Food, money, Las Vegas—it's a delicate balance and a word that doesn’t fit with Las Vegas. We recently headed to Vegas to welcome another birthday with some long-time good friends. You would think it would be easy to pick a place to eat since choices are abundant. But with the economic times being what they are, I really wanted something for the money. As @linecook wrote to me: “vegas is a black hole as far as food goes...but I did enjoy my food at Katz's at 3 am. Maybe head off the strip?” His term “black hole” kept swimming in my head. You do pay a premium eating on the Strip. After many Web searches, I was feeling like the food was all about being on the Strip and wasn’t particularly inspired. So twitter friend @xela854 (Alex C) gave us numerous recommendations for both on and off the Strip.
Our first dinner was at Wazuzu located in the Wynn Encore. Here, Chef Jet Tila prepared cuisine from Japan, Thailand, Korea, China and India. We thought the cuisines were going to be integrated but they were all individual dishes, true to the classic flavors of their country of origin. Since we go to many different Asian restaurants in San Francisco, I thought the segregation of cuisines was a little strange and was hoping Chef Tila had taken it to the next level. But then, I was slowly awed that one chef could execute so many types of cuisine so well. There were two home-run dishes for us: the first was the "Northwest Roll", a spicy tuna roll, topped with wild salmon sashimi and wasabi tobiko caviar that had bright, clean, fresh flavors and the cucumber gave it just the right amount of texture. It would give any sushi place in San Francisco a run for their money. The second great dish was the "Thai Spicy Basil Stir-fry with Beef." I think it was the best I ever had. The meat was tender, there was the perfect amount of spice and seasoning, and the vegetables still had just a little crunch to them. Overall, the food was very good and the service was excellent. You are paying for being on the Strip but the food was worth the price.
Our second dinner, and the most grand, was at Bartolotta in the Wynn. We did have reservations at Marché Bacchus off the Strip but when we walked by Bartolotta and saw how beautiful it was AND that they had a $69 tasting menu, we changed our reservations. Chef Paul Bartolotta, a James Beard winner for 2009 Best Chef in the Southwest, flies in fish from the Mediterranean daily and prepares some of the best pasta I've had outside of Italy. Three of us ordered the smaller 3 course tasting menu for $69 and two of us ordered the Menu di Paranza at $140 per person:
All the food was impeccably prepared and served. The show stoppers were the “pesce sciabola alla griglia di carbone”, “ravioli di ricotta con caciotta Toscana” and the most amazingly delicate “insalata di piovra Ligure.” I can still taste all the flavors and textures.
On the wine front, Jennifer the sommelier, poured us a 2008 Feudi di San Gregario Falanghina ($59) and then she recommended a wine I have never had. It was a 2005 Palari, “Rosso del Soprano” made from Nerello Mascalese, Nerello Cappuccio, Nocera, Acitana, Jacche. The Falanghina handled all the first course dishes with ease and expertise. The Palari was just so much fun. It worked with the seafood AND the red sauces. That is a fabulous food wine in my book.
All in all, the food was excellent and the service even better. Was it worth the price? For being on the strip and knowing you are paying for that pleasure…yes. If this restaurant were in San Francisco I would think the price point would be lower. The tasting menu they offer at $69 is DEFINITELY worth the price, but you won’t get the show stoppers offered in the $140 tasting menu.
The third dinner was perfect for the pocketbook and a much needed change of scenery for the last night. We headed off the strip to Ichiza, a Japanese restaurant. We would have never found this place unless @xela854 hadn’t told us about it. It was fresh, creative, very inspired and the best part… VERY AFFORDABLE. Four of us ate there for $100. The creative sushi dishes were amazing. Even the ordering was fun. There were no menus to look at but they had sheets on the walls all over the place. Basically, you had to depend on your waitress and in our case I twittered @xela854 and she quickly gave us some great insight as to what to order. The Shrimp dumplings are a must, along with spicy shrimp with eggplant, eel kakiage tempura roll, and a hamachi “nacho” (we dubbed it a nacho). In fact, we ordered two of those!
I will have to rest up for a least another year before heading back to Sin City. All in all, it was a fun and tasty (and fattening) trip. Many thanks to @xela854 for all her suggestions. Check out her website Recession Recipes. Yum!!
Angela Camacho, a certified sommelier and author of a best selling wine tool, The Wine Wheel®, shares her obsession with wine and food.