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Posts from the ‘Nevada’ Category


Unlike a good number of New Yorkers, I’m not opposed to buffets. They’re a rare breed here and I love me a little outer borough East Buffet every now and then. That’s why I was so excited to let my inner glutton loose while on mini-vacation. I’d heard about the decadence of the Bellagio’s brunch (and my mom raved about a seafood spread at Mandalay Bay) and was looking forward to it until the reality of Las Vegas set in. I didn’t have second thoughts about stuffing myself silly, but after surveying the scene in our hotel, impatience and xenophobia set it. There was no way I was going to be able to stomach waiting in one-hour-plus lines with 90% of these folks, bless their hearts.

I then remembered hearing about great breakfasts at Bouchon. It certainly sounded like a civilized option but making it to The Venetian before the 10:30am cut off was anything but. On Google Maps it only looked like three blocks from our hotel. We hadn’t walked the strip yet so we had no concept of distance and obstacles. It turned out that the supposed three blocks was going to take more than the twenty minutes we had remaining.

Illogically, the sidewalks are completely un-pedestrian-friendly—they’re congested as hell with slow moving bodies and touts and inexplicably detour and meander. It was like we were in theAmazing Race and we were in Bankgok, minus the sweltering heat, sputtering tuk tuks and stray dogs. We plodded on quickly as possible but I wasn’t wearing sensible shoes and human barricades kept blocking our way. I started feeling frazzled, desperate and insanely cranky. I started lagging and nay saying, James and I began yelling at each other, I was all, “just go on without me.” We would’ve gotten creamed on Amazing Race. But I wasn’t going to be kept from a meal filled with much needed serenity and fresh squeezed juice so I tried to stay positive and ignore the blisters forming on my pinkie toes.

FrenchtoastAfter running through the mall, casino, then hotel like we were actually after a million dollar prize, we arrived disheveled at 10:35am and were informed that we’d be the last people seated for breakfast. Phew.

I’ve never eaten at the French Laundry or Per Se or have any particular Napa Valley fetish, and it’s not like Thomas Keller is shirring your eggs or whatever at this bistro offshoot but it did feel like a place to be if you’re in Las Vegas and even vaguely about food (the woman we were seated next to at L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon later that evening had also been to Bouchon that same morning. It’s like some demented foodie trail. I do draw the line at photographing kitchens). It was a wise choice, though. After I settled down and our food arrived, I felt pretty good about our quality over quantity last minute move.

ChesedanishI always have trouble deciding between sweet or savory at breakfast. After some thought, I figured I didn’t have to pick one or the other and chose the french toast, which is a custardy, brioche bread pudding creation, with a side of bacon in an adorable baby cast iron skillet. I never order sides so this was a breakthrough (I shared the fried pork, ok?). I should've gone totally wild and gotten the french fries too–it seemed like everyone else was doing just that. James tried a crabmeat omelet special and also did the sweet-savory extra by getting a cheese Danish. Naively, I was imagining some sad Entenmann’s pastry but this was flaky and perfect.

Everything was spot-on, and why shouldn’t it have been? Not eating seconds or thirds for breakfast enabled me to think it was a good idea to go nuts with tacos just a few hours later. I couldn’t do away with unnecessary gorging, altogether.

Bouchon * 3355 Las Vegas Blvd S., Las Vegas, NV

In-N-Out Burger

As I know I’ve said before, the west coast has all the best burger chains. And by best I kind of just mean that by their mere foreignness they instantly seem more appealing. I don’t know if I shun fast food in NYC because it’s frowned upon (though I doubt it’s any more acceptable in the western states—healthy stereotypes and all) or because the Burger King, McDonald’s and Wendy’s standards just don’t entice me (ok, we do have White Castle). Jack in the Box, Carl’s Jr. and Sonic seem more exciting. Whoppers? Quarter Pounders? Classics, but EH. Fast food for me is about novelty and unnecessary inventions.

