors opened, and I entered. I assume I was the only solo diner that night making me easy to recognize, and the hostess addressed me by name as I entered. She was so quick to do so, in fact, that I lamented not being able to take in the room and bar a bit more first.

JR @ the Mansion is located in the corner of the sprawling MGM casino. Look beyond the smoking slot machine players and the crowds gathering for the next showing of Cirque du Soleil’s “KA”, and you will see the peaceful entrance.

Joël Robuchon

Joël Robuchon

Joël Robuchon

The room is intimate and cozy. A banquette divides the room, and a small side room holds a (live?) rose garden and living ivy wall. I believe the restaurant can hold 60 people, and on this night there were probably 20. So not very full, but still shockingly so considering the price of the average meal there.

I was seated on a the bench seat dividing the room, in between two couples. The room is done in rich, heavy fabrics in a deep royal purple colour, with silver accented Lalique vases and black furniture. It was designed to mimic a feeling of being in 1930s Paris and feels very luxurious and opulent.

From the photos I have seen of the room, the colour accents change with the season. For spring, coral red seemed to be favoured, and was featured in the fresh flowers, coral shaped accents and decor, bringing a pop of colour.

On the banquette, silver plate framed photographs line the top, highlighting celebrities that have dined at Joel Robuchon.

A large chandelier hangs above, and the entire dining room is bathed in warm, subdued lighting.

Joël Robuchon

I asked for a glass of champagne when I sat down. Unlike Guy Savoy, they do not use a trolley to cart around the champagnes available by the glass, and I was limited to two varieties. I chose the Billecart rose. I will admit to being a bit nervous at dining alone, but knew the staff would take care of me. The champagne helped relax me even more.

However, within minutes of sitting down, the man in the couple dining to my left struck up a conversation.

“You must really love French food,” he said.

I replied to the positive, stating that I had also dined at Guy Savoy earlier in the week.

And so it began.

“Ohhhh, we were served by Guy Savoy himself!” he blurted out, as he poured more Cristal champagne for his wife. “We must have spent $10,000 that night there,” he went on.

They were Las Vegans, dining out in celebration of their 10th wedding anniversary. The husband spent more time talking to me than to his wife, and even sent over a course from the 16-course tasting menu they were having that night, claiming he was too stuffed.

I won’t say that it ruined my evening, but it did diminish some of the adult enjoyment I was hoping to gain from eating out on my own, with my own thoughts. He complained about being too full to enjoy the meal, then being too drunk.

I also found their name dropping and money discussion (and politics! imagine!) during dinner a bit distasteful. I was too timid to ask to be moved, however. In a dining room so small I did not want to risk offending anyone, or embarrassing the staff. I did find it odd the hostess chose to seat me next to a couple celebrating their wedding anniversary though. I would have been much happier next to the other fellow recent Bachelor of Science graduate out celebrating (awesome coincidence!) However, this was my own doing.

Robuchon is experimenting with lowered set prices on various meal configurations, from three courses up to six. I got the six-course option, which came with an amuse bouche, an appetizer, soup, seafood and meat course, cheese course and then dessert. I selected my own dishes for each course. My only regret was not being able to order the frog’s legs that Robuchon is so famous for.

A bread cart made a few rounds, but stopped after I refused bread with two courses. I suppose if I had asked, they might have brought some more. However, filling up on bread is a terrible idea, except when the bread is as good as it is here.

Joël Robuchon

The amuse bouche took some time to arrive, but finally came to the table on a holographic platter. It reminded me of a figure skating outfit I once had, infact.

The amuse was Os(s/c)etra caviar, over a hidden layer of three species of crab. I had a small saffron roll and a piece of carmelized onion bread from the bread cart. These were warmed before being brought to the table. The cart’s item stock was very similar to Guy Savoy’s. There were more rolls, however, and more softer items like milk breads. Again, a brick of butter imported from Brittany.

