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Please help with my upcoming trip to Montreal!

Another shout out for our lunch at Olive et Gourmando today. WOW to food and service. More details later.

Jul 04, 2014
LVI in Quebec (inc. Montreal)

Please help with my upcoming trip to Montreal!

I will provide a more detailed review later but we went to Brasserie T last night and really enjoyed our meal. It was also a plus that it was right in the center of Jazzfest! Still open for suggestions for tonight, tentative on Graziella, Bouillon Bilk or Le Filet.

Jul 04, 2014
LVI in Quebec (inc. Montreal)

Please help with my upcoming trip to Montreal!

Many thanks, will take a look. I have refrained from saying how well my kids behave and that their palates are as good as most diners. Most parents say the same, but my kids truly have great taste. And will heed to you all about Toque. They would fare well with the food and atmosphere. The length, especially for the dancer, may be tough.

Keep 'em coming though as I will go anywhere that's great! Thanks again all.

Jul 03, 2014
LVI in Quebec (inc. Montreal)

Please help with my upcoming trip to Montreal!

OOPS, thanks for pointing that out. It is actually my family (wife and 3 kids). Toque was chosen, by my daughter, as a celebration dinner (that is assuming she does well!). While it is very pricy (well beyond what I would normally take my kids to) I'm not sure why that makes it an odd choice.

Thanks for the suggestions above. I have made a reservation at Brasserie T (tried yesterday but there was nothing available so they must have had a cancelation).

Jul 02, 2014
LVI in Quebec (inc. Montreal)

Please help with my upcoming trip to Montreal!

I am headed to Montreal to watch my daughter compete in the Irish Dancing event at the convention center. While a restaurant close would be a bonus, it will not limit our choice. So far I have reservations at l'Original, l'Express, Toque, and Restaurant les Pyrenees. We LOVE all types of food in all types of settings. I would love to hear any input on my choices and any additional recommendations.

Thanks in advance for your help and I look forward to hearing about the Montreal dining scene.

Jul 01, 2014
LVI in Quebec (inc. Montreal)

Cheap eats for foodies?

PF Changs is about as far from a CH experience as I can imagine. I know it is a cheap eats thread, but If we are talking chains, why not Micky D's?

Jul 01, 2014
LVI in Las Vegas

Review #7: Lotus of Siam

Dinner at Lotus of Siam was the largest group of my trip (19 total) and unequivocally the best. From the moment we walked in to the moment that we left the service was professional, efficient and pleasant and the food was nothing short of spectacular. Without question the best meal of of our trip.

As I mentioned in another review, many of the people in my group had never been to Las Vegas before so this was a chance to showcase not only some of the best Thai food preparation in the country but also provide a perfect contrast to The Strip and all it's glitz and glamor.

All of the dishes that we had this evening at LoS have been covered here on CH ad nauseam so I will refrain from describing every mouthwatering bite. Here is what we ordered (I'm sure I will have forgotten 1 or 2): Both garlic black pepper and spicy chili chicken wings, Issan and Northern Larb, Nam Kao Tod, the green chili dip (I can't tell you how many looked at this dish and said "nah" until I made them try it and I couldn't get them to stop eating it), the Jackfruit that is in a broth with other vegetables (sorry I can't remember the name), charbroiled catfish (2 perfectly sized ones), drunken noodles with sea bass, Khao soi, Garlic Prawns (I still contend that the shells are almost, if not, better than the prawn themselves!), Crispy Panang Duck and for once, the Mango with sticky rice and coconut ice cream. I say for one as of the multitude of times that I have been to LoS it is generally not when the mangos are in season. What a true delight these perfectly sweet Thai mangos are.

In many of my reviews I mention that as a visitor to Las Vegas my tolerance for restaurants that do not perform up to reputation or task is very low. This is my 29th year (countless trips) visiting Las Vegas (and if my memory serves me correct, close to my 20th year going to Lotus...is that right?) and in all of those years not a single restaurant has gotten it so consistently right and captured my imagination the way the Chutima's have done. Lotus of Siam is most definitely my favorite restaurant in the Valley and hope to visit it for another 29 years to come.