So, it doesn’t make much sense that I’d go for In-N-Out Burger. No Philly Cheesesteak Burgers or Sirloin Steak ‘n’ Cheddar Ciabattas to be found. Hamburger, cheeseburger or double cheeseburger (double-double): that’s it in the meat and bun department.

Just so you know, I only ate one of the four burgers. The other three were consumed by a single human being who's not even fat.

I’m not a burger connoisseur by any means. These specimens are just simple, fresh and good. We didn’t try any fancy ordering lingo and took the default double-doubles with raw onion. I’m curious what’s in the spread. I like spread. There used to be a chain in Portland called Arctic Circle, which may or may not still exist (ok, they live on) and they made good use of spread, too. I’d always get fry dip in to go containers.

That’s why I’m loving the concept of animal style fries: cheese, grilled onions and spread. There’s always next time. Despite hand-cutting the fries and frying them on demand, they didn’t taste all that special. It didn’t seem right that real potato would impress less than frozen in a bag.
We tried two different Las Vegas locations, one Friday on Sahara Avenue for burgers and fries, and one Sunday on Dean Martin Drive for vanilla dessert shakes after our dinner at Rosemary’s. Unfortunately, I was so violently full and tipsy (we only split a bottle of wine but over the course of the afternoon I’d also downed two bloody marys and three gin and tonics) I could barely manage sip. I tried a little leftover melted milkshake the next morning but it wasn’t the same.

In-N-Out Burger * 2900 W Sahara Ave., Las Vegas, NV

Rosemary’s Restaurant

I never went to Las Vegas with the intention of dining exclusively on the strip. That’s why I rented a car. What I hadn’t considered was how non-strip still translates to strip mall.

RosemarysYou can barely read a food blog mentioning Vegas without a Lotus of Siam or Rosemary’s rave. Must-eats, to put it mildly. Many make a point of noting that Lotus of Siam is in a strip mall, yet no one says the same of Rosemary’s, a serious restaurant with prices to match. I was initially scared of fine dining in a complex that’s also home to a Dollar Tree, and I got more nervous when a truck limo pulled up out front. Maybe I’ve been in NYC too long, but who seriously rents out vehicles like that? At least it wasn’t a stretch Hummer, I suppose.

I guess this is standard building practice with new-cities. I mean, where else would you put a business? You’re practically starting from scratch. But even in Portland, which never struck me as old or traditional, restaurants are generally embedded in storefronts or are free standing. You don’t get the mall aesthetic until you reach the outskirts and head into the Beavertons and Greshams of the world. I had no understanding of Las Vegas, it’s really a suburb of a city. And once I got that, I was cool with the lack of gravitas.

I intentionally booked on Sunday, half-price wine night (also a very un-NYC move. Coupons, promotions, gimmicks, whatever you call them, just don’t exist. I thought these Diner's Deck cards seemed like a fun gift but I’d be too embarrassed to use them) because I usually splurge on food yet skimp on wine. An $88 bottle of Domaine Drouhin Pinot Noir becomes much more attractive when it’s price-chopped. This would be a great way to try wines I might normally shy away from.

While skimming the menu, James and I were trying to estimate what portions would be like. After Joel Robuchon’s precious tastes the night before, we were kind of warped. Would the three-course prix fixe leave us starving or stuffed? I was guessing Rosemary’s would be on the small side of medium but their servings turned out to be surprisingly hearty. I actually left food on my plate and that 's a rare occurrence.

Not hearty enough for all, apparently. The two very large gambling type gentleman, one flat-topped forty-something in a Hawaiian shirt, the other closer to seventy and wearing suspenders, were complaining to each other about the size of their food. They also seemed a little irritated when told about the half-price wine promotion and insisted they only wanted beer and cocktails. I was trying to eavesdrop while the waitresses sweet talked and tried to smooth over any potential problems, and could only hear that their usual favorite restaurant was a casino steak house (I couldn’t catch the name) so it really just wasn’t their scene. I’m curious how they ended up there in the first place because it takes effort. I can see that if you’re accustomed to either all-you-can-eat or steakhouse fare, the price point and portion size might give you pause. But this wasn’t even close to foofy food.

