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Las Vegas and Phoenix 2007 - My food diary

Las Vegas and Phoenix 2007 - My food diary
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  • Las Vegas and Phoenix 2007 - My food diary

    Post #1 - April 6th, 2007, 10:39 pm
    Post #1 - April 6th, 2007, 10:39 pm Post #1 - April 6th, 2007, 10:39 pm
    I've just come back from a very nice, food-intensive trip and I thought I'd try to recap it here (in installments). While I'd been to both destinations several times before, it had been over a decade since my last trip to Vegas and this was my first trip to Phoenix since 2005. But with my food obsession growing more intense everyday and the benefit of well-informed local contacts, I was able to maximize my eating potential on this trip in an unprecedented way. Every meal was a 'purpose' meal. Not once over the 9 days did we simply settle for something because we were hungry. Some of these meals were planned weeks in advance and others were chosen on the fly. But none of them were wasted opportunities. And taking into account my innate laziness and the fact that we had our 10-year-old son in tow, I consider that to be quite an accomplishment ;)

    Day 1 - Las Vegas, NV

    I knew that if things went according to schedule, we'd arrive in Las Vegas in time to hit Lotus of Siam for lunch -- and that was my plan. Since our other 3 meals in Vegas were already set, this would be our lone opportunity. According to what I gathered from their web site, lunch service ended at 2:30. Our flight was scheduled to arrive at 11:45 am. No problem.

    After a quick stop and drop at the hotel, a cab deposited us at Lotus of Siam's front door at 2:10 pm. The lunch buffet (about which we did not even know) had ended at 2 pm but we were told that we could still order lunch from the regular menu. I never get this lucky at the gaming tables in Vegas. Had the buffet still been on, I would have had a hard time justifying the a la carte approach. I knew I'd probably get to sample more things via the buffet but I wasn't sure if they were items I really cared about. I glanced at the buffet offerings as the staff cleared them away and broke down the steam table. It was hard to tell, from my vantage point, what we had missed out on. Nonetheless, with the decision out of our hands, we happily sat down and looked over the menus.

    The food at LoS really scratched the itch. The green papaya salad -- which we ordered with a heat factor of 5/10 -- was fantastic . . . sweet, hot, crunchy and totally addictive. We tried 2 types of house-made sausages, the first being a northern sausage (Sai Oua) which was a dried sausage, served hot. It was spicy and aromatic with ginger. The second sausage, an Issan sausage, was a tangier, fermented sausage which contained alcohol (at least, I suspected this and our server confirmed it). At first, I was sure I liked the northern sausage better but as I continued to taste both of them, it was harder to tell which of the delicious sausages was my favorite. The fried chicken dumplings were also excellent. Their exteriors were crispy then chewy and the filling was bold and deep in flavor -- as much as any dumpling filling I've ever tasted.

    We also ordered a 'personal best' version of Pork Pad Sw-ew that contained some of the most satisfying noodles it has ever been my pleasure to bite into. They were nicely browned with a perfect density of chew which followed the initial bite. They were crispy, tender and delicate all at once. The sauce was typically sweet but with a balance that made me understand something new about this dish, which I often order. I was happy I tried this one.

    My favorite dish was the lovingly-prepared, whole, deep-fried catfish with fresh and dry chilis, garlic, fresh Thai basil and crispy Thai basil. The fish was perfectly moist and tender and the crunchy-crispy skin trumped any fried chicken skin I have ever had. I was full and yet I could not stop eating this delectable, oily-fleshed catfish or its perfectly battered coating or the crispy basil leaves which adorned my plate. I realized that if I was going to get through the next 8 days of eating, I was going to have to -- at some point or another -- leave some food behind. A bittersweet moment.

    By Vegas standards, LoS is a bargain. Our meal cost about $75 (before tip) and it was a feast that 3 of us could not finish, even though we tried. For Thai fans from Chicago, I think they'll find this food compares very favorably with their favorite places at home. Of course, it's all subjective but I thought Lotus of Siam's food was on a similar level as some of the most talked about places in Chicago.

    I laughed to myself about how in a town like Vegas, a place like LoS kind of gets lost in the shuffle. Sure, folks like us know about it and talk about it but I doubt most locals do. But not even the cabbie who dropped us there knew it by name. We had to give him the street address. At the end of the meal, the cab which the LoS staff happily dispatched on our behalf, never showed up. That's when one of the kids who worked in the restaurant pulled his car up to the front door and offered us a ride to the cab stand at the Hilton, which is the hotel nearest LoS. Being that this was Vegas, that act of kindness was something for which I was not prepared. But that level of hospitality instantly reminded of our Thai places here in Chicago and it made me enjoy the memory of our fine meal at Lotus of Siam even more. I know I'm a softy but it never ceases to amaze me how the human connection so often helps great food reach its full potential. I couldn't have hoped for a better start to our trip.

    =R=

    Lotus of Siam
    953 E. Sahara Ave.
    Las Vegas, NV 89104
    (702) 735-3033

    To be continued . . .
    Why don't you take these profiteroles and put them up your shi'-ta-holes? --Jemaine & Bret

    There's a horse loose in a hospital --JM

    That don't impress me much --Shania Twain
  • Post #2 - April 7th, 2007, 5:43 am
    Post #2 - April 7th, 2007, 5:43 am Post #2 - April 7th, 2007, 5:43 am
    Ronnie,

    I'm glad to hear you liked LoS. Believe me, you missed nothing by not ordering the buffet, which would have left you sadly disappointed. I've never ordered it, but I've inspected it a couple of times when I was at LoS for lunch. It consists of mainly Ameri-Thai and Ameri-Chinese(!) standards and is not what you are looking for in a rare LoS visit.
    Steve Z.

