Just happened across your post. I have been traveling weekly to the southern part of the Napa Valley for the past four months and have been "eating my way" through the restaurants in Napa and Yountville.
My perspective is a little skewed as I live in Las Vegas and go out regularly ....
My favorites (excluding TFL) are probably Redd (in Yountville) and Celadon (in Napa). I eat at Cole's Chop House almost weekly, but that is because I like to eat steak (and lamb chops). It is very good, but I wouldn't raise it up very high. Similarly, I think Go Fish is good - but I get better fresh fish regularly. (But, it is certainly better than the best in many places around the country).
Two places I don't see mentioned where I have had excellent meals lately are Elements (Napa), which serves small plates (I think they are very good) with an outstanding wine selection. Even better, they have a wonderful list of cheeses to sample. The other restaurant is Mustards Grill that recently reopened after being closed in February due to a kitchen fire. I had dinner there last week and the food was really very good.
Good luck in choosing only two restaurants :)
I have been to Craftsteak at MGM twice. The service was rushed (both times, the meal with appetizer/salad and steak were done in under an hour from the time we sat down), the place loud and noisy, and the food good, but did not have anything that would make me want to take notice.
Other friends have had great experiences there, but my two experiences didn't quite do it.
The first time I was at Craftsteak, I ordered a "black-and-blue" NY Strip and the steak came out with a light tan surface and cold (not cool) center (it came back out medium rare). The second time, I asked for very rare, but not cold, and it came out medium (sent back and it came out medium rare, which I then ate because the rest of my party was done). The quality of the meat was very good but had a more bland taste and less chewy (fiber-y) texture than I find in the other NY steaks that I like.
Been off this site for a while. Elsewhere, I had posted my list of top steak restaurants (to my taste). I am going to make a change to that.
Just got back from dinner at the new Wolfgang Puck restaurant in town, Cut, at the Palazzo. It was typical Vegas pricey, but it was excellent, making it into my top five steakhouses in Vegas. My new listing is:
The former, but no longer, top 10 restaurant was SW Steakhouse.
This is my experience tonight at Cut. This is the Thursday of Memorial Day weekend. Apparently, this weekend is considered one of the top weekends in Vegas this year.
When I got to the Palazzo Hotel (self-parked in their most convenient parking lot) and got to Cut at about 7:30 PM. The restaurant was apparently full for the evening and they asked if I wanted to be seated in the bar area where I could get a full menu. Being a singleton, I chose a seat at the bar - not a wise choice because short, dumpy me did not have the long, elegant legs for which those bar stools were designed. So, it ended up being quite uncomfortable by the end of the meal. Likewise, it was pretty dark, so it was difficult trying to read my book (wish the Kindle was backlit).
I ordered a bottle of sparkline water (Voss) and a glass of Spanish wine, which was quite good. They had an extensive wine list, but I didn't spend a whole lot of time going through it.
There were a variety of starters, all of which were interesting. I selected Maple Glazed Pork Belly that came with a small salad (some form of parsley?). It looks like the pork belly is a standard starter that they combine with different fresh vegetables depending on the evening. Since my doctor tells me I must eat vegetables, I did and they were typical vegetables with dressing. But, the combination with the pork belly was excellent. The pork was warm with enough fat that it was decadent (but not a greasy gooey fat, more of a firm, chewy fat). The contrasts in texture and tastes was very good.
They offer a choice of USDA Prime Illinois corn fed beef (aged 21 days), USDA Prime Nebraska corn fed beef (aged 35 days), American Wagyu, and Japanese Waygu. One fanciful dish is a "Tasing of New York Sirloin" (combination of Nebraska, American Waygu, and Japanese Waygu).
I chose Nebraska New York Sirloin (not a political statement), Bernaise sauce, and sauteed spinach. The steak came out perfect (ordered black and blue). The thing I hate most about many restaurants is that the steak feels cool to cold on the palate. Rare does not imply cold, that simply means that it hasn't been brought to a reasonable temperature before cooking (personal opinion). But, this was a perfectly cooked black-and-blue and not cold. It had a crusting of salt and pepper. The salt had enough of a bite to it that it was some form of sea salt, but I don't have a good enough palate to distinguish the type of sea salt. The pepper was relatively light. The Bernaise sauce was perfectly prepared. And the spinach was nice and warm, slightly crunchy, but fully cooked. To my tastes, just perfect.