Joël Robuchon

Soup: Lettuce velouté with nutmeg and sweet onion foam. If you have ever read “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” by Roald Dahl, you surely remember all the times Charlie had to eat watered down, bland cabbage soup. Not far from it’s green cousin, lettuce soup has to sound like the stuff of nightmares, right?

It’s not.

There were lardons of ham sunk on the bottom, and the foam imparted an extraordinary texture to this surprisingly flavourful soup. The bowl arrived as a bowl of foam, which the veloute was then expertly poured into by the server. It was like a lettuce latte.

Unfortunately I did not take photos of the next course, which was the starter, which was sea scallop a la plancha with a sauce of kumquat and caviar. I remember the scallops being the star of the show, with little citrus added from the kumquat, and an abundance of caviar.

Joël Robuchon

Seafood course: this dish arrived in a beautiful presentation. It had a sort of glass halo around it, which held the bits of the lobster carapace within. It was lifted off to reveal this inside: Spiny lobster in a sake broth, with turnip and shiso sprouts.

The sake broth was salty and slightly alcoholic, and a light addition to the lobster. The most adorable baby turnips with greens attached were hidden beneath and offered the bite and crunch needed.

Joël Robuchon

Meat course: Braised veal cheeks with Thai herbs and green curry. Looking back, I had to make sure this was the course I got. I do not recall anything green curry-ish about it, but the lemongrass and strong memory of rich veal melting in my mouth tell another story. Small chunks of fine tofu accompanied the dish, which was the height of savoury. It was garnished with long stems of lemongrass which appeared to be taped to the serving dish beneath. Odd.

A side dish of pureed potatoes were lovingly spooned out by the server. They were not studded with black truffle as at Guy Savoy, however.

The diner next to me sent over his course of vegetables and couscous in Argan oil. Again, baby turnips and other vegetables were nestled in a delicious, if plain, couscous. Argan oil is supposedly an extremely rare oil…I remember it being smooth and faintly nutty, but not overwhelming.

Joël Robuchon

Joël Robuchon

Oh, jeez, cheese.

The cheese server was an expert recommender and my interactions with him were the highlight of my meal. When I said I couldn’t make my mind up on which brie I wanted to try, he gave me samples of both. (The triple cream was the best.) I also got a very alcoholic tasting (and smelly!) Époisses. It’s the runny one on the bottom, there.

Again, I had to summon the bread cart and was not offered anything unusual for the cheese course, unlike at Savoy. Cheese is delicious on its own, of course, but I wanted to see how a fruit bread or baguette changed it. 


Joël Robuchon

A perle of chou, Tahitian vanilla cream with fresh raspberry. The chou was quite awkward to eat in the bowl, and kept sliding all over the place.

The two couples celebrating were brought a special raspberry ice cream cake.  I don’t know where they are finding ripe raspberries this time of year, but I would love a hook up.

Joël Robuchon

A sorbet course. I chose the lemon, out of raspberry (again!) and chocolate.

Joël Robuchon

The mignardises trolley. There were over 30 treats on this thing. They didn’t even tell me what everything was and didn’t seem interested in listing them, so I just requested the raspberry macaron, meringue, cocoa dusted truffle and a chocolate bombe.

I asked for an earl grey tea to end my evening, which came with no sugar or cream, forcing me to ask for it.

Joël Robuchon

Joël Robuchon

This was the small dark garden room to the side. It smelled like a forest after a short rain on a warm day, green and moist with the faint scent of roses. I popped in after my meal to check it out.

Joël Robuchon

Joël Robuchon

As a parting gift, I received this beautifully wrapped present. Inside…an entire banana loaf, topped with gold dusted chocolate pieces and drizzled honey and glaze. I have to admit, I found this odd for a mainly tourist frequented restaurant. Maybe others had better appointed rooms or were staying in Las Vegas a few more nights and could enjoy it.

I ate a bit the next morning before checking out of the hotel. With no utensils in the room, I ate some of it with my bare hands. How crude. It was mostly just an average banana loaf, though.

