Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Dining in Vegas

We went to Las Vegas this past weekend with Kelly & David to celebrate my birthday with some yummy food, relaxation, and fun playing board games. We initially had reservations to stay at the Sahara hotel, but upon checking in we discovered our rooms to be quite shabby, fairly stained and not clean. While it may have been that we were just in the non-refurbished tower we decided to see if anything else on the Strip was available. After calling around we were able to book two rooms at the Excalibur hotel for not too much more than the Sahara was costing. The rooms at the Excalibur were much nicer, cleaner and ultimately we just felt better about the experience staying there. We decided to try using the Las Vegas monorail to get to our dinner at Margaritaville at the Flamingo Hilton hotel. $20 later and with very sore feet after walking through the MGM Grand, New York and Flamingo hotels - we arrived and checked in for dinner.

Dinner at Margaritaville is much more about the experience and atmosphere, though the food is decent but not fabulous. David had the shrimp pasta, Kelly & I had fajitas and Josh had the BBQ ribs. All were tasty but not the best we'd ever had of each meal. Josh enjoyed getting a bumper sticker at the gift shop which reads "The weather is here - wish you were beautiful".

That night after almost deciding to visit the Shark Reef experience at the Mandalay Bay hotel, we decided to instead go back to the rooms and play the game Hollywood Blockbuster before bed. The next morning we had a light breakfast and dressed up for our first fine dining meal of the weekend. This time we drove the car and headed out to the Venetian hotel for our 11:30 reservations at Emeril Lagasse's Delmonico Steakhouse. We had the first reservation of the day and were able to have the restuarant to ourselves for the first half hour or so of our meal.

We decided to share appetizers so Kelly & I split the heirloom tomato, red onion and buffalo mozzarella salad which was served with watercress and a balsamic vinegar dressing. David & Josh split the lobster bisque which was served with a toast covered in lobster mousse. Both were delicious and enjoyed immensely. For our main courses we all went with steak - Kelly & I had the ribeye, Josh had the rib steak bone in, and David had the bone in NY strip. All were served with herb butter and house-made worchestershire sauce, steak sauce and bernaise sauce. We also got one twice baked potato which included cheddar and bacon for the table. We all agreed that these were the very best steaks we had ever eaten. A birthday serving of chocolate sorbet was brought out for me while we waited for our desserts. It was delicious sorbet, but even better things were coming. David enjoyed Emeril's banana cream pie, Josh had the chocolate peanut butter torte with warm blackberry caramel, and I adored my individual pecan pie with oatmeal shortbread crust, caramel and homemade vanilla bean ice cream. Kelly decided to try something savory instead and chose the cheese assortment. It included 5 different cheeses, with accompanying items as well as some sliced baguette. First was a goat cheese served with champagne grapes, then a camembert served with cherry preserves (her favorite), cheddar served with blanched and glazed almonds, next was a brie served with honeycomb and finally a blue cheese served with green apple. She kept referring to her cheese plate as "heaven in my mouth". All in all it was a very expensive, very delicious, and very delightful experience and I would highly recommend it.

That afternoon we decided to spend more time relaxing in our rooms and trying out a new game - Bohnanza. We knew we needed at least an hour's time to get from our hotel to Caesar's Palace where we had dinner reservations at Rao's. After changing into our fancy clothes, we headed out and this time were able to valet park at the hotel.

Dinner at Rao's began well. The restaurant is dark and cozy and our waiter Shaun was very good even though he was quite busy with many other tables. We began our meal by splitting two appetizers - Bruschetta al Pomodoro e Carciofo (Bruschetta with tomatoes and artichokes) and Mozzarella in Carrozza (breaded and fried mozzarella served with sauce). Both were very delicious and in my opinion the best part of the meal. For our meals, David had the Gnocchi alla Bolognese, Kelly had Risotto ai Gamberi (risotto with shrimp), Josh had Scaloppine alla Romana (veal with artichoke, proscuitto and sage) and I had Uncle Vincent's Famous Lemon Chicken. For my taste I did not love any of them though they were all good. The lemon sauce was a little tangy for me, but Kelly and Josh both loved it and finished off the chicken I couldn't eat. Josh ended up liking Kelly's risotto better, so they switched meals midway through. David enjoyed his gnocchi but was unable to finish as they were so filling. For dessert Josh, David and I shared the profiteroles as there were three in the serving, and Kelly had the cannoli which was quite delicious. All in all it was not my favorite meal, though Italian food is also not my favorite. Kelly seemed to enjoy our dinner the most as she loved everything we ordered, but of course Italian food is her favorite. It was nice to try something new.

