Eatin’ in Las Vegas

May 21, 2011 at 10:24 PM Leave a comment

Work continues to bring Jeff to Las Vegas. Michele comes along to shop and enjoy the shows. Evenings are spent together over dinner. This is not a vacation destination we’d choose. Neither of us gambles, Michele has done every possible tour and the assorted evening shows haven’t changed since we started visiting the city. The only thing that makes the city palatable had been the sun and food. With little exception, that joy has been diminishing over the last few visits.

To compensate for the reduction in gambling revenue and the lack of visitors, most of the hotels in the city seem to have decided that the way to financial strength can be achieved by increasing the cost of food. While it was bad last year, it has become almost chronic this year. Nothing was as bad as Bartolotta this year.

In 2009, Bartolotta won the James Beard Award for region dining. We knew the menu was expensive, but we had expected commensurate value and quality. We will pay, if the food is worth it. It is a tragic disappointment when the cost is high and the return is low. Such was the case with Bartolotta.

Things started out OK. Jeff’s appetizer of pancetta wrapped rabbit with artichokes was almost heavenly. The $21 cost was however, too high. Michele had a simple arugula salad that at $13.50 simply was not justified. For dinner, we decided to try one of their fresh catches, flown in daily from the Mediterranean. Each day, the collection varied. We selected the whole Orato, a mid-texture, mid-flavor variety. The waiter was clear with the cost, but we assumed this would be a treat. It wasn’t. Michele, much more an expert on seafood felt this was sub-par taste and presentation. The side dish of fingerling potatoes was more interesting than the fish. Lemon cake and Chocolate Almond cake dessert was good, but we have had better.

In this blog, we have conscientiously made a decision to avoid “bad-mouthing” restaurants. We enjoy eating and have a good history of determining value and quality, but we are admitted armatures. Some palette nuances are inevitably over our head. Bartolotta was simply not worth the money. Had this been a $75 tab, we would likely have stated it was good and never returned. When the bill is over three times that, it is time to shout. High price is not an antidote to marginal performance in the kitchen. The partially filled dining room was certainly an indicator that the word is out. There is not return on this investment and we urge you to overlook this place for almost any of the others we mention below.

Much better and somewhat more affordable was B and B Ristorante in the Venetian Hotel. This is one of Mario Batali’s establishments and the value was definitely higher than Bartolotta. Michele had a large lunch after a busy day shopping, so she simply ordered Orecchiette with sausage and rapini and enjoyed it immensely. Jeff hadn’t eaten all day, so he started with the Beet Salad accompanied by pistachio and ricotta. It was perfect. As a main course, he ordered the Rabbit Porchetta mixed with black mushrooms and served in a broth made from the rabbit bones, etc. It was magnificent. Dessert was an assortment of gelato. After a disappointing start, this was a welcome reprieve.

We know that Mon Ami Gabi is a chain, but as part of the Lettuce Entertain You Group, it is a cut above and we usually have one meal there each trip. This year, we joined friends for a very nice evening of conversation and food. Michele tried the Sea Bass special and while good, she wishes she would have stuck with her favorite roast chicken. Jeff really likes the Steak Frites with Béarnaise and was not disappointed. This is an enjoyable place in the quasi-French bistro environs of the Paris Hotel.

We also enjoyed a very good Chinese dinner at Wazuzu in the Encore Hotel. We started withLA California roll sushi. Jeff had the orange beef and Michele enjoyed a salmon rice bowl. Dessert consisted of three types of ice cream. We enjoyed eating here and the table which overlooked the gambling hall. Good food and good people watching.

Perhaps the most exciting dinner was one Jeff spent apart from Michele. China Poblano recently opened in the Cosmopolitan and has garnered some unprecedented buzz. Michele reviewed the on-line menu and was not intrigued, so Jeff suggested it to co-workers after the previous dinner at an unimaginative Italian restaurant off the strip left them “wanting.” This smash-up between Chinese and Mexican cooking comes from the inventive mind of José Andrés, the chef responsible for the much acclaimed Minibar inWashington, DC. Styled like a south-of-the-boarder honky-tonk, the vibe is designed for fun and experimentation. Jeff had the shredded pork and hominy soup (Pozole Rojo) along with a carnitas taco. Both were excellent. His co-workers enjoyed their version of Hot & Sour Soup (Don’t Be Jealous) and the Ten Treasure Soup. We shared a fabulous hand made Guacamole and Twenty Vegetable Fried Rice (the only so-so dish we sampled.) With a menu as complex as this, quality wait staff is important and they have an educated and engaging crew designed to help on your adventure. This place was created for fun. If you’re in town, grab a posse and try it. It is sure to please.

Work will definitely call Jeff back toLas Vegas. Michele will most assuredly join him. We both hope that this accelerating price war will end soon and we can return to reasonably priced food during these days away from goodClevelandcooking.  Wynn/Encore Hotel 3131/3121 Las Vegas Boulevard Las Vegas, NV 89109 702-248-3463 Las Vegas BoulevardLas Vegas,NV89109 702-944-4224 The Venetian3355 Las Vegas BoulevardLas Vegas,NV89109 702-266-9977 The Cosmopolitan 3708 Las Vegas Boulevard Las Vegas, NV 89109 702-698-7900

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