Experiencing Great Restaurants and Delicious Libations

-NV-Las Vegas

Sage – Las Vegas NV

Aria Resort

Visited January 2017

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Aria Resort and Casino in City Center, Las Vegas

Shawn McClain, Chef

Sage is one of the original restaurants in the Aria Resort and Casino in CityCenter Las Vegas. This trip was the first time I was able to have dinner at Sage. I have always been impressed by the restaurant design. The bar and lounge visible from the entrance and through a couple of windows open to the main lobby of Aria is a stunner. The high ceilings, the long bar with a long row of simple pendant fixtures suspended over the bar set the scene for an elegant experience. The back bar has a great selection of whiskeys and bourbons presented in a simple tryptic framed display are flanked by grand oversized european art scenes illuminated with a brilliant glow in a purple hue. The only element that I thought did not feel right was the size of the chandeliers above the dining space in the lounge. They are too small.

I had not realized that there was a separate spacious main dining room tucked away beyond. It has a similar elegant vibe, repeating the elements from the bar/lounge with the purple hued art pieces…and chandeliers that are too small.

I started with a Sazarac cocktail and sat back and enjoyed the room. I knew I was going to have a great meal in this room.

I started with the Wagyu Beef Tartare with crushed caper aioli, slow poached egg and crispy chocolate. Looked great, tasted great. (note that the photos do not show how beautiful the dishes were due to my camera picking up the purple hue from the adjacent artwork) – I try to be as unobtrusive as I can be when I take photos and never use the flash, respecting the environment and the other patrons)

For my entree, I selected the Spice Crusted Venison Loin with salsify, licorice and black trumpet mushrooms. Another perfectly prepared dish that tasted equally perfect.

For dessert I knew going in that Sage also has a good absinthe selection, with all of the appropriate accoutrement. I selected a California absinthe with a flavor profile in the anise and herbal range. A subtle nice way to end the dinner.

Il Fornaio – Las Vegas NV

Located in the New York New York Casino

Visited January 2017

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This is a special entry in my restaurant blog.

It is the first restaurant I am recommending because of the toast….. yes the toast (oh and the rest of the food is very good as well).

Years ago while I was in Vegas often for work, I would always try to make it to Il Fornaio for breakfast, just so I could get the toast. It had been 3 years since I was in Vegas, and my first morning there I made my way to New York New York to see if the restaurant – and the toast- were still there. They were, and I was happy!

As many restaurants do, their menu states that they bake their own bread, by hand from scratch with no preservatives. Well in this case I believe every word of it. The toast is worth the trip to Vegas!

Wolfgang Puck Pizzeria & Cucina – Las Vegas NV

in Crystals at CityCenter Las Vegas

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Visited January 26 2014

Negroni, Baby Kale, Crispy Cauliflower, Boneless Beef Shortribs on Barley (prepared in risotto style).

With this visit to Crystals, I have been very fortunate to have dined at every Wolfgang Puck restaurant in Las Vegas over the last 5 years.

The Wolfgang Puck restaurant designs, menus and attitude are all unique to their individual locations. Some are more casual, some more sophisticated, some with burgers, others with Waygu Filets, some with cafe seating, others with private dining rooms. What is consistent in all of his restaurants is the quality of the food and staff. The food served has been very good in every case, whether from the cafe menus or the fine dining menus. The interaction I have had with the staff shows that they must have a very effective training program, or they have been very lucky in hiring excellent people (and luck is hard to come by in Vegas). The hosts, servers, bartenders and even bussing staff have been friendly, efficient, informative, and just overall very good at their roles in providing an excellent dining experience for their guests.

The Wolfgang Puck Pizzeria & Cuchina in Crystals was no exception (not that I had any doubt). Although much of the dining and bar is in the voluminous open area of the Crystals mall atrium, it has a comfortable feel with the interior design elements overhead. I dined at the bar, and the bartender suggested one of the specials, the boneless beef short ribs. Although I had reviewed their menu before I arrived and preselected what I thought I wanted for dinner, I took a chance and ordered the special. It was very special indeed. I have learned that at Wolfgang Puck’s restaurants, you can trust the waitstaff and bartenders.

