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Taste of Las Vegas

by Walter and Cherie Glaser

There is a little bit of a gambler in everybody, so it is no surprise that Las Vegas, once a sleepy village in the Nevada desert, started to flourish the moment the first casinos were established there. Today it is the gaming capital of the world – but it offers much more than that. It is home to the world’s best and most spectacular shows, more money is spent on shopping than on gambling, the nightlife is fabulous, and it has arguably the finest restaurants in USA

The moment your airplane lands in Las Vegas, reality is left behind and you enter the world of fantasy, dreams, and make-believe. Deplaning into its modern airport, you are entering ‘Fantasyland for Adults’. Slot machines line the arrivals hall. Huge displays in the airport announce the spectacular mega-shows featuring the world’s finest entertainers. Everything in Las Vegas is bigger than life! The casinos boggle the mind and cater to all tastes and incomes. You'll find people shooting craps, playing poker and baccarat as well as the roulette wheel. There are slots that only cost five cents at a time and high-roller tables where you can bet five thousand dollars on one card.

The Las Vegas airport is now large – and takes international flights. Day and night, aircraft arrive from every corner of North America and the globe, filled with people of all shapes, sizes, races, religions, and backgrounds. All have one thing in common. They have brought money, and are happy to enjoy themselves and leave without it! Some come with tight budgets, but there are enough big spenders to fill the casinos that cater to visitors demanding the very best that money can buy. These people want dining experiences that are second to none – and are prepared to pay for it. So here are just some of the restaurants that we found to be among the finest in the United States.

MIX

‘The Hotel’ at Mandalay Bay is a well-known haven for America’s rich and famous. Atop this unobtrusive luxury hotel and 400-feet above the neon-lit Las Vegas strip, is Mix in Las Vegas, the signature restaurant of Alain Ducasse, the highest-ranked Michelin-star chef in Europe. With restaurants in Monaco, Paris, New York and now Las Vegas, Ducasse is ‘a titan amongst giants’ in the culinary world.

Interior at Mix

Mix is different from – but just as good as – the other Ducasse restaurants. The décor is ultra-modern, with breathtaking views, and the cuisine, under the eagle-eye of chef, Bruno Davaillon, is perfection, as is the service here. The restaurant consists of a vast, open room decorated with a halo of suspended glass bubbles, leading to a focal point – a 24-foot (7+ meters) chandelier of 15,000 similar hand-blown glass spheres from Murano, Italy. The dining room is surrounded by a glass wall that offers spectacular views of the magic that is the Las Vegas strip.

Try a signature appetiser like Duck Foie Gras accented with date apricot chutney, perhaps followed by Roasted Maine Lobster “au curry” served with a coconut basmati rice or Beef Tenderloin Rossini with potato galette and black truffle sauce. If you have room for dessert, the Mix Candy Bar, a dacquoise covered with praline paste and a layer of caramel, then glazed in chocolate and decorated with hazelnuts, almond slivers and gold leaf, served with lemon sorbet, should send your taste buds into ecstasy.

JOEL ROBUCHON AT THE MANSION

Now here is a restaurant that you simply must not miss if you are a serious foodie! The 3-Michelen-star Robuchon is one of the most respected chefs in Paris – a household name with Europe’s rich and famous. When I heard that he had opened at ‘The Mansion’ in Vegas, I sat up and took notice, but did not expect such a level of excellence. The restaurant here is just as good if not better than its Paris equivalent. Opening in September 2005, the relatively small restaurant was designed by Pierre-Yves Rochon, famous for designing the interior at the Four Seasons George V in Paris. Seventeen-foot ceilings, luxurious black and purple fabrics, and an eye-catching bar and garden view should not distract you from your meal. Be prepared for a hefty bill – a 6-course tasting menu is US$165, and their 16-course Menu Degustation will set you back a cool US$295 – and that is plus your choice from the 750 American and French wines offered here. A la Carte dishes range from US$35 to US$150, but if you want what may well be one of your three of four best meals in the United States you will gladly ‘pay-up and enjoy’.