The $49 prix fixe includes three courses of your choosing from appetizer, salad/soup, entrée and dessert. We went all savory decided to try In-N-Out shakes on the way back to our hotel. An appetizer and entrée would’ve been sufficient. I ordered with my gut, whatever sounded good on impulse, no planning. I ended up with andouille and blue cheese in two dishes. No complaints, but I ordered a very decadent trio.

You could call the style new or creative American with Southern touches, French technique (they even use a little of that ever popular sous vide). Maybe not the décor, but I could totally see this restaurant blossoming on Fifth Street in Park Slope. Smith Street could seriously use a place like this instead of the blah Italian and Thai food that persists.

I’d been taking outdoor photos earlier in the day and forgot to change the setting on my camera so they turned out atrociously dark. Even after playing with photo editing software, they look like shit. I’ll just include some tiny thumbnails for background color. 

Carpaccio_1Beef & Maytag Blue Cheese Carpaccio: Arugula & Granny Smith Apple Salad, Sicilian Pistachios & Port Wine Drizzles

I started off right. While this could’ve been very heavy, the apple and wine were sprightly enough to keep me alert.

I originally wanted the Texas bbq shrimp with Maytag blue cheese slaw, but let James have it. He always seems to inadvertently order things with bbq sauce and then bitch about it (I do understand that bbq can be read as barbecued, i.e. grilled) so I was amused that zeroed in on this dish. Though as you can see from this recipe that said bbq sauce contains a good dose of heavy cream. And I wondered why the food was so tasty but filling.

Frisee_saladWarm Frisee Salad: Roasted Golden Beets, Roquefort Cheese, Candied Walnuts & Homemade Andouille Vinaigrette.

There’s that blue cheese again. It was the candied walnuts that clinched it for me. This was really good but I probably should’ve eaten this or had the blue cheese and beef carpaccio, not and.

Last week we ordered sandwiches from ‘Wichcraft for a holiday office lunch and people didn’t know what things like frisee or aioli were and seemed suspicious. I don’t understand this. I’ve always worked with chicken Caesar salad/four-cheese ravioli folks. James talks about the guys he works with and they’re always going to exotic, obscure or ostentatious places for lunch, they totally know food. My only guess is that a financial salary allows for more dabbling and experimentation than a library salary, or that librarians just aren’t very adventurous, regardless of cash flow.

SeabassCrispy Skin Striped Bass: Andouille, Rock Shrimp & Fingerling Potato Hash, Hushpuppies & Creole Meuniere Sauce

I didn’t even notice the andouille in the description. Spicy Cajun sausage is amazing but I’d already downed more than my fair share drenched in oil and vinegar from the salad. It was the rock shrimp and hash that grabbed my attention. I left like 20% of the food on my plate, which never happens. My stomach absolutely gave up on this trip. I think I caused irreparable damage and will now have to have a six-pack surgery to make me feel better about myself.

Rosemary’s Restaurant* 8125 W Sahara Ave, Las Vegas, NV

Lotus of Siam

I was kind of nervous to try Lotus of Siam because it would really suck if my favorite American Thai food turned out to be on the other side of the country. LOS (my brain keeps wanting to transpose the acronym into SOL, so I’ll spell it out from here on) seems to inspire the same fanaticism as Woodside’s Sripraphai. In my mind there’s a battle between these iconic right coast/left coast arbiters of authenticity (dueling mythical giants that are less Godzilla/Mothra and maybe more like one of these scary indigestion-wracked Pepto-Bismol behemoths. Diarrhea’s become so mainstream lately). I’m not sure if it’s a case of loving what you know, but after two Lotus of Siam meals I’m still a Sripraphai advocate.

Lotus_of_siam_facade The two restaurants have different styles so it’s not accurate to compare them directly (even though I will). Lotus of Siam excels with Issan style dishes, which are more sour and hot and less reliant on coconut milk. Salads, larbs, whole fish, grilled items are popular and raw herbs and prevalent. I think my own palate swings more towards the sweet and hot ends of the spectrum, so sour, bitter flavors don’t grab me as hard. Bangkok, and Central Thai food is said to be sweeter and I think Sripraphai leans that direction, which could be why I favor them.

