Sunday, February 5, 2012

Taste of Las Vegas

This A.M. I would like to pronounce Las Vegas as the restaurant capital of the world. I realize this is probably going to start some arguments. Most of us East Coasters here in the States would say New York, West Coasters would say San Francisco or LA and world travelers may say London, Paris or Tokyo. As for me, a Florida native that has done a fair amount of traveling, I would say Vegas baby!

Las Vegas has a heavy reputation as a party town that you can definitely lose not only some cash when you visit  but also your humility.  With sayings like "What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas" and given monikers such as "Lost Wages" and "Sin City" makes it hard for people that have never been there to realize that Vegas is more than a boozing, gambling, party town. Sure there are plenty of wild shenanigans to be found, but there is also a bevy of world class entertainment and shows, shopping galore and amazing restaurants in Las Vegas.

Fresh off going to Vegas for my birthday weekend and maybe still on a little Viva Las Vegas high, allow me to tell about all my delicious encounters out in Sin City.


Day One - All American

On our first full day in Vegas, we hit the streets. The weather was beautiful and we walked from Aria at City Center to Mirage, winding in and out of the hotels, casinos and shops in between. By the time we got to Mirage our stomachs were grumbling. For Lunch we ducked into the Mirage, where we decided on BLT Burger.

"the acclaimed Chef Laurent Tourondel brings his interpretation of the American burger joint, BLT Burger, to The Mirage. The restaurant's casual attitude and cool milkshakes are complemented by beef, American Kobe, lamb and turkey burgers served on soft, no-frills buns with all the burger trimmings the heart could desire..." -The Mirage Website

We started with barbeque chicken nachos that were so yummy. I then ordered a buffalo chicken sandwich that had blue cheese crumbles, avocado and buttermilk ranch dressing. It was so darn good. An order of fries for the table and we were so stuffed we couldn't even think about ordering one of the delicious sounding deserts. We had enough, it was time to digest at the craps table.




Later that first evening we went to Smith and Wollensky for dinner. An American steakhouse in the same realm as Ruth's Chris and Morton's, with top notch service, a wine list the size of a short novel and USDA prime beef. We ordered The Famous Shellfish Bouquet for our starter. It is basically a platter of lobster, crab, shrimp and oysters served on ice, fit for a king. For my entree I shared the large Filet Mignon, topped with blue cheese, with my boyfriend, Steve. Truffled Mac and Cheese and cream of spinach for the table to share and once again we all couldn't even think about desert!




Day Two - ¡Bamboleo!

Every year we go to Vegas we take a trip off the strip and into the suburbs to our favorite Mexican restaurant, Lindo Michoacan. Our tradition is to share a couple pitchers of red sangria and some guacamole that is prepared table-side. My friend Hoover always orders a giant pork burrito, I am guessing it is about 3 lbs, listed on the menu as El Burrito Bionico. This year Hoover and his wife, Conchi, split it... but as you can see from the picture bellow it is still a whopping portion! I always order the tender and flavorful Gallo al Mojo de Ajo, which is chicken in a white wine and garlic sauce. While you wait for your food you can check out the little Mexican lady hand-rolling tortillas or listen to the Mariachi band.



We took Lindo Michoacan's free shuttle back to the Strip where we got dropped off at the Fashion Show mall, just where the guys wanted to spend the rest of their afternoon...but we cut the guys loose so us girls could scope out the latest styles. 

That evening we went to the Cosmopolitan, right next door to Aria, where we discovered is the hottest new property on the strip. Walking in the front door from the strip the first thing you see is the four story Chandelier Bar covered in sparkling crystals. 2 million crystals to be exact. The casino was hoping with beautiful people and the music was pumping. 

We made our way upstairs to China Poblano where we had an 8:00 reservation. China Poblano is a mix of Chinese and Mexican food with a menu meant for sharing. We ordered several dishes but my favorites of the bunch were "When Pigs Fly" (Steamed buns with Chinese BBQ Pork), Carnitas Taco (Pork Taco) and the Queso Fundido (Cheese with Chorizo Sausage served with Tortillas). But you really can't go wrong there with any of the dim sum or tacos.