So; was it worth it?

I remain undecided. Maybe I was tapped out on French food or high end restaurants. Maybe I set the bar too high. Perhaps if I had not been a solo diner my experience would have been different.

I won’t knock the cuisine, however. The food was great; imaginative, beautifully presented, well-executed and thoughtful. What I think fell short was the service.

It was all small things that sound absolutely ridiculous in hindsight so I won’t go into details. However, after experiencing service at Le Cirque and Savoy (click for my experiences at each), then having it at Joel Robuchon, I noticed the differences. Perhaps it is a difference of opinion. I know others enjoy that the service is non-intrusive, where you request things and the request is never denied, but I find I enjoy it when the staff anticipate my wants, sometimes before I even knew I had them. I’m a shy diner, what can I say?

I found the service mostly mechanical, lacking passion and excitement. Le Cirque and Guy Savoy made me want to go back to experience both the food and service again. They were both delightful, surprising and joyful to eat at, and I got the feeling that they wanted you to experience everything and try everything. Joel Robuchon left me wanting…it kind of felt soulless, actually.

In any case, I’m glad I went, for now I can share my experience, and know that I may never go again. There are too many restaurants in the world to return to one that charges that much and doesn’t leave me in a dreamlike trance thinking about every detail afterwards.

Food and Food: Las Vegas and Travels11 Jun 2009 11:50 am

After our amazing meal at Bar Charlie in February we were reluctant to branch out into other high end eats in Vegas. I guess we just love Japanese cuisine that much! However, Chef Hiroo Nagahara mentioned his favourite restaurant happened to be Guy Savoy, so we thought we might give it a try, and did not feel so bad doing so.

Guy Savoy was rated two Michelin stars in the last Las Vegas guide. Although I would not describe myself as a Michelin tourist, I have been fortunate to have dined at a wide selection of one star restaurants. However, this was a first to be eaten at a ‘higher level.’ The Paris location has consistently received three stars, and some say Mr. Savoy was robbed of a third star at the Vegas outpost.

We set sail for the ten-course “menu prestige” deep in the Augustus Tower of Caesar’s Palace. Four hours later, we emerged. Here is what happened in between.

guy savoy

The dining room was half full, mostly older diners in couples, but some larger tables as well. It was minimal, almost austere, but still comfortable.

There is a small patio and private dining rooms. There are even large windows which fill the room with natural light which is odd for a Las Vegas restaurant. From our end you could see the Bellagio.

guy savoy
These tiny dishes held pepper, the flakiest, finest of sea salts and butter from France.

guy savoy
Our amusing amuse. In the left cup…zucchini soup…
guy savoy

…and hiding on the right, a surprise we were told to reveal after our soup was gone. A tiny pastry cup filled with salmon, topped with marinated zucchini with a basil reduction.

guy savoy

From the bread cart: A “delicate spices” and a bacon roll. The butter served was flown in from France, and available salted or not. They kept coming and coming with the bread cart.

The bread sommelier was an amazing young man with real energy and excitement. We even discussed UFC with him. Each course had a bread he suggested. Some were surprising, others perfect (if predictable) pairing. There were numerous kinds of bread: caramelized onion, lemon bread, black olive, Parmigiano Reggiano, house-cured bacon with sea salt and a few smaller “plainer” items like epi baguette and such.
guy savoy
Marinated lobster with salad and spring herb gelee.

guy savoy
“Colours of Caviar”, layered caviar in many different preparations. Eaten together, you are meant to scoop down with the mother of pearl spoon from each layer. It is no exaggeration that each bite was subtely or significantly different. The sabayon layer was a personal favourite.

There was no bread pairing, as the caviar was a stand alone deal, you could say.

guy savoy
Crispy sea bass with delicate spices in vanilla foam with mushrooms. The vanilla foam was “scented.” But, not in the cheap way a lower end place does it. This smelled, tasted and exuded vanilla. It was odd with the fish, but delicious. The bread was a nori seaweed bread.

guy savoy
We were encouraged to add the additional delicate spices laid out on top of the serving platter. They added so much! The arrangement of the spices is also seems to be a nod to the logo for Guy Savoy, three columns.