Jun 19, 2014
LVI in Las Vegas

Review #6: The Verandah

You are free to choose the buffet or the menu. And the tables participation is not at all mandatory. I think the best way to describe their brunch would be to say it is a bunch of small bites from the menu with a smattering of other offerings they do not normally have, like the homemade donuts or charcuterie as an example.

Jun 18, 2014
LVI in Las Vegas

Review #5: SW Steakhouse

Understood, however I believe this is the first time he has been in charge of two headline restaurants. By default he can't be there every night.

Jun 17, 2014
LVI in Las Vegas

Review #5: SW Steakhouse

I wholeheartedly agree. But the one thing about a group of 17 or 2 is that the kitchen invariably has to cook for that many regardless. SW is a HUGE restaurant so they are constantly firing away on the line. In theory, those 17 seats are the same as a group or as 8 tables of 2 and 1 person at the bar. So I would expect the biggest issue would be that of temperature and I don't recall anyone having an issue with a dish that was too tepid.

There is one thing that has crept into my mind...is David Walzog getting spread to thin? There is no doubt about his ability and passion. But take the man out of his kitchen and invariably the quality will suffer, at least in the beginning. With him running two restaurants (I don't know if Lakeside and SW share the same kitchen, but I would highly doubt it) quality becomes increasingly harder to manage.

And in my final review in which there were 19 total neither the service nor the temps were anything other than perfect. Not to mention having a 745pm reservation and sitting at 745pm at one table as promised.

Jun 17, 2014
LVI in Las Vegas

Review #6: The Verandah

All depends on the mood I suppose. Huevos however are still my favorite.

Jun 17, 2014
LVI in Las Vegas

Review #6: The Verandah

This review will be short and sweet and for breakfast/brunch only (although my wife and 3 of her friends had a stellar lunch by all accounts). First breakfast. I am a sucka for this place. There is not a more pleasant setting to eat your first meal of the day at than The Verandah. From the coffee to the outstanding entrees it has always been my favorite spot. True it is very expensive but I am willing to spend a little extra to start my day off this way. For the first time in almost forever I did not have the Huevos Rancheros as I opted for the Corned Beef and Pastrami with poached eggs. In the past this dish has been good but they have never been able to keep it to temps true. With the cast iron serving plates (pans) they now use, it stays perfectly warm and the flavor is wonderful. You can tell it is house made and house ground. And the shoestring potatoes offer the perfect textural contrast to the hash. (My wife split the Huevos with her friend and said it was as good as ever).

The other day I had the buffet and it was also wonderful. In the past they have served their has in mini cast iron pans but did not warm the pans first so the has lost temps true very quickly. They have adjusted nicely (watch out the pans are HOT!) and the mini hashes are as good as the larger ones. As far as the other items, they are really all great. The one exception (and I made this point in another review) is the muffin for the eggs Benedict. You MUST cook your own muffin first and only take the ham and egg for the Benedict otherwise you will be left with an intolerably hard muffin that will ruin an otherwise excellent Benny.

The selection is smaller than the mega resorts Wynn/Bellagio/Cosmo but I will put it up against all of them in terms of quality. Quality wins vs quantity.

Jun 16, 2014
LVI in Las Vegas

Review #5: SW Steakhouse

This was the first of our large group dinners. I had requested to be sitting outside on the patio or near as most people in our group had not been to Las Vegas so I figured a view of the water show would have been an excellent way to start the weekend. And much to my chagrin not only were we not near the show, we were tucked away in a back corner, set up at TWO tables. Needless to say I was not very happy as these reservations were done at least two months ahead and they were aware it was a birthday celebration. Imagine hosting a party where many of the people do not know each other sitting at two separate tables.

As were were all getting settled the waiter came to take our drink orders. It was at that moment that the manager came and asked if we would like to be seated in the private dining room that was about to be vacated. Obviously I said that would be great and he told us it was ours as soon as the bridal party left. So we waited...and waited. To make a long story even longer it was at 9:15pm (our reservation was set for 8:00pm) that we finally got a menu.