    “Only the pure in heart can make a good soup.”
    ― Ludwig van Beethoven
  • Post #3 - April 7th, 2007, 9:07 am
    Post #3 - April 7th, 2007, 9:07 am Post #3 - April 7th, 2007, 9:07 am
    Given that I'm in Phoenix right now, can you (please) hurry up with the rest of your report.

    please...
    :)
    Think Yiddish, Dress British - Advice of Evil Ronnie to me.
  • Post #4 - April 7th, 2007, 10:03 am
    Post #4 - April 7th, 2007, 10:03 am Post #4 - April 7th, 2007, 10:03 am
    Vital Information wrote:Given that I'm in Phoenix right now, can you (please) hurry up with the rest of your report.
    please...
    :)

    Me, too, please.
    Man : I can't understand how a poet like you can eat that stuff.
    T. S. Eliot: Ah, but you're not a poet.
  • Post #5 - April 7th, 2007, 12:02 pm
    Post #5 - April 7th, 2007, 12:02 pm Post #5 - April 7th, 2007, 12:02 pm
    Vital Information wrote:Given that I'm in Phoenix right now, can you (please) hurry up with the rest of your report.

    please...
    :)


    Josephine wrote:Me, too, please.

    PM's in progress . . . more to come here, shortly.

    =R=
    Why don't you take these profiteroles and put them up your shi'-ta-holes? --Jemaine & Bret

    There's a horse loose in a hospital --JM

    That don't impress me much --Shania Twain
  • Post #6 - April 7th, 2007, 5:29 pm
    Post #6 - April 7th, 2007, 5:29 pm Post #6 - April 7th, 2007, 5:29 pm
    ROb,

    Tell me you're going to Pizzeria Bianco. Thought by many to be the best pie in America.

    I can't wait to visit this place for myself, but would love to live vicariously through you.

    AZ
    Let the wild rumpus start!
  • Post #7 - April 7th, 2007, 5:37 pm
    Post #7 - April 7th, 2007, 5:37 pm Post #7 - April 7th, 2007, 5:37 pm
    ponzu wrote:ROb,

    Tell me you're going to Pizzeria Bianco. Thought by many to be the best pie in America.

    I can't wait to visit this place for myself, but would love to live vicariously through you.

    AZ


    passover :oops: :evil: :(
    Think Yiddish, Dress British - Advice of Evil Ronnie to me.
  • Post #8 - April 7th, 2007, 6:55 pm
    Post #8 - April 7th, 2007, 6:55 pm Post #8 - April 7th, 2007, 6:55 pm
    ponzu wrote:Tell me you're going to Pizzeria Bianco. Thought by many to be the best pie in America.
    When I was in AZ recently, my Mom and I drove up from Tucson to Mesa for the opening day of Cubs training. Afterwards I wanted to go to Pizzeria Bianco. First off, Phoenix has absolutely the worst rush hour traffic I have ever experienced. A 15 minute drive from Mesa to Heritage Square ended up taking over an hour. Nevertheless, we arrived at PB about 15 minutes after they opened on a tuesday afternoon. We were told there was already a 2 1/2 hour wait. It is a very tiny, and very popular place. I probably would have waited, but my 83 year old mother was not up to it. I was able to snap a few pictures of their amazing oven, and meet Chris Bianco, who actually makes the pizzas himself (at least he was that night). Despite being totally busy, he took the time to say hi, and tried to talk us into waiting for a table. At any rate, it turns out that the Bar Bianco opens at 4 and they start making a list for when they start serving at 5. So, if you want to get in there at a reasonable time, I suggest going early. Also they have a very small parking lot in front of the place which is probably full all the time, but if you drive around the block to the other side of Heritage Square, there is a parking garage that accepts validation (PB happily validated our parking eventhough we chose not to wait for a table).

    edited: oops, I meant Heritage Square, not Pioneer Square (I was thinking of Seattle)
    Last edited by d4v3 on April 7th, 2007, 7:58 pm, edited 1 time in total.
  • Post #9 - April 7th, 2007, 7:30 pm
    Post #9 - April 7th, 2007, 7:30 pm Post #9 - April 7th, 2007, 7:30 pm
    d4v3 wrote:I was able to snap a few pictures of their amazing oven, and meet Chris Bianco, who actually makes the pizzas himself (at least he was that night).


    He is the only one that ever makes the pizza...no Chris, no pizza. If you have a party of 6 or more, they will accept reservations, but make them far in advance.
  • Post #10 - April 7th, 2007, 7:46 pm
    Post #10 - April 7th, 2007, 7:46 pm Post #10 - April 7th, 2007, 7:46 pm
    I will say that I've been to Bianco a couple of times (this trip included) and as much as it is hyped, it is most definitely not-overhyped, IMO. I promise to get to this -- and the rest of the great places we ate -- as soon as possible. But next up is Bartolotta, at the Wynn.

    =R=
    Why don't you take these profiteroles and put them up your shi'-ta-holes? --Jemaine & Bret

    There's a horse loose in a hospital --JM

    That don't impress me much --Shania Twain
  • Post #11 - April 8th, 2007, 10:30 am
    Post #11 - April 8th, 2007, 10:30 am Post #11 - April 8th, 2007, 10:30 am
    Day 1 - Las Vegas, NV (continued)

    I'd heard a lot of buzz about Bartolotta. Generally speaking, buzz isn't really enough to incent me to try a place. In this case however, we were seeing the 7 pm show of Love at the Mirage and we were staying at the Wynn anyway, so before leaving the hotel we made a 9:30 reservation at Bartolotta and hoped that our one lost suitcase (which contained the 'nice' clothes) would arrive at the hotel before it was time for dinner. We were told not to worry; that nice jeans were ok. As it turned out, that was true.

    A friend told me that I should say 'hello' to chef Paul Bartolotta because they were friends. I generally try to resist doing this, at least until the end of the meal. It's awkward. But, I started feeling a bit guilty about my son when the clock turned to 9:45 and we were still waiting for our table. Being our travel day, it was actually 11:45 and I was feeling like a bad parent. Yes, we had to eat but maybe we could have just done something easier.

    That's when I saw Chef making the rounds in the dining room. He was giving one woman a tour and checking in with many of the other tables along the way. At that point, I figured that I probably should relay the 'hello' because it was getting late and I felt the need to push things along. Needless to say, Chef was delighted to receive the 'hello' from his old friend and almost immediately turned to the host and asked if there was a table available for us.