Lotus of Siam has all of the makings of a cult hit. Offbeat locale: West Coast yet neither Los Angeles nor San Francisco; Hidden in plain sight: a non-street facing rundown strip mall and Substance over style:  dowdy décor that favors country kitchen flair over cliché Asian garishness.

Lotus_of_siam_interior My original plan was to stop by for lunch on our way to the hotel from the airport and then return the following evening for a proper dinner, done the way you’re supposed to with wine (definitely a distinction from Sripraphai) and recommendations from the staff. But we got waylaid by Joël Robuchon and instead ended up doing another lunch on our way out of town, back to the airport.

If you go at lunchtime, you’ll do best by avoiding what 90% of the diners are doing and forgo the buffet. I know, I know, it’s Vegas, but this is definitely a quality over quantity moment (I’m not sure what the buffet cost but I could see the appeal since a la carte was considerably pricier. Many items were $3+ more than their Sripraphai counterparts). I never actually got up and scrutinized the steam tables but it looked like everyone had plates filled with beige and brown items: spring rolls, fried rice and noodles, a kind of generic greatest hits. Instead, ask for a menu.

Friday, I went partly on internet research and partly on what sounded different from what I could already get in NYC. Monday, we did more comparison eating. They ask how spicy you’d like things on a scale of one to ten. James and I both thought that eight sounded reasonable and it was really right on. Definitely hot, searing in a few mouthfuls, but not painfully so. (I really don’t know who these people are on the internets talking about a four making them cry. Perhaps my taste buds have been irreparably cigarette damaged?)

But Monday, we asked for an eight again and what we were served was a five at best. The overall effect was completely different. The catfish salad was practically as tame as something you’d get in a Cobble Hill, lychee martini DJ joint. It’s a good thing we went twice because if we’d only had our second meal to make an assessment. it would’ve been a poor impression. I still can’t help but think that there was dinner brilliance that we didn’t tap into.

First up are items from visit one:

Nam Kao Tod

I had to try the sour sausage because it seemed like their answer to Sri’s crispy watercress salad. An unusually textured, mixed-up dish that doesn’t seem to show up at other restaurants. The chile-dusted rice krispies were almost avant-garde. I imagined browned slices of grilled sausage like this, but it was more like chopped ham. Tangy and crunchy, this was a good snack.

Northern Larb

I didn’t try their standard larb but the northern style is described as “completely different from the Issan larb in taste, this northern style larb (ground pork) is cooked with Northern Thai spices and no lime juice” This was very spicy and pungent with the addition of the herb on the side. I like larbs but in some ways, they almost feel too healthy. They’re a good counterbalance for oilier, creamier dishes. James was convinced there was five-spice powder in this, which I refused to believe but I got what he was saying, there was something strangely Chinese-y about the flavor. Maybe ginger? What were those mystery “Northern Thai spices,” anyway?

You (well, I) rarely see rau ram in NYC (I needed “laksa leaf,” as it’s also called, for Malaysian cooking and came up empty handed, though I’ve seen it once or twice at Hong Kong Supermarket in NJ. I checked to see if they had in Vegas’s Chinatown [yes, there’s a Chinatown] and they did) so I was surprised that to see it on our plate. Rau ram is the Vietnamese term for it, though. I think our waiter called it phak phai.

Drunken Noodles Seafood

As you can see in the photo, there’s more stuff than noodle. Stuff is good but the noodles got kind of matted into a wad buried beneath the shrimp, squid, mussels and fake crab. Surimi, or whatever you want to call it, doesn’t bother me but I could see it putting more discerning folks off. I think I actually prefer simpler drunken noodles, though there was no complaining about toning down the heat. These were pleasingly tongue-scorching.

