I notice that I've posted in two different Vegas threads, but since this one seems to have more posts, I'll post here. I recently returned from five nights in Vegas and thought I'd post my thoughts here. We mostly did buffets for breakfast/brunch, trying Paris, Wynn, Aria and Wicked Spoon (Cosmopolitan). Paris has really gone downhill in recent years - used to really enjoy it but it was truly (and shockingly) awful, with only the made-to-order crepes and creme brulee being worth eating. I used to think the Wynn buffet was very good but it too left us disappointed - decent, but very noticeable quality decline from last year. Aria and Wynn were similar in quality, both okay but nothing to get excited about. I would say Wicked Spoon really stood out in terms of both food quality and interesting choices, and was far better than any of the others.
We also had two small brunch/lunches at non-buffets: One was a return trip to China Poblano, Jose Andres' Chinese-Mexican tapas spot in the Cosmopolitan. Once again, I really wasn't super impressed. We shared two items, the bbq pork steamed buns (okay, but the buns were a little dry and the pork filling too sweet) and the Dan Dan Mian (hand pulled noodles were pretty good, but no noticeable Szechuan peppercorn or other heat, although flavor was decent). The problem with China Poblano is that they seem determined to please a heavy-drinking, 20-something crowd, and less willing to deliver the intense flavors that some of the menu items suggest.
We also had some dim sum at Beijing Noodle No. 9 at Caesar's Palace. I read on Chowhound that the former chef at China Mama (which I've heard is a very well respected spot for dim sum in Vegas' Chinatown) is now at Beijing Noodle No. 9, so we figured we'd give it a shot. While BN9 didn't deliver as good quality as we were expecting, we generally enjoyed the meal. We had the xiao long bao, which are filled only with pork here. They were pretty good - the wrappers perhaps a tad dry but not too thick, and the filling was tasty and full of flavorful broth. Far from the best XLB I've had, but respectable. Beijing pancake wrap with beef and cilantro was pretty tasty, although I expected the exterior to be crisp and it was lacking in this area - still very flavorful though. Pork buns were okay, but the buns were a little dry, a problem that also affected the sweet red bean paste buns. Finally, Dan Dan Mian featuring hand pulled noodles. A tad of Szechuan peppercorn could be detected, but very little. Still, a little more heat than the version at China Poblano and pretty flavorful. Overall, Beijing Noodle was decent and recommended if you would rather not leave the strip.
As for dinners, we ate at Sage (the Shawn McClain restaurant inside the Cosmopolitan), é by Jose Andres, Abriya Raku, D.O.C.G. enoteca and Kabuto Edomae Sushi. I'll cover Sage and D.O.C.G. briefly here, é by Jose Andres and Abriya Raku in subsequent posts, and then Kabuto in greater detail with pictures below.
In another Vegas thread, I described the outstanding meal I enjoyed at Sage last year. This year, I was not so lucky. The meal started off with a terrific duck rilletes with olive and cherry. However, it went downhill from there. I started off with the grilled Spanish octopus with smoked potato puree, shishito peppers, preserved lemon and arugula. It sounded great, but really disappointed. The octopus was formed into cylinders that were far too chewy and lacked any grilled or charred flavor, and the entire dish was extremely salty. My main course - Iberico pork loin, crispy pork shoulder, spaetzle, creminelli mortadella and baby carrot - did not fare better. Again, way too salty and there was so little spaetzle and carrots so there was nothing to cut into the richness.
I didn't taste my dining companion's beef tartare or scallops with oxtail, but although he enjoyed the tartare, he was disappointed with the scallops and also found the dish way too salty. I'm not sure if there have been changes in the kitchen or we just caught them on an off night but this meal was pretty close to 180 degrees different from the one I enjoyed last year.
Yet, Sage was still better than D.O.C.G., a Scott Conant restaurant inside the Cosmopolitan. A pizza with prosciutto, arugula and parmesan featured a very soft and undistinguished crust of the type I'd expect to find hanging in a grocery aisle. Spinach ricotta gnudi were the size of meatballs, all wrong texturally, and did not taste good. Semolina pasta with housemade sausage, olives and porcini featured well cooked and flavorful pasta, but relatively bland and too-lightly seasoned sausage and very little in the way of porcini mushrooms. Overall, D.O.C.G. proved to be a very bad choice.
On the plus side, we really loved our meal at Kabuto Edomae Sushi, a newish spot in the same strip mall as Raku. I can't remember where I first read about Kabuto, either on Eater or in Las Vegas Weekly, but I'm really glad I did because it is really outstanding. This is where you go to enjoy fish in its most bare form. I only wish I could find such wonderful nigiri in Chicago (no, Katsu doesn't come anywhere close). It's been several years since I was in Japan, but the Kabuto experience is pretty close to what I remember experiencing eating excellent nigiri in Tokyo. When you arrive in the strip mall housing Raku and Kabuto, you'll see the sign for Raku but Kabuto (on the left, before you get to Raku) has no sign. But you'll see a window that tells you you're in the right place:Window looking in to Kabuto
Kabuto apparently gets most of its fish flown in directly to the restaurant from Toyko’s Tsukiji market, but I know that we also had tuna from Spain. At Kabuto, you can order off of the menu, choose the nigiri menu ($48 for 10 pieces, plus a glass of sake, a hand roll, green tea and dessert) or the omakase menu ($80 and includes I believe 6 pieces of fish, but not sure of what else). We chose the nigiri menu, and added a couple of extra pieces each. Here is the glass of mango sake to start us off:Mango sake
I can't remember each piece we were served in the precise order (and I'm not great at identifying each piece below), but it included baby amberjack (shiokko), jack mackerel (ma-aji), salmon roe (ikura), striped pig (inaki), ocean trout (umimasu), see eel (anago), tuna (akami), medium fatty tuna (chu-toro), tamago, tuna hand roll, kamashita fatty tuna (kamashita; we ordered this as an addition) and sea urchin (uni; also ordered as an addition).
We sat at the sushi bar (there are only 2-3 other tables and I think 8-10 seats at the sushi bar - reservations are a MUST) and were mesmerized by the precision and intensity of the sushi chefs. Each item was delivered one at a time, delivery timed perfectly, fish not at all cold and stunning in flavor. We were not given soy sauce or wasabi. Rather, the sushi chef delicately handled the rice and fish and seasoned each item with aged soy and wasabi (and perfectly I might add).
My pictures are poor (brought my "other" camera), but you get the idea:salmon roe
- stunning - as good as I've ever tastedCold sake servicepickled ginger
, the only item served with the nigiriTuskfish?TunaMedium fatty tunaSea eel
- unbelievably good, and so picturesque. Doesn't this make you wonder what everyone else is doing with tamago?Kamashita fatty tuna
- absolutely terrific - we were told that this is the fattiest piece of the tuna (bluefin here), from the belly, just below the collar.Sea urchin
- I have not had sea urchin anywhere this good in Chicago, so rich, so smooth.Tuna hand rollfish and brushes dipped in various soy saucesHead sushi chef at workStrawberry crepe cake with strawberry powder and strawberry sauce
I can't decide whether I enjoyed Raku or Kabuto more, and I suppose your preference will depend on the experience you prefer (if you want sushi, definitely Kabuto). Regardless, I would say that Kabuto is a must visit on your trip to Las Vegas.Kabuto Edomae Sushi
(website provides only phone and address)
5040 W. Spring Mountain Rd., #4
I'll post later about é and Raku.