I will say that once we ordered the pace at which the meal progressed was very comfortable. We were never rushed and the service was impeccable. As for the food, like other reviews I have been posting, I will only comment on the food I tasted. I ordered the crab soup that had a phyllo dough cap that was sprinkled with some sort of Old Bay seasoning that acted, I suppose, like a seasoned crouton, along with splitting the Tomahawk Chop Rib Eye. The soup was very pleasant and very good flavor a bit exaggerated by the Old Bay crouton, which while a bit awkward, offered a nice contrast. I wouldn't say it was the best I have ever had by far especially when I really could not pick out a single discernible piece of crab. The steak was excellent however a bit on the underdone side, which I would much prefer to over done. I had a bite of my wife's Caesar's salad which I enjoyed and had good flavor. All the sides were excellent especially the Brussels sprouts, while the Mac and cheese suffered from over cooked pasta. All the guest seemed to love their food and I'm not sure I heard one complaint, which is pretty darned good when you have a group of 17.

Other than what I perceived to be a bit of a service flaw in the beginning this was a very good meal. I still contend that SW should remain at or near the top of all steakhouses in Las Vegas however it was not quite as good as it has been in the past. This may simply be because we were a large group and we got off to a rocky start. But when you spend the amount of money that you do at these places you experience should be excellent from service to food and I cannot say that this was true this visit.

Jun 16, 2014
LVI in Las Vegas

Review #4: Jaleo

Have you been back?

Jun 14, 2014
LVI in Las Vegas

Review #4: Jaleo

First off, let me say that the food was excellent with some bites making my eyes roll to the back of my head (like the $22 piece of Iberico ham topped with caviar and gold leaf. Man I wish I could win the lottery!). So let's start there. I had left Sunday open for whatever we were in the mood for that night. We tried to go back to LoS but was not assured we could get in (9 people 9pm). So I called Jaleo and inquired if they would have a table for 9 and they said sure so off we went. This was the end of the trip for all of us as we were leaving the next day and wanted a good meal and where we could recap the weekend festivities. The problem is that Jaleo is not a restaurant conducive to conversation (unless you are yelling) so I was a bit skeptical. As we were brought to our table I was so excited that we were brought into a private room (opposite è and similar whimsical decor on 3 of the walls with the entrance being a glass wall) that was absolutely perfect. A couple minutes later (didn't mind the wait as we were all chatting) the waiter walked in and asked with a bit of an attitude, "How did you get this room?" It was a bit weird but oh well. He took or drink order and a couple minutes later came back with drinks and ready to take our order. So away I went. 2oz of Iberico bellota, 4 of the Jose Tacos (the Iberico ham with a healthy dollop of good quality caviar), enough of the pork paella for the 9 of us to each have a taste, the codfish croquettes, octopus and potatoes, sea urchin on toast, salmon crudo and the salmon tartare cones (both of which they were out of), the Rossejat negra con cigala (fried pasta, squid ink, squid, lobster), the mussels, the seared whole baby squid with artichokes and greens, and the Secreto ibérico con salsa verde (the skirt steak from the bellota pig).

Each thing was very good all the way to ethereal. Most were excellent. And the those tacos, WOW. EXCEPT, and this is where the "Ugly" part comes in, the baby squid. The presentation was fine and from what I could tell, a decent sized portion. Since it was place in front of me I took the first one. It was plump with nice char marks. I cut into it and liquid, like that of a soft boiled egg that had not cooked long enough, oozed out on the plate. And here is the stupid move by me, I actually gave them the benefit of the doubt thinking it could have been some sauce and took a bite (I grew up fishing with squid so I knew that the liquid was that of an uncleaned squid). Ughh. It was an uncleaned squid. Now, I know its not going to hurt me and that I will be fine. But it was the gag effect that ruined me. I politely spit it out in my napkin, told everybody not to eat it and put it back on the lazy susan. Our waiter came back and I told him what happened. "Are you sure?" was the first thing out of his mouth. Not really what you should say to a customer, IMO. No sorry, no "can we make it up to you?" no nadda. Just, "Are you sure?" to which he took it to the kitchen. Nothing more about it.