The delicate spices were the same as in the bread:  Szechuan pepper, black pepper, fennel, coriander and two kinds of mustard.

guy savoy
This…this was amazing.

As our sea bass course wrapped up, two gentlemen came walking briskly out of the kitchen. They approach our table, holding a platter. In my head, I’m thinking “What? I just finished this course! How rude! What timing!”

But: they were just there to show us our next course as it cooked.

The course was foie gras “en Papillotte” with radish bouillon. The foie gras was in a parchment bag, resting on rocks which were cooking it. The server burst the bag with a flourish. The smell of the foie that emerged was intense and earthy. I was dying to smell more…and just as I thought that he said “Here! SMELL!” and brought it to my face to waft.

Now THAT is service.

It was served with the greens which perfectly balanced the richness of the foie gras. Radish soup is amazingly flavourful, by the way.
guy savoy

guy savoy
Here, a Savoy signature soup. Artichoke and black truffle. I recalled to Mike that I read a review that claimed this soup was tasteless. We laughed as we inhaled the earthy, rich broth.

That little out of focus morsel on the bottom? It’s a mushroom brioche, topped with truffle butter. We were encouraged to dunk it in our soup as we ate.

guy savoy
At this point, my bread plate was becoming a wasteland of crusts as I could no longer finish the breads being brought. I felt shame when the bread sommelier came by, but he continued to pile on the bread.
And so we pushed on. I think we were just over two hours in at this point.

guy savoy

This GORGEOUS hot pink knife was brought out. What was next..?

guy savoy

guy savoy
Poussin (young poultry) a la Broche, with impossibly smooth black truffle-flecked potato puree. There were truffles shoved under the skin of the chicken.

This was another dish that was presented to us as it cooked. They brought it out on a carving board, then brought it back to the kitchen to be carved. I’m told this is all part of Mr. Savoy’s love of the dramatic.

The puree looks like ice cream, and it damn near had the same texture.

Then…the cheese cart.
guy savoy

This cart sailed in like a ship made of blue cheese. I don’t recall how many cheeses there were, but over 10. We could have any of them, again with two kinds of bread.  Époisses, brie, blue, guyere, goat.

guy savoy
I wish I had more room, but had to limit myself to three cheeses (herbed goat, brie and aged guyere), with apricot walnut bread.

guy savoy
A pre-dessert pannacotta with apricots and almonds and an edible pansy.

guy savoy
Strawberry rhubarb granité served in the most adorable of miniature Bodum-style cups.

guy savoy
This was the chocolate sphere, with raspberry. It came out as a perfect white chocolate ball, which the maître d’ then poured hot raspberry sauce over. “To smile at you,” he said, as the “mouth” opened and indeed, smiled at me.

It reminded me of the little Canadians from South Park.

5a

Low brow, I know. That’s the kind of lady I am.

guy savoy

I couldn’t help noticing the steak knife from earlier matched the rather modern art work in the room. I sat admiring the room, art and other diners.

Then…dear lord. The rumblings of another cart.

Not the bread cart, surely. The cheese cart? Put away, I hope.

This was the sweet cart.
guy savoy

HOW? How could we have room?

Well, the world’s most adorable and persuasive man was working it. And he SOLD his items. Just want one truffle? “Non, then zee others will be jealous,” he claimed, as he piled the set of three on your plate.

There were fruit gelees, mousses, eclairs, hand twirled lollies, TWO KINDS of rice pudding, sorbets, flans, ice creams, macadamia nut balls, and, lord help me, … MINIATURE macarons.

guy savoy
All I really has room for and wanted was the truffles and macarons. How I got sucked in to getting this much was beyond me. Passionfruit sorbet, and a rich chocolate mousse sit in the middle and right.

guy savoy
At least I wasn’t as badly off as Mike. He ended up with TWO plates. The guy at the cart was relentless and a real petit fours pusher.