    We stood at the front of the restaurant and chatted with Chef about the state of things in the culinary world and specifically in Chicago. His passion was instantly clear and he talked about the steep contrast between his intensely technical work at Spiaggia and what he was trying to accomplish here at Bartolotta. My son asked Chef if they offered calamari. Chef told him 'no' but didn't hesitate to mention the very similar cuddlefish which, he promised, if my son did not like, would be 'on him.' A couple of moments later we were led to our table, which was downstairs in the colorful and elegant-but-not-stuffy dining room.

    Bartolotta's concept of immaculately fresh fish, flown in daily from the Mediterranean and minimally prepared was reinforced via the menu and the cart of clear-eyed whole fish and still wriggling crustaceans that was wheeled up to our table. This was truly going to be an ingredient-driven meal and I was grateful for the chance to try out a variety of fish which I'd never tried before.

    But before that, we sampled the aforementioned cuddlefish, which was cooked al dente, cut into strips and served with a light parsley sauce. It was clear from the way we were snarfing it down that the chef would not have to make good on his offer to my son. We also went with the outstanding, signature Scallops and Porcini appetizer, which was adorned with wide shavings of Parmigiano Reggiano and truffle oil.

    Entree-wise, the wife and I opted for the Rombo, which iirc, is similar to flounder. Since fish is sold by its weight at Bartolotta, the most logical thing for us to do was split the 1,000 gram offering. Most of the smaller fish, we were told, had sold earlier in the evening. The fish was baked simply with a bit of lemon and then skinned, fileted and served tableside. It was quite a show watching the fish being expertly-prepared for service at our table. Served along with the fish were some perfectly crispy fingerling potatoes and deeply-sweet roasted red peppers. The 'sauce' was comprised of cherry tomatoes and champagne vinegar. The fish itself was tasty, moist and quite-obviously fresh. The acidity of the 'sauce' was perfect and foiled the fish's richness nicely.

    My son ordered the gnocchi (primi piatti), which were outstanding. Again, the execution was flawless and the light tomato sauce was just enough to complement the gnocchi without obscuring them. This dish was a simple pleasure, although we all know that perfect gnocchi are not really so simple.

    For dessert, we chose a sampling of 3 gelatos, which were all very nice. My favorite of the trio was the roasted banana but the vanilla and the chocolate were darned good too.

    I'd say, based on our experience, that Bartolotta hits the mark 100% as far executing their concept. This kind of dining isn't what I'm used it and it isn't what I would necessarily choose first for myself. But they do what they do extremely well and because they are so dedicated to executing their concept, for all its self-described simplicity, the place is actually quite distinctive. Our meal was terrific and it was a great reference point for me. As I 'dine forward,' this meal will be the benchmark to which I compare similar meals. And to someone who really loves this style of dining, I'd recommend Bartolotta in a heartbeat.

    =R=

    Bartolotta Ristorante di Mare (at the Wynn)
    3131 Las Vegas Boulevard
    Las Vegas, NV 89109
    702 770-3305

    To be continued . . .
    Last edited by ronnie_suburban on April 8th, 2007, 3:17 pm, edited 1 time in total.
    Why don't you take these profiteroles and put them up your shi'-ta-holes? --Jemaine & Bret

    There's a horse loose in a hospital --JM

    That don't impress me much --Shania Twain
  • Post #12 - April 8th, 2007, 10:55 am
    Post #12 - April 8th, 2007, 10:55 am Post #12 - April 8th, 2007, 10:55 am
    Glad you liked Bartolotta Ron. I went last time I was in Vegas (last October), and my impressions were the same as yours. Ingredient-driven, flawless execution. Definitely one of my favorite places to eat in Las Vegas.
    -Josh

    I've started blogging about the Stuff I Eat
  • Post #13 - April 8th, 2007, 12:12 pm
    Post #13 - April 8th, 2007, 12:12 pm Post #13 - April 8th, 2007, 12:12 pm
    The cuisine was very clean but not with the flavor that I has remembered while he was at Spiaggia.
  • Post #14 - April 8th, 2007, 11:51 pm
    Post #14 - April 8th, 2007, 11:51 pm Post #14 - April 8th, 2007, 11:51 pm
    passover


    Maybe after sundown on tuesday? Maybe Chris can bake you a matzoh pizza margarhita in his wood burning oven.

    (I'm officially ashamed for suggesting that you enter into my own lapsed state of judaism, for a simple slice of AMERICA'S BEST PIZZA.)

    Enjoy your trip.


    AZ
    Let the wild rumpus start!
  • Post #15 - April 9th, 2007, 3:00 pm
    Post #15 - April 9th, 2007, 3:00 pm Post #15 - April 9th, 2007, 3:00 pm
    Day 2 - Las Vegas, NV

    I think it was the Kids in the Hall who once referred to Las Vegas as 'a small dog, barking in the desert.' As I walked into the Venetian Hotel, I couldn't get that term out of my mind. Here was this empirically lovely hotel, which -- had I been deposited therein, unaware of my actual location -- would have probably impressed me, no end. Yet, the knowledge that I was in Las Vegas, so tainted my perception of the joint, that the more of it I saw -- the painted ceilings, the golden statues, the intricately-patterned carpets -- the more ridiculous it all seemed. Its opulence was so faux, so gaudy, it was essentialy mocking itself.

    A friend told me that Bouchon was on the 2nd floor and had described the exact location of the elevator I'd need to use to get there. That was good because the less time I had to spend navigating the cavernous hotel and walking through it, the more time I'd have to eat. As I hurried toward what I hoped would be a great breakfast, I will admit that the idea of a French-themed eatery, via California, being located inside this excessively Italian-esque hotel, did absolutely nothing to make the moment seem less 'Vegasy.' I wondered if people really did take this place seriously. Was I just some jaded old man? Did the Venetian possess a true beauty that was simply wasted on me? As the door of the restaurant came into view, my stomach began to growl and that, thankfully, ended my Vegas-morning introspection.

    Bouchon's space is cool and imitates, well . . . a bouchon quite nicely. The colorful tile floor is beautiful, and the zinc bar is dramatic . . .

    Image

    Image
    Images courtesy of Eliot Wexler.

    Service was a bit slow and my wife whispered to me, "even if we were in France, we'd have coffee our by now." Having already put my own mental machinations about such issues to rest, I very calmly reminded her that we were actually in Las Vegas and urged her to sit tight.

