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#1
Posted January 21st 2009, 8:01pm
Hello LTHers!

I am going to be in LV for our 10th anniversary... (the location was predetermined due to a business trip) but, I figure, since we are both going to be there, why not have a celebratory meal to mark the occasion.

I've done some searches on the site, and most threads focus on late night or affordable dining.

What I'm hoping for are some up to date recommendations for a great, special occasion meal. We eat pretty much any style of food, and I am hoping for some nice, romantic ambiance. Price isn't really an issue.

thanks in advance!
Bryan
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#2
Posted January 21st 2009, 8:42pm
If price is no issue, I would highly highly recommend Guy Savoy in Caesars Palace. One of the best high end meals I've ever had. It's insanely over the top expensive, but hey, welcome to the Strip.
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I've started blogging about the Stuff I Eat
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#3
Posted January 21st 2009, 9:20pm
seems to have spotty reviews on Citysearch...

Whats the atmosphere like? Any restaurants you can compare it to?

thanks for the recco!

Bryan
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#4
Posted January 21st 2009, 11:36pm
Probably not much to compare the atmosphere to here in Chicago. Maybe Per Se would be the best comparison (but with lower lighting). A very nice, warm dining room with some outside seating if you'd like a change of venue for an after dinner drink.

I'm not sure what issues people have had with the restaurant. I found it damn near flawless when I went.
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I've started blogging about the Stuff I Eat
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#5
Posted January 22nd 2009, 11:01am
http://www.mgmgrand.com/dining/joel-rob ... aurant.com
Joel Robuchon
The fancier restaurant is At the Mansion. I ate at Atelier and it was very good, I wrote a small blurb on here somewhere.

I have a reso Valentine's Day at Bouchon. I wanted to try a Thomas Keller resto this time.
http://tkrg.org/
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#6
Posted January 22nd 2009, 11:24am
nicinchic wrote:http://www.mgmgrand.com/dining/joel-robuchon-french-restaurant.com
Joel Robuchon
The fancier restaurant is At the Mansion. I ate at Atelier and it was very good, I wrote a small blurb on here somewhere.

I have a reso Valentine's Day at Bouchon. I wanted to try a Thomas Keller resto this time.
http://tkrg.org/
If it were my tenth anniversary, I'd be really tempted by fancier of the two Robuchon spots. We immensely enjoyed L'Atelier in Paris (before there were domestic outposts) and would jump at the opportunity to try his other restaurant.

Bouchon, a few years back, was outstanding, and a great option for Valentine's. But, it really is a bistro. It didn't feel super-upscale because it isn't supposed to be.

RAB ate at Il Mulino in Vegas a few weeks ago. If he weren't in the car driving back from Pittsburgh, I'm sure he'd tell you to stay far away. He experienced incredibly rude, pretentious service, and food that didn't come close to justifying the exorbitant prices.

Congrats on your anniversary, Bryan!

Ronna
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#7
Posted January 22nd 2009, 11:26am
We did a blow out dinner at Robuchon at the Mansion while in Vegas this past fall. If price is not an issue, I'd suggest the Mansion. It's pretty over-the-top. Two words: bread cart. There are pictures on the web of people's meals there.
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#8
Posted January 22nd 2009, 11:48am
We decided on Robuchon at the Mansion.

I will certainly report back (our anniversary is feb 15)

Thanks for all the ideas fellow foodies!

Bryan
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#9
Posted January 22nd 2009, 11:59am
Bryan- I think that's an excellent choice! Please do post back. Happy Anniversary!!
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#10
Posted January 22nd 2009, 8:22pm
I was in Vegas a little over two months ago, and the only semi-fancy meal I had was at L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon. I came away mildly disappointed, but please don't interpret this as a commentary on Robuchon at the Mansion (which I hear is terrific) or on other L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon locations (Vegas was the only one I tried). Here's my Chowhound post on the meal:

Sadly, L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon was just not what I expected it to be. Good? Yes, but not much more. Let me start by saying I love the decor . . . sharp, sharp, sharp! And getting to sit at the bar and watch the kitchen work was pure entertainment.

As for flavors, the meal (discovery tasting menu - $148 - for me, a la carte for my companion) started on a good note. A foie gras parfait with port wine and parmesan foam was pure delight. This gave me high hopes.

The next course, a langoustine carpaccio with a roasted poppy seed dressing simply lacked imagination. The fish was nice, but the dish just seemed to lack imagination or special flavor. On the other hand, my companion's fresh anchovies with eggplant confit and what I believe was a basil pesto was stunning on the both the plate and the palate. This was perfection.

My next course, quail egg on confit peppers supposedly contained Iberico ham, but the ham was not noticeable. Worse, the flavors and textures were not memorable in any respect.

The meal followed with poached oysters, creamy pumpkin soup with chestnuts, sea bass on baby leek salad . . . all of which were fine (the pumpkin soup the best of the bunch), but all of which did not showcase the talent I expected to find in the kitchen.

But then came the quail stuffed with foie gras, served with truffle mashed potatoes. The quail was beautiful - perfectly cooked, wonderful flavors. The mashed potatoes here were beautifully rich and buttery, but did not deliver as much of the truffle flavor as I hoped for.

My companion had the burger with foie gras which was very nice, but unreasonably priced at $32. An equally good, if not better, version can be found in Chicago at Sweets & Savories for $17. The real problem with the dish were the crinkle fries which were no better than what you'd find in an Ore-Ida bag. Oh well . . . but don't get me wrong. The burger itself was cooked perfectly and the foie gras addition was great.

Desserts were also ok, nothing special. The dessert called Pomme tasted less of apple and more of the lemon creme brulee which overwhelmed the apple flavors.

Service was relaxed, excellent and friendly. The only negative was the cold hostess who took several minutes to even appear, and saw no issue with telling you to wander the casino for a while since your reserved table was not yet ready. But other than her, service was outstanding.