There were also a variety of excellent sounding desserts and I asked the bartender to choose between two. She suggested a third - banana cream pie. It came with a shell with the texture and taste of filo. It was truly excellent - and I am not fond of bananas. However, I still think that I would have preferred the Vanilla Baked Alaska - that sounds just so old fashioned that it appealed to me!
The young lady who was the bartender at my end of the bar was very pleasant, very pretty, and very new. She tried hard, but service was a little lacking. I was not offered and did not get any bread (which actually is a good thing as I pretend to control carbs). I was also not offered coffee, tea, or other after dinner drinks.
All-in-all, a very credible restaurant. IMHO, it is the best of the Wolfgang Puck restaurants in town. Usually I dread the idea of going to "yet another Wolfgang Puck" restaurant, but for this one, I will make an exception and go back.
Summer dress in Las Vegas is very (excessively) casual. I think that what you describe will get you into practically every restaurant in Las Vegas. I have even seen folks at Picasso and Prime in shorts, t-shirts, and flip-flops.
I have been to the best and most expensive restaurants in Las Vegas and I rarely see suits-and-ties. I don't remember the last time I wore a tie to dinner in Las Vegas (sports jacket yes; tie no).
That being said, I think that resort wear for dinner (and Las Vegas is a resort town) is nice slacks, nice shirt (I usually wear a linen or silk shirt in the summer - they're cooler and easier to pack), and a nice pair of leather shoes. I often wear a light sports jacket simply because the air conditioning gets so cold that the jacket keeps me comfortable.
I used to really like the Steakhouse at Circus Circus. It was a refined, quiet, classic steakhouse.
The last time I went (about a month ago), it was crowded, noisy, and jam packed like a common cafeteria. There were children running around, crying, and screaming. There were parents yelling at their children. There were loud and raucous discussions all around me with foul language.
As far as the food was concerned, the salad was not well prepared and the dressing was inadequate (tasted like it came from a bottle). I ordered a NY steak blue. It came out medium rare. The meat was just not as tasty as I remember it from visits several years ago. The server disappeared for a long period of time, so I gave up on sending the food back. The sides that came with the steak were also bland and tasteless. I did use salt and pepper to season my food. My guests and I opted out of dessert and coffee.
I asked for tonic water with lemon, and got lime instead. I had to ask for refills - when I could locate wait staff.
So, my experience was that the atmosphere that I so liked was gone. The food was ordinary, though the prices were a lot lower than typical for the Strip. I felt as if I could have gotten a better meal at Outback for a whole lot less.
One steakhouse I failed to mention in my earlier post is Mesa Grill.. It fits in the top 10, probably between Morton's and Delmonicos.
It's now mid-April, but I eat a lot of steak in town.
Del Frisco is very good. It is a chain, but better than most of the other chain steak places (like Morton's, Ruth's Chris, etc.). In the chain steakhouses, my favorite is Capital Grill followed by Del Frisco.
I have been to Michael's at South Pointe. But I had not been to it before it moved there. I was not particularly impressed by the food, but service was fantastic. I took a colleague there from LA and he was very impressed. He thought his filet was the best steak he had ever eaten. I thought my NY strip was average.
For my tastes, the top steak restaurants in Las Vegas right now are:
I also like Golden Steer - the food is ordinary, but the old-time Vegas atmosphere and the named booths are always "fun" especially with out-of-towners. Mon Ami Gabi is fun and enjoyable with reasonable food, but I don't go there for the food.
I found the food pretty ordinary at what many consider to be top steakhouse choices like Joe's Seafood Prime Steak and Stone Crab, Michael's, Boa, Craftsteak, Palm, Ruth's Chris, Smith & Wolensky, Charlie Palmer, and Lawry's.
I definitely would NOT recommend the Carnevino, Envy, or the Steakhouse at Circus Circus (used to be one of the very best and a top-5 choice of mine).
My first post here.
A little personal history. I now live in the Las Vegas area but have lived throughout the US. I eat out regularly (5-7 nights a week) at all ranges of restaurants and have eaten my way through Europe and Asia. I am single and usually go places with books (often in electronic form). I read between courses and just eat when the food merits my attention.
I went to Carnevino last night on a whim. It was very disappointing and certainly not worth the expense. I could have done better elsewhere. (One of my goals is to make it through all the steak restaurants at all the major hotels in Las Vegas.)
