|Cos salad at Bouchon|
Bouchon is the latest offering from Thomas Keller but offers a more moderately priced eating experience than Per Se in a French bistro setting. The restaurant transports diners straight to Paris (despite being located in the Venetian) with soaring ceiling, brasserie style seating, intricate mosaic floors and huge smoky mirrors. We ate there at lunch time which I would not recommend as the menu is limited to a few sandwiches and salads. That said, the salads were excellent in particular the quarter of crisp, iceberg lettuce scattered with bacon pieces, walnuts and blue cheese and drizzled with a creamy dressing ($12.75). A goats cheese salad with mixed greens and a red wine viniagerette ($11) was also good but a lot plainer and with less ingredients. I also enjoyed the frites ($7) which came served in a paper cone and were thin with a satisfying crunch to them which almost justified their high price. For the full Bouchon experience however, brunch (only available on the weekends) or dinner are better options.
|Frites at Bouchon|
Details: Bouchon at the Venetian, 3355 Las Vegas Blvd S,Las Vegas, NV 89109, America (Ph 702 414 6200)
The best meal I had in Vegas was off the strip in a tiny Japanese restaurant in the Chinatown district thanks to a tip from the lovely Catty. The $15 cab ride to get to Raku was well worth it to experience great Japanese cooking in an intimate izakaya style venue. Small plates from Raku’s robata grill were the highlight particularly the kobe beef skewers ($3.50) with a hint of fiery wasabi sauce and the salmon with ikura orashi ($6) sauce. A huge shout out as well for the silky smooth home made tofu ($10) in a rich sensationally flavoursome broth. It was the sort of dish which completely changed the way I thought about tofu – revelatory cooking.
It couldn’t all be brilliant of course. The grilled pigs cheeks ($3) were chewy rather than tender and the green soba noodles with a poached egg ($8.50) were disappointingly claggy. I was also very worried to see endangered blue fin tuna listed as an option for a sashimi special and probably wouldn’t have eaten there if I had known this was the case. If Raku has tightened up its environmental sensitivity, the food there is fantastic and a great opportunity to escape the general casino and hotel dining in Vegas.
|Sashimi at Raku|
Details: Raku, 5030 Spring Mountain Rd #2, Las Vegas, NV 89146, America (Ph 702 368 3511)
Jean Philippe Patisserie
This tiny patisserie located in the Bellagio complex has the largest chocolate fountain in the world just proving that everything is bigger in Vegas. It flows above the roof of the patisserie combining milk, white and dark chocolate in Willy Wonkaesque creation. Besides the chocolates the attraction here is the crepes which are cooked to order by an expert team at the front of the patisserie. There are a host of savoury and sweet fillings but I was satisfied with the simple but traditional lemon and sugar combination ($4.50). It was delicate and a satisfying combinations of both tart and sweet.
|Lemon and sugar crepe at Jean Philippe|
Details: Jean Phillipe Patisserie, 3600 Las Vegas Blvd, Spa Tower, Bellagio, Las Vegas, United States (Ph 792 693 711)
Damage: Such a bargain my mother would approve
B and B Ristorante
I had big hopes for B and B Ristorante so organised a group of 14 friends to have dinner there on our last night in Las Vegas. The restaurant is headed by Mario Batali and promised an eccentric take on Italian food. Prices were steep and while signature dishes such as calamari with bortolotti beans or the beef cheek ravioli ($26) were well executed they lacked flair and impact. The best dish was the rib eye for two which was served on the bone and then carved up into two portions. The serving size was huge and the meat had a fantastic smoky charred flavour to it. The wine list was a mainly European weighty document but the sommelier guided us towards a lovely buttery bottle of Trebbiana. Our meal was fine but the restaurant felt overly calculated and over priced.
Details: B and B Ristorante, 3355 Las Vegas Blvd, Venetian, Las Vegas, United States (Ph 266 9977)
Damage: Budget breaking. Our bill came to $100 a head without dessert and with limited drinks.
Verandah (Four Seasons Brunch)
Vegas is known for its all you can eat brunches and after investigating a few I decided on The Four Seasons which offers a $35 brunch on the weekends. The offerings are more limited than some of the $100 brunches which include lobster and free flowing champagne but all the regular brunch staples were included such as pastries, granola, eggs benedict, french toast, scrambled eggs, bagels and even a donut station where tiny donuts were freshly made. It was pretty good value for $35 and was all served in a lovely setting on the verandah at the hotel, overlooking the pool with typically polished Four Seasons style service.
|All you can eat eggs benedict at brunch at the Four Seasons|
Essentials Details: Verandah, The Four Seasons, 3960 Las Vegas Blvd S, Las Vegas, NV 89119 America (Ph 702 632 7777)
Gourmet Travel Tips
We stayed at the Mandalay Bay Hotel which is an absolute behemouth of a hotel at the south end of the strip. Our room was pretty luxurious although a bit dated. It had a huge king size bed, two flat screen televisions (including one you could watch from the bath) and lovely Gilchrist & Soames toiletries. This was all particularly welcome after five nights in an RV. However the hotel felt very impersonal due to its huge size and was packed with children who caused huge congestion problems at the lifts with waits of sometimes up to 15 minutes to get a lift. If you have a family it is probably a good option particularly thanks to the excellent pool complex which includes a wave pool, but if you don’t a stay at the Mandalay Bay is perhaps the best contraception you can have for a while.
|Our room at the Mandalay Bay|
Details: Mandalay Bay, 3950 Las Vegas Blvd S, Las Vegas, Nevada 89119, America (Ph 702 632 7777)
Damage: Pricey. Room rates vary according to the date and when you book, like airline flights. During our five night stay the price of our room ranged from $85 a night to $180. A sneaky $18 a day “resort fee” was also charged each day on top of the room rate for pool, gym and wifi access. Breakfast was not included.
- In Vegas obviously a bit of gambling and some late nights are in order. We particularly enjoyed the fountain show at the Bellagio (hourly at night time), the dueling pianists at New York, New York, and shopping at the outlets and the Venetian.
- We flew to the USA with United Airlines and the flight from London to Los Angeles and then back from Las Vegas to London was £600 return.
If you liked reading this you might be interested in my post on our road trip to get to Vegas from LA via Coachella and the Grand Canyon or for a review of some American style food in London try the Big Easy.