mmm-yoso!!! is a food centric blog, often with stories leading up to the reasons for the food. That's what's happening today. Kirk and Ed(from Yuma) are busy with 'research' for their food posts. Last week, Cathy mentioned she would be leaving on a vacation soon. She went and returned and now is blogging about her days out of town.
National Finals Rodeo, the best of the best. The top 15 cowboys from North America in each of seven events compete against each other in a rodeo a day for ten days. On the tenth day (this Saturday), the winner amongst winners receives a gold belt buckle in addition to their cash winnings. It's on the GAC channel, but last year the tenth day was broadcast on ESPN.
Before the rodeo starts, there's the Star Spangled banner, a prayer, a song by a famous Country Artist and the competitors line up and tip their hats to the crowd. The events are over in two hours.
Ms. T and I drive out here every year (and have for nine years now) for a "girls weekend" of relaxation, shopping and Rodeo. You can see splashes of pink on the cowboys and/or their horses as well as in the crowd because we were here on Day 5 of the Rodeo, "Tough Enough to Wear Pink" night.
My photos demonstrate the speed of timed events and not much else; the iPhone isn't quite sophisticated.
The Thomas and Mack Arena is surrounded with Sponsor booths and advertising.
The interior has a varied selection of food and adult beverage choices.
This booth caught my eye since I was looking for a low carb choice for a snack. This had sales of macaroni and cheese, chili and macaroni, chili dogs and also sold a cup of chili- for $3!
Meaty and with beans and a good tomato broth, topped with cheese and onions (no extra charge), this was a really satisfying snack. Chili and Rodeo also seems 'right'.
The hotel, spa and casino are a nice respite for us.
After checking into our rooms, we met in the casino and walked across the street, through "The District" and across the main road to a Whole Foods store, where we each purchased snacks. \
The Protein bars and pecans and almonds were brought from home, as was the tea. Inside the box was from the prepared foods/serve yourself/by-the pound chicken adobo, which was delicious!
We went to Cowboy Christmas, a free-admission gift show, the following morning. Many purchases were made and events and giveaways enjoyed.
That first evening, I wandered into the casino area, where there is a"Food Court" and (of course) found a Starbucks, which took the place of a Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf location a month ago.
The Capriotti's storefront in the Food Court caught my eye, with the 'breakfast' signage. I asked, and they said I could order a breakfast sandwich, even at 8 p.m..
I love being able to watch short order cooks...
Egg, cheese and genoa salami on a toasted Kaiser roll ($3.27). Excellent. Quite large and very, very tasty. I need to find out of the Capriotti's around here does breakfast; the menu looked good.
Every hotel has a 24 hour restaurant.
The Grand Cafe, inside Green Valley Ranch has a special menu from midnight until 6 a.m.
This is the most expensive menu item ($5.99) -steak, eggs(poached), hash browns and toast (rye). Coffee is extra, and necessary at this hour. The NY strip steak is a real NY strip and quite large and was perfectly cooked medium-rare, as I had ordered.
Of course, Ms. T and I also at at Feast (Link to restaurants in the hotel) the all-you-can-eat buffet, where I enjoyed a plate of mains (liver and onions, chicken picatta, egg drop soup and spicy eggplant), a plate of salads (ranch salad, egg salad, mandarin beets, sweet potato salad and pear Bleu cheese salad) and my 'carby' dessert plate (a cannoli and mashed potatoes with gravy). The food and pastries prepared in this hotel are exceptional.
At 6 a.m., a coffee service is set up in the lobby area. We were on our way home at 6:30. The outside temperature was 15.
The drive home was uneventful, except for a portion of the I-15 and I-215 split, with high winds and large profile vehicles parked on the sides of the freeway.
Home before noon.
I hope everyone has the time to take a relaxing vacation during this hectic time of year.
What to do after two lunches in Vegas? Well, I guess a walk up the strip was in order. I parked at Aria, took the tram to the Bellagio, then headed up the strip. At Fashion Show Mall, where the Missus had checked out the latest from Lululemon the night before, I crossed the street and headed back.
On the way back, I decided to kill a couple of minutes at Harrah's, a place where I've had some luck in the past. I ended up making about $200 and decided it was time to flee.....
For our final dinner in Vegas, the Missus decided that we should do sort of a blow-out meal. Unfortunately, just about every place I wanted was booked, Guy Savoy, Joel Robuchon, even Picasso, no bueno. My fifth pick was Sage, in the Aria. I'd heard some nice things about the place and it seemed a lot less assuming than the other four. Years ago, when Michelin Stars and stuff like that really mattered to us, we'd have been disappointed. But after doing The French Laundry, Spago, et al, the Missus and I decided that stuff really isn't for us. Some of it was stuffy and rather pretentious and you can get to the point where you're describing the food like a science project, not my style. But hey.....every once in a while you gotta live, right? And Sage really isn't that expensive.