One of the items: brown butter ice cream. Wow.

guy savoy

The macarons were fennel and lemon.

guy savoy

This one reminded me of a tiny hot dog.

And then, it was finally over.

Four hours later, we were in a food daze. The dishes themselves were amazing, but what made the meal memorable were the small touches, service and thoughtfulness. The purse stool that was brought. How the maître d’ noticed I was trying to write down notes, so he brought a printed menu for me.

I was also fortunate to receive a peek in at the not-yet-opened private Krug room. On my way to the rest room, I spied the word “KRUG” on the wall of a back room and inquired with the server who accompanied me to the rest room. Turns out that is the first Krug room in North America. The server pointed out the beautiful picnic trunk made for carting champagne around and said it made every picnic better.

Savoy is known for champagne so it did not surprise me they had a dedicated room. According to VegasChatter, the room will feature champagne pairings with meals and offers the entire Krug catalogue. It’s one of my favourite champagnes so I got a buzz of glee about seeing the room.

As we left, we were forced to take some candies. I did not sample mine until days later when I  boarded my plane to Minneapolis, but was surprised at the flavour. It was chartreuse, a kind of liquor.

Very, how you say, french!

guy savoy bag

So stuffed, I asked to have my remaining truffles wrapped up to go and they came in this charming bag.

guy savoy

A purse stool hiding in waiting.

guy savoy

I couldn’t resist. Even the lighting in the bathroom was fantastic.

guy savoy menu

guy savoy menu

guy savoy menu

The cover and insides of the menu I received.

This meal was pure indulgence, and a perfect way to celebrate a birthday and graduation. (Atleast that’s what I tell myself.)

The service is passionate, warm, thoughtful and seamless. Perhaps a little over the top at times, as with one server’s very french accent, but this is Vegas, after all. There’s a bit of showman in everyone.

While we got the 10-course tasting menu, they do offer a la carte menus, of course. You can check them out at FoodNut. The people beside us received wonderful attention with their a la carte meals, and were in and out in around two hours. There is also a $98 pre-theatre meal.

In addition, there is also the Bubble Bar where you can have small bites of each of Savoy’s signature dishes and a glass of bubbly. It’s a more affordable and quick way to visit the property. The menus for all of these options are available on the right of the Caesar’s Palace website.

After dining at a two star, I wondered what the differences were between two and three Michelin stars. I’ve been told the differences are negligible between the levels, the top two tiers offering similar cuisine quality but the difference being in service.

Of course, the only way to really judge was to go and dine at the only three Michelin star restaurant in Las Vegas…that’s to come.

Food and Food: Las Vegas and Travels08 Jun 2009 09:05 pm

When I realized my trip to Las Vegas would bloom into a five night stay from two, I busily set out to find new things to do. Things I had long wanted to do, but hadn’t had the time to get to. One of these was to visit a Las Vegas farmers market.

There are several in the Vegas area, mostly in the suburbs. (Although I did see that the Palazzo hotel on the Strip had a “Farmers Market” recently. The event featured seven local farmers selling items like local quail, chicken and duck eggs, apricots, figs, desert honey inside the hotel, and had a few cooking demonstrations and special menus at Palazzo restaurants. There is also a new market downtown in the old Strip area at Fremont.)

The market I originally had my eye on was at Bruce Trent Park, but my visit there fell through, so I went to another market I had heard about on the local morning news that day: Roadhouse Farmers Market (Thursdays, 4-8pm, corner of Sunset and the Boulder Highway in east Vegas). There was a local chef demonstrating vegan cooking and it sounded interesting.

When I got there, I was a bit disheartened to see how small the market was. However, it was their grand opening night. As hot as it was in Vegas already, I had to remember it is still only spring there as well.