Visit number two:

Koong Sarong
(prawn in a blanket)

These seemed bizarrely un-Thai to me but wonderful in a rumaki, crab Rangoon way. Retro, yet so now. It’s a bacon wrapped prawn deep-fried in a wonton skin and served with sweet and sour sauce. There was no way to justify splitting six of these between the two of us for breakfast but we couldn’t bear to leave any behind. Actually, we did try leaving one on the plate but our waiter pointed it out to us and we were forced to gorge.

Kra Phao Moo Krob

Crispy pork with basil and chiles is one of my most favorite, decadent treats. I can’t go to Sripraphai and not order it. If it’s on any Thai menu, it can’t be ignored. I think you’re probably just supposed to eat a few pieces but it’s totally a main dish in my world. Lotus of Siam’s version was pretty darn good (how can fried pork belly be bad?) but the meat was fattier and crispier like lechon or chicharon and saucier than Sri’s. What I love about Sri’s is the sweet component. I’ve made a similar version using David Thompson’s Thai Food that calls for palm sugar and star anise. This version was irresistible but more straightforward.

Crispy Catfish Pieces Salad

I love the contrast of fresh, cool herbs and aromatics combined with crispy, warm and nutty and moistened with a perfect blend of lime, fish sauce, chiles and sugar. We call the sauce that ends up pooling at the bottom of the plate, “goop.” Sripraphai makes the best goop ever, we try to get every last bit at the end when all that’s left is cilantro bits and stray red onion slivers. This papaya salad, while flavorful, not only lacked sufficient goop, it was nearly bereft of heat altogether. It was all lime and not much else, and most definitely not an eight. And perhaps my own aversion, the julienned slices of raw ginger were kind of startling. But I’m one for going easy on the biting additions like krachai, galangal and ginger.

Wow, a lot of that sounds persnickety and negative when that wasn’t my overall impression. Taken on its own, Lotus of Siam serves very solid food, and I’m guessing top notch for the area. I lived in Portland for the first quarter of my life and never tasted Thai food like this. I don’t think the typical American has. So, it’s unquestionably a stand out. I just don’t understand why Thai food in the U.S. can’t be like this by default.

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

L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon

, one of a gazillion Cirque de Soleil shows playing in Las Vegas, was a no go as all tickets had been sold. I was secretly relieved because, frankly, that overwrought French-Canadian shit scares me almost as much as Celine Dion. But the box office happened to be bizarrely next to the dueling Joël Robuchon restaurants, L’Atelier and The Mansion, so we decided to take our money elsewhere and try for same day reservations at his more casual but by no means thrifty option. Plus, it was in our hotel and it seemed crazy to ignore an acclaimed option practically staring in our faces. 9pm wasn’t a problem, though I felt kind of bad for having to cancel my plans at Lotus of Siam, Vegas’s acclaimed Thai restaurant (we’d already had lunch there the day before and ultimately had lunch again two days later on our way out of town).

Joel_robuchon_seatingIt turned out that when we arrived later that evening, we had bar seating. Duh, I know that informal bar-style seating is their trademark, but our chairs faced the back of the room so we couldn’t see all the theatrical prep occurring in the heart of the room. We had a perfectly fine evening, regardless, but when you’re blowing $400+ on a meal, it’s something to think about.

The bar seats three so we were placed next to this single, empowered female HBO exec who was nice enough (I was surprised when James struck up a conversation with her. He can be totally anti-social and Asperger’s at times so I’m kind of awed when he’s convincingly warm and animated. I get reminded of my first chatty–and unfortunately, gay–impression over eight years ago) and became chattier as her bottle of wine emptied.  She was pamper-crazed, eager-to-impress, very L.A. I overheard (it’s not really eavesdropping when only a few feet from someone—it’s nearly impossible to not have shared conversations) our server telling her that he thought you should really be told when you’re reserving that you’ll be seated at the bar, so clearly she had the same issue we did. I’m not smooth at handling these service-quirk situations—how do the seasoned command primo seats without resorting to this type of food blog nonsense?