    Sure enough, only a few more minutes passed before our server appeared with a fresh pot of coffee and an apology. We gave him our order and when my son couldn't decide what kind of pastry he wanted, our server was more than happy to walk him over to the counter so he could decide by looking at the offerings.

    I tried the croissant, which was as good as any I'd ever enjoyed. It was golden brown and crusty on the outside and light and delicately layered in the inside. Because of its overall lightness, I think it would be accurate to describe it as ethereal. Yet it was also buttery and rich. My wife opted for the lemon scone. I am not normally a scone fan (they remind me of a cookie in which an ingredient or 2 have been forgotten) but this one was very tasty. My son had the cheese danish which was very straightforward and very delicious.

    The hot food came next and the best of the lot was the terrific Baked Egg casserole which included sun-dried tomato, bread cubes, cheese and lardon. It was served with a side of delectable and crispy-tender potato cubes, which we all loved. My Croque Madame, served on brioche and topped with a fried egg and Mornay sauce was also excellent and satisfying. I've heard great things about the frites at Bouchon but the ones that came with the CM didn't wow me. They were hot and crispy, yes but very, very dry and gave every appearance of having been frozen (which is not to say that they were, I'm honestly not sure). My son opted for the Breakfast Americaine and again it was very straightforward. The eggs were scrambled lightly, as ordered and the frites were, unfortunately, identical to the ones that came with my sandwich. The Hobbs bacon that came with the BA was very tasty and the Country sausage was densely porky and really delicious. I loved the flavor and the definition of the links and it comforted me to see that they took the varying shapes of the natural casings into which they were packed. We also tried the Boudin Blanc and it was delicate in texture and tangy and rich in flavor. It was a very good rendition that communicated fully the subtlety of this often mis-produced sausage.

    There were a couple other items that I wish we'd been able to try but we were quite full and even then, we left the better part of our 2 generously-portioned orders of frites behind. If there is a "next time in Vegas" for me, I'd definitely return to Bouchon . . . not only to sample more of the breakfast items but also to try out their lunch or dinner offerings as well.

    After breakfast, we treated ourselves to 'relaxing' gondola ride in the 'canal' just outside the front of the hotel. The deep, melodic voice of our gondolier singing opera mixed surrealistically with the sounds of traffic rising from the Las Vegas strip. It was one of the most bizarre moments I'd exprienced in quite a while and I knew that if I didn't eat something else soon, it could end up traumatizing me.

    =R=

    Bouchon at the Venetian
    3355 Las Vegas Blvd S
    Las Vegas, 89109

    To be continued . . .
    Why don't you take these profiteroles and put them up your shi'-ta-holes? --Jemaine & Bret

    There's a horse loose in a hospital --JM

    That don't impress me much --Shania Twain
  • Post #16 - April 9th, 2007, 3:46 pm
    Post #16 - April 9th, 2007, 3:46 pm Post #16 - April 9th, 2007, 3:46 pm
    Ronnie, I ate ate at Bouchon last September. I was not that impressed. A certain amount of it was an expectation thing. I mean Keller...plus I loved perusing the high-gloss Bouchon cookbook at our Saturday Border's visits. I really expected the Kellertm bouchon (woth a small b) experience. In other words, the best roast chicken, the best frite, etc.

    Not in the least. I did like some raw oysters we had as an appetizer (really good), but the rest of the meal was rather banal. The fries, being frozen, really got my ire. In fact, Bouchon's frozen fries rank up their with Arun's pad thai as the most banal eating moments of the Internet age (for me!). Also, I found the decor very solid and pretty but from eye level down. It was like a movie facade. If you looked a bit closer, you found it almost on the cheap side.

    Anyways, I look forward to the rest of your reports. Great ice cream tip for Phoenix.
    Think Yiddish, Dress British - Advice of Evil Ronnie to me.
  • Post #17 - April 10th, 2007, 1:46 pm
    Post #17 - April 10th, 2007, 1:46 pm Post #17 - April 10th, 2007, 1:46 pm
    Day 2 - Las Vegas, NV (continued)

    As V.I. posted above, we all have our own personal outcome/expectations formulas which, for better or for worse, affect the way we ultimately feel about the places at which we've eaten. Because my expectations for Joel Robuchon's L'Atelier were so high, I was nervous that I'd be disappointed by it. So far, our experiences in Vegas had been a mixed bag and while we'd enjoyed everything we'd eaten, with the exception of Lotus of Siam, none of it really exceeded our expectations. We'd saved L'Atelier for last and the moment had finally arrived.

    After a short walk through the MGM, we found ourselves in 'Robuchon corner,' where L'Atelier and the more formal 'Mansion' were located, right next to each other. Even though we hadn't specifically reserved seats at the counter, our request was accomodated and the 4 of us were seated at the counter right away. I'd made the reservations and really had no idea at the time that non-counter seating was even available. I suppose that a meal taken at a table could be just as enjoyable but that seemed to go against the grain of the entire concept at L'Atelier where chefs prepare and plate your meals directly in front of you at the counter and at the open kitchen, which is located directly behind the counter.

    Shiny blackish-gray granite, black tile and chrome surfaces dominate L'Atelier's sleek interior and there are accents of red throughout. Chefs are clad in black uniforms with red trim at the pockets, etc. The overall room is dark with zoned lighting focused on the kitchen, eating areas at the counters and tables. The space looks futuristic but in spite of that, also conveys a feeling of warmth too. In any case, it certainly is one of the most distinctively-designed restaurants I've ever seen. Here are a few images, captured by my friend John Sconzo for eGullet:

    Image

    Image

    Image


    The 'Discovery Menu,' is an approximately 10-course tasting menu and there is also an la carte menu which offers tasting portions of a couple dozen items as well as hot and cold appetizers and full-sized entrees. My friend and I each opted for the Discovery Menu (adding one course, the Langoustine, from the a la carte offerings) and my wife and son decided to create their own tasting menu by ordering and sharing several items from the a la carte menu.


    Here's the menu we had:

    Image
    L'Amuse-Bouche
    Honeydew gelee, peppered yogurt and prosciutto ham . . . nice, brightly-flavored, a perfect palate opener.