We arrived right when they opened at 5. Though you might take a risk with the kitchen not being in full swing....they haven't hit their rhythm yet, I still prefer a more relaxed time. And though things might get kind of hectic at the tail end of your meal, you at least have enjoyed most of your meal.
We were the second party seated and our Server, who introduced himself as "Bond, as in you know...." was a pro's pro. He was also quite a character.....we came to find out his name was Jason Bond. Next up was what and how to order. You see, I wanted the Chef's Tasting Menu with the Beer Pairing, the Missus did not. And I understand the issues with pacing and all of that. If you're getting six courses and the person across from you is just getting an app and a main, well there's going to be a lot of dead time for the person having the conventional meal. Again, we plan for the win-win. So when I explained to Mr Bond that only one of us would like the six course tasting, he tried to discourage us from doing that. Until I explained our proposal. I'd get the six course with the beer pairing and the Missus would get five starters. In essence we'd be creating our own little tasting menu. We've often found starters to be more interesting than mains in many cases. Bond got really excited about this and told us it was a great idea, he went to check with the kitchen, who he said was "excited about this". I don't know about that, but we also told him to have the kitchen sequence the starters any way they please....which would mean that it would indeed be like having our own tasting menu.
Things started out with what looked like Himalyan salt and a herb butter. We were shown the bread basket and the two different breads. The serious looking, but really funny young man said, "I think you should each take both." In the end we took one of each. We knew we had a pretty rich meal in front of us.
The sour dough was decent, nice textures. The bacon roll; well, we were tempted to get another.
We were brought an amuse of a Kumamoto Oyster with Tequila Mignonette, and Piquillo Pepper.
The mignonette had a nice tartness to it, very cleansing. Love the sweetness of Piquillo Peppers, I'll probably have to buy some one of these days.
When we had finished up the oyster, the first beer of our tasting arrived. This was a St Feuillien Saison from Belgium. Very crisp, with a nice, almost sweet aroma. This was very easy to drink, light and airy. We also noted that the temperature of the beer was just right on perfect.
This was paired with the Chilled Main Lobster. The brown butter added a nice nuttiness to the dish, making it seem a lot lighter than it was. The Missus is not a big lobster fan, but this lobster was wonderfully sweet and very tender.
The Missus got the Wagyu Beef Tartare ($18).
This was very good. The creamy lightly poached egg yolk just added that extra luxurious texture to the very fatty, melt in your mouth Wagyu Beef. Two interesting touches, the pickled mustard seeds which helped to cut the richness and the savory crisp chocolate made this dish just that much better.
Next up was an interesting dish, the Foie Gras Brulee. Tasting the combinations of flavors in this was rather unpleasant for me as I thought it way too sweet.
Though I loved the salted brioche, the brulee was too much like having candy and pudding for dinner. Great when you're in elementary school, but not after. The cocoa nibs did act to settle things down and take it into a more savory-coffee direction, but it was just too much, until...... I tried this with the beer pairing.
This dish was pared with the Dogfish Head Midas Touch. The Missus loved it as well, it has a mead-like texture and that honey like flavor. There some fruitiness to it and the Missus enjoyed that component....I'm thinking that is probably due to the use of muscat grapes in the making of this. It's a favorite beer of our now. This just seemed to take that sharp sweet edge off the Foie Gras Brulee. To me, this was an awesome pairing.
The Missus got the Grilled Spanish Octopus ($22):
You wouldn't have thought this was octopus if you looked at it. Bond told us they removed the suckers and such so as to "not scare the customers". The octopus was very tender, but this wasn't especially memorable.
My next dish was the Pan-Roasted Sea Scallop. Man, the Jamon Iberico, mild salty-sweet, along with the creamy sunchoke-parsley root, and the olive oil made for a wonderful match.
Scallop and cured pig, a match made in heaven....there should be a children's book by that name, don't you think?
This was paired with another beer from Belgium, Duvel. Very fizzy, clean, with what seems like a bit of spice, this didn't mess with the flavor of the scallops.
The Missus got Her second favorite dish of the evening; the Slow Poached Organic Farm Egg($18), which was almost obscured from view by all the shaved truffles.
The Missus just loved this, even the potato foam and the smoked potato. She was in egg-truffle heaven.
Next up was a very nice Venison Tenderloin. This might just be some of the most tender venison I've ever had.
You could really taste the venison in this dish. The combination of flavors was very pleasant.
Loved the pairing, the Ayinger Celebrator Doppelbock looked really heavy, but was not. Has a raisin-chocolate, earthy flavor which goes well with the gamey venison.