When wonderful sounding dishes are described as being a few bites yet cost $29 (I don’t think that acclaimed eel dish was on the Vegas menu) the $135 tasting menu seems like a wise choice. I enjoy the fanfare and procession that comes with this style of dining anyway. There’s nothing workaday about it. Our fellow diner was one step ahead of us so we got previews of everything about fifteen minutes before it was our turn.

Boning up on wine knowledge (along with eating more Japanese food—which reminds me, there were quite a few Japanese diners in the place, one family with two young children, one a boy who needed his pricey steak cut for him. Those were some lucky well-behaved brats. If my family brought me to Vegas as a wee one, which they wouldn’t have, Denny’s most certainly would’ve been as good as it got) is one of my New Year’s resolutions. I’m no oenophile. So we had an unremarkable Sauvignon Blanc that likely pegged us as amateurish but there’s something about Vegas that doesn’t compel you to follow the rules like ordering an expensive bottle of wine to accompany a tasting menu. Our server was talking about how not all of the high rollers who dominate at The Mansion next door like having $5,000 bottles of wine pushed on them. Many settle for vintages in the $3,500 range. Fuck that, I wasn’t going to feel chintzy about our $65 choice.

On to the food. I’m including their literal menu descriptions for the sake of accuracy. Thank god for the internet because there’s no way I’d remember it all, even with photos for memory-jogging.

L’AMUSE-BOUCHE: Le concombre en gelée, à l’estragon et son yaourt au cumin. Cucumber gelée tarragon cream, cumin yogurt.

Very cumin-y with a distinct hint of licorice. As good as anything to start with but not mind-blowing.

LE THON ROUGE: Cru mariné à l’huile tomatée et à la fleur de sel. Bluefin tuna with tomato infused olive oil.

Nice seems like a cop out adjective but raw bluefin tuna is incredibly nice and soft. The tomato essence was sweet and akin to sun-dried tomatoes. I made mine last five bites. You have to pace yourself with these things, though it would be kind of hilarious to scarf everything down as fast as it comes, then declare that you’re still starving.

LA SAINT-JACQUES: La noix cuite en coquille au beurre d’algues acidulé. Fresh scallops cooked in the shell with seaweed infused butter.

Unlike our lady friend next to us, we’re not carb-phobic. If there was ever a substance crying out for a bread basket, it was the leftover pool of butter in the perfect scallop shell.

L’ŒUF: Cocotte et sa crème légère de champignons. Egg cocotte topped with a light mushroom cream.

This colorful concoction doesn’t translate in my picture. The bottom layer was a vivid color crayon green. You’re instructed to mix everything together and that’s when you realize there’s also a near neon, sunshine-orange orb floating in the glass. It ends up looking as rainbow pretty as it tastes.

LA CHATAIGNE: En fin velouté au fumet de céleri et au lard croustillant. Light chestnut velouté with caramelized foie gras and crispy bacon.

One of the best dishes in the bunch. Richness paired with more richness, all sweet, salty and fatty.

LE SAUMON: Mi-fumé aux croustilles de pommes de terre et pousses de cresson. Slightly smoked salmon served warm confit potatoes.

I never thought I’d say this, but this dish actually seemed too large. I was tired of the smoked flavors before getting to the end. I’m sure it was an amazing cut of salmon but it was filling.

LA CAILLE: Farcie de foie gras et caramélisée, purée de ratte truffée. Free-range quail stuffed with foie gras and served with truffled-mashed potatoes.

There were two entrees (yes, this was the main dish, so to speak) to choose from. James and I ordered different ones for variety. He had the hanger steak, which came with the most insane mashed potatoes ever. I don’t think there was any secret ingredient other than like nine parts butter to one part spud. Our fellow diner left half of hers (and the meat) behind in one of those inexplicable “too good” moves. She explained that she’s recently lost 20 pounds doing this and told James that I’d understand. Believe me, I do all too well. Sadly, portion control is the only way to slim down, but I can’t be lumped into that category of feminine craziness. I’m eating every last bite of luxury on my artfully arranged plate. In my world, foie gras and truffles are not getting left behind.