So overall, I'd say L'Atelier was a good meal, but greatly disappointing in terms of my expectations. I actually preferred what I was served at Shibuya. I just found that L'Atelier did not really do anything texturally with the food to excite me, and the flavors did not show off what I assume (maybe incorrectly) was a lot of skill in the kitchen.


My favorite meal of the trip - which included a visit to Bouchon (good, not great), Enocteca San Marco (good; better than expected) - was Shibuya. Here's what I posted about the meal:

Shibuya was dinner #2, and it was both outstanding and disappointing at the same time. Let me start with the decor. Sharp! Modern, striking, beautiful wood decor, black floors, sexy lighting (ok, the tables look cheap, but no big deal). But how about the food?

Well, a starter of yellowtail with shichimi pepper, yuzu juice and a garlic-ginger soy offered a beautiful piece of fish with a delightful combination of salty sweet soy and a little salty & sweet pepper and yuzu. Even better was the whitefish with a miso yuzu emulsion, bits of crunchy rice and black Hawaiian salt. Again, a beautiful piece of fish served at room temperature, a perfect balance of salty-sweet, and the textural contrast offered by the crunch rice finished this dish perfectly.

My lobster miso soup was also very tasty. There were maybe a handful of chunks of lobster in the soup, and while the miso soup was not the best vessel in my opinion for the lobster, the soup was still very nice.

Easily the best part of the night was the Kurobuta pork.crisp which was six pieces of braised pork, each chunk inside of a spring roll skin, deep fried (presumably) and open on the ends (thus served maki-style), topped with a perfectly seared tofu, a nihon glaze (seemed like a soy sauce glaze variation) and also served what I assume was a sriracha sauce. I can hardly describe just how good this dish was. But if you are as big a fan of pork as I am (especially Kurobuta, but also bacon, belly, spare ribs, you name it), you owe it to yourself to try this dish . . . maybe the best pork dish I have ever tried.

From the sound of my review, you'd think I loved this place. Well, not completely. We also ordered a dragon roll and a rainbow roll. These were downright disappointing . . . fish not all that well cut, rice not holding together, and the flavors were just not that impressive. This is the kind of maki people "settle for" when they want a cheap night out. When I told the waiter how we thought everything was very impressive except for the maki, he agreed that maki is not their strong point. Why didn't he tell us this when we were ordering. Oh well. I'm guessing whatever issues they have with maki don't necessarily affect nigiri since my two cold starters offered excellent pieces of fish, but I don't know for sure.

But with the exception of the maki, my meal at Shibuya was stellar and I'd be excited to return and try more items (and another order of the pork). Just avoid the maki.


Another poster on Chowhound, Uhockey, posted some very nice and detailed reviews concerning such restaurants as Le Cirque, Mix and Alex (reviewed on his blog). Here's a link to his Chowhound review which includes a link to his blog: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/560803.
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#11
Posted January 23rd 2009, 10:39am
I think it's unfair to compare prices in LV to those in Chicago- everything except buffets are more expensive in LV. Even wine markup is more.
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is making all his reservations under the name Steve Plotnicki from now on.
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#12
Posted January 23rd 2009, 10:51am
I would like to make a suggestion that it a bit off the beaten track.
The last time we were in Vegas the best, most romantic dinner (and it was OUR anniversary also) we had was in Hugo's Cellar in the 4 Queens Casino on Fremont St.

Here's the review I wrote on Trip Advisor at the time (when my memory was fresh LOL):
“4 stars for the 4 Queens” Sep 20, 2006
All I can say is WOW! This was absolutely the best dinner we had in Vegas! Hugo’s is really old school Vegas and they make you feel very special. As we entered the two ladies in the group were each presented with a beautiful long-stemmed red rose, and waiting on the table was a bud vase, so they wouldn’t get wilted during dinner.
We decided to skip the appetizers, since the main courses sounded so great and none of us are the type to eat huge quantities of food. Also at Hugo’s everything is included in the price of the dinner, there are no ala carte add-ons (except appetizers & coffee, & if you want extra desserts) We had a bottle of Steele Pinot Noir, recommended by the sommelier, and it was very nice. Hugo’s starts you off with their amazing made to order salad cart, they dress your greens, top them with your choice of like 21 different things, including shrimp, and then more dressing-YUM. Then there was a very cute intermezzo of raspberry sorbet in the tiniest cone I’ve ever seen.
We each had different entrees. I had Tournedos Hugo which were two huge tenderloins topped with fois gras, artichoke and béarnaise- cooked perfectly!. Hubby had Indonesian spice crusted rack of lamb, also delish!. Our friends hubby had one of the largest and yummiest pieces of prime rib ever, and she had a flaming Duck preparation that was awesome.
After we had done the best we could with the generous entrees, out rolled the desserts. First, as it was our anniversary we were presented with a beautiful little chocolate mousse cake, on a plate where they had written Congratulations in chocolate, and painted two roses with chocolate and raspberry sauces. Then there was also a platter of chocolate dipped fruits, figs, apricots, strawberries, and whipped cream to dip them in some more! I was so wowed! Our friends had the Kona coffee, which they make in this incredible science experiment type pot that I’ve never seen before. Overall it was a great great evening, and we felt wonderful at the end of it. It wasn’t even that expensive by Vegas standards, since everything is included.


I would definitely go back there the next time we are in Vegas, and the Hubs still talks about it, and he is not nearly the foodie that I am.
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"If you reject the food, ignore the customs, fear the religion and avoid the people, you might better stay home."
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#13
Posted January 23rd 2009, 11:04am
irisarbor wrote:and she had a flaming Duck preparation that was awesome.


I know where I'm going for dinner next time I'm in Vegas. Flaming Duck is burned in my mind! :wink:
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Steve Z.

"Why should I eat a carrot when I can eat pizza?" - Dan Janssen
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#14
Posted January 23rd 2009, 11:27am
I had two great experiences at Hugo's and one god awful experience, being last year. I will never return. It's a bit shabby anymore, I wouldn't want to go for an elegant anniversary.

