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Trip Report - B&B Ristorante, Las Vegas

I was in town with four friends this weekend, and made a reservation for B&B Saturday night. We showed up a few minutes early, and introduced ourselves to the hostess - who was stunning (more on this later). "Have you guys ever eaten at a Mario Batali restaurant before?" she asked us, as other members of the staff scurried around to check on our table. "He may be most well known for his restaurant in New York...it's really excellent, called, um...it's really great."

"Babbo?"

"Yah, that's it! Babbo!"

Oooooook.

Hostess #2 returned and escorted us to our table. The sommelier/manager (never quite figured this out) soon showed up at our table to greet us. When we told him we were from LA, he asked us if we had ever eaten at Mozza - a couple of us had. Somewhere along the line a joke about the difficulty in scoring a reservation was made; I restrained myself from commenting on the hype-to-reality ratio at what one Chowhound Los Angeles poster called "the best restaurant in the country."

A few minutes later our waiter stopped by and delivered his opening spiel on B&B. First, he reminded us - again - of the owner of the restaurant. Then he shed a little light on the cuisine: "This isn't your typical Italian restaurant," he informed us. "Batali has gone out of his way to create a culinary expression of the Italian landscape and way of life. You won't find Spaghetti and Meatballs or Caesar Salad here."

Oooooook again. Thanks for the heads-up, Mr. Waiter. I was dead-set on that Spaghetti and Meatballs, but I guess I'll have to settle for a Sweet Potato Lune. Can't win them all.

At this point it may bear mentioning that my group was five young men aged 21-25 - all young professionals, dressed casually but respectfully. I bring this up because I feel that we may have been prejudged; throughout the process we were treated as if it were our first time in a nice restaurant. Another example: when we ordered wine, our sommelier/manager asked if we were wine drinkers, "or just going along with the mood." We're wine drinkers, actually, and we know who Mario Batali is - thanks. It's not so much that it was offensive as it was annoying; the consant Batali reminders and flowery prose about the menu were just obnoxious. In fact, the service as a whole was not good - I got the distinct feeling that management was concerned more with looks than with experience (remember the hostess?). Our busgirl/bread server (also gorgeous)? Sweet, but mostly nowhere to be found. Our waiter? Eager to please, but not particularly helpful - when we asked him for a recommendation he literally read off half of the menu, delivering effusive praise for each item. What kind of recommendation is that?

And it's really a shame, because the food was excellent. A beet salad, while extraordinarily tiny at $14, was perfectly tangy. The Sweet Potato Lune was as delicious as advertised, creamy and savory, almost a dessert. My Cornish Game Hen special was fantastic, deeply flavorful yet very light. The bread was excellent, even better with the outstanding house olive oil, which we had to request. We had heard that there was a story about why the bread is served plain, but when we asked the bread server why they didn't bring it with EVOO, she just replied, "We do if you ask for it." She didn't even miss a beat, total deadpan.

Ooooook.

All in all, we thought the experience at what should have been a great restaurant was really hurt by the service, which ran from mediocre to just plain weird. Also, the first hour of our meal featured an Aerosmith Greatest Hits album more or less blaring - this was unbearable at times. I'm totally on board with the "rock music at a nice place" concept, but you've got to step up to the plate with your playlist, and 90 minutes of Steven Tyler doesn't cut it. Hopefully Batali can get his act together and hire some people who know what they're doing, because at status quo his outstanding menu is entirely compromised by the amature staff.

My grade: C+. Final bill, with two apps, two pastas, five entrees, two bottles of wine, tax, and tip was about $425.

Jun 11, 2007
uclaben in Southwest

Large Group Dinner in Whistler - ~100 people

Hi all,

I'm booking a large dinner for my firm during our corporate retreat in Whistler. Does anyone have a recommendation for a place large enough to hold 100 people? We're fairly flexible about price, cuisine, etc.; only caveat is that there will be children in attendance so it must be somewhat kid-friendly. Thanks in advance for the advice - I'm just looking through Google Maps and I'd appreciate some knowledge from people who better know the area.