After dinner it was time to explore the Cosmopolitan.  Not even 10:00 yet and the Marquee Night Club already had what appeared to be a two hour line. Downstairs in the casino Amy and I saw a slot machine with a Cleopatra theme that we were positive was calling our names. We dropped five dollars in and.....drum roll...you won't believe what happened....we lost the five dollars. Amy and I decide leave everyone at the stupid slots and go walking. We came across a cool lounge called Book and Stage. A band was warming up for their set and there was one couch left so we grabbed it and ordered drinks. 

After a few text messages the rest of the gang found us and the band started. Started off slow, I might add. The first song I remember hearing was a cover of Micheal Buble covering Frank Sinatra. Ole' Blue Eyes made nice music, don't get me wrong, just not what you want to hear on your birthday eve at the coolest hotel in Vegas. We decide to wait it out a bit and next thing we know the band broke into a Latin medley of Carlos Santana, Ricky Martin and Enrique, people were starting to dance and a crowd had gathered at the bar in the lounge. The lounge was poppin'. Wes Quave, the guest singer for the night from L.A. was moving like a Latin Mick Jagger and had caught the attention of more than one lady in the building. In our group Hoover seemed to be the most excited by Wes, who had just started singing Sexy Back by Justin Timberlake. Preforming LMFAO, Black Eyed Peas and other top 40 favorites, they rocked the house and ended the set with an original song by Wes and announcing that he would be joining the band the next night, same place, same time.


Day Three - My birthday

At Aria just out side of the elevators on the casino level is the Jean-Philippe Pastisserie where we would all run into each other grabbing coffees in the morning. Now normally grabbing a coffee isn't noteworthy, but I have to tell you this place was pretty incredible. Pricey or not I had one heck of an iced mocha and the pastry's were not only tasty but beautiful and interesting to look at.

"Satisfy your sweet tooth by indulging in an environment that is equally as inviting as its treats. The menu includes freshly made crepes, gourmet sandwiches, and salads along with our exquisite pastries. World Pastry Champion Jean-Philippe Maury's signature chocolates are on display...." - Aria's website 

After coffee we put some more money in the slot machines for a while and then decided it was time for some brunch. A little worn out from Wes Quave we stayed close and checked in at the Aria Buffet. For the first time I have to be a little critical. We had a great time at the Aria buffet, drinking champagne and laughing with our hilarious waitress, but the food was only average. Next year I think we will venture over to Belliagio or Wynn and try one of their weekend brunches.



After the buffet the afternoon was still young and being that we were leaving the next day it was us girls last opportunity to shop. If you are thinking right now that all I do with myself is eat and shop, you are actually not too far off. The guys went to gamble at Bellagio and we went to the Forum Shops. Armed with Steve's credit card, the girls and I spent the next five and a half hours shopping. I swear though, we had so much fun, the time just flew by and it felt like we were only out for an hour. Conchi got a Gucci bag, we all killed it at H&M and Amy and I went crazy in BCBG. When we realized how late it got, we scurried back to Aria to get ready for dinner. I gave Steve a quick fashion show then hit the shower. 



My birthday dinner was at Sushi Samba in the Palazzo. We had some great meals on this trip, but Sushi Samba took the cake. Brazilian and Japanese fusion, we loved the food, the music, the ambiance.... all I can say is the whole vibe was awesome.  Churrasco, a Brazilian meat platter served with dipping sauces,  is a must have, we ordered two for the table. We also got a couple of sushi rolls my favorite being the Carnaval which is shrimp, avocado, yellowtail tartar and crispy rice paper.        






During dinner all Hoover could talk about was Wes Quave and how he rocked the house and would love to see him again. He even went as far as to say he wants to be his groupie. So we went back to the Cosmopolitan and caught the Wes show again. I even got to dance on stage with a Vegas prostitute trannie to Hey Ya by Outkast. Let me tell you, you haven't had a Birthday in Las Vegas until you dance on stage with a prostitute trannie. Just saying.

Needless to say, we had a great trip whether we gained a few lbs or not. I hope I made an argument for what a food mecca Las Vegas really is.  By the way, we got home safe and sound and a day STILL doesn't go by that Hoover doesn't mention Wes Quave. Wes, if you are reading this, please come play in Tampa for ole' Hoover-doo-ver!


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