Rosemary's is still the best meal I've had in Las Vegas, but it's not all that accesible. I think everyone that hits Vegas has different experiences. My L'Atelier experience was phenomenal. Joel happened to be in the kitchen and we could see everything that was going on, as we also sat at the bar looking into the kitchen. We had the tasting menu, and every morsel that came out was sublime.
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#15
Posted January 23rd 2009, 2:53pm
I think nicinchic makes an excellent point-

on the same trip as our Hugo's meal of wonder, we had such a dud of a meal at Bouchon, that I was embarrassed to say it was me who wanted to eat there- every morsel of food that came out of the kitchen was completely oversalted to the point of near inedibility- however the appetizer seafood tower, which was mostly raw- was pristine and icy and perfect...

We also had fabulous appretizers at the Hiltons upscale Italian restaurant ?Andiamo?
it made me so sad we had tix and couldn't stay for dinner they were so good and service so lovely...it was an unexpected gem, given the setting...
like across from the Star Trek experience or something-go figure

Vegas- gotta take it with a grain (not a cup ) of salt (groan)
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"If you reject the food, ignore the customs, fear the religion and avoid the people, you might better stay home."
~James Michener
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#16
Posted February 10th 2009, 4:44am
If you like Japanese-influenced eclectic cuisine, you might consider Bar Charlie.
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#17
Posted February 10th 2009, 2:14pm
Since we decide to spend a lot of special occasions in Vegas, we've done this a fair amount. BUT...like jpschust says, prices are decidedly higher than Chicago for equal quality, thus we like to watch our pennies a little.

The one time we totally splurged was for wife's 50th B-Day at (now closed) Commander's Palace, which was one of the best meals I've ever encountered. Last July for my daughter's 21st B-Day, we hit Craftsteak at the MGM for their $60 'summer tasting menu' with a $30 wine flight, and that was very, very good food at a great value. (I posted about it previously.) In fact, we'll be in Vegas next week & plan to do their non-publicized 'winter tasting menu' for the same price.

FYI, we've had 3 out of 3 great meals at Hugo's Cellar, much more 'old Vegas' but that's not bad...
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#18
Posted February 14th 2009, 12:33pm
jpschust wrote:I think it's unfair to compare prices in LV to those in Chicago- everything except buffets are more expensive in LV. Even wine markup is more.


On the Strip, you will pay a 20-25% premium over Chicago for similar food.

Off the Strip, prices are VERY similar.
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#19
Posted February 21st 2009, 9:03am
jlawrence01 wrote:
jpschust wrote:I think it's unfair to compare prices in LV to those in Chicago- everything except buffets are more expensive in LV. Even wine markup is more.


On the Strip, you will pay a 20-25% premium over Chicago for similar food.

Off the Strip, prices are VERY similar.
Correct, but for most travelers to vegas, how often, and how easy is it without a car, to venture off strip?

Also, just as an aside, I would disagree with the "of similar quality" on in terms of the quality of fish that Vegas gets. Vegas in general gets significantly better seafood than Chicago, if for no other reason than it seems to consume so much more of it than the tastes of those who live in Chicago.
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is making all his reservations under the name Steve Plotnicki from now on.
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#20
Posted September 2nd 2009, 11:35am
Dave Feldman wrote:If you like Japanese-influenced eclectic cuisine, you might consider Bar Charlie.


Dave,

Have you or anyone else on LTH been to Bar Charlie? I'm sorely tempted to go there later this month, but I'm looking for personal experiences outside of yelp/chowhound.
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my chicago food photos

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#21
Posted October 3rd 2009, 10:40pm
We were in Las Vegas a couple weeks ago, just for fun. It happened to coincide with my birthday, so we managed to get the elusive combination of travel food budget and birthday food budget. We ate pretty well.

Our first meal was at Daniel Boulud Brasserie at the Wynn, and I'll dive right in:

db crispy flatbread @ daniel boulud brasserie, las vegas
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Flatbread with caramelized onions, goat cheese and pancetta. We hadn't had much to eat all day -- I'd had two Manny's potato pancakes at Midway -- and this was a great way to get back into the swing of things. Very salty and very rich.

steak frites @ daniel boulud brasserie, las vegas
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Beth's pick. 10oz snake river sirloin, fries, onion marmalade, and a little salad. She loved it, and devoured it. And it was, to be sure, a beefy, well seasoned, beautifully cooked hunk of meat.

db burger @ daniel boulud brasserie, las vegas
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Me, I didn't get so lucky. The much-blogged db burger, stuffed with braised short ribs, black truffle, and foie gras on a parmesan bun. Sounds pretty good in theory, but the reality? The burger is way, way, way too lean, and you inevitably get bites of burger with no stuffing in them. Theoretically, the richness and moistness of the foie gras and short ribs should balance things out.. but when there's virtually no foie to be found, what are you left with? A very dry burger on a very tasty bun, with some short ribs thrown in. And really, are frisee, tomato, and sliced red onion the best toppings for this combination? The whole thing just didn't work. A huge disappointment.

Desserts:

ice creams @ daniel boulud brasserie, las vegas
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baked alaska @ daniel boulud brasserie, las vegas
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The ice creams were mint, strawberry, and something nutty that I've forgotten. All were pretty good, but the mint was outstanding, with none of the grassy taste a lot of desserts made with real mint can get, but clearly not made from extract. The baked alaska came with mission figs, a black pepper-pomegranate sauce, and preserved meyer lemon, and was outstanding.

Overall? A great meal for Beth, and a bit of a letdown for me.. and fairly steep prices, even for Las Vegas. We might go back next time we're in vegas, but I doubt it. Too many other places to try.

