Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Did we eat Vegas, or did Vegas eat US? You decide...

While we were in Vegas, it was more important to us that we get to eat at some amazing restaurants than it was for us to do anything else. I looked up some places on, and found the list of the top 20 restaurants according to their website, which is based on feedback from the diners that ate at them. A few weeks ago, Fleur de Lys was #1 on that list, so I checked it out. It’s Hubert Keller’s restaurant (the original is out of San Francisco, apparently), and I loooove Hubert. Love, love, LOVE. So that was an obvious choice.

I didn’t make any other reservations ahead of time, because I just couldn’t decide where else to go. My family and I were planning on eating at Mesa Grill (Bobby Flay’s restaurant) on Thursday night, so that got crossed off my list. But besides that, and my reservation for Fleur de Lys, I left everything up to a more fly-by-the-seat-of-our-pants philosophy.

We wound up eating at Border Grill on Saturday for lunch, and then that night, we went to Rick Moonen’s restaurant rm seafood for dinner. (Oh, and on Friday, we ate at a little random café in the hotel called Red, White, and Blue, where they had a relatively run of the mill turkey burger, but some of the BEST tater tots I’ve ever had. YUM!)

So here’s a little play-by-play of the restaurants, and what I personally thought of them…and just to warn you, I am a wordy bitch, especially when it comes to one of my three favorite loves (food, sleep, and television, FYI). This is not short and sweet, by any means...

Mesa Grill – Thursday night

Basics: This restaurant is located in Caesars Palace, off of their casino floor. It was full up with everything from the average tourist, to the Ed Hardy t-shirt wearing toolbags that had a piece of scantily-dressed arm candy hanging off of them. We were seated at a table next to a server station. You would think that might’ve garnered us some pretty decent service, but…

Service: Sucked a lil’ bit. We sat there for a good 5 minutes looking over our menus before we called out to a manager-looking dude leaning on the server station, and asked if we could please get some water. A couple of minutes later, our server came and took our drink orders. Apparently, they must contract out the drink order work to a different person who gets them from the bar. It took a good 10 MORE minutes for me to get my vodka soda, and my older sister to get her champagne. In the meantime, someone that appeared to be a sommelier had come over to help my brother and other older sister to pick a wine. They apparently thought they had chosen a blend. But when she brought it to the table, it was a straight up cabernet. Huh.

When they brought our appetizers (the Twin and I had ordered a standard baby romaine salad that had chorizo in it, and was really pretty tasty), the waiter or expediter who brought my brother’s soup and our older sister’s salad was distracted by another server walking by at the same time. The Twin and I watched in horror as he almost dumped the soup on our brother, but managed to get it to the table just in time to save us all from that kind of mess. And then he set my sister’s salad off to her right, on the edge of the table. And walked away. Again…huh. The Twin leaned over to me and said, “Did you just see what happened there?” I said I did. It was a little disconcerting, is all.

Food: Again, I started with that baby romaine salad, which was pretty darned good. The only issue I had was when I ate some of the chorizo, I was all, “Are there cut up hot dogs on here?” The Twin reminded me of the chorizo. I don’t remember chorizo tasting like hot dogs the last time I had it, but whatev. Over all, it was a decent salad.

For dinner, I ordered the grilled lamb porterhouse chops, and it seemed like I made one of the better decisions at the table. They were fuckin’ AMAZING. Cooked perfectly, deliciously seasoned…I was very happy. I can’t remember what my siblings ate, aside from my brother getting a side dish of Brussels sprouts. (We’re a big Brussels sprouts family…not sure why!) They were fabulous. He was nice enough to share with all of us, which was awesome of him.

Overall Score: B+ Had the service been better and more on point, I’d have given the place an A. But service is big for me. I don’t think I’m alone on that one, either.