Next was dessert. Now the waiter knew it was my birthday, and knew we were there celebrating. Took the 3 orders. Came back with all three, one with a candle in it. Obligatory I suppose. (As a funny aside, the candle was lit, but when he came through the door it went out and he could relight it.). And like the dinner the desserts were great.

Now here is the "Bad" part. Check comes. 18% added, sop (a discussion for another time but where is the incentive to provide good service when you know you are going to get 18% no matter what?). So what's so bad you ask? Well, I would have expected some sort of gesture for the squid. And at a bare minimum, complementary dessert for me, for my birthday. But nothing. And lastly, and not all that horrible but poor form nonetheless, a different waiter whom had never entered the room came in to take the check and BEFORE he left the room was literally counting the money. Sorry, I have a hard time with that.

So in short: (Food) The GOOD, (Service) The BAD, and (Squid) The UGLY

Jun 13, 2014
LVI in Las Vegas

Review #3: China Mama

Lol! Savory dreams I guess.

I don't think the name was actually just shrimp pillow but close enough. Like a scallion pancake but thinner stuffed with shrimp, greens (ong choy?) I think egg and possibly pork.

Jun 13, 2014
LVI in Las Vegas

Recs for Lunch and Dinner at Mandalay Bay

Yes and yes. I will be writing a review for The Verandah shortly but I will say they have perfected their brunch a bit. And when I say perfected, they have added little cast iron pans that have their corned beef and pastrami hash in it and they are great. In the past it was pretty mediocre but now it is as good as a regular order. That have also added little mini Huevos. Very good, but still needs work to catch up to the regular order. 1 piece of advice for anyone going to the buffet, make you own English muffin for the eggs Benedict and take just the Canadian bacon, egg. The muffins turn hockey puck like and ruin a perfectly good Benedict.

The dinners there are very well done and some dishes even sparkle. I remember two years ago they had a dish cooked in a mason jar that was stunning. And they have many good pastas. (My 12 year old son says they have the best Mac-n-cheese ever! :-) ). And the staff there is really wonderful.

Jun 12, 2014
LVI in Las Vegas

Review #2: Yusho

I would doubt it. They seemed very nice and accommodation would be natural. I should have asked instead of assuming. I just was so disappointed with the omakase at Raku (those that know me know Raku is my 2nd favorite Vegas restaurant so that is not a slam, just my preference) that I figured I would make our own, which worked out really very well.

Jun 12, 2014
LVI in Las Vegas

Review #2: Yusho

We were actually considering that option until I talked to the expediter (May have been chef de cuisine not sure and his name escapes me at the moment) and his opinion was to make your own tasting, sort of like what we did. The food was actually prepared quite quickly. I don't think, and I certainly could be wrong, that they have different preparations/ingredients for an omakase like Raku.

Jun 12, 2014
LVI in Las Vegas

Recs for Lunch and Dinner at Mandalay Bay

Just got back from there and writing reviews. Four Seasons Verandah a must. Border Grill usually bust seems to have stumbled. People that rave about RM...must look past the really bad attitude of servers and the $15 clam chowder. More coming...

Jun 11, 2014
LVI in Las Vegas

Cheap eats for foodies?

Giada smiles? Never noticed. I always seem to stare at her...food! Wish I would have gone last week. She rocks!

Jun 11, 2014
LVI in Las Vegas

Review #3: China Mama

I will make this one quick. It was great yet again. We ordered 5 spicy wontons, 2 beef rolls, 2 Dan Dan noodles, 1 orange beef, scallion pancake, shrimp pillows, and I'm sure other things I am missing. Everything was great, minus the orange beef. It was fine but completely nondescript. HOWEVER, the spicy wontons are awesome ( although I will be perfectly honest they seem to be a little skimpy on the filling recently but the flavor was rocking!). The Dan Dan noodles were friggin delicious. Never expected these to be this good. Perfect texture of the noodles and flavor great. The beef rolls were very good (how come the beef is always cold? Would be an A+ if the beef were warm) and the shrimp pillows light airy and delicious. Scallion pancake is always solid a good addition to mop up the leftover juice from the wontons. I think this is one of the more under rated lunch spots (yes it's open for dinner but I would only go for lunch) in Vegas. True it is void of ANY character but it certainly makes up for it in flavor.

