Sunday, September 7, 2008

Las Vegas, Part One: Just a Nibble

by Xani

As BCD Dad mentioned in his post, over Labor Day I was lucky enough to spend a few days of R&R in fabulous Las Vegas (Vegas, baby, VEGAS!) with two of my very best friends, Jessica and Jenny. Our goals for the trip were to lay at the pool, gamble, shop, drink, drink while shopping and at the pool, and, of course, EAT. We ate and drank many yummy things on the trip and it all culminated in a nine course tasting menu at L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon on our final night.

Before our dinner with Joel we had several other meals to get through. Jessica and I (the Baltimore delegation) arrived before Jenny (the LA delegation), and we were STARVING, so we made a bee line for the Burger Bar at Mandalay Place. Sure, it was only 10am Vegas-time, but 1pm Baltimore-time and therefore a perfectly normal time to scarf down burgers? Whatever, it's Vegas. If it's normal to drink martinis at 5am and eat $1 shrimp cocktail 24 hours a day, certainly burgers for brunch can't be THAT weird, right? Right.

So, we were seated and our waitress, who apparently had just ended her shift at the strip club and neglected to change outfits (but who was a very sweet and competent server nonetheless-- it was just a shocking reminder that anything goes in this town!) quickly took our order and then brought us the goods. Jessica got the sliders with regular skinny fries, and I, for once able to resist tiny burgers, did a build-your-own burger with Kobe beef, jalapeno bacon, and grilled onion on ciabatta, with a side of sweet potato fries. Jess thoroughly enjoyed her sliders (each one had a different topping: cheese, bacon, grilled onions) and my burger was AWESOME. Lots of great grilled meat flavor, and the jalapeno bacon was genius (where can I get some of this??). I give it a solid 8 out 10 burgers! A great first taste of Vegas!

When we finally caught up with Jenny, we killed some time waiting to check into our amazing suite at theHotel at Mandalay Bay with cocktails at The Border Grille. Highly recommend their peach sangria! Also highly recommend when you see one of the chef/owners of the place (of Two Hot Tamale fame) be brave enough to ask for a picture or autograph. Because then I would have something to put here, besides this stock photo I stole from the internet:

Oh Susan Feniger, even with two glasses of sangria in me I didn't have the stones to talk to you!

Cocktails, chips, and salsa at Border Grille, then dinner at:

That night, we had reservations at Sushisamba for dinner. Jenny and BCD Dad had previously been to the NYC outposts, and thouroughly enjoyed the Japanese-Latin American fusion offerings. I am sad to report, however, that our experience was a little disappointing. The atmosphere and caipirinhas were fantastic, but the service was rushed and the food was nothing to text home about (yeah, I do that sometimes. EP has gotten a number of texts that read something like: "omg, eating best am ebi evr. i'm dying. i died. i'm dead"). I did eat two very memorable dishes there, which happened to be our very first and last bites. First, Sawagani, or flash fried japanese river crabs. I had never seen this on a menu before, although I had seen them used once or twice on Iron Chef America, and I remember them being very, very tiny. I had to have them. And when they arrived, I was NOT disappointed:

OK, first of all, how teeny are these?? eeeek! I can't even stand it. If we are following the tiny=cute hypothesis, these things are like off-the-chart adorable! And I love how the picture makes them look like an advancing crab army! They were served with a sprinkle of sea salt and a slice of grilled lemon to squeeze over top. You ate them whole, and yes, they had hard, crunchy shells (but not as hard as a regular steamed Blue Crab-- more like the shell on a shrimp when its fried for salt-and-pepper shrimp, or the like). They had a mild crab flavor with a touch of that "je ne sais qua" from the crab "mustard" that I imagine was in there someplace (even tiny crabs must have innards, no?). Uniqueness, presentation and taste made this dish a winner in my book!

(Almost) too cute to eat! Plus me, for scale

The final dish, a simple but perfectly satisfying dessert. Fried wonton strips dusted with powdered sugar, served with two sauces: a ginger-infused vanilla cream, and a bitter chocolate dipping sauce. I could not get enough of the strips dipped into the chocolate-- they were light and crunchy, and perfect with the rich chocolate. I may or may not have dipped my fingers directly into the sauce once the wontons were gone...

Still Life with Chocolate Sauce

So that was our first dinner, and afterwards we headed over to the Mirage to see Lewis Black perform his stand-up show "Let Them Eat Cake." (Props to Andy for scoring us awesome seats! Thanks dude-- I owe you a Pink's giant hot dog with bacon and pastrami). Not that we could even THINK about eating anymore that night! But stay tuned, we've barely begun to nibble the edges of Sin City!




  1. How was theHotel? We're heading out probably in December and were looking at the Signature at the MGM Grand, but I'd love to hear reviews of the others from people I actually know.

  2. Sounds like a blast. Those crabs are the cutest! I must find them somewhere....

  3. Just so you know, I'm checking every 5 minutes for the JR post.

    As you would say.....


  4. R&R in Vegas? That didn't happen for me. I guess 8 guys and a bachelor party weekend don't call for R&R. Anyway, I'm commenting to show you this cupcake blog a girl I know writes:


  5. we love that blog! We want to be best friends with those girls and eat cupcakes all day long!

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