One thing that might make it worth a trip for others: the restaurant has a great view of the Wynn's light-and-water show.. even better if you reserve early enough and ask to sit outside, which we didn't:

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Daniel Boulud Brasserie
3131 Las Vegas Blvd S
Las Vegas, NV 89109-1967
(702) 248-3463
Last edited by gleam on October 22nd 2009, 1:03am, edited 3 times in total.
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Ed Fisher
my chicago food photos

RIP LTH.
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#22
Posted October 3rd 2009, 11:05pm
Rosemary's:

We hit up Rosemary's for lunch. They're now only doing lunch on Fridays and it's a $25 3-course prix fixe, with three choices for each course.

Apps, the strongest course:

leek salad @ rosemary's, las vegas
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poached leeks in vinaigrette with hard boiled quail eggs, watercress, cherry tomatoes & crispy bacon strips

asparagus and goat cheese gnocchi gratin @ rosemary's, las vegas
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The leeks were long and a bit stringy, but had great flavor. The bacon was superb, and the dressing overall was very good. The quail eggs were a bit overcooked, but nothing too bad. My gnocchi were tasty, and the goat cheese was funky enough to cut through a lot of the richness and starchiness. Asparagus in late September, though? It wasn't particularly great.

grilled eggplant stack @ rosemary's, las vegas
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stuffed chicken breast @ rosemary's, las vegas
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Things fell apart a little bit with the entrees. They took a while to come out, which should be obvious from the somewhat congealed mozzarella and the chicken that looks like it's been sitting under a heat lamp for too long. Of course, it was probably sitting under a heat lamp for too long. The eggplant stack was just generally boring. Aside from the slightly rubbery chicken, though, mine wasn't too bad. The andouille-cornbread stuffing was the highlight, and if it was served with better chicken or incorporated into some entirely different dish, the whole thing would have been much more successful.

tiramisu @ rosemary's, las vegas
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chocolate terrine @ rosemary's, las vegas
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Tiramisu was very, very, very boozy. Overwhelmingly so. The terrine was better, but not really memorable.

Overall, a pretty disappointing meal. It was portioned generously, although for $25 for lunch off the strip, it kind of has to be.. but big portions don't save so-so food. Maybe we got a bad menu, maybe we caught the kitchen on a bad day, but we probably won't ever return to find out.

Rosemary's
8125 W Sahara Ave
Las Vegas, NV 89117
(702) 869-2251
Last edited by gleam on October 3rd 2009, 11:17pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Ed Fisher
my chicago food photos

RIP LTH.
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#23
Posted October 3rd 2009, 11:16pm
Lunch at Hubert Keller's Burger Bar.

This'll be a quickie. We were staying at Mandalay Bay, and were running a little late for a 2pm tour of the Neon Boneyard, so it was a bit of a meal of convenience, but it ended up being truly impressive.

(not pictured) -- We started with the fried jalapeno pickles. To clarify, they were spicy cucumber pickle spears, breaded, and deep fried. Not the best fried pickles I've had, but very good. Also not pictured, a Lindeman's framboise float that Beth had, which she was pretty happy with.

On to the burgers:


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angus, med-rare, with pepper bacon, avocado, and grilled peppers on sesame.


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angus, med-rare, with caramelized onions, pepper bacon, blue cheese and aioli on ciabatta.


Every single part of these burgers was executed beautifully. crisp but meaty bacon, caramelized onions that tasted like french onion soup, and a patty that was cooked a perfect medium rare and then rested, so it didn't explode and soak the bun with juices when I bit into it. this was better than any burger I've had at Kuma's, and was on par with the less-configurable burgers at La Briola and Hot Chocolate. My burger, in particular, blew the db burger out of the water at barely 1/3 the price. These were genuinely outstanding burgers, and I think we'd go back in a heartbeat for lunch, especially if we were staying at Mandalay Bay again.

Burger Bar
3950 Las Vegas Blvd S
Las Vegas, NV 89119-1005
(702) 632-9364
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Ed Fisher
my chicago food photos

RIP LTH.
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#24
Posted October 3rd 2009, 11:32pm
Another quick lunch, and a place we went on our last visit two years ago, Memphis Championship Barbecue:


Fried Pickles @ Memphis Championship Barbecue, Las Vegas
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Burnt ends, baby back ribs, brisket @ Memphis Championship Barbecue, Las Vegas
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smoked chicken/pulled pork @ Memphis Championship Barbecue, Las Vegas
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Two years ago, Memphis Championship Barbecue gave me my first fried pickle experience. I don't know if it's because of that, but they remain the best fried pickles I've ever had. Ridged to hold the crunchy, seasoned batter and create that wonderful combination of crunchy outside and salty, sour, liquidy insides. Even more miraculously, even the pickles on the bottom of the dish stay crispy 5 minutes out, if they last that long.

As for the meats -- as you can see, we tried five of 'em. Highlights were the burnt ends, the pulled pork, and the ribs, but the chicken and brisket were fine. The burnt ends, actually, were fabulous, and I'd very happily go back for them. None of the sides are as good as those fried pickles, but the hushpuppies are the best of the lot we tried.

Memphis Championship Barbecue is one of Mike Mills' restaurants (of Memphis in May fame, and owner of the 17th Street Bary and Grill mini-chain in downstate IL), but I'm not sure how hands-on he is with the Vegas locations. Regardless, they're doing well by him. The location we went to is pretty close to the Airport and the Rental Car return, so it might be a good choice for a first or last meal in Las Vegas.

Memphis Championship Barbecue
2250 E Warm Springs Rd
Las Vegas, NV‎
(702) 260-6909‎
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Ed Fisher
my chicago food photos

RIP LTH.
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#25
Posted October 3rd 2009, 11:39pm
gleam wrote:Me, I didn't get so lucky. The much-blogged db burger, stuffed with braised short ribs, black truffle, and foie gras on a parmesan bun. Sounds pretty good in theory, but the reality? The burger is way, way, way too lean, and you inevitably get bites of burger with no stuffing in them. Theoretically, the richness and moistness of the foie gras and short ribs should balance things out.. but when there's virtually no foie to be found, what are you left with? A very dry burger on a very tasty bun, with some short ribs thrown in.


