Monday, September 17, 2007

Mini Special Foodventure #38: LA/OC Foodie Goes to Vegas

T'was the weekend before Labor Day and I finally freed up some time from work; if I had more time/energy/effort to plan, I may have planned an actual vacation, but since I didn't, I fell back onto old reliable: Las Vegas, the city with an absence of last calls, devoid of silence and darkness, and, of course, a plethora of dining options. Gone are the days of cheap all-you-can-eat buffets on the Strip (those are relegated mostly to downtown & off-Strip hotels/casinos), but it's nice not to feel financially-compelled to gorge your worth at every meal.

Unfortunately, I didn't lug my brick camera during this excursion, so my reviews this time will be quick, simple & pure text.

Breakfast Buffet at the Wynn: I had one hit and one miss here, so I returned to settle the tie-breaker--and, again, it was a hit. Great pot 'o coffee, a nice and well-rounded spread of breakfast items (the ones that stood out best were the rice porridge (juk) station, the cheese blintzes and the "California strawberries" tossed with yogurt and a hint of mint.) The baked items looked a bit dry, so I didn't try.

Lunner at Burger Bar in Mandalay Bay: I've never been impressed by "Kobe" burgers, so I resisted the urge to shell out an extra $10 for one here and got instead for the simpler (and cheaper) Angus, topped with mushrooms, caramelized onions, pepperjack cheese & pepper bacon on whole-wheat bun. The results rocked my socks, the medium-well burger was moist and beefy, and it melded wonderfully with the different textures and flavors of the other add-ons, and the pickle, lettuce & tomato actually tasted fresh! My accompanying zucchini fries, however, were limpy, soggy and bland -- the few I did eat I had to drown in ketchup to make them palatable.

Cake at Chocolat at the Wynn: I passed by this place on my way to the buffet, and my notoriously famous sweet tooth convinced me to return. After much painful consideration (knowing that I can only enjoy one item on the premise, since anything else will melt into a blob in the scorching LV heat), I went for dark chocolate mousse-brownie cake, covered with bittersweet chocolate ganache--definitely my best food investment of the whole trip.

Lunch at Sensi in the Bellagio: Another example of
Pan-Asian done right (and w/o costing an arm and a leg), I immensely enjoyed Sensi's 41 lunch, with four courses of the day served in a bento box for $26 -- plus all the freshly baked buttered naan bread you care to eat. When I went, my box was filled with pillowy mini chasiubaos, a refreshing tossed salad with a citrusy-ginger dressing, creamy seared diver scallops over lentils, and a rich piece of chilean sea bass /w cheddar risotto. The place had an interesting wine list too -- I got a complex-tasting sparkling red wine. Still not sure how I feel about the mix of tannins & bubbles, but it was interesting to taste and to pair with the meal. Too bad I was too full to partake in their 4/5-course dessert tasting sampler afterwards.

Dinner at Grand Lux Cafe in the Venetian (ducks): I know, I know, WHY?! (and actually, I was asking myself the same question after the meal) --- but it was one of the few 24/7 options nearby after a night of clubbing @
Tao. I had an unremarkable Grilled Shrimp sandwich, and they were skimpy with the shrimp. Next time, I'd definitely shlep my way to Peppermill if I wanted late-night grub. Oh yea, downer #2: THEY TOOK THE BEIGNETS OFF THEIR MENU!!! Whiskey. Tango. Foxtrot. That was my only glimmer of hope for the dinner :(

Weekend Brunch Buffet at Bellagio: Despite the offering of prime rib & a more extensive dessert selection, this didn't seem as good as the Wynn. Perhaps it's because I went here in the afternoon (when it's bustling with people) as opposed to just-opened at the Wynn, but I think it also had to do with how heavy almost everything is. But a few things were yummy here too: the chocolate-hazelnut mini torte, the spicy tuna hand rolls and the smoked salmon egg benedict. However, they weren't good enough for me to want to pay that price or wait an hour in line.

Late-Night Dinner at Peppermill: Truly great late-night (or anytime) diner grub -- the prices aren't downtown dirt cheap, but it's reasonable for what you're getting and the portions are generous, the roast beef sandwich I got was sinfully huge and juicy, smacked with grilled onions in cheesy parmesan toasts. Also had a killer green tea martini here.

Breakfast at Bouchon in the Venetian: Glad I had a chance to re-visit this place; again, they didn't disappoint. Had a hard time deciding between all the different delicious options, but finally settled upon the caramel-apple bread pudding french toast with a side of bacon. A rather pricey non-buffet breakfast (~$15) but very much worth every penny.

Final Lunch at Mesa Grill in Caesars Palace: Ok, so I paid homage to a FoodTV restaurant -- and it actually was pretty good. I had a sixteen-spice chicken (chopped) salad that was zesty and just fiery enough, with a delicious cilantro dressing that I lapped up with the breads (oh yea, they had an amazing bread basket too-- jalapeno blue cornbread being my fave of them all.) Wonderful with a glass of white wine (albarino) and a pleasant last note of Vegas.

Of course, I also paid a visit to my all-time favorite chocolatier:
Vosges -- only to be disappointed by the fact they many of their truffles are no longer sold a la carte and are available only in collections. Nonetheless, I picked out a few truffles & bars and stuffed them in my ice chest for my four-hour journey home. (and I can already attest to the sublime brilliance of their Bacon chocolate bar.)

On my wish-list next time around (or if they're still open):

Bradley Ogden (was a toss-up between this and Mesa Grill for my last Vegas meal, but since this was dinner only . . .)

Lotus of Siam (almost went here as my final day lunch, but opted for Mesa Grill instead since I wanted to shop at Vosges too; however, I've heard this is one of the best Thai restaurants in all of U.S. so I have to make a point to stop by on my next trip.)

SeaBlue (their Moroccan claypots definitely sounded interesting when I was looking at their online menu, but I was definitely under-dressed for the occasion when I was at the MGM -- besides, late August in the middle of a desert is no time to give your face a sauna over a steaming hotpot.)

D&B Brasserie (was close to checking out this place, but was too full from the Bellagio buffet to consider their early-bird dinner here (3-courses for $48) - so this turned into the Peppermill Late Night)

Anyways, that's my quick-yet-lengthy Vegas wrap-up. Back to enjoy the grub of LA & OC (not to mention lots of make-up exercising).



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