    Image
    Le Thon Rouge
    Bluefin tuna with tomato infused olive oil . . . clean, distinctive flavors which complemented each other well and showcased the tuna.


    Image
    Le Langoustine
    Crispy langoustine fritter with basil pesto . . . loved this crispy and tender bite of succulent langoustine.


    Image
    La Saint-Jacques
    Fresh Scallop cooked in the shell with seaweed butter . . . immaculately fresh and tender scallop accented wonderfully with the seaweed butter.


    Image
    Le Homard
    Maine lobster custard with curry scent and fennel foam . . . decadance made subtle, a wonderful combination.


    Image
    L'Asperge Verte
    Cappucino of green asparagus . . . this really was the essence of asparagus, just terrific.


    Image
    La Morille
    Crispy tart with fresh morels, onions and bacon . . . I enjoyed this simple tart quite a bit.


    Image
    La Caille
    Free-range quail stuffed with foie gras and served with truffled mashed potatoes . . . my favorite course, great, luxury ingredients which worked perfectly together. Robuchon's legendary pommes puree were all they were cracked up to be.


    Image
    L'Ananas
    Pineapple sorbet, passionfruit sauce and caramel mousse . . . light, refreshing and sweet -- but not overly so. A nice pre-dessert.


    Image
    Le Chocolat
    Sensation - Creme Araguani with oreo cookie crumbs . . . I loved the balance of this dessert. It was deep and rich but had enough sweetness for me, too.

    I also tasted a few of the items ordered by my wife and son. I have to say that I loved them all including the 'prosciutto' ham served with toasted tomato bread, the Norwegian smoked salmon with potato waffle and the Atelier-style spaghetti which was very similar to carbonara and done to perfection.

    Service was wonderful -- professional, knowledgeable and friendly. The concept of these luxurious but approachable dishes being served by the chef, at the counter, is a fantastic one. Rumor has it that the Robuchon team will be opening a L'Atelier in Chicago. I certainly hope it's true and if it is I definitely plan to dine there on a regular basis. This experience was fantastic on every level and easily surpassed my expectations over and over again. When it was all over, I was actually sad that it had come to an end. I certainly couldn't have eaten anymore but we'd had such a great time, I wished it could have continued.

    =R=

    L'Atelier de Joël Robuchon
    3799 Las Vegas Blvd S
    Las Vegas, 89109
    (702) 891-7777

    Next stop, Phoenix, AZ . . .

    Thanks again to John Sconzo and the eGS for the fantastic images which appear in this post.
    Why don't you take these profiteroles and put them up your shi'-ta-holes? --Jemaine & Bret

    There's a horse loose in a hospital --JM

    That don't impress me much --Shania Twain
  • Post #18 - April 10th, 2007, 4:49 pm
    Post #18 - April 10th, 2007, 4:49 pm Post #18 - April 10th, 2007, 4:49 pm
    Keep these reports coming. Looks like a great time. The pictures and descriptions look great. I'm going to copy them (with pictures) into my PDA for my upcoming LV trip in June.
    Bruce
    Plenipotentiary
    bruce@bdbbq.com

    Raw meat should NOT have an ingredients list!!
  • Post #19 - April 11th, 2007, 4:31 pm
    Post #19 - April 11th, 2007, 4:31 pm Post #19 - April 11th, 2007, 4:31 pm
    Bruce wrote:Keep these reports coming. Looks like a great time. The pictures and descriptions look great. I'm going to copy them (with pictures) into my PDA for my upcoming LV trip in June.


    Bruce,
    John does take some great shots and the ones above are far from his best work. The ones above were taken without a flash. I'm grateful that he allowed me to post them here.

    Day 3 - Phoenix, AZ

    I bypass the BK kiosk at the Las Vegas airport, even though it's the only food available. It's 8:30 am and I'm not quite ready for a burger -- especially a BK burger. And for whatever reason, breakfast, to which I would have succomb, is not being offered here. The flight offers way too much drama and most of it occurs before we even take off. First, everyone in the cabin is suddenly thrown forward when the pilot brakes hard on the tarmac in order to avoid another aircraft, no more than 20 yards from us. Once in-line for take-off, we're delayed again due to a light aircraft, on a photo shoot, meandering around the airport and refusing to vacate. Our flight crew was so green, they could barely read the scripted, pre-flight safety instructions or pour the drinks and our landing in Phoenix was more of a 'bounce' off the runway than an actual landing. Nothing like some good airport drama to work up the old appetite.

    A friend told me that there was a great, food-intensive strip mall at 40th Street and Campbell (only one shop here is not food-related, iirc), which used to be a post office. Now it housed, among other businesses (more on these later) a great wine bar/sandwich shop called Postino. It was Saturday afternoon in the desert. The sun was shining. It was 78 degrees F and Postino was comfortably full with an ecclectic looking group of folks ranging from their 20's to their 60's. The large doors which formed the main outside wall had been pulled open so that the indoor and outdoor seating areas blended together into one. Music was playing and it once again felt great to be on vacation.

    The food menu at Postino is very simple: a few aptly-themed starters like olives and cheeses, a handful of thoughtful salads and a couple of categories of bread-based selections -- bruschetta and panini -- offered with a fairly wide variety of toppings and fillings. Panini were offered on a choice of either focaccia or ciabatta. A few desserts round out the menu.

    The beverage program at Postino is well-conceived and distinctive. About 30 wines are offered by-the-glass at prices between $8 and $13 per. Within each wine category several varieties are offered: 3 sparklings, a dozen or so whites, a few more reds than whites and 3 dessert wines. The white and red wines are listed first by grape, then origin and vintage. I don't believe any grape was represented by more than one wine on the menu and that made the selection a unique and diverse one. The beer menu at Postino was also compelling. It lists nearly 2 dozen well-chosen brews; a diverse roster which covered a wide variety of styles and origins. All of these offerings are served on tap and priced between $4-$8 per mug.