When I visited, I passed on the burger and got the short rib entrée, which was one of the best versions of shortribs I've ever had the pleasure to eat in a restaurant. Also, the steak frites were executed to perfection.

Image
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Steve Z.

"Why should I eat a carrot when I can eat pizza?" - Dan Janssen
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#26
Posted October 3rd 2009, 11:47pm
Done with the lunches, let's go back to the dinners, starting with Craftsteak.

baby artichoke salad @ craftsteak, las vegas
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japanese cucumber and watercress salad @ craftsteak, las vegas
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The cucumber and watercress salad was beautifully executed, and we had no complaints about it. A very tasty salad. The artichokes were really missing something.. maybe some pepper or some heat, or some acidity. Additionally, the one in the foreground was just too big for the preparation, with some spiky inner leaves being particularly off-putting.

Surf 'n' turf for the entrees:

wagyu skirt steak @ craftsteak, las vegas
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diver scallops @ craftsteak, las vegas
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Wagyu skirt was about as good as last time, and somehow the exact same price as two years ago, too. I just really love wagyu (wangus, to Jazzfood, since it came from Snake River Farms in Idaho) skirt steak.. it manages to be a bit more tender than regular skirt, and much richer and beefier tasting. And, of course, I love regular skirt steak, too. Scallops? $36 for 5, and one was overcooked. Otherwise, they were fine, but I wouldn't really recommend them.

potato/garlic/leek gratin @ craftsteak, las vegas
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japanese eggplant with pesto @ craftsteak, las vegas
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A couple sides, neither of which we came close to finishing. Especially the japanese eggplant, since there were about a dozen of them. The gratin was tasty, but a little underseasoned. Thee japanese eggplant was great, though, and if you're dining with a big group and see it on the menu, give it a shot.

We tried to repeat our last Craftsteak dessert experience by getting a tasting of all six sorbets and all six ice creams. Unfortunately, they either stopped offering the tasting or our server didn't want to offer it to us, so we ended up with chocolate and orange-basil sorbets. They were both very good, but we kept wishing we'd had another 10 selections to try :)

We'd hit up Craftsteak two years ago and were both itching to return. It was a genuinely great meal then, but I think the restaurant has slipped a bit in the interim. Nothing was bad, but both the service and many of the dishes seemed to be missing something. It wasn't a bad meal by any means, but we'd probably try Carnevino or Cut if we want big hunks of meat next time we're in Las Vegas.

Craftsteak
3799 Las Vegas Blvd S
Las Vegas, NV 89109-4319
(702) 891-7777
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Ed Fisher
my chicago food photos

RIP LTH.
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#27
Posted October 3rd 2009, 11:48pm
stevez wrote:When I visited, I passed on the burger and got the short rib entrée, which was one of the best versions of shortribs I've ever had the pleasure to eat in a restaurant. Also, the steak frites were executed to perfection.


I will say that the fries were superb. If we make it back, I'll definitely give the short rib entree a shot.

edit: Interesting that the frites when you had them were skinless, while ours were skin-on. I've always had the feeling that peeled vs unpeeled was a very deep personal preference for french fry lovers (unpeeled, please). I wonder when they made the switch.
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Ed Fisher
my chicago food photos

RIP LTH.
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#28
Posted October 4th 2009, 12:07am
Aburiya Raku:

Raku is the hottest restaurant in Las Vegas right now, as far as I can tell, and it doesn't have a big name chef or a hotel attached to it. Just a 20-seat restaurant in a strip mall in Chinatown. We managed to sneak in without a reservation on Saturday night at 6:30, with the promise that we'd be out before their 8pm reservation came in, but I'd really recommend calling ahead.

The rundown:

seafood with salted bonito guts @ Raku, Las Vegas
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sanma sashimi @ Raku, Las Vegas
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agedashi tofu @ Raku, Las Vegas
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grilled sanma @ Raku, Las Vegas
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pork belly @ Raku, Las Vegas
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kurobuta pork cheek @ Raku, Las Vegas
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wagyu skirt steak with garlic @ Raku, Las Vegas
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fried fig @ Raku, Las Vegas
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watermelon sorbet with red beans @ Raku, Las Vegas
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Also eaten, but not pictured: grilled asparagus and grilled tomatoes. Highlights were the sanma (pacific saury, similar to mackerel), where we had one whole fish, half raw and half grilled, with the bones deep-fried. It was beautiful fish, and well cooked. The garlicky wagyu skirt was also excellent, as were the asparagus and tomatoes. The real star of the show, though, was the agedashi tofu, made with homemade tofu in a fabulous dashi, with a little smear of a spicy chile paste on the edge of the bowl to cut through the richness. It's even Tony C. approved!

Seriously, though, if you go to Las Vegas, you owe yourself a taste of Raku's agedashi tofu. And then, while you're there, gorge on the rest of the vast menu. Not many flops to be found.

Aburiya Raku
5030 Spring Mountain Rd
Las Vegas, NV 89146-8715
(702) 367-3511
http://www.raku-grill.com/
_______________________________________

Ed Fisher
my chicago food photos

RIP LTH.
Avatar
#29
Posted October 4th 2009, 12:23am
I've got one more restaurant to post about -- a 5 hour, 20-course blowout at Bar Charlie -- but I'll get to that tomorrow.

This post, though, is to remind you all that if you're in Las Vegas, and you have a car, you should really check out the International Marketplace at Decatur and Tropicana. It's a foreign-foods wonderland. It's not really very useful for fresh food (although the small amount of produce looked good, and the fish looked and smelled great), but for canned, bottled, jarred, bagged stuff from Asia, the middle east, and Europe it's got a remarkable selection. Open to the public, but unless you buy the $10/yr membership, you'll pay 5% over the marked price.