Addendum: I posted this Christmas Eve and forced myself to wait until the morning of the 25th to open presents. My sister had sent me a copy of British food magazine, Olive, and it contained a bit on the new Joel Robuchon outpost in London and declared the puree de pommes de terre/mashed potatoes their signature dish. They reported that the recipe involves pushing boiled potatoes through a food mill, then adding about half a pound of chilled butter and half a pint of warm milk for every two pounds of potatoes. That mix gets finely sieved. But being English, the writer had to go and describe the end result in unappetizing terms and compares the finished appearance to the smoothness of mayonnaise. Ew.

If I had known that these potatoes were so talked about, I would've taken a photo.

LA MANDARINE: Sur un lait caillé de brebis, infusion à la bergamote. Sheep’s milk yogurt panna cotta, mandarin confit, bergamot tea infusion.

The tea was only in the background. Orange definitely dominated this refreshing dessert.

LA POIRE: En sorbet, chocolat velouté caramélisé à la cannelle. Pear sorbet, meringue glacée, chocolate-caramelized cinnamon cream.

I was actually thankful there wasn’t a substantial dessert like cake. It’s hard to appreciate decadent sweets after a succession of plates. Light chocolate, pear and cinnamon perk up rather than weigh down. It was a welcome ending.

Latelier_de_joel_robuchonI hadn’t originally scheduled any high end meals into our weekend getaway, primarily because so many of the choices in this category already have New York City locations. It seems kind of silly to travel 2,500 miles to eat food you could have in your home town. But I’m glad we tried L'Atelier de Joël Robuchon on a whim. I hadn’t had much inclination to buy into the recent hype here in the same way that I’ve been holding off on Gordon Ramsey at The London. I fear attitude that’s refreshingly lacking in Las Vegas. How pretentious can one be when dining in sight of burbling slot machines?

L'Atelier de Joël Robuchon * 3799 Las Vegas Blvd., Las Vegas, NV

Fast Food, Slow Walkers

I missed my office holiday party on Friday, but luckily when you vaguely (and I do mean vaguely) work in media there are blogs that cover these troublesome events for you. Why fight the hideous hordes when you can read about it the next day online?

Instead of waiting in line for pigs in a blanket, I was busy waiting in line for…well, just about everything. Las Vegas was kind of what I had expected and only reinforced my phobia of most Americans and humankind in general. As much of an irritant as NYC is, I find that when I’m plopped elsewhere in the country for more than a few days I begin to appreciate the city. I’m wildly generalizing, but the average person is too damn slow, both physically and witted. They make small talk and ask a gazillion questions and waste everyone’s (ok, my) time. It shouldn’t take 15 minutes per person to check into the airport or check into the hotel or over an hour to line up for food (I had disgusting fantasies of buffet gorging and ended up bypassing the whole concept). See, I waste time in the privacy of my home or office finding hotel reservations, restaurant reservations and activities on the internet and booking them. Everyone else seems to just show up wherever and require explanations of what’s available to them: prices, room styles, amenities, things to do in the city, where to eat, how to catch a cab, how to ride the monorail and so on. I’m amazed that the bulk of humanity even makes it out of the house every day unassisted. I guess that’s called customer service and it’s expected. I’m all for a self-sufficiency/efficiency combo. The thing is, no one cares and I only cause internal aggravation by concerning myself with others.

Brimley On the up side, I do like leaving NYC if only so I don’t feel like the usual chunk than I am (there was a frightening middle aged male duo sitting across from us on the flight back. Both were the size and style of two Wilford Brimleys each and they had to get seatbelt extenders. Normally, I might feel bad but they were serious sons of bitches and about half way through the journey started making a stink, literally yelling about how HOT they were and had to be brought a pile of napkins to wipe their faces and heads with and then the whole plane got the heat turned off so that other passengers started complaining about being cold and this duo was still barking about how hot they were. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that being 350 pounds isn’t probably conducive for staying cool. Then they really started depressing me on the walk to the baggage claim when they couldn’t go more than 50 feet without having to take a break to catch their breath and rest their legs. Even weirder was the wiry female twosome sitting in front of us. They had that white trash style where they look like lesbians but are probably married [I know, because one married into my family]. One had a damaged permed mullet and the other had gray cropped hair with a rat-tail and they were all twitchy and giving everyone the evil eye, then practically cracking out their menthol cigarettes right in the baggage area. They also couldn’t walk more than few feet without having to gasp for air. I vowed to enact a strict health regimen the second I set foot back in Brooklyn).

