By Guest Bloggers Dennis and Janice!
Heading west for the center of gastronomic excess (Las Vegas), BCD parents are determined to provide input to the blog to show our support and admiration for our daughters' oeuvre.
After passing through security at BWI, with the prospect of 6 hours in an aluminum tube in front of us, the unexpected Silver Diner beckoned from within Terminal A. A shared Turkey BLT with passable and garlicky fries fortified us for the trip ahead.
We had deliberated long and hard selecting which restaurants to go to in Las Vegas, and using Zagat, had made a list of candidates. But the new top end venues, with prices ranging from $150 to $250 per person without booze seemed to be more special occasion kind of places for us and not consistent with our annual trip to visit our lost money. So we put the list aside and focused on revisiting the good experiences from past trips. While we are generally fans of Zagat, our experience in Las Vegas has been that the ratings for the strip restaurants don't generally meet up with our expectations. On the other hand, the ratings for restaurants for the "locals" seem to be more in alignment with our taste. Last year we had a wonderful Italian meal at a place northwest of the Strip (Sommerlin), but of course we didn't remember the name. A little searching through Zagat though found us back at Marc's Italian Steak House
http://www.marcsitaliansteakhouse.com/. Why it's called a steak house we haven't quite figured out, although they do have a number of nice steak dishes on the menu. We showed up one-half hour early for our nine o'clock reservation, got seated immediately, and ordered a very nice Brunello di Montelcino that our waiter, Dean (who only told us his name after we asked. Thank you Dean!) recommended as being a very good bargain ($53!). It was a very nice wine, but the tannin level would have been more appropriate for a fattier meat than what we ordered. I should have known.
We couldn't resist ordering the calamari appetizer, the large portion of which came with a tempura-like coating, was very tender and flavorful, and was enhanced by diced pepperoncini and accompanied by a very garlicky marinara sauce. While waiting for the primi piatti, the two types of bread, both rustic loaves, one with olives, were dipped in a fragrant olive oil, laced with balsamic vinegar, parmesan cheese and fresh basil. Pretty, tasty and original.
Figure 1- Calamri Fritti, Marc's Las Vegas
Figure 2- Olive Oil Dipping Tray, Marc's Las Vegas
The menu offered up a small but nice variety of seafoods, pastas, and meats. What caught our eye right away was the veal chop Milanese. As opposed to a cutlet, this was an entire rib chop of veal, still on the bone, but flattened, coated and fried. It was spectacular. The veal was tender, flavorful, the coating heightened and did not distract. Alongside was a mound of arugula (can you spell "My Blue Heaven") dressed in another riff of the earlier balsamic vinegar.
Figure 3 - Veal Chop Milanese at Marc's - Las Vegas
Orcchiette Bolognese (little ear shaped pastas) was our other main dish choice and it was the equal of the veal. Bologneses are highly variable and in this iteration the sauce was less thick, had small chunks of tomato and the beef was in little clumps rather than a completely smooth sauce. Different but excellent. When Dean asked me if I wanted cheese, I asked his opinion. He said I should try it first. It was so good I never gave the cheese another thought. As the portions were so large, we forgave desert and had coffee and espresso. Both of excellent quality. As Marc's is more of a neighborhood place, we were the last to leave at around 10:30 and the restaurant had closed by then.
Figure 4- Orchiette Bolognese at Marc's, Las Vegas
But Marc's was just the capstone of a few interesting meals we had had during the day. Staying at THEhotel (part of the Mandalay Bay complex), we had breakfast in THECafe. (Detect a spelling trend here?) Although our expectations were not high, we were treated with version of huevos rancheros that combined the tortillas, chorizo, salsa, refried beans and over-easy eggs in a delicious and visually appealing way. BCD Mom, not a big breakfast eater, agreed to share. Out came two large platters mounded with aforesaid huevos. Teeth-gritting time. Did they get the order wrong? Were we going to have to pay for two outrageously expensive breakfasts? Relief. The order was so huge they could split it in two. Reminiscent of the famous grinders at Papa Joe's in the Manchester (CT) Green.