I'm pretty sure much of the stuff they have is available in Chicago, but much isn't. Check it out on your way to Raku.
_______________________________________

Ed Fisher
my chicago food photos

RIP LTH.
Avatar
#30
Posted October 4th 2009, 4:40pm
Bar Charlie at Restaurant Charlie in the Palazzo.

bar charlie, las vegas
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Bar Charlie is a restaurant inside a restaurant. Restaurant Charlie is a traditional fine dining spot with its most notable feature being a lofted kitchen table with a 270 degree view down onto the kitchen and the dining room. The restaurant also has a separate menu and separate tasting menus, although I think any dish at Bar Charlie is available at Restaurant Charlie, and vice versa.

Bar Charlie, off to the right as you enter the restaurant, is quite a bit different from Restaurant Charlie. The bar is an 18 seat trapezoid around a minimally-equipped open kitchen, with just two cooks putting together constantly changing tasting menus and creating dishes on the fly.

Chef de Cuisine Hiroo Nagahara, a physics major in college, prides himself on never giving a guest the same dish twice unless they request it. And indeed, a "regular" (visits once every 2-3 months) was sitting next to us for part of our meal and received very different variations on some of the dishes we had, and some that bore no resemblance to anything we were served. Except for one cooked dish and the desserts, everything was prepared by Chef Nagahara and one other cook in the bar.

The normal options when you order include 5 and 8 course prix fixe menus, and a small a la carte menu. But you're strongly steered towards the 14 course kaiseki (well, Trotter and Nagahara's version of kaiseki) menu. Beth was a little worried that she couldn't handle a full-size 14 course menu, so we ended up asking if the chef and restaurant would let us split a single tasting of 20 courses (the 14 courses plus 6 added at the whim of the chef). They were generous enough to accommodate that request, and a request for non-alcoholic beverage pairings, and with that, we were on our way.

note: for the first few courses, the descriptions are from other reviewers, most notably gourmet traveller and KevinEats. For most of the remaining courses, the description is a quote from the chef who presented the dish to us.

note 2: as always, click the images to view them at a larger size.

#1 - tai (snapper)
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With white and black grapes, black grape puree, celery confit, celery stock reduction and micro greens.
Pairing: ginger beer with kaffir lime

This was a delicious, light-yet-complex way to start, and I think helped set the tone for the next 19 courses. The mild snapper was a great base for the sweet/sour of the grapes, the herbaceous celery, and the slight bite of the micro greens. The ginger beer with kaffir lime was also outstanding, and the bite of the ginger and acidic and floral lime paired well with the dish.

#2 - iwashi (sardine)
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With compressed watermelon, sea grapes, yuzu sorbet and celery marinated in miso and yuzu.
Pairing: Watermelon muddled with mint, and tonic

The highlight of this dish, besides the deliciously oily and fishy sardine, were the sweet and sour yuzu sorbet and the salty, slightly bitter sea grapes. Like the snapper, this dish showed a command of salt, sour, sweet, and bitter that few meals I've had have demonstrated. The paired drink featured the same watermelon from the sardine muddled with mint, and the tonic added some bitterness that brought the whole thing together nicely.

#3 - tomato
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Heirloom Tomatoes with compressed cucumber rind, tomato skin chip, hijiki and dashi, tomato foam, hijiki "dirt" and avocado semifreddo.
Pairing: 7Up with kaffir lime and meyer lemon

Chef Nagahara said he came up with the concept for this dish in June, and then spent two months waiting for the tomatoes to be good enough for him to put it on the menu. It was worth the wait, though, because the richness of dashi and avocado and the bitterness of the hijiki "dirt" perfectly balanced the sweetness of the tomatoes and the acidity of the cucumber rind, while the tomato skin chip provided nice textural contrast. The pairing continued the trend of boosting familiar flavors with aggressive aromas, and reminded me of an upscale version of the temperance punch my grandmother makes... a very good thing.

#4 - Bluefin tuna chu-toro
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"We're presenting tuna in two different forms: underneath the foam you'll see the roulade, it is filled with an umeboshi spoonbread, it's then lightly poached at about 58 degrees, so that you should get a nice texture of the cooked tuna. we as well have a sashimi of chu-toro coming from close to the collar. It comes over a sauce of Nashi, which is asian pear, and a little bit of umeboshi as well as a Nashi relish dressed with a little bit of chive and olive oil. The foam is seawater… basically a dashi that has been 'amped up'."
Pairing: umeboshi, meyer lemon, tonic

This was an exceptional dish, really showing off the amazingly rich and tender bluefin tuna. The umeboshi, nashi, and dashi-seawater foam helped bring the dish into balance. The umeboshi drink was also top-notch, with salty, sour, sweet, and bitter in each sip.

#5 - ama-ebi (spot prawn)
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"With this course we have ama-ebi santa barbara spot prawn.. we have the prawns presented in two different ways: one, almost as a ceviche, over a shellfish panna cotta, and it's tossed with a little bit of cilantro, tarragon, and raspberry. We remove the heads, take off the head plates, and we fry them, so they're completely edible. The foam is a tarragon emulsion, it's one of Hiro's real pride and joys. Basically completely heat resistant... you can just about put a plate on top of it. A little bit of shellfish oil as well, and a raspberry-shellfish consomme"
Pairing: pomegranate juice with tarragon

A non-traditional take on a very traditional sushi-bar dish. The acidity of the raspberry matched well with the sweetness of the prawn, and the perfectly fried shell coated in and filled with tarragon foam was a playful and delicious blend of textures. The pomegranate drink was tasty, with the tarragon helping tie the sweet-sour of the pomegranate to that of the raspberry.

