My girls. They keep me balanced. They keep me sane. They answer the hard questions. Now that most of us have flown the coop (leaving Meg to hold down the fort in the NYC), unacceptable lengths of time go by without seeing one another. The obvious solution? Girls’ Weekend in Vegas Baby! Las Vegas is just surreal. Maybe it’s all that uber-oxygenated air in the casinos, but something about this city makes you feel on top of the world, uninhibited, and pretty sure anything can happen. Extra bonus, it just happens to be a major foodie hot spot with celeb-chef restaurants at every turn. If luck be your lady and you’ve got cash to burn, treat yourself to some of the world’s finest dining in Sin City. I did my research prior to the trip and came up with this Eating Out in Vegas Wish List:
L’Atelier Joel Robuchon – Joel Robuchon’s place at the MGM Grand. I’ve been intrigued by him ever since he filmed that great Vegas episode of No Reservations with my man Tony. (Note: tasting menus start at $75). Fleur de Lys – Hubert Keller’s place at the Mandalay Bay. If you’ve been watching Top Chef Master’s Series, Hubert Keller is the chef who won the first episode, dominating the Dorm Challenge 🙂 . I know, his flagship is in SF, but this would have been a treat for my east coasties. (Note: 5:30-6:30 pm early evening prix fixe $59; or 4 course menu any time $89). Spago – Outpost of Wolfgang Puck's famous LA restaurant at Caesars Palace. BTW, apparently Vegas has sold its soul to the big bad Wolfie. The man’s name was everywhere: Spago (Caesars), Cut (Palazzo), Chinois (Caesars), Postrio (Venetian), Lupo (Mandalay Bay), Wolfgang Puck Bar & Grill (MGM Grand), even by the pool (Solaro Poolside, Palazzo). (Note: save your $$ and skip the poolside blah salad with pathetic rubbery shrimp at Solaro). Bouchon – Thomas Keller's place at the Venetian. â€˜Nuff said. Our California golden boy. The man can do no wrong as far as I’m concerned. I hear brunch here is killer. Mesa Grill – Bobby Flay's place at Caesars Palace. Love him or hate him, there seems to be general consensus that this southwestern chic spot is surprisingly good. Since I never made it to his original NY location, was excited to try this. If you’ve been to Vegas, you know why they call it a black hole time-warp. You lose track of time, meander about in slow motion, and end up having lunch at 6:00 pm. So, unfortunately for all intensive food-blogging purposes, this trip ended up not really being about food. No, it was more about... And These: Cut and drinks/apps at Mesa Grill. Apologies upfront for the dip in quality on the food shots – didn’t want to risk damage to my baby by bringing her on a potentially damaging trip. Meg was my date Friday night and we decided to scope out the nearby restaurants in the Venetian while we waited for Becca to arrive. I was surprised at how toned down the dinner scene was on a Friday night. Granted it was 10 pm, but still...a kitchen closing at 10 on a weekend? Really? (David Burke, I’m lookin at you). The sexy décor and promises of good steak at Cut finally lured us in. Our suave server suggested his favorite cocktail to start, the Pearperfect Martini made with Absolut Pears Vodka, pear puree, and fresh lime. It was good (and strong), and the pear puree had a nice velvety texture, but the drink was a bit on the sweet side for me. Meg was addicted to the long Parmesan-encrusted breadsticks on the table. And the soft pretzel "roll” offered in the bread basket was tasty and adorable. We sipped and munched, and decided on the Big Eye Tuna Tartare, served with thick, ripe slices of avocado and tobiko on top, and a frothy wasabi aioli, ginger, and togarashi crisps on the side. The dish was good, made with fine ingredients and executed well, but nothing about it was particularly original or memorable. Although, that didn’t stop me from eating every bite of it. I did like the mix-n-match concept of the menu which allows you to pick your steak, add-ons, sides, and sauces. Add-ons ranged from the usual wild mushrooms, to the extravagent bone marrow. Sides were pretty standard with some gourmet twists (creamed spinach with fried egg, summer squash, tomato, basil "bagna cauda”, caramelized white corn). Sauces included classics like bearnaise and shallot-red wine bordelaise, and more adventurous options like wasabi-yuzu kosho butter and argentinean chimichurri. We went with an incredibly rich, Soft Polenta with Parmesan to go with our Filet Mignon topped with Armagnac & Green Peppercorn sauce. I was underwhelmed by the steak. I know the filet mignon is not the most flavorful of cuts, but still...for the price, maybe I just expected more. And they forgot our sauce until we were almost done. Although, they did make it up to us with some lovely complimentary sweets: a tart lemon bar and a nutty salted caramel chew. Ah well. Sustenance was in, sleek ambiance was absorbed, and we were fortified for the long night ahead. Due to aforementioned time warp, we ended up having a crazy late lunch on Saturday and were sadly, not hungry for our 10:30 dinner at Mesa Grill. We managed to enjoy some margaritas/pisco and sampled some appies. Our top three favorites were the:
- Wild Mushroom Quesadilla with White Bean Hummus and White Truffle Oil – dee-licious and from the intoxicating aroma wafting off, must have been doused in white truffle oil.
- Roasted Corn with Smoked Chiles, Cotija Cheese and Lime – smoky and sweet with a touch of tang, the perfect side dish.
- Barbecued Duck wrapped in a Blue Corn Pancake with Habanero Chile-Star Anise Sauce – really interesting, I’ve never had duck prepared like this before. It was almost like a duck jerky. Cool interpretation of your classic peking duck wrap.