There were probably 12 stalls, selling mostly produce from nearby California. It was cooking hot, even at 6pm, and I wasn’t in the mood to eat much, but enjoyed the music, sights and smells.

roadhouse farmers market

roadhouse farmers market

roadhouse farmers market

(The “Made in Boulder City” sign referred to an oil of some kind I believe)

fm06

(Haas avocados, $2 for a larger, $1.50 for a small)

roadhouse farmers market

roadhouse farmers market

The last photos are of Chef Mayra, who specializes in organic and vegan cuisine in Caribbean styles. She had quite a crowd of onlookers and her food was delicious. I definitely enjoyed my brief foray into Nevada farmers markets.

Food and Food: Las Vegas and Travels19 Apr 2009 07:49 pm

New York cafe Serendipity 3 has opened an outpost in Las Vegas at Caesars Palace. It appears to be on the promenade facing the Strip; where an unfrequented bar sat for a long time.

Serendipity 3 is famous for their ice creams and other frozen treats, including the “Golden Opulence Sundae.” It’s basically ice cream with expensive chocolate and some gold leaf on it they made for publicity purposes (which is totally working, as you may notice.) It costs a thousand bucks. Yawn.

However, an interesting addition to the Vegas menu is “One-N-Only Las Vegas buffet sandwich” which promises “tastes of Italy, Japan, France, Mexico and the United States – all on the same bun.”

What could POSSIBLY be in that thing? It kind of turns my stomach to think about it actually. I’m going to have to look into it on the next trip…then beeline it to BLT at the Mirage for one of their tried-and-true shakes.

Food and Food: Las Vegas and Travels18 Apr 2009 09:40 am

Laura Severs, a freelancer, published a package of stories on food tourism in Las Vegas, a destination near and dear to my heart. It’s a place I’ve been a food tourist in more than once.

We made a microsite on the website, so you can view all the stories here. I tried to shove as many photos in the stories as I could.

Just remembering the skate from Boulud is making me ravenous. I gotta go eat.

Food and Food: Las Vegas and Travels04 Mar 2009 12:42 pm

Pickle chips and the “All Nighter” milkshake at Chef Laurent Tourondel’s BLT in the Mirage. Espresso, Kahlua, Baileys and coffee ice cream. The shake was heavenly, but I preferred the pickle chips and burgers from Stripburger we had in December. Luckily, BLT does shakes to go.

The Gold Coast was amazing for people watching.

At Yardhouse, a bar off Strip that serves 100+ beers on tap.

We also visisted the pinball museum again, and finally made it to Border Grill. I was feeling a bit under the weather, and neglected to take photos, but the food was fantastic. So was eating outdoors in February.

And reposting, because I’m so fond of these photos:

Food and Food: Las Vegas and Travels03 Mar 2009 08:01 am

bar charlie

We ate other things on day two of our trip, but only one meal bears mentioning.

After buying some tickets to Penn & Teller’s show at 9pm (I highly recommend using Tix4Tonight for discounted tickets), we were on a bit of a time budget for the night. I called Restaurant Charlie at the Palazzo cautiously. As I booked dinner for 5:30 pm, I asked if that was enough time to experience their 14-course kaiseki menu. “Well, it is a bit closer to 3 hours,” said the hostess, “but I will tell Chef you have time constraints.”

Three hours may be cutting it close for a meal? What.

Bar Charlie is a restaurant within a restaurant, in this case, Charlie Trotter’s Restaurant Charlie which is inside the Palazzo. Bar Charlie is a kaiseki restaurant, a sort of cuisine normally confined to Japan. One of my true regrets about our trip to Tokyo was missing the opportunity to stay in a ryokan, or traditional Japanese inn. Sort of like a bed and breakfast. Kaiseki meals are very common in them.

With five, eight and fourteen course menus, Trotter has allowed his executive chef Hiroo Nagahara to really have fun and exercise his knife. Sometimes dishes are served in the Restaurant Charlie side, but mostly the chefs are working for you.

