Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Postcard from Las Vegas


Las Vegas, NV.  Ah, Vegas. The Bacchanalian capitol of the world, where excess is revered, sobriety is not an option, the price tags are high, the dresses are short, and the lights are brighter than ever. The recession is over; Vegas is hoppin’ again.  But where to eat?  There’s no such thing as a sure thing in LV, but here are some of the best bets.

The steak at The Barrymore

 For the Adventurous (aka We’re having getaway weekend… where can we avoid the tourists?)
The Barrymore.  If you’re as big a Mad Men fan as I am, you will fall in love with this mid-century modern throwback of a steakhouse.  Set just off the strip at the northern end of all the madness, this place is aces: the prices are moderate, the food is fantastic, and the lighting is super-sultry.  Start with a cocktail and the grilled octopus appetizer or one of several well-constructed, fresh salads (I’m partial to the beet salad and the panzanella).   

If you’re into steak, you will find a great cut of meat here for under 40 bucks; and it’s one of the rare places where non-beef eaters will be treated just as well.  A vegetable curry, sea bass, and chicken are all options. For dessert? The cheesecake was a real winner, topped with quince and sorbet.  Trust me: you want to take your date or your closest friends here… they will think you know all the secrets in this town.  

The Barrymore
 99 Convention Center Dr  
Las Vegas, NV 89109
(702) 407-5303 

Nam Kao Tod
Lotus of Siam.  Any foodie worth his salt knows Lotus of Siam is considered the best Thai restaurant in the country.  Located off-strip you’ll need a cheap cab or a car rental to get here, and the strip-mall surroundings belie the genius happening inside. The menu is over 12 pages long, and can be overwhelming to navigate. Let me help. Start with the nam kao tod, crispy rice with spicy sour pork.  You have probably never eaten anything like this: each bite is a zinger.  Get a table-sized cauldron of chicken coconut soup.  

Nua Sao Renu - Beef in tamarind sauce
Try one of the Northern Thai specialties, like a pork blood noodle soup or a non-coconut curry.  If you’re unsure, tell your waiter to choose for you.  It’s Thai cooking like your non-existant Thai mother would make: it warms your stomach and your soul, heats the tongue, and doesn’t sting the wallet.

Lotus of Siam 
953 E. Sahara Ave, Suite A5
Las Vegas, NV

Ricotta at Mon Ami Gabi

To Satisfy a Big Group with Varied Tastes (aka Where can I take this bachelorette party to dinner?)

Mon Ami Gabi.  Yes, it’s a chain of sorts, with outposts in DC and Chicago.  But if you don’t feel like spending the cash down the street at Bouchon Bistro, Mon Ami Gabi is a great alternative.  A girlfriend and I split an appetizer of ricotta cheese with capers and olives, and I brunched on a frisee salad with poached egg.   

Frisee Salad
Her quiche lorraine was the size of a sauté pan. They have rose by the glass which is a pretty perfect way to spend a Sunday afternoon.  Yes, it’s all part of the cheesy illusion that is Vegas (set in the dated and Disney-ish Paris hotel) but the food and the service are true bistro.  C’est magnifique.

Mon Ami Gabi 
3655 S Las Vegas Blvd  
Las Vegas, NV 89109
(702) 944-4224 

Patatas Bravas
Jaleo. Another eatery with a DC outpost, Jaleo is part of the Jose Andres empire of Spanish small plates.  Our party of 10 just asked the waitress to feed us at about $50 a person, and the march of food was long and lovely.  Addictive patatas bravas (fried potatoes) in aioli… chicken croquetas served, inexplicably, in a new shoe… spinach with raisins… tortilla Espanola… poached lobster salad… grilled steak a la plancha. 

There was a croqueta who lived in a shoe..
And their version of flan converted even the non-flan lovers among us.  Costs add up here, and some plates seem REALLY small for their price, but if you add some more of those spicy potatoes for bulk, you’ll leave a happy campesino.

3708 S Las Vegas Blvd  
Las Vegas, NV 89158
(877) 893-2001 

Burrata with Roasted Tomato
Otto Enoteca.  This Batali Italian small-plates restaurant won the bang-for-buck award.  A party of 10, drinking several bottles of wine, a few cocktails, desserts all around...each person paid only $70 including tip, which is (sadly) very difficult to do in this town.  Burrata (creamy mozzerella) with roast tomatoes was a rich, tangy winner, as was cavatelli with broccoli rabe and sausage.  

Cavatelli with Broccoli Rabe and Sausage
There are pizzas and charcuterie platters, and for those who don’t like to share, entrees are very large for the price.  There’s something for everyone, but try to sit indoors. Sitting “outside” under the fake Venetian sky has a food-court quality that detracts from what’s on the plate.  

Otto Enoteca 
3377 S Las Vegas Blvd   
 Las Vegas, NV 89109
(702) 677-3390 

What are your Vegas favorites? Leave them in the comments section!!

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