Just to prove that there is too much of a good thing, we were stunned at the huge portion size of the Roasted Sweetbreads ($17).
The dish started out really good...especially the sweet and smokey glazed bacon, which was a like a nice smoked pork belly. The sweetbreads were good at first, not the best I've had, they could have been a bit more, well, gooey on the inside. But man, after a couple of bites of this rich stuff, you pretty much wanted to hoist up the white flag. I'd prefer it more lightly fried....and that portion size was quite large for sweetbreads. And yes TFD, these are thymus glands.
Our last two savory dishes were very good. The 48 Hour Beef Belly, was rich, but the roasted quince and the caraway spiced squash helped temper things.
This was served with a Chimay Grande Reserve which was very fruity, perhaps a bit too fruity for my taste.
The Missus's last dish was the Braised Beef Tongue ($19). All I can say is that this was outstanding. Looking all the world like it would be on the waxy side, this was tender to the touch. The celery moved the dish forward by cutting the richness as did the apple cider based sauce. This had the rich, slightly gamey flavor of well made beef tongue.
Our palates were given a nice respite with "Zambuca Caviar".......
Somebody in the kitchen is playing with spherification! I'm usually not a big fan of sweet anise flavors, but this really did the trick.
I really couldn't do much after this so the Missus had the Grapefruit Semifreddo.
Dessert also came with a hard cider, a Eric Bordelet, Sidre Doux Tendre from France which the Missus really enjoyed. I ordered another Midas Touch as my dessert.
The Missus and I really enjoyed our dinner at Sage. The staff made us feel comfortable. When I told "Bond" that we'd be exchanging plates and sharing, he encouraged it. The service was excellent, efficient, but not hovering nor stuffy. We had a great time......the GM of the restaurant even came over to chat. We never felt rushed and the meal was well paced, clocking in at just a tad over 2 hours. The bill wasn't too bad either. I gave you all the prices for the starters. The Chef's Tasting Menu clocks in at $120, the beer tasting an extra $50, so we're talking about $300 total. I'm kind of glad that my other four choices didn't pan out......
Sage in Aria Resort and Casino 3732 Las Vegas Blvd South Las Vegas, NV 89109
After having some poke from Hawaaian Style Poke in the parking lot of 99 Ranch Market, I realized it was still too early to check out my "lunch stop". So what better to do then check out 99 Ranch Market? In fact, after walk around 99 Ranch Market, I drove up the street and had a look-see at 168 Market, which wasn't around the last time we visited Vegas.
The set-up of this 99 Ranch Market reminded me of the Irvine location.
Items are a bit more expensive here as well. Love the Engrish signs as well.....
Further up the street is 168 Market, which I thought was the cleanest of the three I visited.
I left 168 and jumped into my car and headed over to the plaza that housed Shun Fat Market. On the second floor is a Shaghainese Restaurant called Three Villages that had been mentioned to me a couple of times.
The set-up was a bit odd; at least for me. The "front" or street facing entrance is locked and really is just a large sign. You have to go around the corner and fine the entrance and the place almost looks vacated.
But of course it wasn't........the place was empty when I arrived though. I had to call out to check if they were actually in business.
Ordering was pretty simple. I'd come here for the Xiao Long Bao. I did make it a "combo" for a buck more and got some soup....a very plain soup with bean thread and tofu.
Actually this kind of plain, but hearty soup is the kind of thing the Missus likes....me, not so much. I will say that it was a pretty large amount of soup.
The XLB arrived soon after. First thing I noticed was how doughy and thick looking the wrappers were.
Still, I'm not the biggest fan of the over-worked, very thin wrappers and these ended up having a decent light stretch to them.....I still thought they were a bit on the thick side.
The filling was disappointing. Since they only have straight up pork XLB, I didn't expect a great range of flavors from the soup, but this was pretty weak, lacking in a good pork flavor and having no sweetness what so ever. The filling also had some hard bits as well.
Still better than anything in San Diego though. That's really not saying much.....
Three Villages Restaurant 5115 W Spring Mountain Road Las Vegas, NV 89103
After lunch I headed downstairs and had a little stroll through Shun Fat Market.
Since I was headed back to our room, I picked up a couple of Suan Nai for breakfast.
Just walking through these three markets you could notice things. The cleanest and busiest was 168. Both 168 and 99 Ranch Market actually listed the origin of their seafood, SF did not. The least cleanest was SF. I also saw a woman pick up a fish with her hands at SFM, then after putting it back she washed her hands....in the tank holding the clams! As I walked to my car in the strip mall, I smelled an acrid odor that everyone knows.....I saw the pool of liquid near the stairs. Unlike the seafood in SFM, I knew the country of origin of this liquid..... "urine-nation". Yikes.