    We each ordered a panini and a beverage. I had the 'Autostrada' (sopresatta, prosciutto, cappicola, mortadella, and provolone dressed with balsamic vinegar and olive oil) on ciabatta and a glass of LGO "Loosen" Reisling. My wife had the 'Prosciutto with Brie' (prosciutto with triple-cream brie, figs and arugula dressed with balsamic vinegar and olive oil) on ciabatta and a glass of Man Vinters Chenin Blanc. The little man had the 'Ham and Cheese' (Applewood-smoked ham with provolone and mozzarella cheese topped with tomatoes and dressed with Sierra Nevada mustard) and a Sprite. Wife and I also split an extremely tasty and well-conceived 'Mixed Greens' salad which was comprised of seasonal greens, dried cranberries, candied pecans, figs, gorgonzola cheese -- and served with Postino’s berry vinaigrette.

    The ciabatta on which the panini were served was excellent, noteworthy. It was hearty and crusty and dusty with flour. The crumb was moist, slightly sour and boasted a gorgeous network of unevenly-sized air pockets which revealed the craftsmanship with which it had been produced. It is baked at MJ Bread, which is a commercial bakery, just a few doors down from Postino, in this same strip mall. The 'fillings' on the sandwiches were also top-notch but the bread was the star of the show, by far.

    It was a very satisfying breakfast/lunch/snack and even though I was pretty full (and hadn't finished my gigantic panini), I still felt compelled to check out the well-regarded Arlecchino Gelateria, which is in the same building; located just around the corner from Postino. We'd heard and read such great things about it, there was no way we were going to skip it.

    =R=

    Postino Winecafe'
    3939 East Campbell Ave
    Phoenix, AZ
    602-852-3939

    To be continued . . .
    Why don't you take these profiteroles and put them up your shi'-ta-holes? --Jemaine & Bret

    There's a horse loose in a hospital --JM

    That don't impress me much --Shania Twain
  • Post #20 - April 11th, 2007, 5:45 pm
    Post #20 - April 11th, 2007, 5:45 pm Post #20 - April 11th, 2007, 5:45 pm
    Day 3 - Phoenix, AZ (continued)

    With the possible exception of some great gelato I once enjoyed outside the Duomo in Florence, the Arlecchino Gelateria in Phoenix serves the best gelato I've ever eaten. Period. It is rich and dense and the flavors are simply unparalleled.

    Not only did I cap off my panini with a 2-scoop portion of delectable, creamy gelato but I also returned to Arlecchino 3 more times during my stay in Phoenix. I normally don't even like sweets, yet I found myself thinking about Arlecchino at all hours. I'd wake up in the middle of the night and think about which flavors I was going to try the next day. I became instantly obsessed.

    Arlecchino is owned by married couple Marina and Moreno Spangaro, who left Italy for the Phoenix area a few years back. Before they came to the U.S., Moreno was persuasive enough to arrange for himself an extremely rare, 2-year apprenticeship, learning the 'ins and outs' of gelato from the famed 'Maestro' in Trieste, Italy; Fabio Sacchetto. After agreeing that he would never open a gelateria in Italy or reveal the recipes without specific consent from Sacchetto, Moreno began working 14-hour days, without pay, learning the craft.

    Obviously, seasonality plays a huge part in Arlecchino's gelatos. This is especially true because they are made 100% from scratch. No bases, flavors, purees or concentrates are ever used. As far as Moreno is concerned, gelato which includes such ingredients is not really gelato at all.

    On my first trip to Arlecchino, I enjoyed a scoop of pistachio and a scoop of cortina (roasted almond with lingonberry). I could not believe how bright the flavors were, how rich and dense the gelato was and how satisfying the mouthfeel was. It was simply perfection. Over the ensuing days, I also enjoyed the gianduja (chocolate and hazelnut with cherries imported from Italy), mascarpone, lemon, strawberry, valentino (pomegranate) and many, many more. On our last day, a new flavor had appeared in the case: blood orange. Marina told us that it was the last batch of the season. Their friends near San Diego, who have a blood orange tree in their yard, had just sent them the last fruit of the season. The resulting product was singularly spectacular.

    I cannot express in words how tremendous this gelato was. It makes me sad thinking about how long it will be before I get to enjoy it again. But I know that someday -- probably next spring -- I'll have another chance. In the interim, I have begun my search for a suitable substitute but I'm not optimistic.

    =R=

    Arlecchino Gelateria
    4410 N 40th St.
    Phoenix AZ 85018
    602 955-2448

    To be continued . . .
    Why don't you take these profiteroles and put them up your shi'-ta-holes? --Jemaine & Bret

    There's a horse loose in a hospital --JM

    That don't impress me much --Shania Twain
  • Post #21 - April 11th, 2007, 10:00 pm
    Post #21 - April 11th, 2007, 10:00 pm Post #21 - April 11th, 2007, 10:00 pm
    Kinda glad to hear of a good breakfast at Bouchon... when I was there in March, I got horribly overcooked eggs and undercooked (but burnt in some parts, I thought only my husband mastered that technique :D ) bacon that really ruined what I hoped would be a fantastic experience. (And no, I'm an idiot, I did not complain, I ate as much as I could of the food before me and my timid self left there heartbroken at my meal and my lack of guts to speak up about the lack of quality that I saw).

    It gives me hope. One of these days, maybe I'll try it again.
  • Post #22 - April 11th, 2007, 10:39 pm
    Post #22 - April 11th, 2007, 10:39 pm Post #22 - April 11th, 2007, 10:39 pm
    missvjw wrote:Kinda glad to hear of a good breakfast at Bouchon... when I was there in March, I got horribly overcooked eggs and undercooked (but burnt in some parts, I thought only my husband mastered that technique :D ) bacon that really ruined what I hoped would be a fantastic experience. (And no, I'm an idiot, I did not complain, I ate as much as I could of the food before me and my timid self left there heartbroken at my meal and my lack of guts to speak up about the lack of quality that I saw).

    It gives me hope. One of these days, maybe I'll try it again.

    Well, as much as I liked it, there was a breakfast in Phoenix (about which I will post soon), that I enjoyed much more. It was going to be just about impossible for Bouchon to exceed my expectations . . . and in the end, it didn't. The place in Phoenix, I didn't even know about until I arrived in town, so there were almost no expectations, although I'm not really sure how much of a factor that was.