That evening we enjoyed finishing our game of Bohnanza and then Josh & I went back to our room and watched the movie Baby Mama which surprisingly more clean, touching and sweet than I had orgininally expected and we both enjoyed it. The next morning we got up earlier, packed and checked out of our room by 9:30am and headed back to the Venetian hotel to have brunch at Bouchon. They do not take reservations for brunch, but thankfully we only had a 20 minute wait for a table. We had two great waiters helping us and the restaurant and atmosphere were really nice. A bit fancy, but not too fancy that we ever felt uncomfortable.

The restaurant is located in the Venezia tower on the 15th floor, so you have to take an elevator near the check-in desk in the lobby to get there.

It was quite beautiful inside and they also had outdoor seating available as well.

The daily specials were listed on the chalkboard, but our server also went over them for us. He really seemed to want us to order the Crispy Pork Belly appetizer which was served with roasted beet salad, but we really did not feel like having that for breakfast...or ever. :)

They quickly brought out some yummy butter and homemade respberry preserves and eventually some delicious warm bread came out as well.

I decided to go with an all pastry breakfast so I ordered freshly made spiced beignets covered in cinnamon sugar and served with preserves and Nutella. They were delicious by themselves, but truly outstanding with the Nutella. Yum!

I also ordered the pastry assortment basket which came with a warm fresh blueberry muffin, banana muffin, pecan sticky bun and fresh croissant. I let David and Kelly split the blueberry muffin as I don't really like them, but they said it was delicious. The banana muffin had a crumb topping and was quite tasty and moist. The pecan sticky bun was absolutely yummy with a sugary glaze and cream center. The croissant was the very best one I've ever had - amazingly flaky on the outside and warm and buttery soft on the inside and was so delicious with butter and raspberry preserves. I also had a mocha to go along with my meal...but eventually all the sweetness got to me so I had to take some of it home. :)

Josh got one of the daily specials - Steak & Eggs. While he was not as impressed with the steak the meal was filling and the potatoes served with it were divine! :)

Kelly got another special - Quiche Lorraine which was served with a mixed green salad with vinaigrette dressing which she said was delicious and just right to cut the creaminess of the quiche.

David tried the Croque Madame served with pomme frites. I had wanted to try this, but was unsure about how a fried egg would taste on the top of the sandwich. It was delicious though...and the pomme frites were all deliciously crispy and yummy.

For dessert, Kelly & I decided to share the cheese plate. We chose a Camembert, cheddar, and a semi-hard sheep's milk cheese. They came served with apple, honeycomb and toasted bread. All three cheeses were delicious - the camembert was especially good on the bread with some of the raspberry preserves and the sheep's milk cheese was delicious with the apple.

All in all I would highly recommend Bouchon and would love to eat there again for brunch, and perhaps someday for dinner as well. Our weekend in Vegas was full of delicious food and many new experiences. I'm glad we all had the opportunity to go and that we had quick drives there and well as fairly good weather considering it was August in the desert. I would love to go again...specifically to Delmonico and Bouchon.


Annette B said...

luI'm starving now after reading your post. I'm glad you guys had such a nice time. I remember eating at Emeril Lagasse's at the City Walk in Orlando (at Universal) about 10 years ago...I also had the rib eye and it was also one of the best steaks I ever had! Jerry was like you that the lemon chicken was too I ate what he didn't...which meant I also didn't finish all my gnochi. I'm obviously going to have to put bouchon (either in NYC or Las Vegas) on my list! great photos with your post. now...I need to go find something to eat!

John and Mis said...

Wow, I am really hungry now! You should be a food critic, you make everything sound so yummy even things I would not be brave enough to try. Looks like everyone had a very nice time.