Jun 11, 2014
LVI in Las Vegas

Review #2: Yusho

Initially I had made a reservation at Yusho for our first night in Vegas. One of my good friends who had never been to Vegas said he wanted to have a "Vegas" experience type of dinner for the first night as he had never been before. Considering that and some recent bad reviews I canceled our reservation and we were going to go to the Mandarin for a drink at the Sky Lobby Bar (truly one of the must dos at night in Las Vegas) then go to Jaleo or another place for dinner. As I was driving up Frank Sinatra Drive most of the talk centered on "let's just eat quickly, maybe gamble but on cheap tables and get back at a reasonable time" as we had a 7am tee time the following morning. At that moment we were approaching the back entrance for the Monte Carlo and I pulled in. It was just too easy.

I was a bit worried that on a Thursday at 7:30pm we may have a difficult time getting a table for four but was pleasantly surprised and alarmed as we walked up to the large YUSHO sign to see plenty of available seating. And even better we bellied right up to the bar. Our bartender was as pleasant as could be while not really sure what to make of the four of us. We ordered some drinks along with pickles, fried chicken, the chicken skin and drummies.

I knew the Logan Poser Ramen and the nori wrapped NY aged strip were going to be a must. I looked over the menu and decided to just fire away. 2 orders of the oysters, grilled octopus (reordered another), shishito peppers, duck leg buns and pork shoulder buns.

First up were the pickles and chicken. All were excellent. Bust seriously, how are you going to go wrong with super crispy perfectly crisp sheets of chicken skin and perfectly fried chicken?! Textures, flavors and decent amount of food per order. The pickles have gotten knocked around by some as being expensive and being just that...pickles. WRONG. Loved the perfect sweet tangy crunch along with the different variety of vegetables. The oysters were topped with a small amount of mignonette simply in their shells. They were good but not excellent. Just not the vibrant briny flavor that should accompany each slurp. The octopus came next. The flavor of this dish is just perfect. The enoki, beans and octopus (could certainly stand to add a tad more octopus though IMO) all enveloped by the yolk making this a delightful textural experience along with outstanding flavors. Hence the repeat order. The duck leg buns were interesting but I would have expected more of a confit style, easy to take off the leg/thigh. The flavor was delicious and the buns a perfect accompaniment. The pork shoulder buns were equally enjoyable, and gun to my head, I'll take the pork at a 3:1 price ratio. The nori wrapped steak was a pretty, simply presented dish that had very good flavor. Not a big piece of meat but enough for all for of us to enjoy. And while a bit chewy, the flavor was excellent. And the raaaaaaaamen. Wow, that stuff must contain crack. I could not get enough. Textural bomb and a flavor explosion. I'm glad I moved out of Logan Square when I did otherwise the salt and fat would destroy me.

The staff takes a great deal of pride in what they are doing here and it showed. They were engaging, helpful, fun, kind and professional. As far as the space goes it is a bit too industrial for my liking. It was fine but a bit too stark. And location? I keep my fingers crossed. Monte Carlo is 2nd tier Hotel/Casino at best and I am not sure the traffic there can sustain it. I sure hope it does as it is one of the better dining destinations on the strip (I'm not sure it deserves some of the praise some people are heaping on it but well worth serious consideration).

Jun 11, 2014
LVI in Las Vegas

Review #1: Border Grill

I have always been a fan of Border Grill as I have found their food to be consistently good if a tad unremarkable. We were a group of 7 going for lunch and started with guacamole and the black bean dip. I have never seen the black dip before (it's "famous" so I'm assuming I have just been oblivious) and I am glad we got it because quite honestly it was the best thing all meal. Excellent spice, both heat and spice-wise while the texture was perfect for their always delicious if a bit salty chips. I will comment on only what I tasted. My wife got the spicy shrimp tacos which I have gotten in the past and really enjoyed, while I got the hamburger made with ground beef and short rib, along with green chiles and cheese. The tacos were sloppily assembled on the plate while the shrimp were poorly cooked some bordering on mealy. The flavor was fine but the texture was so off putting it was hard get over. My burger was so ugly I was prepared for the worst. The cheese and chilie was breaded and fried and put on the top, along with some lettuce on top of a brioche bun. As soon as I picked up the bun I knew it was going to be a disaster. The bun was day old at best and as soon as I sunk my teeth into it it crumbled apart. Very disappointing. The fries were soft and lacked heat, as if they sat under a heating lamb too long. Others at the table seemed to enjoy what they had although nobody was overly enthused.

