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Las Vegas Restaurant Week 2010 Roundup: The Good, The Bad, The Half Naked

The 2010 edition of Las Vegas’ Restaurant Week has come and gone and what a week it was!  I love Restaurant Week. I love it very much.  After a week of eating some delicious food, my wallet got a hell of a lot lighter and just when I thought it wasn’t possible, somehow I got fatter, but it was for a great cause; my insatiable gluttony…oh…umm…I mean…charity. Yeah, charity.

A Great Way To Start Off Restaurant Week

A Great Way To Start Off Restaurant Week

I wasn’t quite sure how I was going to handle this post. Should I give everyone a free pass because it all benefits the amazing cause that is Three Square, or do I let everybody have it with my typical vicious hyperbole?  I’ve chosen the option that no one is safe, because while Three Square does benefit quite a bit, the restaurants obviously use Restaurant Week as a big promotional period encouraging people to test their wares.

The Wife and I’s Restaurant Week started off with an invitation to the ‘Wet Your Appetite’ event at the MGM Grand’s Wet Republic.  In case you missed it, I already wrote about that here, so I won’t bore with a second telling.  Tuesday was jam packed with events with the Shuck N’ Swallow competition at First Food and Bar, The Wife and I gave Dos Caminos’ RW menu a shot and then I was invited to the Tease In The Kitchen event at L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon by the fine folks at MGM that night.

Best Presentation of the Week! Pool of Oysters at First Food and Bar

Best Presentation of the Week! Pool of Oysters at First Food and Bar

Because All Events Should Have Professional Cheerleaders

Because All Events Should Have Professional Cheerleaders

I don’t know if the Shuck N’ Swallow competition was officially part of Restaurant Week, but they talked about it quite a bit there so I’ll talk about it here.  I know I’m biased to the crew at First Food and Bar, but I don’t think there is any joint in town that knows how to throw a party like the First crew.  To say the Shuck N’ Swallow was a spectacle is an understatement.  Teams from B & B Ristorante, Carnevino, Mastro’s Ocean Club, Mon Ami Gabi, Tenaya Creek Brewing Company, Wynn Country Club, Gallagher’s and House of Blues were on hand with one shucker and one swallower of oysters provided by Santa Monica Seafood.

Unidentified Babe with Defending Champs Rob Ryan and Jake Mual of First Food and Bar

Unidentified Babe with Defending Champs Rob Ryan and Jake Mual of First Food and Bar

Rob Waiting for a Quick Shuck from Jake

Rob Waiting for a Quick Shuck from Jake

Rob Swallows.

Rob Swallows.

The defending champions of last year’s event Chef Jake Mual (shucker) and Chef Rob Ryan (swallower) from the home turf First Food and Bar were focused and ready to rumble.  Rob had his iPod earbuds in, listening to whatever music gets a guy pumped up to swallow and Jake was prepared with two blades to make the oysters open up like a drunk prom date.  However, a repeat was spoiled by newcomers on the scene, Justin and Lalo from Mastro’s Ocean Club at the Crystals with 117 oysters shucked and swallowed in (I think) 10 minutes.  The home team of Jake and Rob came in 2nd with a respectable 90.

2010 First Food and Bar Shuck N' Swallow Champs: Lalo and Justin from Mastro's Ocean Club

2010 First Food and Bar Shuck N' Swallow Champs: Lalo and Justin from Mastro's Ocean Club

With the smell of the sea and stomach fluids filling the air from the fiery competition, The Wife and I decided to head downstairs to Dos Caminos to check out their Restaurant Week menu.  I’ve gone on record to say that Dos Caminos is the most underrated Mexican restaurant in town, and I will continue to do so.  It gets little to no respect, a real shame because they make mostly good food there.

Corn Chowder with Huitlacoche Crema and Alaskan King Crab from Dos Camino

Corn Chowder with Huitlacoche Crema and Alaskan King Crab from Dos Camino

I started off with the Corn Chowder with Huitlacoche Crema and Alaskan King Crab.  The flavor was spot on and the texture as thick and silky as a chowder gets.  The only drawback was a bit of the crab’s cartilage snuck in the lump in the center of the bowl.  The truffled huitlacoche (corn fungus) puree ring provided an extra dimension in the flavor that made me lick the bottom of the bowl.