Robuchon

Dishes are classic French, but often with a Japanese accent. Perhaps start with a appetizer of fresh tomato and king crab with a coulis verjuté, possibly followed by a sautéed veal chop with natural jus and vegetable tagliarinis flavoured with pesto to see just how good veal can be. You might finish with orange and mascarpone custard with foamy cinnamon milk. It’s a meal you will never forget.

SPAGO AT CAESARS

I must admit that I was a little nervous going to this restaurant which is located in the make-believe world of Caesar’s Palace shopping mall, where mind-boggling lighting makes one move from morning to daytime and dusk every half hour or so. The reason for the reluctance was that Wolfgang Puck, the Austrian-born American super-chef, has everything from airport semi-fast-food outlets, to operating a restaurant at virtually every casino I visited. Also, when I went to Spago a couple of years ago, I felt that it had been greatly over-rated. But this time was very different.

Rib Eye Spago Style

Chefs David Robins and Eduardo Perez offer Californian cuisine that now gets it really right. Light, tasty and remarkably affordable their combinations will have even the most critical diner leaving the table with a satisfied smile when he or she finishes their meal. Spagos offers a café menu that ranges from appetizers to paninis and sandwiches, salads, pizzas, pastas and excellent mains. There is also a more serious dinner menu with items like tempura jumbo shrimp, English pea agnolotti, red wine braised Sonoma lamb shank and – not surprising with Puck’s Austrian heritage – Wolfgang’s veal Wienerschnitzel served with warm Austrian potato salad, arugula and lemon-caper nage. But leave room for the sensational cheese flatbread with herbs served here. I think next time I go back I will have at least one meal of this absolutely delicious lavroche. It may well be the best of its kind I have ever had, and I plan to eat my fill of this – if the waiter will let me by refilling the basket --- again and again!

THE CAPITAL GRILLE AT THE FASHION SHOW MALL

Located on the third level of the famous Fashion Show Mall, right in the heart of the Vegas strip, The Capital Grille was a really pleasant surprise. Don’t be put off by the fact that this is one of a restaurant group spread across the USA. I have the highest regard for this restaurant which is elegant, offers flawless service, and now rates in my book as an example of the finest American steakhouse tradition. And at this steakhouse we found all the surprises to be good ones.

The Capital Grille Bar

First impressions are always important and the signature-dish appetizer, Prosciutto Wrapped Mozzarella with vine ripe tomatoes, certainly delighted the taste buds. A deceptively simple dish is very often a bench-mark --- because if the chef gets it wrong there is no way to hide his mistakes. But this one rated 10/10!!! Wonderful! The filet mignon was cooked to perfection, perfectly paired with fresh creamed spinach and delicious Sam’s mashed potatoes. Our only regret at dining here was that there was no room for dessert. We’ll make up for that next time we are in Las Vegas.

THE COUNTRY CLUB GRILL AT WYNNS

It’s an interesting observation that the crowds at Wynns are arguably the most chic to be seen in any casino in this city. They also seem to be older, more experienced, and higher up the executive ladder. So it’s no surprise that the restaurants here have to bend over backwards to please this most demanding clientele. Wynn’s Steakhouse has been set up in the manner of those in exclusive country clubs. No noisy kids, no prams and a cozy, club-like atmosphere. Lighting is subdued, and the décor conservative, with walls featuring photographs of famous personalities, mainly playing golf.

Lobster Risotto with Gulf shrimpOur sweet corn chowder with rock shrimp and aromatic vegetables was excellent, as were the jumbo lump crab cakes with spinach leaves and saffron aioli. The grilled swordfish, rock shrimp, roasted corn arugula and English peas appeared a little fragmented on the plate, but turned out to be a perfect combination taste-wise. For my dish I chose a char grilled filet mignon with creamed spinach that was fragrant with truffles and whipped Yukon gold potatoes. Again, filet mignon can never be changed if it is not right in the first place, and mine was just right. Desserts are very traditional – American chocolate cake, vanilla cheesecake, hot cookies with cold Scottish milkshake, a plum strudel with ice cream given the fancy name of ‘Winter Plum Crisp’, hot apple pie, and so on. Tremendous!

If you are on a tight budget, this is certainly not the steakhouse to dine in – there are hundreds of casino-subsidized options – but if you want total excellence in quiet, private surroundings, head for The Country Club Grill.