If you're from Hawaii, I'm sure you heard Vegas called the "Ninth Island". I'm pretty sure that ore ex-pats from Hawaii live in Vegas than the rest of the United States combined. I'm not sure what the allure is, but I do remember folks I know packing up and moving back in the 90's, drawn by the gambling and the lower cost of living. Bozo told me that Vegas gets over 250,000 visitors from Hawaii a year and you really can't help but run into them. You'll run into them every which way you turn if you stay at the "capital of the Ninth Island", the California Hotel in downtown.
It was quite a phenomenon, how Sam Boyd and the California Hotel developed such a beloved relationship with local folks. In fact even been a book written about it. Cheap flights (remember "Didi Ah Yo and away we go?") and locals love of gambling sealed the deal. I still remember my first trip to Vegas with friends....of course we stayed at the Cali. I recall getting in at night...oh, the bright lights, oh the gambling! Then I got up in the morning and pulled back the curtains and I swear, all I saw was, desert, railroad tracks, and gila monsters.
I didn't think I'd get the Missus to the Cali; there's so much else to interest Her. I could have lured Her with the oxtail soup from Market Street Cafe, but they only start serving that from 11pm. So while the Missus was occupied elsewhere, I decided to visit for old times sake. The crowd and believe me, it was pretty busy, looks a lot older nowadays. But Market Street Cafe is still going strong with folks waiting in line at 915 in the morning.
It was nice wandering around a bit.....great memories of those really cheap junkets we used to take. I've had many a meal at Aloha Specialties which wasn't open yet on this morning.
I don't really gamble anymore....the Missus gets major chest pains watching me lose perfectly good money which could have gone to Her next pair of Christian Louboutins. But I thought I'd part with a twenty for old times sake at the slots. Two pulls later I was up over $550! You always get the better odds at these type of places. I played it down to $500 and cashed out quickly. The folks working here have always been very friendly....probably because of the Hawaii connection.
I took a quick walk down Fremont Street, which looked really depressed......
Then it was time to hele......
I headed back up to Spring Mountain Road. I thought I'd treat myself to two medium size lunches, the first was to grab some poke at Hawaiian Style Poke.
Now the thought of eating fish in the middle of Nevada might seem a bit odd to you, but with all the transplanted locals....well, I was curious. I initially thought of hitting up the popular Poke Express, but Bozo told me that this little, fairly hard to find shop near the corner of Wynn and Spring Mountain Roads was the way to go....so I did.
The shop is tiny, with a fish counter and trays of small batches of fish. There are different "seasonings" on the fish, but it looks like they pour on the same shoyu based "sauce" on everything. Fair enough, as the fish looked pretty fresh. I drove across the street to the plaza that holds 99 Ranch Market and had at my poke under this.....
Both the spicy garlic and shoyu poke were ok.
The spicy garlic wasn't very spicy and though there was some garlic flavor it was pretty salty from the shoyu. The shoyu poke was also on the salty side and you could tell the fish wasn't really "A" grade....though I gotta say, the prices aren't bad, $14.99 a pound if I recall. There were a couple of pieces with fibrous "sugi" and a few that were plain tough.
I am without a doubt somewhat of a creature of habit, there are certain "rituals" that I follow......in Vegas after dropping the Missus off, I'll take a walk up and down the strip to see what's new. I'll usually do this in the morning to avoid the crowds. It had been four years since our last trip here and for me, the biggest change was the massive City Center complex.....
Things had shifted a bit since our last visit....there are now a good number of suite-style offerings; larger rooms, small kitchens, away from the hustle, bustle, cigarette smoke, and noise of the casinos.
We actually stayed at the Fairfield, not quite on the strip, good sized rooms, and away enough from it all to kind of chill. It was easy to get to the strip though....the shuttle to the Mandalay Bay, the tram to Excalibur, a short walk through Monte Carlo to the tram station from Aria to the Bellagio.....
Soon enough you're staring at the Paris......
Which was enough time for me to head back and catch the shuttle at New York, New York, back to the Fairfield.
As for lunch; well, I usually go off the strip. I'd heard about a newer place in Summerlin, that did...well, that much too often used description, "farm to table comfort cuisine"......yet it came highly recommended. So I took that 20 minute drive. I'm sure the distance really wasn't that bad, it just seemed that way. The restaurant, named Honey Salt, was tucked away in the corner of a strip mall.....
Looking very unassuming from the outside, this place was really happening....so many "women doing lunch". It reminded me of places I've been in say, Scottsdale or Buckhead in Atlanta..... The Hostess was very nice telling me they would have a table for me in a few minutes....but I opted for the mellow bar area......
Which must have been fate....I asked the bartender if "it's okay if I sit here...." His response? "Eh, you from Hawaii, huh?" We call "Vegas" the "9th Island", so many visit and so many have moved there...you can't help but run into someone from "home". And once he introduced himself as "Bozo".....I knew he was the real deal. This was going to be a great lunch......regardless of the food.