#6 - tuna tartare
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"This is our second offering of tuna, a tartare. We take pieces from the akami, the toro, and the chu-toro, and combine them so you get what we think is the best combination of richness, flavor, and fattiness. It comes over a sauce of hijiki, as well as a daikon and greek yogurt flan. Next to it is a relish of hijiki and fermented daikon. We've quickly pickled a cucumber, and the crisp chip you see is a bit of battera kombu. There is a salad of daikon and red shiso, and a little bit of bonito powder."
Pairing: grapefruit juice, tonic, rosewater

Tuna tartare is such a cliche, no? No. Not this tuna tartare, which was more of a mousse in texture and impossibly rich. The hijiki and pickled cucumber added bitterness and acidity, and the battera kombu provided important textural contrast. It was one of the simplest courses, and wasn't as intellectually interesting as the earlier tuna course, but it was incredibly delicious. The pairing was again one of contrast, matching bitter and sour against the rich and fatty tuna.

#7 - trout three ways
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"One of the tenets of kaiseki is to tell a story.. in this dish the story we try to tell is that of a trout swimming upstream.. what we have is tasmanian ocean trout. At the front we have a ravioli, it's made of house-made ricotta and a little pearl barley. The skin of the ravioli is actually a trout fume that's set with a little bit of vegetable gelatin. Underneath is a trout roe vinaigrette, along with some fried shirasu, and a little pearled barley.

In the center we have a trout roulade, the meat comes from the belly, seasoned with a bit of coriander, lemon zest, and fennel. Served with a raw fennel salad and a little bit of chervil.

Last, we have some cured trout ice cream garnished with a trout skin chip."
Pairing: oolong tea with ginger

Yes, trout ice cream. Well, actually trout sorbet, since it was dairy-free. The trout sorbet is notorious in the Bar Charlie kitchen because it broke their $4000 pacojet... tough to explain to corporate, no? Anyway. The trout ravioli was fine, but not really memorable.. interesting in terms of technique and presentation, but that's it. The trout roulade was beautifully cooked and well balanced with the brightness of the fennel and lemon. The ice cream was really impressive.. the fat of the trout gave it an incredible creamy texture, and it had just enough sweetness to balance the fishiness. This is a trout ice cream that would win Iron Chef America. The pairing wasn't particularly memorable here, just a gingery chilled tea.. but there was so much going on on the plate that I think they deserve a pass.

#8 - halibut
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"Halibut with english peas; a puree of english peas with shallot and mint; a ragout of sous vide english peas and roasted shallots, seasoned with mint, chervil, and chives. On top, sweet pea shoots and baby cabbage."
Pairing: plum juice with rose essence and tonic

One of the few courses that had very few obvious Asian influences.. it was really a version of a classic English halibut with mushy peas. The halibut was as perfectly cooked as halibut can get, and the herbed peas matched well with it. Not much to say about this dish except that we loved it. It was comfort food, really. The pairing again wasn't amazing, but the bitterness of the tonic and slight acidity of the plums balanced the rich and sweet halibut and peas.

#9 - langoustine
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"For your next offering we're doing a tempura of Icelandic langoustine with Kanzuri carrot and lemon. Like the rest of the dishes, we express the ingredients in more than one way. So, in the middle we have a langoustine dumpling which we've filled with lemon custard, like a soup dumpling.

Next we have the tempura langoustine with tempura bits on the bottom. We do a sauce of carrots stewed down with thai chiles and kanzuri. And then the ribbon is carrot pickled in kanzuri and orange. Then we've taken some roasted carrots and made a salad, with a little cilantro and soy. We've finished that with a vinaigrette with nasturtium leaves and seacress"
Pairing: Orange juice with meyer lemon

A beautifully fried langoustine was the highlight here, but the langoustine soup dumpling was delicious in its own right. In many of the earlier accounts of this dish that I've read online, the langoustine was replaced with Big Fin squid. I'd like to try that version, but I suspect that this combination works better, since the richness and sweetness of the langoustine perfectly played off the pickled carrot and lemon custard.

#10 - scallop
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"This is our diver sea scallop, which comes with the flavors of spinach, coffee, and turnip. Underneath there's a sauce of Bloomsdale spinach, a saute of Bloomsdale and Red Orach spinach. The cube you see in the back is a piece of kabu, which is Japanese turnip. We braise it in ponzu and coffee gastrique, the same gastrique we use to make the vinaigrette with the Rishiri-kombu and diced kabu. We wrap the braised kabu in its own leaf and steam it. The curl is flexible chocolate, with a little bit of cinnamon and cayenne. The vinaigrette is coffee gastrique, coffee oil, and vanilla. The Rishiri-kombu and kabu is scattered over the top."
Pairing: orange juice with clover honey

This was an eye-opening dish for us: a combination that makes almost no sense on its face (scallop, turnip, coffee, and chocolate) but that works incredibly well in reality. Chef Nagahara told us he came up for this dish when he was prepping turnips early in the morning and eating bites in between sips of coffee. The bitter coffee, spinach, and chocolate, the sweet scallop, the sour ponzu and coffee gastrique, and the spice from the cinnamon and cayenne all come together into one of the best dishes of the night. I'd have loved for it to be paired with a coffee or chocolate based drink, though, instead of the orange juice with honey.

#11 - saba / mackerel
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"Another spontaneous course: saba, Japanese mackerel, yakitori-grilled. We did this with roasted eggplant and cumin, and genmai miso. We yakitori grill the mackerel, and then we have baby eggplant in different ways: one, as like a salad, and another one as a puree, and also a sheet, grilled, underneath the mackerel."
Pairing: plum and cranberry juice with bitters

We watched Chef Nagahara grab a beautiful, glassy-eyed whole mackerel from the walk-in, clean it, scale it, fillet it, and then grill it for us. This was another comfort-food type dish, and very traditionally Japanese. It was gorgeously cooked, a little smoky from the grill, and balanced well with the eggplant. The pairing went very well in this case, adding acidity, bitterness, and sweetness to a dish that didn't have too much in those departments.