I’m not complaining, just observing. I had fun once I learned to tolerate large groups. There was also a cheerleading convention in our hotel so the entire weekend you couldn’t step foot out of your room without being mobbed by squealing girls (as young as six or so—I didn’t realize they started so young, very Jon Benet) in athletically slutty uniforms and those squishy twisty hair curlers that I hadn’t seen since the ‘80s (ok, technically Soft Spikes were invented in ’96 but I know there was a bendable precursor). Which reminds me of another unfortunate trend that’s been practiced so long it might as well be a standard: the trashy suburban tendency for females to wear pajamas in public and sweats like they’re clothing. I don’t mean velour tracksuits, which I also got a million eyefuls of, but cotton-poly baggy crap plastered with school logos or Looney Tunes characters, paired with white tennis shoes or flip-flops. My stepsister and step-mom dressed (or still do for all I know) in this manner and it always made me wonder if they just couldn’t find tailored pants to accommodate their asses. Really, I know that’s not the case because my blood relatives aren’t exactly svelte (though thankfully, we’re not squat) and yet they manage to find clothing with buttons and zippers.

PeppermillfiresideloungeWhen asked what I did in Vegas, I’m at a mild loss because I didn’t do a whole lot. I did win an impressive $1.25 with a $14 outlay. It almost paid for half of the cheapest cocktail I found, a $3 drink at old school casino, The Four Queens (so cheap their website doesn’t seem to be working).  It was my great-grandma’s haunt many decades ago so it was a must-do. Peppermill’s Fireside Lounge was a whole different breed of old school, pure unadulterated seventies. With lots of neon, brass rails and flame-topped Jacuzzi, it was dazzling but sadly 2006 cocktail prices prevailed.

Because it was such a weirdo novelty, we chose a PT Cruiser at the Thrifty lot. Those cars are so silly/strange to me, I’d never own one in a million years and you never see them around here. The bizarre thing was that in Vegas every ten cars seemed to be a PT Cruiser—whether or not they’re all rentals, I’m not sure. As they say, what happens in Vegas, you know, stays there. No one ever needs to know that I actually drove one of these mobiles around.

Past2 Most of my brief stay involved eating, window shopping (my only purchases were some L’Occitane items for my mom, a DKNY top on sale at Macy’s because I under packed, dried chiles and pastries at Mariana’s, an amazing Mexican mega grocery store of the ilk that just doesn’t exist around these parts, lime leaves at Ranch 99 which is of  NYC ilk—we just don’t have the same access to produce like fresh galangal, Thai eggplants, ube and said leaves, and a $1.99 personalized magnet for my sister (even though it sounds common, it seems that Krista still hasn’t become standard enough to warrant off the rack products. Kris, Kristen and Kristy but never Krista. This used to bug me as a kid. The name peaked in the ‘80s, so I’m surprised there aren’t demanding twentysomethings clamoring for personalized crap.) at Bonanza, which claims to be the world’s largest gift store.

I do love all of the west coast fast food that we lack in NYC. Places I’d never even heard of like Del Taco and Wing Street (attached to Pizza Hut), and those I’m familiar with like Jack in the Box, In-N-Out Burger and Carl’s Jr. I never eat fast food here anyway because I feel too guilty, but there’s something about ordering it from a PT Cruiser that seems to make it OK. Nothing makes me happier than foreign chains. I didn’t realize there was such a substantial Filipino community in Las Vegas so I was excited to see a Goldilocks in person. I didn’t see any Jollibees, unfortunately.

For full photo commentary, look here.