Anyway, beyond the pleasantries.....there were many of the typical, "whea' you from" discussions..., eventually things headed to the menu. I had a couple of things in mind, Harissa crusted strip steak salad and Big Eye Tuna Tartar with Crunchy Quinoa came to mind. But MrB told me the two most popular dishes, at least on his watch, which led me to order items I would never had considered.
Starting with the Turkey Meatballs ($9).......really, turkey meatballs, when was the last time I ordered these? Try never.....
Caramelized onions and a touch of horseradish added some sweetness and pungency. And though the acid was a bit too much, I gotta say, these were the most moist and tender turkey meatballs I've ever had...literally melting in my mouth. You could easily have mistaken them for veal.
For my main, Bozo told me the Biloxi Buttermilk Fried Chicken Sandwich ($13) was the best seller.
The chicken was very moist, though I would have appreciated a bit more "crunch" to it. The brioche was mildly buttery without being too sweet. The slaw completed without overpowering and added a bit more texture to the sandwich.
Actually, I really enjoyed the salad....the kale and edamame really balanced things out...to the utter joy of the Missus who eats and juices kale by the bushel.
I actually enjoyed the food here more than Urban Solace......
Of course, during our meal, another "Bruddah" stopped by for take-out....what can you say? In the end this was a nice meal made better by eating at the bar and talking to another ex-pat Kama'aina and also the young lady from South Africa who convinced Bruddah Bozo (in slang that means "Boy"), a third generation "Bozo", that he needed to check out Lotus of Siam soon. I also got a nice tip on grabbing some poke too.......
Honey Salt 1031 S Rampart Blvd Las Vegas, NV 89145
Perhaps I should have titled this post, "LOS Twelve Years Later" because that's how long we've been coming to Lotus of Siam. No trip to Vegas would be complete without a visit to the rather worn strip mall on East Sahara Avenue.......according to my friends, "where cabs don't mind dropping you off, but don't like picking you up." Based on our last meal here almost four years ago, our expectations were high.
We had wondered how time had changed LOS and the answer was easy enough to find. First, Bill Chutima, who owns and runs LOS along with his wife and chef Saipin Chutima is quite the oenophile. There's now a rather large collection of wine on display as you enter. An even bigger difference is that the space next door has been taken over, doubling the size of the restaurant. Even with double the space, hordes of people are still waiting in line at LOS......at least from what we saw on this evening. At least two mini-vans dropped off groups of folks to eat.......all this on a Thursday. Good thing we were on our way out the door when they arrived.
We're always torn when eating at LOS. We want to try out new dishes, but also stick with our favorites from previous visits. Usually, sticking with favorites wins out.
Our main server on this night was the wonderful and warm Mai. Friendly without being overbearing, he enjoyed discussing food, especially Thai food both in the US and Thailand with us. He was a great ambassador for LOS.
The Missus wanted something light and refreshing to start. So we ordered the Soft Shell Crab Salad ($18.95).
Whomever fried this deserves a raise.....the crab was excellent, light and ethereal, with just the perfect crunch. I'm not a big fan of fruits in salads, but here, the green apple did a nice job of adding an additional layer of tartness, without interfering with the overall balance of the dish. In other words, the soul of the dish was unmistakably Thai. It was a great start to our meal.....
Unfortunately, those heights were never quite reached again. Of course we ordered the Koi Soy ($13.95). I just had to have it. LOS was the first place I'd ever had this wonderful raw beef "salad" back in 2002 and it is my benchmark for the dish.
We knew something was off when the dish arrived.....there seemed to be a lot less roasted rice powder, which added great texture and a mild nuttiness to the dish. Some of the pieces of the beef were quite hard and chewy, something I had never experienced with the Koi Neua at LOS. There was a ton of cilantro, but I couldn't taste kaffir lime leaf. You can just compare this with the what we had four years ago below..... This is still good, but not nearly as wonderful as what we've had during previous visits.
Another signature dish at LOS is a Crispy Duck with Chili Mint Leaves ($20.95).
This didn't measure up well either. While the duck was wonderfully fried, there seemed to be a paucity of sauce, which also tasted off, the balance of salt and sweet just didn't seem right. It also looked pretty sloppy with sauce dripping off the side of the plate. Again, this was not a bad dish, the frying was carried out to perfection, it just wasn't as good as before.
Again, another photo from the files.
I mentioned that the restaurant on the other side of LOS had closed down to Mai and joked that the next time we're back they'll have taken over that space as well. His answer was quite interesting. We were told that they now typically do about 400 covers on a good weeknight and sometimes up to 450-500 during the weekend. The restaurant space had been expanded, but the kitchen had not. I began wondering if LOS had not become a victim of its own success?
