Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Vegas Restaurant Roundup

The hubs and I went to Vegas the 3rd week in March and I wanted to make sure I filled you in on 3 noteworthy restaurants we tried. Firstly, we had:

T & T

We checked in to Mandalay Bay late on a Saturday afternoon. Tired, bedraggled, wanting nothing better than a tasty low maintenance dinner, we headed over to the new T & T (Taco's & Tequila, although that's not what we called it, use your own imagination) in the Luxor.

I had read good things about this new joint and had even seen it on the Travel Channel of all places! And sometimes, especially in the Luxor, you're never sure what you're going to get. Well, I'm here to tell you-- it's worth popping in for a visit.

As you come off the Mandalay/Luxor walk way, it will be right in front of you. It's basically an open air restaurant above the casino level. It's canopied by a jagged, tin cut out roof that creates some fun visual interest. There's a bar in the middle of the place that takes up about half of the restaurant and of course it's where they showcase their myriad bottles of prized and rare tequilas.
For a starter, we had amazing hand made chicken tamales made with real corn masa, shredded chicken, crema fresca, sweet chipotle sauce and avocado. My only complaint was that there weren't more. We also had chips, that you could tell were made fresh, with a sweet tomatillo and spicy chipotle salsas served alongside.

Seeing as it was a Tequila joint, of course I had to order a margarita! And if we hadn't been so wiped from our travels, I'm sure a few rounds of shots would have ensued ;) The drink I ordered was a Pomegranate, Acai margarita. Trendy fruits, I know, I know, but tasty all the same. I would highly recommend trying any of their speciality margarita's.

For dinner, I had the Baja fish taco's, the hubs had cheese enchiladas. Ok, I have to tell you at this point that as I'm sitting here typing, I'm drooling in remembrance. My taco's fit in the palm of my small-ish hand, you could tell they were fresh made. The fish had a light crunchy coating and didn't taste "fishy" (as is often wont to happen w/fish tacos for some reason). The crisp cabbage on top, pico de gallo and house made crema on top made a dynamite combo.

As for hubs, I was thinking "Cheese enchiladas are enchiladas are enchiladas........." Not so. These melted in your mouth from the home made tortilla to the cheese mixture inside. The mole sauce on top is what set it apart. The layers of flavor, the earthiness.....really just the authenticity, was surprising to me.

Even the house beans and rice on the plate weren't "throw aways" (as I like to call them) like a normal Mexican taqueria. I could've eaten a large bowl of the spicy, flavorful black beans. And I'm not even normally a black bean fan. And no peas in the rice! Yay! (I know they shouldn't be in there any way, but when does that stop Mexican joints around here? ;) )

And next was:


Bouchon was my highly anticipated Sunday brunch. I was worried that as a Thomas Keller offshoot that it would be more hype and less substance. But, my fears were unsubstantiated.

The physical interior as well as the clatter, hustle and bustle is about as traditional french bistro as you get. The wait staff in black and white with black bow-ties and long white aprons (even the females). There is a lovely garden terrace you trail into from French doors off of the side of the restaurant which is technically located on top of the the Venezia Tower in the Venetian. Unfortunately, on the Sunday we showed up, the weather was cold and rainy, so no patio for us! (Next time!)

Hubs got an omelet, I went all out w/the Croque Madame. All lived up to and exceeded expectation if you're looking for truly delicious bistro fare. It's definitely my current fav Vegas brunch spot. I also highly recommend the deliciously potent mimosas!

And lastly we had:


Tom Colicchio's Craftsteak was our last hurrah on a whirlwind trip before heading home. This was the only place I made a reservation using Open Table. We selected this particular restaurant b/c as Top Chef fans, we thought it would be kind of fun. :)

We were seated right away, even though we showed up early, in a low slung banquette area by the bar. There's a larger (noisier) dining room towards the back of the restaurant. I was quite happy to be ensconced in my little sofa on our 2-top table. That is, until we had neighbors join us. Isn't that always the way? Now, I don't want to turn this into a "Vegas is losing it's charm" rant, but I do want to clearly state my observations.

What was supposed to be a quiet, tasty, romantic, low-key evening where we dropped 2 bills, ended up with us being audience to a couple that I think really had no idea where they were. I think they just tripped over the restaurant off of MGM's casino and thought, "This is open, I think we'll annoy people and eat here."

Off the bat, the woman (youngish 20's in casual, tourist gear) was yelling into her zebra striped cell phone that she "couldn't hear!" her kids. At least 7 times. I know. Because I was counting. Meanwhile, her husband in sports jersey regalia is asking, "How much does a beer cost here?"

Le sigh. I know I'm going to come off as a snob here. But, I'm not, really, I promise! I just wanted a nice dinner out, dressed up hot for my man, enjoying some relaxed atmosphere. If I wanted this sitting next to me, I could pay $35 and go to Applebee's! Ok, I'll spare you the rest b/c it's really not Tom's fault. It's a comment on American society that I'm not willing to make in this humble little blog.

Carrying on-- they bring fresh rolls to your table in a little screaming hot cast iron pan. If you go, be careful not to fill up before your meal on these nuggets of goodness! For starters, hubs got the lobster bisque and I got the truffled spinach salad. Hubs said the soup was more creamy, less "seafoody" (I have to take his word b/c I'm allergic) and that he'd had better. My salad, was organic spinach w/a truffled dressing and a few thinly sliced daikon radish on top. Not much to write home about other than it was seasoned well?

For dinner, hubs got the NY strip, I got the hanger steak. Both were cooked to medium rare perfection and were really the highlight of the experience. Well, other than the wild mushroom risotto and the blue cheese polenta. Both were so ridiculously good that I wanted to take a bath in them. I seriously could've just ordered the risotto and been completely satisfied. The wild mushrooms were not mixed into the risotto, instead they were left steaming atop the dish. They had been sauteed and then caramelized so that the edges were crunchy and full of earthy mushroom flavor. The texture contrast with the risotto was fantastic.

Obviously, we skipped dessert b/c we were both about to blow up. Plus, it "saved" more money for gambling! :)

There's my roundup. I hope this helps someone narrow down the diverse and wonderful restaurantscape that is Vegas before their next trip!



Joelen said...

Thanks for sharing this as we are planning a trip to vegas next spring!

Cara said...

I was there right around the same times as you! We tried to go to T&T for a late night bite after a delicious appetizer at Thunder from Down Under (hehe!)but unforunately they close at 11. Sorry your night of fine dining was ruined - we chose Aureole for our one $$$$ night. Highly recommend it, the service was impecable and the food phenomenal! And the wine tower is a must-see.

bellalately said...

That's so funny Cara- I wonder if we bumped into each other we would've recognized the other? :)

Ya know what else is funny- we had debated about going to Aureole. But, we were staying at the Mandalay and wanted to branch out more. I mean, we had also already eaten at the Burger Bar and Giorgio's. So, we were trying to spread our money around a little. I will know better to follow my gut next time! ;)