Vegetable Clayuda Flatbread from Dos Caminos

Vegetable Clayuda Flatbread from Dos Caminos

The Wife started off with the Vegetable Clayuda Flatbread, which was light and gave the essence of a healthy bite.  Clayuda (also spelled Tlayuda) is a Oaxacan large tortilla that’s partially fried for crispiness.  I don’t understand the pronunciations or the spellings…I just eat the food.  It was good.

Niman Ranch Pork Shank from Dos Caminos

Niman Ranch Pork Shank from Dos Caminos

Fabulous Lobster Chile Relleno from Dos Caminos

Fabulous Lobster Chile Relleno from Dos Caminos

For entrees I went with the Niman Ranch (psst…it’s spelled Niman, not Nyman, Dos Caminos) Pork Shank and The Wife rolled with a Lobster Chile Relleno.  The Pork Shank was hit and miss, with much of it inedible due to an impossible-to-chew outer bark from the roasting.  I almost thought that there was a little overcooked chicharrones business going on, but I’m not sure.  However, I can’t bitch too much as there was plenty of tasty edible meat on the plate that made me plenty stuffed.  Was the hard skin / bark not meant to be eaten? I don’t know.

The Wife’s Chile Relleno was a home run. The Poblano pepper was masterfully roasted to the point where it sweetened up just right to compliment the lobster / corn / cheese / rice and other goodness mixture.  I wish I ordered what she got, as is usually the case.

Tease in the Kitchen Event at L'Atelier de Joël Robuchon

Tease in the Kitchen Event at L'Atelier de Joël Robuchon

Later that night it was time for hot chicks to shake their goods and disrobe before my eyes as I got to drink a non-stop pour of bubbles and eat Joël Robuchon quality food at L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon at the MGM Grand.  Did you get all that? I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again…but starting this blog is the second best fucking thing I’ve ever done in my life.  (First of course was marrying The Wife. Duh.) When I was invited to this one, I couldn’t say yes fast enough.  Upon arrival there was a live burlesque-style band greeting us along with waitrons holding trays of adult grape juice.  I met up with fellow local restaurant writers Al Mancini and Jim Begley (you can follow Jim on Twitter at @splurgemonkey and Al still needs a little convincing to play with us on Twitter) and we parked at a spot at the bar where a flurry of small plates were passed and the bubbles continually flowed like cocaine out of Paris Hilton’s purse.

Joël Robuchon Sommelier, Harley Carbery. He kept his clothes on.

Joël Robuchon Sommelier, Harley Carbery. He kept his clothes on.

Joël Robuchon and L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon’s Sommelier, Harley Carbery, was on hand pouring J-Ro’s hand-picked house champagne, Bruno Paillard, and life was good. Very good.  As many of you know, I am famously wine stupid and of course this stupidity pours over to champagne.  It kicked Korbel’s ass, and that’s about all I know.  I need Harley to help me out and beat some wine ignorance out of me.

Really Fucking Delicious Ham at L'Atelier de Joël Robuchon. (yes, certified R.F.D. by yours truly)

Really Fucking Delicious Ham at L'Atelier de Joël Robuchon. (yes, certified R.F.D. by yours truly)

The food that was passed around was nothing short of extraordinary.  Simple food with such sophistication and technical perfection, it was a true food lover’s wet dream. First was a simple bruschetta with (I think) jamón ibérico.  I don’t know if it was the Jamón Ibérico de Bellota, often regarded as the greatest ham on Earth where the pigs are free range, feasting on acorns on the forest floor making them extra tasty. It was some of the best ham I’ve ever put in my mouth. The leg was visible in the kitchen area, but I was too busy looking at the other legs on display in the room to see the signature black hoof of the “pata negra.”

Very Athletic.

Very Athletic.