Fleur de Lys – Friday night

Basics: This restaurant is located on a quieter side of the casino at Mandalay Bay, where a bunch of other higher end restaurants are also located. It is really beautiful, inside and out. We had earlier reservations, so the place kind of filled up around us. But we were still able to speak in relatively soft voices throughout our meal. (Unlike the more boisterous atmosphere in Mesa the night before.) We got a little dressed up for our dinner there, and we fit in pretty well with the other diners.

Service: Our waiter was effing awesome. It was like we were the only table he had all night long, he paid so much attention to us! We took a little while to decide on our order, and when we were ready he appeared as if from no where, all set to get our order from us. He advised us to order a soufflé in advance if we were planning on having it for dessert, since they take a bit to make. And he was really well-timed with our wine, both with dinner and dessert. He deserves a round of applause, really. ::golf clap::

Hubert Keller happened to be at the restaurant that night, so that was fun to see. He visited a couple of tables, but mostly stayed in the kitchen while we were there. He was in a chef coat, and had his hair back, so maybe he was even doing some cooking. Maybe he made some of OUR food! ::gasp!:: That’d be so freaking cool.

Food: Ok, we were planning on splurging for this dinner, mind you. The prices aren’t listed on their online menu, so I’ll try to ballpark it for you guys, in case anyone plans on going there in the future and gets sidelined by the cost of the food. On their website through the hotel, it averages the dinner prices at about $82/person. That makes sense, I guess, IF you don’t have any wine or drinks or dessert at all. I don’t know about you all, but we like to have wine when we go out for fancy dinners. (Hell, we like to have wine at un-fancy dinners!) That said, I think the cheapest bottle of red on their menu ran about $45? Maybe? Anyway, we ordered an $80 bottle, I think it was, and we were very happy with it. But there goes our average right there.

We started with the braised veal and Yukon gold potato ravioli. It was the perfect starter portion, and it was so, soooo good. (I think it was about $18.) We also had the trio of Hudson Valley foie gras, which included a seared piece, a smoked duck terrine, and a “cappuccino” of foie gras, which, I don’t know how they pull it off, but is basically liquid foie gras in a glass. Topped with a foie gras foam. And then gently sprinkled with some porcini dust, I wanna say it was? I can’t remember exactly what kind of mushroom it was. Just, I wish I could drink that every day for breakfast, dammit. That is all. (Oh, and it was $32, if I recall correctly.)

Leo then had the chorizo wrapped Suzuki sea bass. It came with a barley risotto, and a flavorful sauce. He seemed to enjoy it, until I mentioned my chorizo tasting like hot dog at dinner the night before. After that, all he could taste was the hot dog smokiness. (I’m such an asshole!) But he finished his sea bass, and I had a bite that was absolutely delicious, so it was definitely a good dish. ($47? I think…)

But nothing could measure up to the wonderfulness that was my surf & turf I’d decided to order. They had a butter poached lobster on the menu, and that was going to be my choice until I saw that the surf and turf paired some butter poached lobster with a filet. It also came with asparagus, which isn’t my favorite, but I was willing to give it a go for ol’ Hubert. ::wink wink::

Dear LORD, my food was amazing. I can’t even describe it properly with words that exist. It was fabuliciousderfulgasmic, if that helps at all. The steak was cooked perfectly to my medium rare request. The lobster was buttery and sweet and savory yumminess all rolled into a nice little bit of claw and tail piece. The asparagus was peeled and even I liked it the way it was prepared! And it all came with a delicious mushroom sauce and a potato puree that was creamy and smooth and helped perfect the plate.

Did it cost me $79? Why yes…yes it did. AND IT WAS WORTH EVERY PENNY, GODDAMMIT. I would pay for it weekly if my checkbook and my cholesterol could handle it!

Then we had the chocolate soufflé for dessert, which was served with a hot chocolate ganache poured into the center at our table, as well as a small scoop of mocha ice cream. A wonderful way to finish off a perfect dinner, IMO. I cannot remember how much it cost, for the life of me. I didn’t see it on the menu, though…the waiter mentioned it, and it was what we wanted for dessert, so that was that. It was probably $20? Or so?