As I have stated in the past, as a tourist my patience for substandard food is short. I come to Vegas and if we are going to pay a premium I expect it to be good. This meal was not horrible at all, and there were some good aspects (a HUGE shout out to the service, from beginning to end). However it has fallen into that category of meh and it will be too hard to return in the future ( especially now that Restaurant.com is no longer offering the discount coupons).

Jun 10, 2014
LVI in Las Vegas

Giada at The Cromwell - Opening Night review (long)

A-Men to the planning aspect of Vegas LIC! Just got back last night from 4 nights (currently sitting on the 5:37am is really a drag) and so many of the best intended plans unfortunately, and fortunately sometimes, go awry (as Uhockey can attest, we were going to try and hook up for lunch Saturday but as things go, did not happen...again my apologies).

Too bad this post was not a week before my visit as I could have made several alterations to agenda. I would loved to of gone to Giadas new place. And to the simplicity aspect of a menu, which if I am reading correctly, should never be the basis for deciding the quality. Isn't that what some love about a place like Sinatra? Not a multitude of choices but rather a few expertly prepared dishes?

And prices on the strip have gotten a bit out of control. But as has been discussed on many blogs and on CH for quite a while, it is Vegas and most people come to expect that (for better or worse). Giada's price points (from what I have read here) seem to be in line and reasonable by some standards. I think the comparison to Bartolotta is most unfair (I love Bartolotta). The prices there far exceed most places, I would hesitate to say you could get out of Bartolotta for anything close what you could at Giada's. Just my thought. My reviews to follow shortly.

Jun 10, 2014
LVI in Las Vegas

A & K CHINESE RESTAURANT, anybody been?

My friend, it's the RANGAZ game and I'm planning accordingly. :-)

I would love to do. If you don't have the time perfectly understand. We have a 7pm tee time at Paiute so figure noon done and at A&K 1pm. I can text as I get better handle. I will hit you on ur blog with my info. And by all means feel free to bring whomever. I will probably have 2-3 others. Nobody in my group quite as freaky about food as I am so will NOT be a long sit down.

Jun 03, 2014
LVI in Las Vegas

Lets get these reviews started...

I know you asked the LIChef, but want to add my $.02 as I used to LOVE Prime (still like very much). My guess is if you like Prime you will love SW. I continue to tout the place as I believe if you are going to spend the $ that steakhouses in Vegas are commanding, you might as well go to a simply beautiful setting (very Vegas-esque) and where the food is consistently excellent (David Walzog is a legit chef who is on the line). And they have a decent variety of non-steak items to choose from also. There are a host of newer places that I sure others will mention but if you are leaning towards Prime, do something new like SW (or CUT, or Carnevino…).

May 31, 2014
LVI in Las Vegas

A & K CHINESE RESTAURANT, anybody been?

Sounds good. I have a 7am tee time at Paiute so that would put 1-2pm as a target. Does that work? I don't want to go much beyond that as dinner at LoS at 8pm and can't infringe on that. LMK.

May 28, 2014
LVI in Las Vegas

Grocery stores near the strip

My guess those were not storage looks but rather looks of jealousy!

May 25, 2014
LVI in Las Vegas

A & K CHINESE RESTAURANT, anybody been?

I will try and get there and report back in a few weeks. Thanks for the above advice. I believe I have been to 1900 also and remember them being very unremarkable. And yes I generally get to China Mama once per trip usually for a later afternoon after lunch pre dinner snack. Their XLB are definitely unremarkable however they have some really wonderful dishes that make it worth the trip for me.

May 25, 2014
LVI in Las Vegas