Le Langoustine from L'Atelier de Joël Robuchon

Le Langoustine from L'Atelier de Joël Robuchon

Another revelation on how perfect execution elevates premium ingredients to another plane of existence was the Langoustines wrapped in (I think) a rice wrapper.  A solitary basil leaf laid across the langoustine provided the perfect amount of herb flavor for which basil is known.  It was extraordinary.  So simple, yet so profound.  In case you haven’t noticed from my ramblings over these last 9 months, execution more than anything else is the thing that gets me off and this langoustine dish put on a clinic.  Pass the tissues.

Slider With Foie Gras from L'Atelier de Joël Robuchon

Slider With Foie Gras from L'Atelier de Joël Robuchon

Just when I didn’t think life could get better, it did, and placed before me was the best slider I’ve ever eaten in my life.  A perfect bun, a perfect medium rare of a perfectly seasoned beef patty with a nugget of foie gras on top to finish you off.  I’m not a religious man by any stretch of the word, but this made me see Jesus, Mary AND Joseph!

Yay! She must have liked the slider too!

Yay! She must have liked the slider too!

Meat and Potatoes, J-Ro Style

Meat and Potatoes, J-Ro Style

The moment I was anticipating the most of this event came with the next round, and that was some braised meat that I didn’t really give a shit about (was it Beef Short rib? I can’t even remember) but it was the pommes purée.  Of all the shit J-Ro has accomplished in his life, what he is probably most famous for is his mashed potatoes. No shit.  Unfortunately, these mashed potatoes were mixed with some cracked peppercorns that totally wrecked them for me.  At least I think they were cracked peppercorns…they didn’t knock me out with flavor, it was a texture thing.  It was like gravel in silk.  Oh well, by that time I was flying high from the bubbles and the rapidly shaken ass right in front of me (no not Jim, I’m talking about the stripper).

(TLV UPDATE: I was told on good authority that those were not flavorless peppercorns in the pommes purée, but flavorless, dried out, shitty black truffles that provided the gravel-y texture. Either way, it was a bad move.)

For Charity.

For Charity.

I had to take the next day off.  The first two days of Restaurant Week wore me out.

Crab Salad from Eiffel Tower Restaurant

Crab Salad from Eiffel Tower Restaurant

Not The Best Gougeres from Eiffel Tower Restaurant

Not The Best Gougeres from Eiffel Tower Restaurant

The next Restaurant Week related thing I did was the now famous-around-the-world-lunch I had at the Eiffel Tower Restaurant in the Paris hotel.  While I’ve already spoken about ‘The Bottled Iced Tea Incident,’ I haven’t talked much about the food, which wasn’t much to talk about.  First course was a cold crab salad that was woefully one-note flavorally for a restaurant that claims to be at the caliber the Eiffel Tower claims that it’s at.  Maybe L’Atelier was the worst place I could have gone before the Eiffel Tower…I don’t know..but I wasn’t impressed.  The gougères (Frenchy Cheesy Buns) that were brought to the table were poorly baked being dried out in the outer perimeter and with minimal gooey inside.

Veal Medallion with Not-Washed-Enough Mushrooms from the Eiffel Tower Restaurant

Veal Medallion with Not-Washed-Enough Mushrooms from the Eiffel Tower Restaurant

At Least There Was A Very Fine Creme Brulee from Eiffel Tower Restaurant

At Least There Was A Very Fine Creme Brulee from Eiffel Tower Restaurant

The main course was marred with gritty mushrooms.  The veal medallion cut in half horizontally wasn’t much to talk about.  It wasn’t terrible, it wasn’t great, it just was.  The saving dish of the whole $30.10 three course meal was the finishing Creme Brulee.  It was fabulous. Strong vanilla flavor and a lovely silky texture.  This was my first time at the Eiffel Tower Restaurant.  I’m not going to say that it will be my last, but I’m certainly not in a big rush to go back.