Oh, and that waiter got a 23% tip from me, dammit. He was awesome, and deserved it.

Overall score: A+, no question.

Border Grill – Saturday lunch

Basics: Mary Sue Milliken and Susan Feniger are the Too Hot Tamales, originally made “famous” around the country because they were a couple of the first personalities to have a show on The Food Network. I knew them before that, because my oldest sister liked to get our family out and about to different random restaurants when I was growing up, and a couple of them were Mary Sue’s and Susan’s. My all time favorite was called City, which was a big warehouse type place, if I’m recalling it correctly, and I just felt so grown up and fancy when we went to eat there. (They also served their dry condiments, like salt and pepper, in little flat dishes on the table instead of in shakers. I liked to collect those as momentos of our trips to City back then. Yep…I was a klepto. I blame my parents. Because…why not? Likely it was their fault somehow.) We also used to go to Border Grill back when it was on LaCienega, or somewhere. Now it’s in Santa Monica. Whatever. Places move. It’s been 20 freaking years, so I guess a level of change should be expected.

This Border Grill is in a spot overlooking the pool area at Mandalay Bay. The hosts were quick to seat us, which was a good thing, because we were both ravenous after a full morning of spa treatments that hadn’t allowed time for breakfast. I’d managed to chomp on some of the mixed nuts and raisins they had offered me in the spa while I waited for my pedicure, but other than that, I was on empty, and I was verging on the Evil Bitch coming out for a visit. They delivered some chips and 3 kinds of salsas to our table right away, and we commenced with the food plowing.

We had decided to sit outside, though, which turned out to be a mistake. There were these little birds out there that were hopping around, twisting their heads to look at us as if to say, “Please sir, I’d like some chips. I’m so ‘ungry and pitiful, you see.” (They had a cockney accent, like most cute, little birds do.) Leo was calling them rats, and shooing them away, but initially I was all, “Aw! Lookit the cute!” But there were only 2 of them then. As more people arrived to sit on the patio, so the birds multiplied as well. Pretty soon, we had a little symphony of the chirping going on, and they were wandering around seeing if anyone was dropping food on the floor for them.

Unfortunately, Vegas is filled with idiot tourists. And some of these idiot tourists, as luck would have it, were dining with us that very afternoon. A couple of dudes at the tables around us started tossing the birds food. (Why is it always the stupid men? What is WRONG with you guys, anyway?) Things like sugar cubes, and whole chips that were the size of the freaking birds themselves. I guess they thought it was funny? They might need to get out more, is my decision on that matter.

We happened to be sitting right under a little ledge where these fluffball flying mice liked to sit and watch for food to grab at, and they had apparently spent a lot of time up there…a lot of time shitting. On a fan. (Heh.) Which, when they fluttered around it, would drop all the dried bird shit onto our table. So we moved over to the table next ours instead. It was a table for 4 that could be split into a table for 2…so we were just taking advantage of space that was ours already, anyway.

This managed to keep us from getting flakey bits of bird shit in our drinks and on our food, thank goodness. (Because THAT’S not unsanitary at all, Milliken and Feniger! C’mon!) But about halfway through our lunch, something suddenly fell from above, directly into Leo’s water glass. Someone behind us called out, “Oh my God, it dropped the sugar cube into his water! Hahahahaha!” Yeah, funny. But seriously, one of those little buggars had totally managed a direct hit into Leo’s water with that fucking sugar cube. It was nuts.

That’s what lunch was like, on the basic level. ::raises eyebrows::

Service: The server was great. No complaints, except for their not noticing the fact that a mountain of fresh and dried bird shit was located above our table, and probably isn’t the best place to serve people food.

Food: We started with a smoked chicken tamale, because Leo couldn’t stop salivating over it when he saw it. It wasn’t big enough for an entrée portion, the server warned him, so we ordered it as a starter, and shared it. It was very good.