I arrived early (5:10) and was offered seating at the bar. When I indicated that I preferred a table, I was told to come back after 5:30. So, I took a walk through the casino area for a while and got back at 5:35.
I was seated next to the bar at a table next to the casino. There was no wall, no window, only a low balustrade. So, it was noisy and no different from sitting somewhere in the middle of the casino, or at the bar, for that matter. Please bear in mind that I was the second table seated and when I left at the end of the meal, each of the dining areas was less than half-full. There was - in my opinion - only one less desirable table and that was filled by another singleton about 15 minutes after I was seated.
They served an amuse-bouche of a small ball of fried cheese that was tasty. It was nice and crispy on the outside and soft and hot on the inside. It was excellent. The server muttered rapidly what it was made of, so I don't really know. The foccacio bread was excellent, though the butter was a standard, bland, and relatively tasteless butter. (They also had some sort of whitish spread that I did not care for. Again, the server muttered and I had no idea what he said, so I don't know what it was.)
I ordered the small order of "Black Fetuccini" with "Crab, Jalapenos, and Shallots." The presentation was about 2.5" in what looked to be a 14" plate. So it looked small. The pasta was two (maybe three) small bites worth. The flavor was very pleasant and enjoyable. Unfortunately, the linguini was soft, soggy, and had no consistency. There was no "bite" to the dish that I would expected from jalapenos. There were a lot of shallots that were cooked to a very mushy consistency. There were three bites of crabmeat (looked as if they were from crab legs). Each bite was tasty and had a nice clean crustacean taste. Unfortunately, the consistency was soft and mealy. A definite disappointment for over $20 as an appetizer.
I ordered the NY steak, rare. The waiter asked me if I wanted something to go with the steak and I ordered a sauteed spinach with hot peppers. I also asked for porcini bernaise.
The steak was a plain NY strip on the bone. It was cooked a little more than I like, but close enough that I didn't send this $57 steak back. The flavor of the beef was ordinary. Supposedly, it was rubbed with sea salt, pepper, and rosemary. Did not see any evidence of this and did not taste any evidence of this. There was supposed to be a charred crust. There might have been some on the bone, but no where else. Basically, it was a plain steak that is not in the top-10 category for steaks in Las Vegas. The spinach was cool-to-cold, greasy, and soggy. However, it did have a nice flavor bite with the hot peppers. The bernaise was delivered almost at the end of the meal (and it was "on" the waiter). It was cold and tasted like salty yellow goo with mushrooms in it. But it did enhance the flavor of the beef so I ate it all. (The beef was so ordinary that I was tempted to ask for salt.)
I decided on the panna cotta for dessert. It was rich and flavorful consisting of three layers. That was the best part of the meal - by far. The accompanying two thin slices of biscotti was utterly devoid of taste.
The espresso tasted like diluted regular coffee. It didn't have the bite of good Italian espresso or the more rounded tastes of French espresso. It was served with a choice of sweeteners (raw sugar on a stick - which I used, white sugar cubes, and colored bags of artificial sweetener) placed just out of reach.
I ordered a bottle of sparkling water. It was a pleasant water with a combination of tight and large bubbles. Again, I found it to be just ordinary, maybe a bit better than the more commonly available San Pellegrino or Perrier. The bottle was put at the other end of the table with the label turned away, so I really couldn't see what it was.
They have an extensive wine list, but I didn't indulge.
The waiter was okay, but disappeared for long periods of time. He put out the cutlery for each course separately and with some panache. I put my electronic book on the left and they served me from the right side (a nice touch). There were two people who acted more like cafeteria busboys than backservers. The only really weak service element (besides forgetting my sauce) was that at a two-top next to me, the gentleman got up to go somewhere (restroom?) and they brought out a salad for two while he was away and did not assist the couple with the salad after he returned 5-10 minutes after the salad was sitting at their table.
One interesting thing was that during much of the meal, a captain went to all the tables near me and pulled out chairs and looked under the table. He would then look at the tablecloth and on some tables he would flip up the table cloth over the table settings. At those tables, a "busboy" would come by, remove the table settings, change the table cloth, and put the table settings back. Maybe that is a normal check, but since I was one of the first at a first sitting, wouldn't that have been done beforehand?
As you might have guessed, I read through this meal. It was ordinary in quality, but extraordinary in price. The total bill (including 20% gratuity) was about $130.So, it was a "been there, done that, don't need to do it again."