Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Vegas baby!

We don't go to Vegas to gamble.
We go there to EAT!
Here are the places we hit during our last visit in December 2008:

BLT Burger, Mirage
Showed up at 1:30am on a Saturday night. Lively atmosphere. I had a corn dog from the kids menu - just average (but I can never say "no" to a corndog). Kris (my hubby) tried the tandoori lamb burger w/ sweet potato fries and a "Knight Rider" shake (Kahlua, Chocolate Liqueur, Oreo Cookies, Chocolate Ice Cream) - not bad. The bill was around $40.
The Verdict: Food was OK but kinda expensive for what you get.

Burger Bar, Mandalay Place
My dad is always looking for the perfect burger so I thought I would take him here to try their Kobe burger. I think we went a little overboard on the toppings (2 kinds of mushrooms, caramelized onions, swiss cheese, and bacon). But my dad enjoyed his meal. I also had a side order of some fancy truffle sauce to pour over my burger that set me back an additional $5. The sauce, while pleasant enough, was a little too sweet and just not 'truffle-y" enough. My burger was tasty, but I probably should have limited myself to fewer toppings. My mother almost had a heart attack when she saw the bill - $100 for the 6 of us at lunchtime (blame it on all those extra toppings). Next time I'll really splurge on the $60 Rossini burger with foie gras and truffles.
The Verdict: Not bad, but nothing special.

Rao's, Caesar's Palace
Impossible to get a reservation in the original location in Harlem, so we were dying to see what all the fuss was about. My husband, who LOVES baked clams, really enjoyed the Vongole Oreganate (or clams oreganata). They were honestly the best baked clam dish I've ever tried. The Insalata della Casa was just a run-of-the-mill house salad.
For our entrees, we shared the Gnocchi (with a tomato/meat ragu) and the Orecchiette con Broccoli Rappe. Both were half decent, with the orecchiette having the slight edge over the gnocchi (which I expected to be more tender, especially if they are homemade). We also tried a side order of their famous meatballs. Two giant meatballs for $11. Good, but not great. The portions were so generous we didn't have room for dessert. The total damage was under $100 with tax and tip, but we didn't order any alchohol with our meal.
The Verdict: Good, but slightly disappointing due to high expectations. Would definitely go back for the vongole oreganata!

Payard Patisserie & Bistro, Caesar's Palace
The smell of chocolate wafts throughout Caesar's lobby from this charming patisserie. My husband followed his nose and couldn't turn away once he saw crepes on the menu. We ordered two crepes to share, a savory crepe filled with chicken and a creamy white sauce, served with a side salad of baby greens, and a 'smores crepe. Steamed vanilla milk for me and a hot chocolate for my husband rounded out our breakfast. The crepes were delicious and the total cost was fairly reasonable, around $20, thanks to our 2-for-1 crepe coupon courtesy of our hotel (we stayed at the Flamingo Hilton, which is owned by Harrah's, the same parent company of Caesar's. When you check-in, look for valuable coupons included with your check-in folder). Payard also has a formal dining room where you can eat breakfast or lunch, but we chose to enjoy our crepes at one of the casual to-go tables just outside the bistro.
The Verdict: Good chocolaty fun!

Pho at the TI Coffeehouse, Treasure Island Hotel
Casual Vietnamese food. Perfect when you are all buffeted out and are craving Asian food. The beef with broccoli is always my trusty go-to. Hubby digs the Vietnamese pork chop. Always delicious, and prices are low -six people for dinner rang up under $65! Service is a tad slow, but totally worth it for cheap eats.
The Verdict: Yummy in my tummy! (And money in my wallet)

My parents are huge fans of buffets, so we managed to try 3 different ones during this trip:

Flamingo Paradise Garden Buffet, Flamingo Hilton
We've stayed at the Flamingo at least 5 times, and never felt the need to try the buffet, after all, everyone knows that you should never eat at the Flamingo! But my mother couldn't pass up the chance to save $5, thanks to one of those check-in coupons. We showed up during the tail-end of breakfast (which meant that we could also indulge in lunchtime offerings at the lower breakfast price!). I was pleasantly surprised - their breakfast choices were extensive and when they switched over to lunch, mounds of fresh seafood suddenly appeared. I filled up on breakfast but I managed to find some room for lunch once I saw the offerings. The desserts were also impressive for a buffet. And you can't beat the scenery - we were seated by the window with a view of the flamingos and the koi pond. Not bad for around $10 per person (including the $5 off coupon).
The Verdict: Way better than I thought it would be!

Paris Le Village Buffet, Paris Hotel
A reliable buffet for breakfast; made-to-order omelettes and crepes, buttery croissants and pastries, and crab legs galore (after they've made the switch to brunch/lunch). The quality of food is always pretty good and the decor and service is pleasant. Cost per person was around $10 (after the $5 off coupon).
The Verdict: Always solid.

Harrah's Flavors Buffet, Harrah's
We're always forced to accompany my parents to this tired old buffet. My family inexplicably loves their (limited) buffet selection. I remember it being better in past years. I guess the name of the buffet is derived from the international "flavor" stations of Chinese and Mexican take-out. So have your fill of overcooked crab legs, enchiladas, and vegetable lo mein. The only redeeming quality - a big dessert section with cotton candy! Dinner was around $17 (after the $5 off coupon).
The Verdict: Go somewhere else, unless you really like lo mein.