DANIEL BOULUD AT WYNNS

Back to Wynns – same elegant crowd -- different setting and French-American cuisine. Go downstairs and make sure that you have booked ahead and asked for a table with a good view of the garden. Because dining at Daniel Boulud is not just a ‘foodie experience’. It also offers you an amazing ‘son et lumiere’ show like no other you have ever seen. Trees turn from green to silver, then to red and blue. A dancing waterfall appears, changes color, and disappears. The star of the show is a ten-meter (30 foot) singing frog, but there is always something going on. Yet you must not let this distract you from your dinner.

Seafood Platter at Daniel Bould at Wynns

This chef – who was chosen as ‘Chef of the Year’ by Bon Appetit Magazine -- knows what he is doing! Already famous in the US for his other restaurants in New York and Palm Beach, he excels himself in Las Vegas. There are many of the usual American favorites like Maine lobster salad, grilled salmon or roasted chicken, but our advice is to try the amazing seafood platter that contains 4 east & 4 west coast oysters, ½ lobster, 4 shrimp, 4 clams, jumbo lump crab meat, mussels’ tartare and ceviche. It’s a dish for two. Go hungry.

RM SEAFOOD AT MANDALAY BAY

If it is the finest seafood that you hanker for, look no further than RM ! You’ve come to the right place!!

By the time super-seafood-chef, Rick Moonen (now you know why it’s called RM) opened in February 2005, he had already made a huge name for himself in New York, gaining three stars from the New York Times and four from the ‘2005 Mobil Travel Guide’.

Moonen is passionate, not only about his cooking, but also about educating the public on the dangers of over-fishing, ocean conservation, and keeping seafood supplies sustainable.

The décor is subdued-modern, with dim lights, dark-wood chairs, panels and ceiling sections that contrast with crisp white table-cloths. The bar is a visual feature – hidden lights playing through the various liqueur bottles to give a stained-glass effect. Service is impeccable and the cuisine hard to fault.

Raw Fish Appetizer at RM Seafood

Every dish we had here was superb, from Alaskan king crab ‘scampi style’ to Slow-poached Lobster on brioche with avocado, US-caviar and green herbs. Another of the delicious dishes was Lobster Pie – soft, succulent lobster meat in a pastry crust, first presented as it came from the oven and then re-positioned on the plate by the waiter – large chunks of Maine lobster with a little lobster bisque, artichokes, carrots, mushrooms and onions. There is also a raw-bar that offers a Shellfish Plateau which is a feast for both the eye and the palette. We would have liked to try the Espresso-orange panna cotta-coffee gelee-chocolate biscotti for dessert, but had no room for it. Next time!!!

Please note --- if you wish to dine at any of the above, make sure to book ahead!!! These restaurants are among the finest and most sought-after tables in Las Vegas, and are generally booked out well ahead.

 

MIX IN LAS VEGAS
Mandalay Bay
3950 Las Vegas Blvd., South
Las Vegas
Reservations: 702-632-9500

www.mandalaybay.com

JOEL ROBUCHON AT THE MANSION
MGM Grand
3799 Las Vegas Blvd, South
Las Vegas
Reservations: 702-891-7925

www.mgmgrand.com

SPAGO
The Forum Shops at Caesars
3500 Las Vegas Blvd., South, Suite G-1
Las Vegas
Reservations: 702-369-6300

www.wolfgangpuck.com

THE CAPITAL GRILLE AT THE FASHION SHOW MALL
Fashion Show Mall
3200 Las Vegas Blvd, South, Suite 3300
Las Vegas
Reservations: 702-932-6631

www.thecapitalgrille.com

THE COUNTRY CLUB GRILL AT WYNNS
Wynn Las Vegas
3131 Las Vegas Blvd, South
Las Vegas
Reservations: 888-352-3463

www.wynnlasvegas.com

DANIEL BOULUD AT WYNNS
Wynn Las Vegas
3131 Las Vegas Blvd, South
Las Vegas
Reservations: 888-352-3463

www.wynnlasvegas.com

RM SEAFOOD
Mandalay Place at Mandalay Bay
3950 Las Vegas Blvd., South
Las Vegas
Reservations: 877-632-7000

www.mandalaybay.com



Note: This information was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the businesses in question before making your plans.

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