To escape from the lack of electricity (ok, it had been planned for a while but the fact that there was electricity there made it all the more sweet), the food critic and I went to Vegas last weekend. For four glorious days we reveled in the glory of air conditioning, functional lights, and staying up past sundown. Oh, and phenomenal restaurants, amazing shows, and non stop entertainment. But this entry will focus on the restaurants, as we definitely made a point to sample the goods whenever possible.
Our first evening in Vegas, we went to Tao, an Asian themed nightclub, bar, and restaurant at The Venetian. One cool feature that Tao has is Tao Beach, at The Venetian pool, an area with cabanas and plush lounges to see and be seen.

I actually went to Tao twice on this trip and would recommend, over anything else I tried on the menu, the Salmon sashimi with crispy onions and sweet and spicy sesame sauce. The Peking duck spring rolls are also stellar. Overall, nothing we had at Tao was bad, but few things were outstanding. The main draw is the atmosphere, people watching, and service.

For lunch the next day, we went to Olives, a Todd English semi-chain restaurant at The Bellagio (I hate calling it a chain but in fact there are six). I had been to Olives in Washington, D.C. and loved it. The flatbreads are outstanding, and given the chance, I would order the Sweet potato, grilled onions, and prosciutto flatbread every time. However, this flatbread is only offered for dinner – as a backup the fig and prosciutto one is quite good. The shortribs and the pasta are also delicious!

Olives was the highlight of the trip. The food there was consistently impressive and service was good. The best part was the location. The restaurant is located in the front of The Bellagio, and if you sit outside, you can view the fountain show from your table during dinner, which is spectacular.

I couldn’t pass up the chance to go to a Thomas Keller restaurant, and there happened to be one in The Venetian, where we stayed the first night. Bouchon is supposed to be a casual version of the French Laundry, Keller’s acclaimed three star Michelin restaurant. Dinner was by reservation only – and I wasn’t lucky enough to snag one. So I tried it for breakfast – twice.

To my chagrin, I was highly disappointed – twice! The first time, I tried waffles, as something that would seem to be the opportunity for a chef to display his ability and creativity. They were sickingly sweet, topped with strawberries, syrup, and candied walnuts. They badly needed something salty to offset the sweet but they didn’t even have bacon or sausage. As a counterpart, the second time I tried corned beef hash. It was nothing special, chopped beef and cubed potatoes topped with a couple of eggs. The toast was good but should a restaurant of this caliber rely on toast to stand out? I wanted something special about my breakfast, even if it was just breakfast.

The one bright spot in the whole expensive mess was the discovery of Keller’s baked goods. These made up for the sad breakfast. At the Bouchon Bakery, we picked up jam and chocolate donuts, a vanilla eclair which I hear was delicious, and a cheese danish which I can personally vouch for as the most heavenly cheese danish ever. Well, at a $30 tab and not very good coffee, the baked goods had better be good. I would indulge, but sparingly due to cost!

Mon Ami Gabi, located in Paris Las Vegas, was touted as one of the best restaurants in Vegas by tripadvisor. Perhaps my mistake here was ordering something not traditionally french – I had the chicken salad sandwich. The chicken salad was just ok, and to my puzzlement they segregated the yummies – chopped apples and currants – from the salad in the sandwich. It did come with house made chips though, which were tasty. I hear the eggs benedict are good, though…

By far the best thing about Mon Ami Gabi was the Bloody Mary bar, which can just be seen in the far left of the photo above. One orders a Bloody Mary with the vodka of one’s choice and can dress it up with one of two mixers or plain tomato juice, 15 different hot sauces, a myriad of olives (stuffed with garlic, pimento, etc.), celery, cucumber, peppers, and my holy grail, bacon! I made a salad in a glass and it was phenomenal.

We had dinner reservations at Daniel Boulud Brasserie and managed to snag a patio table overlooking the Lake of Dreams. They should call it the Lake of Tripping on Acid. It plays a light and music show every 20 minutes which can be… very interesting. It’s a beautiful view, though.

Dinner at DB Brasserie was very good. We started with a house made pate which was served with an artfully presented assortment of house made pickled… things. The textures and colors were beautiful. The frites were delicious, the bread very good. The mussles (my dish) and the steak (his dish) were good, not great, but quality. Our desserts were beautiful and interesting, though not the most mouthwatering things ever. Mine consisted of fresh rasperries on a pistachio mousse on a tart and beautifully piped, sort of cheesy creamy stuff in a glass dish. Presentation here topped everything. The experience was excellent and the artful plating and beautiful setting helped us overlook the fact that the food was… good.

What is Vegas without a buffet? We chose to end our trip to Vegas with a Sunday brunch at Le Village Buffet, the buffet at Paris Las Vegas. The line to get in was over 30 minutes long – I felt like we were on the most popular ride in Disneyworld. The faux french setti
ng, complete with painted sky, didn’t help. Once inside, though, we were met with a spread of astounding variety.

Sunday brunch comes with champagne, coffee, tea, juice – heck, it might come with whatever beverages you ask for, I did not push my luck. There is a pasta station, and a carving station with mashed potatoes, veggies, stuffing and all the fixings. There is a crepe station for savory and sweet crepes. There are eggs benedicts and vol-au-vents. A full salad bar with soups, crab legs, shrimp, cheeses, bagels, and lobster sprawls in the middle of the area. There is a Mediterranean style roast veggie and stuffed grape leaf bar. Then there is a dessert station with house made ice cream cones (and ice cream), flan, croissants (of course), an assortment of sugarless cakes and so forth, pastries galore, and cannoli. There are the usual breakfast foods. It is jaw dropping and delicious. I highly recommend it to anyone with a penchant for buffets.

Vegas is heaven for anyone with a thing for tasty food. I think you can get anything there. I love it.

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