Posted on | September 20, 2008 | 23 Comments |
We didn’t do many grand scale dinners this time in Vegas. Instead we decided to check out some casual fare by some of our favorite chefs. We don’t normally venture out much in Vegas. Whichever casino we chose to stay at is where we end up eating and playing at. Who wants to waste all those precious Las Vegas hours sitting in traffic! So even though we loved our stay at the Bellagio last time, we decided to try out the Venetian this time, since the dining options there included some of the best known names in the culinary world.
As a hotel, Venetian was just okay, our room was really spacious and well kept, but the service came nowhere close to what we experienced at the Bellagio. The main focus of our trip was on food anyway. I have to say, while pretty much every dish we had was really good, nothing really knocked our socks off, if you know what I mean. I don’t know whether it was just a matter of our expectations being way too high, or if we have really become those food snobs we hate, who are pretty hard to impress – I hope it is the former than the latter!
I am going to review all the four restaurants in one post, since I have a feeling I might never get around to finishing this if I divided it into four separate posts. I will try to keep it short, but bear with me if it gets a little longer than usual.
Mario Batali’s Enoteca San Marco
One of the main reasons for us picking the Venetian was Mario Batali, a chef we have great respect for! We love the simple but elegant dishes he prepares on our favorite food show – Iron Chef America. Add it to the fact that he was raised in Seattle, we were really looking forward to sampling some of his creations.
Enoteca San Marco has a great ambience, with the “outdoor” seating under the fake blue sky and live entertainment and street performers just outside the restaurant, it is a great spot for people watching. Service was great, our waitress was really warm and friendly, unlike some of the reviews I’ve read. Menu is typical Italian casual fare. We started with Cauliflower Frittele ($9) and Marinated Mixed Olives ($6). Cauliflower fritters were really good – simply battered and fried cauliflower florets sprinkled with powdered spices was the perfect starter.
For the main dish, we decided to split a pasta and a main dish. I picked the Gemelli with House sausage and Broccoli Rabe ($18) and Siv picked the Grilled Pork Chop with Sweet Peppers and Capers ($25). Pasta was cooked really al dente, that is Mario’s style and the way I like it. The simple olive oil based sauce went really well with the bitterness of broccoli rabe. Pork chop also had very simple flavors, and was perfectly cooked. Even though I am not a big pork chop fan, just like Siv is not a big pasta fan, we both enjoyed both the dishes.
Portions were really big, we had no room for dessert at the end. The whole meal with cocktails and beer put us back only less than $100. Not bad for a dinner at a celebrity chef’s restaurant, but not one of the most memorable meals in our life either.
Thomas Keller’s Bouchon
Two restaurants I want to dine at before I die – French Laundry and el Bulli. While el Bulli is a very distant possibility, French Laundry is something we are definitely planning on doing before the end of next year. We never went to Bouchon before on our various Las Vegas trips, since I wanted my first Thomas Keller experience to be at the French Laundry. But this time, we were right there at the Venetian, and we couldn’t resist anymore.
Again, the food was really good, but not out-of-this world good. We started with a Soupe a l’Oignon ($9.75) aka French Onion Soup. Siv is addicted to French onion soups, he orders it whenever he gets a chance. Since I wasn’t all that hungry, I decided to just share some of his soup instead of ordering another appetizer. It was a delicious soup, I must say.
For my entrée, I got the Gigot d’Agneau ($33.50) – roasted leg of lamb with nicoise olive socca, sweet peppers, arugula and lamb jus. This was one of my favorite dishes from this trip, the lamb legs were succulent, and the jus was very flavorful. Siv got the Truite aux Amandes ($28.50) – pan-roasted trout with green beans, almonds and Beurre noisette (hazelnut butter). Trout was delicious, but it was too small a plate for Siv, I could see he was still hungry after polishing off the fish. So we decided to split a dessert – a simple Creme Caramel ($9) with coffee finished off the meal rather nicely.
I am sure French Laundry is going to be so much better than this one, this was a perfectly nice meal but it wasn’t what I expected from Thomas Keller.
I had never heard of David Burke before this trip. We had dinner reservations at Table 10 – Emeril Legasse’s restaurant the Palazzo. We both were so engrossed in Poker that we weren’t too enthusiastic about walking to the Palazzo. We just wanted to finish dinner and get back to the tables, it was the last night of the trip after all! We were on our way to Table 10, when we came across David Burke just around the corner from the poker room. It is one of those good looking restaurants – vibrant colored walls and ultra sleek design with a colorful hand blown glass sculpture centerpiece with a water feature flowing from the ceiling. The menu posted outside looked very promising as well, so we decided to save some time and check out David Burke instead.
The cuisine is modern American, the dishes were elegant and beautifully plated. We started with a couple of cocktails from the signature cocktail menu. LYCHEE MARTINI ($14) and BERRY SUNSET ($14) both were really good. Then the bread and butter came, where the butter was served on a piece of Himalayan salt brick. That is when the waiter pointed out that the walls of the bar were also made of the same salt bricks! That was pretty awesome! We wondered if they reuse the salt brick for serving the butter, I think they do, so I resisted the temptation for a small lick of the salt.
I don’t remember what our amuse was, but I remember it was really good. We asked to split a LOBSTER BISQUE ($14) with lobster agnolotti and curried apple essence, which was poured into individual bowls, right at the table, always a nice touch.
Siv got the ROASTED HALIBUT “T-BONE” AU POIVRE ($38) with lobster dumplings, spinach, tomato marmalade and lobster bordelaise. He wasn’t all that impressed with his dish. I got the GRILLED SWORDFISH “ROSSINI” ($38) with seared foie gras, spinach, crispy potato cake and truffled madeira sauce. This was absolutely amazing, all the flavors went really well together. We also had some truffled French Fries to go with all these.
This was a surprisingly good meal for me, especially enjoyed the drinks. Siv wasn’t that impressed, I think he just ordered the wrong dish.
Wolfgang Puck’s Postrio
We decided to finish off the Las Vegas trip with a lunch at Postrio, a restaurant by possibly the most successful American chef – Wolfgang Puck. We’ve been to his restaurants many times in different cities, but this was our first visit to Postrio.
We started with a couple of Bloody Marys to kill the hang over from the previous night, I think it is the best Bloody Mary I’ve ever had, spicy and tangy. Bread here was the most delicious flat bread served with an olive dip. We got a couple of appetizers – spicy meatballs ($6) with garlic puree, sun dried tomatoes and parsley was amazing – reminded us of spicy Indian kabobs.
For the main course, I got the fettuccine alfredo ($15) with roasted chicken and baby spinach. It was way too creamy for my taste, I could only have very little of this. Siv got the roasted lamb sandwich ($13) with horseradish aioli and caramelized onions and a side of deliciously crispy fries. It was a great sandwich, and a pretty big size for lunch, I happily shared half of it. If I forget the pasta, this was the best meal of this trip I think.
These four meals put together only costed us less than a single dinner at Le Cirque from our last trip, which makes me think that the saying “You get what you pay for” has some truth to it. I will never forget the highlights of the Le Cirque experience, but I had a hard time trying to remember the dishes from these restaurants as I was writing this, and its only been a couple of weeks. Evidently, none of these were the memorable meals one would expect from any of these chefs. Then again, I might have to go to their signature restaurants to get the real feel of their culinary expertise.
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