Having built up a store of energy from breakfast, we were now prepared to work on where to go for lunch and dinner. Dinner was soon taken care of once we tracked down Marc's. But lunch? Can you spell Jack in the Box? Several years ago, and by accident during a Las Vegas trip we tried the super-cheap, two-for-a-buck tacos at Jack in the Box. We were hooked. Now no trip to Las Vegas is complete with a stop (or two) for these deep-fried econo-wonders. We ate six of them!
Later in the week, we had a group dinner with BCD Uncle Sheldon, cousins Doug and Weh Wah and Ethan, and Doug's uncle and aunt. BCD Dad had the assignment to find a restaurant, and not knowing the taste of all the parties, we selected the Daniel Boulud Brasserie in the Wynn hotel http://www.danielnyc.com/dbbrasserie/cuisine.html. We had been several years ago, when we had a great meal. Since bistro style covers many different tastes from chicken, steak, crudités and fruit de mer, there would be something for everyone. We were told it was recently renovated. It is a beautiful space. Having gotten there a bit early, we sat in the bar where BCD Dad had a Hendrick's martini ($17.00, a new record!) with olives stuffed with blue cheese. BCD Mom had a glass of chardonnay.
BCD mom had an "organic chicken" which was presented in three ways – it came with grits, but they were almost indiscernible. Nothing else. BCD Dad had the braised short ribs. A smallish portion, no sides, and sort of bland all around. We were a party of eight including a 5 year old, who got the buttered noodles. Probably the best choice. All in all service was great, venue was beautiful but the food was only so-so and for $150/person with wine and cocktail did not seem a particularly good value.
Feeling guilty from various excesses, we worked out in the spa/gym at THEhotel. A really unusual décor – 24 ft ceilings, black stone walls, all kinds of japanesque water effects. This prepared us for breakfast.
Tops on the Zagat list we found two places, the Egg and I and Egg Works, both very highly rated and located in strip malls far from Strip. BCD Mom had biscuits in sausage gravy, eggs, bacon "ranch" potatoes. BCD Dad had the Cincinnati chili burrito. The burrito had a very nicely spiced Cincinnati-style chili on top and on the onside, with a melted cheddar cheese topping. The portions were gigantic, and we were not able to finish. The atmosphere is very casual – just regular working people having breakfast/lunch – not the crazy Las Vegas tourists.
Figure 5 - Biscuits and Gravy at the Eggand I, Las Vegas
Figure 6 - Cincinnati Chili Burrito - Egg and I, Las Vegas
Later in the trip, having gone to see the Cirque du Soleil's Ka the previous night, and missing a 'real" dinner, and since it was our last day on vacation, we were determined to visit our favorite dim sum restaurant in the US – in Las Vegas Chinatown, the Harbor Palace Seafood Restaurant. Also off the Strip, this restaurant is very reminiscent of those we visited in Hong Kong, although much smaller. The restaurant opens incredibly at 10:00 AM and closes at 5:00 AM! We arrived about 11:15 and got one of the last available tables. In true dim sum style, we were immediately surrounded by trolleys filled with dozens of varieties of these Chinese edibles. We had the egg roll, ribs in black bean sauce, shu mai (a steamed dumpling with pork, shrimp, mushroom stuffing) and har gow (an almost transparent thin dumpling filled with whole shrimp), crab claw stuffed with shrimp, Singapore style noodles, wakame salad, fried shrimp wanton: pork and chicken "white fluffies" (bau), ground pork dumpling, the sticky rice in banana leaf. All the usual suspects. We could not work up enough enthusiasm for the chicken feet but others were eating them with gusto, or the half-dozen or so varieties of congee. Other things that looked great but we passed on were the whole salt/pepper shrimp, deep fried calamari, whole fried sardines, various soups etc. We ended up having ten dishes which was too much so we brought the "bau" back on the plane with us. And we resisted eating them on the plane!
Figure 7 - Dim Sum at Harbor Palace Seafood, Las Vegas
Figure 8 - More Dim Sum at Harbor Palace Seafood
Happy Eating and Good Luck,
Note from BCD Girls: Thanks Mom and Dad! Great post!