    =R=
    Why don't you take these profiteroles and put them up your shi'-ta-holes? --Jemaine & Bret

    There's a horse loose in a hospital --JM

    That don't impress me much --Shania Twain
  • Post #23 - April 11th, 2007, 10:56 pm
    Post #23 - April 11th, 2007, 10:56 pm Post #23 - April 11th, 2007, 10:56 pm
    Glad to hear about the service at Bartolotta. Last fall, I dragged a group (non-Chicagoans) there with very high expectations based on his work here. The food was very well-prepared, though clearly not up to Spiaggia's standards. The service was simply the worst I've ever had at a place anywhere near that price point. Rude and uninformed. When I inquired about the bottarga, which I saw as we were walking in, the captain sent over the wine guy, who snootily said they aren't familiar with that label. Blatant upselling/shaming diners into over-ordering was also a theme, as was server disappearance. After the trip, I made my experience known to the management, and I also noted a chorus of similar criticisms on line and in the press. I'm not surprised to see that Bartolotta and Wynn seem to have addressed the problem. I only wish they had opened with appropriate staff.

    PS, were the cuttlefish from Italy and alive when they were presented? That would be impressive. Nothing live was presented for our inspection last year, though the fresh fish looked good.
  • Post #24 - April 11th, 2007, 11:01 pm
    Post #24 - April 11th, 2007, 11:01 pm Post #24 - April 11th, 2007, 11:01 pm
    JeffB wrote:PS, were the cuttlefish from Italy and alive when they were presented? That would be impressive. Nothing live was presented for our inspection last year, though the fresh fish looked good.

    IIRC, the cuttlefish were flown in from the Mediterranean with the rest of the fish but were not presented alive. The 2 things I remember as being alive on the display cart were the spiny lobster and the langoustine.

    =R=
    Why don't you take these profiteroles and put them up your shi'-ta-holes? --Jemaine & Bret

    There's a horse loose in a hospital --JM

    That don't impress me much --Shania Twain
  • Post #25 - April 11th, 2007, 11:10 pm
    Post #25 - April 11th, 2007, 11:10 pm Post #25 - April 11th, 2007, 11:10 pm
    Real langostinos were the high point of our meal. Great stuff. Presumably, they were alive shortly before we ate them...

    Squid and cuttlefish actually benefit greatly from being super-fresh (as I learned from kaiseki meals, but also from beach-side shacks in any number of places). But, they are cheap and probably not easy to keep on life support. Probably wouldn't make sense to offer live squid or cuttlefish, though it would make for an interesting fish tank.
  • Post #26 - April 13th, 2007, 10:38 am
    Post #26 - April 13th, 2007, 10:38 am Post #26 - April 13th, 2007, 10:38 am
    Day 3 - Phoenix, AZ (continued)

    Tired, not overly-hungry and knowing how food-intensive the rest of our week was going to be, we decided to keep it simple and headed out to In-N-Out Burger. Sure, it wasn't exactly destination dining but having spent quite a bit of time in southern California in the 90's I really missed In-N-Out. And being unavailable in Chicago, I still considered it a 'purpose' meal and thought it would be a good choice. I also wanted to share the experience with my son, who'd never been to In-N-Out.

    With the aid of our laptop, we were able to locate an In-N-Out in Scottsdale, just a few miles from our hotel. We jumped in the car and headed over. We arrived at about 10 pm and the place was relatively crowded with teenagers -- and a few families. It had been years since my last experience at In-N-Out and I hoped that their once-familiar burger would still taste great and possibly evoke some memories for me. I also was hoping that my son would enjoy it.

    The burgers were fine, with a certain distinctive note (possibly the thick rings of raw onion) that instantly brought me back. Was this a superior-quality burger? Definitely not but nostalgia is a strong factor and a flood of memories from my more unencumbered days on the west coast poured into my mind as I wolfed it down. It was a nice moment. For what it was worth, the wife and son enjoyed their burgers too but the fries absolutely sucked. I remembered them being much, much better. Oh well, we'd had our dinner -- one we couldn't have had at home -- and knew that in the morning, with our Phoenix friends returning to town, there was much better and locally-representative food on the horizon.

    =R=

    In-N-Out Burger
    7467 E. Frank Lloyd Wright
    Scottsdale, AZ 85257
    (and other locations)
    Why don't you take these profiteroles and put them up your shi'-ta-holes? --Jemaine & Bret

    There's a horse loose in a hospital --JM

    That don't impress me much --Shania Twain
  • Post #27 - April 13th, 2007, 10:44 am
    Post #27 - April 13th, 2007, 10:44 am Post #27 - April 13th, 2007, 10:44 am
    Great stuff Ronnie!

    re: Robuchon - Did you have a hard time choosing between L'Atelier & Mansion? Other than formality, are the menus that different? I was under the impression that the food at L'Atelier was more casual along with the decor, ambience, service, etc.

    I ask because I'm thinking of being in Vegas soon & would love to eat Robuchon's food. Maybe I should go to Mansion & wait for the Chicago outpost of l'Atelier?
  • Post #28 - April 13th, 2007, 11:28 am
    Post #28 - April 13th, 2007, 11:28 am Post #28 - April 13th, 2007, 11:28 am
    viaChgo wrote:Great stuff Ronnie!

    re: Robuchon - Did you have a hard time choosing between L'Atelier & Mansion? Other than formality, are the menus that different? I was under the impression that the food at L'Atelier was more casual along with the decor, ambience, service, etc.

    I ask because I'm thinking of being in Vegas soon & would love to eat Robuchon's food. Maybe I should go to Mansion & wait for the Chicago outpost of l'Atelier?

    We went with L'Atelier primarily because our son was with us and knew that the experience would be more suitable for him. The counter service was something I knew that he'd enjoy and since I'd read a lot about L'Atelier, I really wanted to try it too. Ideally, we could have eaten at both of Robuchon's places in Vegas, but with only 2 days there and being there as a family, I think we made the best choice for ourselves.

    The menus are definitely different and Mansion is more expensive and more formal (e.g. one dish at Mansion, a whole, roasted black truffle cost more than the entire Discovery menu at L'Atelier). Mansion is also strictly table service. Again, I'd love to go there too but this wasn't the trip for that.