Leo ordered the Tecate Carnitas for his entrée, and it came with a giant flour tortilla. I suggested he tear it off into pieces to eat with bits of the carnitas, but instead, he wrapped all his plate components into a tight burrito. It was cool!

I ordered the chicken chilaquiles. I thought I knew was a chilaquile was, but it turns out I was wrong. It was basically a plate full of nachos drowned in (delicious, but very rich) cheese sauce and what seemed to be a tomatillo salsa. YUM! But, I was already full from the chips on the table. Because I’m an idiot like that. But hey, at least I wasn’t stupid enough to feed the damned birds. ::gives side-eye to stupid, stupid tourist men and their wives that clearly have no control over them behaving like 10 year olds::

Overall score: A-, and we’ll sit INSIDE next time we’re given the option, thanks.

Saturday afternoon, after watching KU bite the dust against OSU (::cries::), we decided to walk around and check out other hotels and parts of the strip. My pedicurist had suggested we get over to something new called the City Center, where they have a few hotels all linked together by shopping and stuff. We walked through the mall walkway thing between our hotel and Luxor before getting in a cab, though. The mall was fine. I bought a couple of cute scarves at Urban Outfitters, but they didn’t have any jeans that would fit Leo, so we headed back out and into the other hotel, where we were physically assaulted, just about, by the salespeople they have trolling the floors there. GAH. I HATE salespeople! The crowds on Thursday and Friday were much more manageable to my semi-agoraphobic nature, so by the time the people-explosion happened on Saturday, I had been lulled into a false sense of “wow, Vegas is really pretty cool, and not like an amusement park at all!” It was disconcerting, and it only got worse at the lower end hotels we visited. So we high-tailed it outta Luxor, grabbed a cab with Smokey Joe, a.k.a. Depressed Cabby with a Crappy Outlook on Life That He Wants to Share With Passengers, and headed over to the high end mall there called Crystals. It had a Louis Vuitton, Tiffany & Co, Bally, Bvlgary, Cartier, Tom Ford, and a place called Assouline, which just seemed like a really stupid name for a place if you assk me, as well as loads of other places that normal people can’t afford to shop in. But we didn’t feel stupid just wandering around (ok, a little stupid in Louis Vuitton, but at Tom Ford, the salespeople were really nice to us!), and having a looksie at the prices on stuff. It was fun. Then we wandered over to Aria hotel, and found our way to a restaurant there called American Fish to sit at the bar and have a glass of wine. I was kinda sorry I was still so full from lunch, because I’m betting a snack there would’ve been delicious. The service was great, and the wine I chose was perfect. Happy and rested, we headed back to the hotel to relax and change for dinner.

Rick Moonen’s rm Seafood – Saturday night

Basics: Rick Moonen was a contestant on the 1st season of Top Chef Masters with Hubert Keller. He didn’t go as far as Hubert, but he seemed like a great, inventive chef, and we really liked his overall personality on the show. So seeing that he, too, had a restaurant in the Mandalay Bay hotel really was a pleasant surprise. We wound up eating in the more casual part of the restaurant (there’s an upstairs level that’s more dressy, but the lower level is more jeans and a nice shirt kinda place) because I was craving sushi, and Leo wanted a bunch of oysters. The lower level menu was perfect for all that.

Service: The service sucked. It was just plain bad. The waiter was nice, when we saw him, but he didn’t get out to our table to greet us until we’d been sitting there for about 5 minutes. And then it took FOREVER to get the wine served. And even though there were different people who brought out the food to our table, apparently the waiter was too busy to check on us at all throughout our meal. When we were done, he asked if we wanted dessert. We were much too full, so we declined, and told him we wanted to just finish our wine as dessert. Then he disappeared again. For like 15 minutes. ::raised eyebrow:: At this point, Rick Moonen had emerged from someplace, and was visiting tables around us. He was over at a neighboring table when our waiter reappeared, deciding it was time to visit them again, shaking all of their hands. (???) Then he came over to our table and asked us if we wanted coffee or anything. Um, NO. We kinda already told you we’re done. Please bring our check! (But we were nicer about it, I swear. This is just how frustrated I was about it in my head.) So he left again, and brought out the check…for the table NEXT to ours! AUUGGHH! Will we EVER be allowed to leave rm Seafood??? GOD! Finally, we were allowed to leave. We were walking out the door at the same time that Rick was walking to the hostess area, so we told him we really enjoyed our dinner. He appreciated us coming, he said. He was nice, but I think he’s one of those people that don’t know how to handle the fame they brought upon themselves. Oh well…at least he wasn’t a dick.