Didn't have much time to contemplate this as our next two dishes arrived. We had been missing Lanna style Thai. Not so much the Khao Soi, but more of the "dips" which we call "Nam Prik" type dishes. So we ordered first the Nam Prik Hed (Spicy Mushroom Dip - $9.95):
This was another dish that was fine, but didn't hit the same heights as what we've had here before. This was much too sour and the mushrooms too chewy. Sad really, since we really enjoyed it last time - see the photo on the right.
The Nam Prik Noom (Green Chili Dip - $9.95) was good, even though we ordered everything at a heat level '7', this one really brought it to the table.
Loved having this with sticky rice or with some of the light pork rinds. Smokey, with a pernicious burn, I'm thinking my heat tolerance has gone down over the last couple of years.
As I repeated many times, this wasn't a bad meal by any stretch of the imagination. It is indeed better than anything in San Diego. And while newer or first time visitors may think this is fantastic, the bar had been set on our many visits over the years. We know how good the food can, and had been.....and this wasn't it. Remember, Jonathan Gold, back when he used to post on Chowhound, called this the best Thai Restaurant in North America. The Missus was more disappointed than I was. We had just plain wonderful service, so I'm hoping that this was just an "off" night. Now I'll have to try and convince the Missus of that.
Lotus of Siam 953 E. Sahara Ave Las Vegas, NV 89104 (702)735-3033
We had really been enjoying our meal at Raku, but I sensed an upcoming lull waiting for the item the Missus was looking forward to having. So I decided to just kind of go for it, ordering some sashimi from the specials board. Having really enjoyed the Shima Aji (striped jack) during my lunch at Mitch's, I wanted the Missus to have a taste.
Along with the pristine slices of fish was a small bit of nice tartar featuring avocado, cilantro, along with the shima aji. The fish was quite good, firm, with a mild sweetness. The Missus just loved the fresh grated wasabi and was actually eating the stuff straight up! I really didn't think much of the sashimi and fish dishes at Raku on our previous visit, but this changed my opinion.
I then decided to take a bathroom break......now why would I mention this......a "TMI" moment. But if you recall, I thought the restroom set-up was quite unique the last time we were here. The faux grass and stone path to the potty are now gone.....but the greenery on the ceiling of the restroom and tweeting bird sounds are still there. I also enjoyed the photo collage of various dishes on the wall.
And of course there are still flower petals lining the floor.......
As I returned, one of the dishes I'd been waiting for arrived......the foie gras with tare. With the ban on foie gras going full steam in California, I needed my fix. The Missus thought I was insane ordering a $16 skewer of foie gras, but what arrived was pretty impressive.
I was surprised at how good this was.......it was really ready to melt. The look on the Missus's face when She had Her first bite was just priceless. So luxurious......I told the Missus that this was so good I wanted "to kick myself". We took our time on this, enjoying every single morsel. When the server came to take the plate away, I thought the Missus was going to do bodily harm on the very efficient guy. The empty plate remained on the table....I actually thought the Missus was going to lick all the rendered fat off the plate!
The final dish of the night was the sake kamameshi, the salmon and ikura iron pot rice. It was a chalkboard special the last time we ordered this and at $35 was probably the most expensive rice dish I can recall ordering. Now you can order it by the cup....well, the Missus ordered 3 cups! That's three cups of uncooked rice......which came to $30 bucks anyway!
This was just as wonderful as on our previous visit. The Missus had the extra bonus of pouring off all the rendered foie gras fat on Her bowl of rice. This was way too much for us to finish of course, but like last time, they made us onigiri with the leftover rice. Which I had as a snack over the next two nights.
The service was reserved but nice. The one male server was pretty amazing in his efficiency. He would pick up on every tiny drop of spilled sauce and get things cleaned up and plates changed and removed with great speed.
It could be that we understand what we enjoy at Raku, making this visit more enjoyable than our last......but I honestly think Raku has improved over the last four years. I can't wait for our next visit!
Aburiya Raku Restaurant 5030 Spring Mountain Rd Las Vegas, NV 89146 (702) 367-3511 Hours: Mon-Sat 600pm - 300am
Man, time sure does fly, huh? It seems that it was only yesterday that we had a wonderful meal at Raku. But time had indeed marched onward and it was time for the Missus to renew Her certifications....which strangely, you aren't able to do in San Diego. Not that I'm complaining mind you, not in the least. This was actually fairly last minute, but I've got a wonderful manager and a great team who had no problem covering for me in spite of the rather late notice. This time, instead of the Missus flying out and I meeting Her a day later, She just picked me up at work and we drove up to Vegas. Of course this meant that we'd be getting in rather late, but since I usually get into the office before 6 (pssst, what they tell you about needing less sleep as you get older seems to be true!), She could pick me up at a bit after 3pm. In need of a late dinner, Raku, open until 3am immediately came to mind. We made reservations for 10pm, but actually got in before 9, checked in.....it was easy since we weren't staying on the strip....the Missus isn't fond of the crowds, cigarette smoked, and the noise of the strip. We arrived at Raku early to see if they could take us.....and being a rather quiet Wednesday, they had no problem.