The Wolfgang Puck Pizzeria & Cuchina website

Jean Georges Steakhouse – Las Vegas NV

In the Aria Resort and Casino, CityCenter Las Vegas

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Visited January 25 2014

Moscow Mule, Caesar Salad, Wagyu Filet Mignon, Trumpet Mushooms.

A perfect steak dinner in 4-star chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s steakhouse.

After several visits just for a drink, I have wanted to have a great steak here for years. This visit was the time. The Moscow Mule was properly served in a copper mug and the Wagyu Filet was perfectly cooked medium-rare. It was served with their 4 signature sauces: Housemade Hot Sauce, Soy-Miso Butter, Bearnaise and JG Steak Sauce (not that the steak needed a sauce for flavor, but I did try each of them which were delicious on their own).

The bold, Mod entry has doors flanked by bright purple and red walls. Within the space there is a round center bar, with dining space beyond in several different dining rooms, all sparingly accented with buttery yellow. A private dining room has an impressive wall of wine bottles displayed. The round bar has a ring of milky white glass dripping down from the ceiling. The stylized logo on the menu, and repeated on the wall covering in the dining room, is a very stylized…to put it bluntly…cow snout. My written description may make is sound like literal bovine kitsch. It is in-fact a very sophisticated, elegant dining room that you must experience firsthand to appreciate the subtle references.

The Jean Georges Steakhouse website

Jean Georges website

Nobu – Las Vegas NV

Celebrity Chef Nobuyuki Matsuhisa

Located in the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino, Las Vegas NV

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Visited January 24 2014

Never have I spent so much for so little food…and left so unbelievably happy and satisfied!

The food’s presentation, flavors, textures, and the overall dining experience was worthy of the Nobu buzz I have heard over the years. It was excellent. I had the Ceviche Taco, Scallop Tempura, Black Cod with Miso, and a flan-like dessert (the details escape me). Although everything was exceptionally bright and flavorful, the Cod was the star. The Miso glaze formed a slight sweet crunch. Armed only with chopsticks, the sections of the fish fillet separated with a light touch, but were firm enough to pick up easily with the chopsticks. It was perfectly prepared.

The staff was very attentive, and always seemed to arrive at my table exactly at the right time – as if they were reading my mind. They were everywhere and purposefully moving through the dining room constantly. When a stray edamame fell from my bowl onto my table top, within seconds a staff member walked by with a napkin in hand and whisked it away without breaking stride.  A waiter delivered drinks to a nearby table with a tray, and held the tray behind his back as he was discussing the menu with the patrons, and the next waiter that walked by grabbed it and took it away, like a relay race baton.

The only thing about my experience that I wasn’t exceedingly impressed with was the design of the restaurant. Don’t misunderstand, it is a very, very nice room, but the backlit shoji screen ceiling and bamboo wall dividers were predictable.  The tree trunk columns with jaggedly arranged wood stick branches were interesting, but not nearly as interesting as food served. I am glad that the food is the focus here, but the environment could have been more creative and subtly executed to enhance the overall dining experience.

I have been looking forward to dining at Nobu, and it did not disappoint. Excellent, Excellent, Excellent.

Nobu’s Hard Rock Las Vegas Website

FireFly* Tapas Kitchen & Bar – Las Vegas NV

3824 Paradise Road, Las Vegas NV

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One of my favorite restaurants in Vegas. It is just off the strip.  I never would have known about it if I had not been introduced to it by a local while I was working on a project in Vegas. It is not in one of the big casinos, and was not started by one of the famous celebrity chefs ( although the chef should be, as his food certainly is famous!). It is more than worth the really short cab ride.

It has an extensive menu of Spanish Tapas of all sorts, priced very reasonably. Also a nice wine and drink list. I recommend the cheaper of the two Spanish Tempranillo’s  by the glass – it is delicious!

Everything I have had there has been interesting and delicious. This trip I started with the Apple and Manchego Salad with smoked almonds.  The Spicy Beef Salad with filet mignon, orange-soy dressing, romaine, pickled cuke & watermelon radish, and salsa verde was my main course – and it was spicy and good. And of course I had to order the stuffed dates which are legendary. They are  wrapped in bacon with smoked almonds, bleu cheese and a red wine reduction. When I told a friend I was heading to Vegas – the first thing they said was “you have to get the dates at FireFly*”….which I did.

Located on Paradise Road south of Sands Ave.