Next on my Restaurant Week extravaganza was dinner at Sensi at the Bellagio.  What a pimp I was, I got to dine with both The Wife and Julia of VegasChatter.com fame!  However, the biggest pimp in the room was the lobster in the tank ravaging another lobster out in the open for all to see.  Behold…

Live Lobster Porn at Sensi

Live Lobster Porn at Sensi

Amazing Thai Coconut Soup from Sensi

Amazing Thai Coconut Soup from Sensi

Fornicating lobsters aside, the food was fabulous as expected. I started off my $50.10 three course with the Thai Coconut Soup.  Served in a coconut bowl, the soup was expertly layered with so many flavors that every spoonful made me notice something new in the complex love. Coconut milk, lemongrass, Kaffir Lime and a whole host of spices that is boss man Chef Martin Heierling’s signature, this soup was damn good.  A few shrimp, some mushroom and some boba (tapioca pearls) were also there for some flavor and texture.  Take away the boba, which is a textural nightmare for me, and this was a perfect bowl of soup.

Tandoori Butter Chicken from Sensi

Tandoori Butter Chicken from Sensi

Next course at Sensi I threw down with the Tandoori Butter Chicken.  Apparently there was a fire sale on coconut bowls as this was the second presentation of a dish in a coconut bowl of the night. It was cute the first time and I thought cheesy the second pass.  However, I quickly no longer gave a shit about what it came in after I tasted it.  Chicken that tasted like chicken and in a curry so deep, yet refined that it made me cry out love for all the people of India.  I’m still thinking about this dish.  I’m haunted by one of the flavors layered in there, I think it was either fennel or fennel pollen…but whatever it was made this version of a Northern Indian Greatest Hit truly stand out among the crowd.

Chocolate Sensation from Sensi

Chocolate Sensation from Sensi

Tapioca Pudding from Sensi

Tapioca Pudding from Sensi

Dessert for me was what they call Chocolate Temptation.  It was a very light chocolate cookie (think fancy Oreo kind of crust) with I think some kind of chocolate mousse and dipped in milk chocolate like a candy bar.  I don’t really remember a whole bunch about it because I think I blacked out as I scarfed it down.  One thing I remember however is that the Salted Caramel Ice Cream that came with it was just one pinch of salt too much from being one of the best ice creams I’ve ever had. The Wife ordered the Tapioca Pudding for her dessert course.  I usually run away from tapioca pudding, but The Wife insisted I taste it and I’m glad I did.  Blissfully packed with good vanilla, this was the only tapioca pudding I’ve eaten in my life that I liked.  I guess they weren’t joking when they bill it on the menu as “The Greatest”

Mixed Organic Greens from Fleur de Lys

Mixed Organic Greens from Fleur de Lys

The next day I found myself at Fleur de Lys, a week before its closes (it closes on September 11) and transitions into the fine dining / tapas hybrid that’s scheduled to open on December 16th.  They had a very attractive looking $30.10 menu so I opted for that.  One of the few things that bugs me about Fleur de Lys is that just about every time I’ve had a salad there, it has always been too salty, and this was no exception.  It was a mix of organic greens with a very light vinaigrette.  The best part of the salad were the Polenta Croutons (they were underneath the greens).  I noticed that the crouton with the greens balanced the salt nicely.  If that was the intention then there needed to be more croutons.

Outstanding Stout Braised Short Ribs from Fleur de Lys

Outstanding Stout Braised Short Ribs from Fleur de Lys

The main course was the best dish I’ve ever had at Fleur de Lys and I’ve had many great dishes there; a Guinness braised Short Rib.  It was excellent with the richness of the braising liquid and fatty beef being perfectly balanced by a thin layer of whole grain mustard smeared across the top of the meat.  This dish really knocked it out of the park for me, and that is something because I usually don’t like short ribs.

On Sunday, Restaurant Week drew to a close and my final meal was at Aureole, another place with an attractive $30.10 menu.   I said this already on Twitter and Facebook, but eating at Aureole for me is like golfing; much of it is miserable, but you keep coming back for that one solid hit.  Now mind you I am in a very small minority when I say I don’t care for Aureole (the restaurant, I still love titties) very much.  They have interesting food, but in the few times I’ve been there I’ve always found something on the plate that was poorly done and something on the plate that was out of this world.  It’s too hit or miss for me for the money.  But that’s just me.