    If Chicago does indeed become home to L'Atelier, your proposed plan sounds good. Right now, as far as I know, it's only rumor. It'd be annoying to skip it in Vegas and then learn that the Chicago plans were only rumor. I'm not sure what to advise but I get the feeling, based on what I've read, heard and experienced first-hand, that you'll be happy regardless of which Robuchon experience you choose for yourself.

    =R=
    Why don't you take these profiteroles and put them up your shi'-ta-holes? --Jemaine & Bret

    There's a horse loose in a hospital --JM

    That don't impress me much --Shania Twain
  • Post #29 - April 15th, 2007, 11:31 am
    Post #29 - April 15th, 2007, 11:31 am Post #29 - April 15th, 2007, 11:31 am
    Day 4 - Phoenix, AZ

    Sunday morning in Phoenix and it's not that we can't bear the idea of eating brunch at our hotel -- the food there is certainly passable. But we'd like to bite off something a bit more meaningful before we head to our first Cubs game of the pre-season. Experience tells me that the food at Hohokam Park is not worth skipping a meal for.

    Based on a friend's reminder, we decide to hit Richardson's New Mexican Restaurant, where we'd enjoyed a lunch the last time we were in Phoenix. It's near our hotel, on the way to the ballpark and from what we remember, their food is distinctive and quite tasty.

    The place is dark and the dining room offers seating exclusively in adobe-esque plaster booths accented with minimally comfortable, black upholstered pillows. The tabletops are covered with attractive punched tin. And even though there's no one smoking, a sign on the door warns that no smoking section is provided. Nonetheless, we cross our fingers and take a round booth near the back of the restaurant.

    The offerings are pretty straightforward. We started out with a plate of New Mexican sausages which were really tasty. They were smothered with salsa verde and pinto beans. My wife and I both choose breakfast burritos, which are filled with eggs, nueske bacon (at least it's good quality if not exactly regionally representative) and again smothered with the requisite salsa verde and pinto beans. My son opts for one of the specials; tenderloin benedict with jalapeno hollandaise sauce. A few other tempting specials were also on the board, like blueberry pancakes and a mixed grill.

    The burritos were tasty and sastisfying. There's something about a big sloppy plate of New Mexican breakfast that really hits the spot, even though it may not be the most artistic plate one can enjoy. There's not a lot of panache here but the food is well-prepared and excellent in quality. I'm not much of a tenderloin fan but the benedict was really nice. The hollandaise delivered a slight heat and the flavor of the jalapenos really came through, which was probably in part due to the very neutral flavor of the tenderloin beneath it. Nonetheless, it was a solid dish.

    The breakfast at Richardson's, not surprisingly, reminded us a lot of the lunch we'd had a couple years back. They have their niche and the cover it well. There's a lot of grilled and smothered meat and other hearty fare being served here. But the meat is of good quality, it's prepared very well and the accompanying elements, which are, I'm told, decidedly New Mexican in their aesthetic, are delicious. Consistency is one of the most underrated aspects of a good restaurant, so it's nice to walk into a place you haven't been in two years and get exactly what you expected. Too often that's much easier offered than accomplished.

    My only complaints about Richardson's are quite personal. I hate cigarette smoke (especially around my food) and for a big guy like myself with a not-so-great hip, their booths are relatively uncomfortable. On this particular day, I don't recall anyone smoking during our meal (phew!) and I managed to squeeze myself into a part of our booth where I actually fit! I certainly wouldn't describe it as comfortable but I managed. Service was terrific. Our server was very friendly, well-informed and thorough. We never waited very long for anything, she anticipated many of our needs and she answered all our questions accurately, as we asked them.

    With Richardson's, it really is a case of what you see is what you get. Quality is excellent, portions are hearty and the food is tasty. Unfortunately, I don't know enough about New Mexican food to gauge its authenticity but I've never heard or read any protests about Richardson's claim of serving New Mexican cuisine, so I'm guessing that it is at least mostly authentic. And I'd definitely recommend the place -- especially for a Sunday morning breakfast.

    =R=

    Richardson's Cuisine of New Mexico
    1582 E Bethany Home Rd
    Phoenix, AZ 85014
    (602) 265-5886

    To be continued . . .
    Last edited by ronnie_suburban on April 15th, 2007, 11:53 am, edited 1 time in total.
    Why don't you take these profiteroles and put them up your shi'-ta-holes? --Jemaine & Bret

    There's a horse loose in a hospital --JM

    That don't impress me much --Shania Twain
  • Post #30 - April 15th, 2007, 11:48 am
    Post #30 - April 15th, 2007, 11:48 am Post #30 - April 15th, 2007, 11:48 am
    Day 4 - Phoenix, AZ (continued)

    As a lifelong Cubs fan, I will say that there is no better time to watch the Cubs in person than when the games don't count. Such is the beauty of spring training. The Cubs had been schooled by the Angels and it didn't matter one bit to us. We'd had a pleasant day -- 2 hours in the sun and 1 hour in the shade and not even Kerry Wood's game-losing imcompetence could change that. And just to put a little food-spin on it, is Cubs GM Jim Hendry the only person in Chicago who doesn't know that it's time to 'put a fork' in Kerry Wood? The guy's been done for 2 years already.

    After the game, thanks to the 'stick to our ribs' breakfast we enjoyed at Richardson's, we weren't really hungry enough for another meal and dinner was just a few hours away. No problem. We decided to make another stop at Arlecchino. We each got 2 scoops. This time I order the Stracciatella (vanilla with chocolate shavings and cocoa) and the Mascarpone, which is a glorious combination. It's sunny, nary a cloud in the sky and the temperature is around 75 F. We sit in the chairs right outside Arlecchino's front door, enjoy our gelato and watch the world go by. According to my friend, this little strip mall draws 1,500 walk-ins per day. As such, there's some great people watching. We finish our gelato and linger for just a bit. Then it's back to the hotel for a little downtime before dinner. Aaah . . . vacation :)

    =R=
    Why don't you take these profiteroles and put them up your shi'-ta-holes? --Jemaine & Bret

    There's a horse loose in a hospital --JM

    That don't impress me much --Shania Twain

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