It’s extremely intimate to be the only two patrons at a restaurant. Even if it was filled there would only be room for fifteen to eighteen people. Later, as we were leaving, a couple came in and were seated, but for the most part it was one-on-one service. When I got my camera out to take some photos, Mike referred to it as the fifth person in the room. The normally super quiet lens opening became nails on a chalkboard. As such, I did not interrupt our dining pleasure with taking too many photos. But let it be known we were eating art that night.

Chef Nagahara was amazing. As the meal ended, we talked with him for some time. He told us he spontaneously comes up with many of his dishes, and the menu is never the same, which is a shock when you find out what they are and the complexities involved. His hope is that no one will ever experience the same meal twice at his restaurant. His meticulous care and preparation show in every step of the meal. He recognizes Japanese traditions in food (especially in kaiseki, where care is taken to present food as nature) and takes time to source seasonal ingredients straight from Tsukiji fish market in Tokyo. The glee in his voice as he described a still-in-rigour tuna he got in for Valentines Day was palpable. He implored us to come back and make special requests for next time. We also found out one of Chef Nagahara’s favourite cuisines was Ethiopian!

I’m not sure how long Bar/Restaurant Charlie will be around as it is definitely among the more dear restaurants in Vegas (and that is saying something) and it is pretty quiet. But it is definitely an amazing place. I am no critic, so just some photos and what I recall from our meal, below:

“Buttery Potato” cocktail. I have to say that savoury cocktails blow my mind. At $19, they should. The cocktail list at Restaurant Charlie is worth a visit on its own. They serve modern and vintage “pre-Prohibition” cocktails.

One of the two chefs working for us that evening. He never introduced himself!

“Cherry Blossoms in Snow”

Blue fin tuna tartare, with greek yogurt disc, seaweed tuile and pickled cucumbers

A new dish: cuttlefish, deconstructed.

The body, in the center there, made into a dumpling that was meant to have the texture of an egg. The wings, the lightest tempura you’ve ever had. The tentacles, grilled.

From pastry chef Vanessa Garcia, a series of desserts including:

Basil-infused blueberries with semolina pudding, tarragon semi freddo and lime-basil sorbet

Dark chocolate cocoa sponge cake with citrus salad, candied oro blanco (a variety of pomelo) peel tuile and oro blanco sorbet

Petits fours: Cookies and cream, fresh marshmallow, candied ginger and a gorgeous iridescent green truffle

Each dish was prepared fresh, right in front of us. When presented on the bar, the chef would explain every single component of the dish. The ones I recall, some better than others:

  • Japanese tai (red snapper) with black grape reduction, black grapes and kalamata olive gelee
  • An aji, or Spanish mackerel dish
  • Trout three ways: ice cream, roulade and ravioli filled with trout head (the ‘pasta’ was made of trout stock) with crispy trout roe and skin (this was my personal favourite dish, if only because it was so bizarre to eat fish flavoured ice cream)
  • Two different tuna courses, including bluefin tuna tartare, the other as “Cherry Blossoms in the Snow”, above
  • Carbonated carrots and scallops. The carrots were in a liquid and carbonated, so that it danced on your tongue.
  • “Oysters on the Beach”: Razor clams and oysters with horseradish granules (representing sand) and a sea water foam to represent the ocean.
  • Sushi rice risotto with wild mushrooms
  • A piece of two-day braised Kurobuta pork belly on a confit of quinoa and Fuji apples.
  • Finally, a sorbet, two desserts and a sampling of petits fours.

Every dish was unbelievable and had several mouth feels, tastes and flavours going on. Everything ranging from bubbly, soft, firm, crunchy, chewy, sour, bitter, sweet, cold, gelatinous, umami… a true experience.

I regret not taking notes, but it really was nice to just sit back, relax and take the entire experience in. For such a complex – at times esoteric – meal that may never be replicated this may have been a mistake, but I am certain I will remember it for a long time.

PS: We made it to the show on time after our two and a half hour dinner: Penn & Teller were great.

UPDATE: You can read about my fantastic return trip to Bar Charlie in July here.

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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