Chilled Melon Soup at Aureole

Chilled Melon Soup at Aureole

The $30.10 Restaurant Week Menu at Aureole was much of the same.  It started off with a Chilled Melon Soup and a midget’s take on a croque-monsieur.  The Chilled Melon Soup was refreshing, but disappointingly one-note…ok…technically two-note with it just tasting of good cantaloupe and some kind of booze.  If the chilled soup was in a champagne flute I would have proclaimed genius, but presented as a soup…it just wasn’t a “soup.”  The accompanying croque-monsieur (Frenchy Hot Ham & Cheese) was quite good.  I wish they flip flopped the portion size of the components of the dish, more sandwich, less melon booze soup.

A disastrous picture of Rainbow Trout Grenobloise from Aureole

A disastrous picture of Rainbow Trout Grenobloise from Aureole

Next was a Rainbow Trout Grenobloise, which means a gay fish that is lightly dusted in flour, pan fried in butter and served with capers, lemon and croutons crumbled on top.  Of course I’m kidding about the sexual orientation of the Rainbow Trout (I didn’t talk with it before it died), but it did look fabulous…that’s all I’m saying.  Unfortunately looks were deceiving to a certain degree, with about a 1/3 of the filet having some major fish funk to it.  I don’t know if some dark meat (is there dark meat in Rainbow Trout?) slipped in there or if there is something off kilter with the storage process after butchering, but about a 1/3 of it was funky.  The rest of it was splendid and fresh, and one bite with a stray tomato was eyes-rolling-in-the-back-of-my-head good.  However, another knock on the dish was the accompanying radicchio that was impervious to all cutlery provided.  How could so much brilliance and so much awful be on the same plate?  I don’t get it.

The three course $30.10 meal at Aureole was finished off with a bombe of Hazelnut inside, chocolate outside and it was tasty. The picture of the bombe was even worse than the trout (if you could imagine), so I won’t even bother to put it up.  I was glad to see a good end to a meal with mood swings further apart than a bi-polar Italian chick on the rag.  And thus, with this meal coming to a close, my 2010 Restaurant Week has also come to a close.  By my rough count, our meals this week gave Three Square $36, which means 108 meals to people in need.  That makes me feel special.

It also puts things in perspective.  Here I am bitching about two presentations using coconut bowl in the same meal, bread that was a bit dry and cabbage that was tough to cut. Meanwhile, there are thousands of people in Southern Nevada alone that will go to sleep hungry tonight because they haven’t eaten in a few days.  I don’t think they would bitch about not enough croutons to balance out a salad.  I, for one, have come away from this week much more thankful.   Of course I’m still going to publicly bitch about relatively trivial things, but I’ll certainly be much more thankful that I have the opportunity to do so.  Good times were had during Las Vegas’ Restaurant Week 2010…I’m already looking forward to 2011!

—–
Mike Dobranski is a professional musician, amateur blogger, eater of good food, poker junkie, master of the inappropriate comment and bad husband to a wonderful wife.

Follow Mike and Tasting Las Vegas on Twitter at @TastingLasVegas

The crunch is on! You can vote everyday from now through 09/30/10!  Thanks!

The crunch is on! You can vote everyday from now through 09/30/10! Thanks!

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3 comments to Las Vegas Restaurant Week 2010 Roundup: The Good, The Bad, The Half Naked

  • Restaurant week is the most glorious week of the year. As much as I wish it lasted longer, my wallet and waistline prefer otherwise. My husband and I did seven dinners in seven days, only Dos Caminos was a match with your selections. I also had the lobster relleno it was the highlight of our meal there, very delicious. Time to save my pennies and countdown the days until next year.

    Your feelings on Aureole is how I felt about Fleur de Lys, we went all out with the chef’s tasting menu and wine pairing, only to be left terribly underwhelmed. Our experience at Aureole (also a chef’s tasting) exceeded it greatly.

  • Wow! Impressive to hit up seven places! Where else did you go? What did you think?

  • We had excellent meals at Michael Mina, Circo and Sage. Good meals at Dos Caminos and Mesa Grill. Vintner Grill fell short, as did RM Seafood.

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