#12 - "agedashi" Tamba tofu with beets
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"Tamba tofu. Tamba is the original black soybean. One of the reasons we don't see it often is that it's very difficult to scald the milk to make the tofu. We also have some black beans in the bottom of the bowl, sauteed with some pickled asian mushrooms (honshimeji) and tokyo scallion. Inside the "present" is the tofu and tokyo scallions, seasoned with togarashi. We have some roasted beets, both candy striped and yellow beets, as well as a vinaigrette of a brunoise of red beets.

It's supposed to be a very similar dish to agedashi tofu, so what we have to finish is a little bit of beet consomme."
Pairing: grapefruit tea with rosemary and lavender

Another non-traditional take on a traditional Japanese dish. The tofu was the star of the show here, with a complexity and richness that most tofu would kill for. The pickled mushrooms helped balance the tofu and the sweet beets, but the pairing really did an amazing job bringing the dish together, with the bitter tea helping bring the rest of the dish into focus.

#13 - kurobuta pork belly with green curry
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"Here we have our 36-hour braised kurobuta pork belly. It's braised in a hibiscus gastrique, and we have a sauce of cabbage, tomatillo and jalapeno. It's dotted with a little bit of coconut green curry. We take that same flavor of coconut green curry and represent it in the salad that comes on top. So we have a julienne of tomatillo, young coconut meat and jalapeno, as well as an herb salad of lavender, mint, shiso, thai basil, and cilantro. We have one red-wine braised pearl onion, as well as a little bit of braising liquid and the natural jus."
Pairing: green apple juice with cinnamon and clove

This was the most assertive of the dishes, with impossibly rich and smoky pork belly and bright, genuinely spicy curry-like salad. It was in perfect balance for me, and did a better job of balancing rich pork belly than any I've had. Another hit. The bright and slightly sour apple juice also helped calm the fattiness of the pork.

#14 - wagyu filet
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"Wagyu filet with black fermented garlic puree, black garlic emulsion, a little crispy wagyu, grilled tokyo scallions, and fresh tokyo scallions on top."
Pairing: St. Pauli Girl non-alcoholic beer

The pairing entertained me a lot. It actually wasn't a particularly awful beer (although it wasn't very good), but it was a real "one of these things is not like the others" situation. Anyway, the wagyu was the star here, fatty and beefy and meltingly tender, with the tang of the black garlic and the bite of the scallions balancing well. The crispy wagyu bits were a real highlight, too.. they reminded us of the crispy bits on a good griddled hamburger. Anyway, this was a very good dish, but as soon as we finished it, Chef Nagahara started telling us about...

#15 - Wagyu beef, grade 12, from Saga prefecture
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Pairing: Coca Cola with bing cherry juice

Yep, grade 12 wagyu from Japan. It doesn't grade any higher, and Saga prefecture wagyu is spoken of in the same breath as Kobe and Ohmi. We never actually got a description of the other components in this dish, which is just as well... the star of the show was the beef, and it was the type of beef dreams are made of. Incredibly rich, fatty, and tender, but still maintaining the essential beefiness that you want from a slice of dead cow. Oh, and the bing-cherry-coke was pretty awesome, too.

#16 - lychee sorbet with ginger and pineapple
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More of a palate cleanser than a course, but this was a very tasty sorbet, and the pineapple ribbons underneath were especially delicious.

#17 - strawberry, basil, olive oil
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"For our first fruit course we have macerated strawberries with a basil syrup. It has a strawberry sorbet, basil semifreddo, and an olive oil ice cream, with a little olive oil powder on the side."
Pairing: grapefruit juice with kaffir lime.

All three frozen concoctions were very good, but the basil semifreddo was especially impressive, since it tasted of basil without tasting of grass. The tartness of the grapefruit juice played well against the rich basil and olive oil bites, also.

#18 - green tea cake
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"Green tea cake with sliced peaches, a bruleed honey zabaglione, with a plum sorbet, and a little bit of a peach tapioca as well."
Pairing: peach and pineapple juice with cardamom

They do sorbets really well here, you know? The plum sorbet was the highlight of this plate, too, but I really enjoyed the lightness of the green tea cake and the crunchy-creamy honey zabaglione The peach/pineapple/cardamom drink was pleasant.

#19 - marshmallow and chocolate
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"For the first chocolate course we have a tahitian marshmallow, bruleed, with a white chocolate custard and a marshmallow foam, and a little bit of milk chocolate rocks."
Pairing: soy milk with chocolate and vanilla

This was my favorite of the desserts. I love bruleed marshmallow, and the milk chocolate rocks added to the playfulness of the dish. The soy milk pairing was great, actually, since the flavors blended well, but it wasn't nearly as sweet.

#20 - Chocolate cake
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Dark chocolate cake, banana sorbet, chai foam, and banana tuile.
Pairing: chocolate milk with frozen banana.

Another course, another beautiful sorbet. The chocolate cake was wonderful, too, but the banana-chai combination worked amazingly well.

mignardises
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lychee-raspberry gelee, cinnamon almond dragees, and two I can't remember. Beth thinks one was a salt caramel fudge and the other was an espresso truffle.

I really loved the gelee, because I really love gelees.

So that's 20 courses at Bar Charlie. Not one clunker, not one miss, not one near-miss, not one that we'd grade lower than an A-. It was the meal of our lifetime, and the effortless calm with which the two chefs at the bar pulled it off was nothing less than astounding. It's not a cheap meal, but you'd have a hard time convincing me my Vegas high-end-dining dollars would be better spent at Alex or Picasso or Robuchon at the Mansion. It was worth every dollar and every minute we spent on it.

If you're in Las Vegas for a special occasion, I can't recommend Bar Charlie highly enough.

Bar Charlie
3325 Las Vegas Blvd
Las Vegas, NV
(702) 892-3589
http://www.charlietrotters.com/barcharlie/
_______________________________________

Ed Fisher
my chicago food photos

RIP LTH.
Mad-town Chow Down

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