Combined with the chalkboard items, the robata-ya, oden, and the rest, there's quite a bit to choose from at Raku. Luckily, we'd been here before and knew what we enjoyed....and more importantly, what we didn't. It made ordering....well not easy because of all the great stuff we had before....but perhaps a bit easier.
As per the program, the very nice Server told us to have this first with the matcha-shio (green tea salt), then with the whatever we wanted. While the matcha-shio experience was nice, this was just plain heaven with the house blended soy sauce.....nice mild hints of ume in it. The tofu, while soft, is not quite silken, but still wonderful and I thought the Missus would actually start chugging that shoyu......
Next up was what the Missus thought would be an interesting combination......it wasn't strange for me, but She thought the "gooey on gooey" would be different. Thus we ordered the Poached Egg with Sea Urchin and Salmon Roe ($9). This was really a nice combination. I've always been a fan of the ikura (salmon roe) that Raku serves....it isn't the overly preserved and salty stuff you see at most places. Here's it's briney with a nice "pop".
I loved how the flavors wrapped themselves around my tongue. You mixed the whole thing up...the tororo wasn't just grated, but a combination of diced and grated, so you got the nice, very mildly sweet effect. The flavors created were so complex, sweet and custard like from the uni, a mild "green taste" from the thin slices of okra that seemed like a bonus everytime you had a slice....you get the point, right?
Then the robata items started arriving. First the enoki mushroom wrapped in a nice mildly smoked bacon.
Then the Kobe Beef Fillet with Wasabi....very tender and beefy, with the wasabi adding that nice fat cutting pungency....much like horseradish.....
The tare was nice, not too sweet.
Then something we had on our previous visit, the Duck with Balsamic Soy.
We'd really enjoyed this the last time....this time around...well, I didn't care for it at all. First, the balsamic glaze tasted burnt and bitter to me and the duck was really tough.
The Missus had never had Pork Cheek robata style, so I thought it would be a nice time to try it.
Well, She liked the flavor, but the texture.......at first bite, just like pork, but then chewy and tendon like, freaked Her out.
At this point, it seemed that the one item that the Missus really wanted was still a few minutes away....so what to do?
mmm-yoso!!! is not only about food and meals, but how we got to find that food to enjoy those meals. Today, Cathy writes about her latest adventure.
So. It's time for my annual mini vacation to the National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas. Ms. T and I left early Sunday. Soon we were at State Line.
In another 30 minutes, we were at the hotel. ...with the beautiful decorated tree in the lobby... the outdoor 'beach' pool area... and very large exercise room, right next to a heated outdoor lap pool. Which was an amenity we needed to use, after we hit the Buffet for dinner.
The next morning, we needed to get to the airport (to go to Customs and Border Protection for Trusted Traveler Program paperwork completion) and were looking for breakfast. Egg Works. At the SouthEast Corner of the airport. (Sunset at Southeastern). Hours are 6 a.m. to 3 p.m. Seven television sets, free wifi, a coffee cup at every place setting. Breakfast and lunches. Owned by people who own The Egg and I (a restaurant I used to go to when growing up in Detroit-the first restaurant that sent us Birthday Club Cards, the first place my parents remember getting a thermal pot of coffee left at the table... a Midwestern chain which makes and serves Cincy Chili) That black egg face flips to become yellow and is a signal for any passing waitress that you would like their attention. You get a choice of toast or home made banana nut muffin with your breakfast. The muffin comes out *hot* from the oven. Pure, simple. real banana and more nuts than in this photo. Really good. People buy loaves To Go of this banana bread. Ms. T ordered the chalkboard special Northern California Omelette ($9.25) Four eggs, chicken, broccoli and mushrooms, topped with a cheese-Hollandaise-like sauce. Fresh and filling and good. It came with a side of Works potatoes and the toast. I ordered the Home Made Corned Beef Skillet ($9.95). Really meaty corned beef hash, made with green peppers and onions and potatoes, topped with two poached eggs. Excellent. If you are in Las Vegas, this is the place to have a very good sit down breakfast. There are three locations. By 5 p.m., we were parked and ready to go inside to see the National Finals Rodeo- the World Series of Rodeos. The top 15 Cowboys in the world of each of seven events competeing for ten days in a row to determine the World Champions.
The women who control horses to race around three barrels as quickly as possible.