Food: (Seriously, this post is LONG. I’m very sorry!) One of the reasons why we liked the idea of this place for dinner was because of the incredibly wide-ranged menu offerings. It was still a small menu, but it had everything from a raw bar selection to a great selection of seafood and meat dishes for dinner, along with an awesome sounding collection of side dishes that could be ordered. And then there was an entire sushi side to the menu…I had some of that. It was very good, and totally hit the spot. I ordered standard nigiri sushi, and then a special garlic tuna nigiri, along with a roll called the “futo-fireball roll”. It had a really perfect amount of heat to it through the spicy tuna it had on top. I loved it!

Leo started with the oyster menu sampler, which allowed him one of each of the oysters on their special oyster menu. Then he moved on to have the wild cobia and Niman Ranch pork belly, which was served with braised white beans. I’ve never had pork belly, so that was fun to try. The cobia had a texture similar to halibut. Very mild fish, and it was perfectly cooked. Leo really enjoyed it.

Overall Score: B- That waiter just sucked so, so much, and for no apparent reason. The food was outstanding, but the service just wrecked it for us, unfortunately.

Sunday, we flew home after eating breakfast in our room. Mandalay Bay serves an authentic and homemade corned beef hash, in case you’re wondering. That’s what I had before leaving. Leo had a brioche French toast, and wished he had ordered hash, too, because he’d had it on Friday morning when he arrived, and had loved it a lot! Funny thing is, I think I prefer the kind out of a can! Hahaha! I offered him my leftovers, because I didn’t eat much other than my eggs and toast, but he didn’t want it. Whatever.

We really enjoyed our eating tour of Vegas. I think we need to make a go of doing something like this every year, actually. Last year, we spent a few days of eating and visiting in San Diego in February. This year, it was Vegas. Maybe next year, we can hit up New Orleans, or something. That’d be fun!

Let me know if you have any questions. If you’ve stuck with this post this long, that is!


faithstwin said...

At Mesa I had the Ahi Tuna over couscous- and peppercorns I didn't know if they were peppercorns or capers until I bit into one. My food was delicious but it could have used more sauce.

At Red White and Blue I had the wedge salad - which seems to be a theme lately as we went to CPK last night and they have a new wedge salad as a starter and it was petite and perfect before I got my main course.

Let's see: Bro had the 15 (or was it 16?) spice pork medallions. Older sis had chicken and I can't remember what Oldest sis had... (all at Mesa)

I am bummed I couldn't hang longer and be able to add hundreds of dollars to the tab for food. It sounds like you had a great time after we all left!

(You, Leo and I should plan a weekend in New York City sometime. THAT would be awesome.)

Old Fart said...

Mrs. Old Fart and myself had the same type of experience at Mesa 2 years ago. The food was good, but the service was lacking. We waited about 15 minutes just to order drinks.

Matty said...

If you go to Mesa again, request James White or Athena as your server. I eat there a few times a year and always ask for one of my two favorite servers. They really know their stuff and are very attentive. The New Mexico Spice Rubbed Pork Tenderloin is the best entree on the menu, by the way.

Anonymous said...

and why don't you yelp? these are great reviews.

glad you had a nice trip.

p.s. we should coordinate NOLA next year. for reals.

Faith said...

Doood. That would be SO MUCH FUN. We'll definitely do that, then! Eeeee!