The men who control a horse and rope a steer in as little time as possible (three different events): Or the men who stay on a bucking animal for at least eight seconds.
Long Live Cowboys. Athletes.
The tenth and final day of NFR is this Saturday, the 11th. It is shown live and rerun on ESPN daily.
Egg Works 2490 East Sunset Road Las Vegas 89120, 9355 West Flamingo Las Vegas 89147 Egg &I 4533 West Sahara Las Vegas 89102 Website
After dropping the Missus off in the morning, I took a 4 hour "stroll" around the strip. Things looked pretty much the same on the strip since my last visit. I had to laugh when I passed the Bellagio.......
The last time I was here with the Missus, She was attending a class as well. The venue for the class was Imperial Palace (ick), and while I had Steak Frites at Mon Ami Gabi for lunch, overlooking the Lake at the Bellagio, the Missus was served Baloney Sandwiches (true story) for lunch! I'm not quite sure if She was exaggerating, but the Missus told me the baloney had a green tinge to it..... Luckily, this time the venue was a bit better.
By the time I hit the Wynn, I was starting to get hungry, so I headed back to my car. I had one lunch in Vegas, and there were many choices. But I knew what was ruled out....
No cheap drinks.....
And no buffet.....
And in keeping with our eating "theme", nothing on the strip.....
I had more than a few choices to consider. Perhaps some Filipino Food? Salo Salo Grill had been recommended, and good ol' Elena's Restaurant had set up shop in Vegas as well. There was Yun Nan Garden for Yunnan and Sichuan. But I thought some Cuban food sounded good. Way back in the days "BB" (before blogging) 'Jorge' had recommended two Cuban Restaurants in Las Vegas. One of them was Havana Grill , but that was a bit more of a drive than I wanted. Which is how I found myself driving North on Las Vegas Boulevard, past the Little White Chapel, "Where Joan Collins and Michael Jordan were married!" (Not to each other I hope) And farther out, past the shadows of the Stratosphere. An drove into a parking lot with some pretty colorful art work:
I parked, and walked past the Reggae Lifestyle store....
And the "Adult Superstore"......
And to my destination......
Rincon Criollo Cuban Restaurant:
When I arrived, the place was starting to get busy, an older woman stood, and pointed me to a table in the corner. Most of the customers there had the rapport and body language that told me they were regulars. Most of the conversations were in Spanish......
The menu here is located under the plate glass covering each table.
Jorge had recommended a couple of dishes to me......the two version of Puerco Fritas came highly recommended, but that would have wiped me out for the rest of the day. We still had dinner plans for Lotus of Siam, so I decided on something other than pork.
As I was reading over the menu, some bread, toasted in the "Plancha" (Cuban Sandwich Press) arrived.
I had decided on the Boliche Mechado ($9.99). Boliche is a Beef Roast (usually rump roast), stuffed with Chorizo sausages, simmered in a tomato based sauce. And when it arrived at the table, it looked just like photos I'd seen of the dish:
It's very hard to see in the photo above, but there are two chorizo sausages stuffed into the slices of beef roast. The beef was nice and moist, firm, but not tough. The sauce was quite nice, tangy, with a mild garlic flavor. My only complaint would be that it was served lukewarm. I'd have preferred it a bit hotter. It came with some plain, and very mild tasting black beans and rice. The chorizo added a bit more "zing" to the dish, but not much.
Of course it seemed like every other customer had ordered the Masas de Puerco Fritas (deep fried chunks of pork) or Chuletas de Puerco Fritas (pork chops), both of which looked wonderful. Talk about food envy. Still, this was a pretty good lunch.
Rincon Criollo 1145 South Las Vegas Blvd Las Vegas, NV 89104
Later that evening, the Missus wanted something "sweet" to freshen Her palate after dinner at Lotus of Siam. One of the really nice Servers recommended Luv It Frozen Custard, which is also located North of the strip, right off Las Vegas Boulevard. We arrived to a pretty crowded parking lot.
There are lots of locals that will give you advice here.....the gentleman in the photo told us he's been coming here for over 35 years...since 1973! When I first saw the sign saying "frozen custard", I warned the Missus. She is not a fan of "eggy" desserts. She ended up purchasing a combination Pina Colada/Raspberry cup.
This frozen custard was less "eggy" and lighter than the versions I tasted in Madison. The raspberry tended toward the sweeter side, and had almost an artificial flavor. The pina colada flavor was less sweet. We thought this was okay, but nothing we'd rush back for. In fact, for the rest of the evening, everytime I mentioned the place, the Missus would repeat, "it was ok.....but I didn't LUV IIIIIT!"
Luv-It Frozen Custard 505 E Oakey Blvd Las Vegas, NV 89104 (702) 384-6452