Best,

Ben

Where to find the best Pad Kee Mao (AKA Drunken Noodle) in LA?

I'm by no means a Thai expert, but I really enjoyed my drunken noodles at Ayara Thai in Westchester. Very close to you, and the entire meal was excellent.

Jan 24, 2007
uclaben in Los Angeles Area

Where to buy merguez in Loz Angeles

Jeff's Gourmet Sausages on Pico sells Merguez.

Jan 11, 2007
uclaben in Los Angeles Area

L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon: three quick questions

Quick update: we ended up eating at Picasso, and it was tremendous. Each item was perfectly executed, the wine pairings were beautiful, and the service was nearly flawless. Hopefully I'll have time to write up a full report at a later date.

Dec 26, 2006
uclaben in Southwest

Las Vegas - Any Places That do Caesar Salad Table side?

BOA Steakhouse at (of course) Caesar's makes an excellent table-side Caesar, complete with anchovy paste in the dressing (don't remember full anchovies on the salad). It was one of the better salads I've ever had, and the restaurant was excellent as a whole. It's probably freezing now, but when I went in fall we sat outside on the patio and the strip view was astounding. Highly recommended.

Dec 21, 2006
uclaben in Southwest

Best Buffet in Las Vegas

I really like the Paris buffet. It's about 30% cheaper than the offerings at Bellagio and the Wynn, and in my experience the difference is less about quality and more about quantity. They don't have the sheer amount of choices that you'll find at the two aforementioned high-end spots, but everything there is very good and the desserts are incredible. Let's put it this way - it's the best buffet value, IMO.

Dec 21, 2006
uclaben in Southwest

L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon: three quick questions

Thanks to all for the tips. In the end, I actually decided to reserve Picasso; I've heard some mixed reviews about the service at L'Atelier, and at that price point I didn't want to even take the chance. The host at Picasso said it won't be a problem to put together a shellfish-free menu. Any recommendations there?

Dec 21, 2006
uclaben in Southwest

L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon: three quick questions

1. What's the dress code?
2. Is a menu available online? I think my party would be interested in a tasting menus; can someone refresh my memory on the options in terms of number of courses and price points?
3. Would it be possible for the kitchen to accomodate a member of our party who cannot eat shellfish within a tasting menu, or would that person simply have to order a la carte? Is the tasting menu extremely shell-fish intensive?

Thanks in advance for the help. I've heard a lot of rave reviews but have had trouble finding specific details about L'Atelier.

Dec 19, 2006
uclaben in Southwest

Bad experience at Campanile "Grilled Cheese Night"

I'd like to try it again, because the food was excellent and I liked the space. The service and crowds were really a turn-off, though - Luna Park down the street is loud and crowded, too, but they've always taken care of me there and the atmosphere is completely different. Obviously they're not the same class of restaurant, but my expectations at Campanile were definitely not met.

With so many good restaurants in the area, hard to see myself coming back, but time heals all wounds. I'm sure they won't miss me, lol. They seem to be doing just fine.

Dec 15, 2006
uclaben in Los Angeles Area

Bad experience at Campanile "Grilled Cheese Night"

I met up with a friend for dinner last night, and we decided to try Grilled Cheese Night at Campanile. Neither of us had ever been to the restaurant before, but we had heard a lot of good things and the sandwiches sounded like fun (I know this has been covered before on this board). We made a reservation for 9:00 and showed up to the restaurant at five to - place was packed, loud, and so hot we were literally sweating. Hostess told us it would be just a few minutes, so we went to have a drink at the bar. The bartender there did her best to upsell us, informing us that there were no half bottles below $40 (not true, incidentally). FORTY minutes later we were called to our table. I understand that sometimes reservations can't be accomodated immediately, but at a restaurant as "nice" as Campanile isn't it customary to at least inform the customer what's going on every fifteen minutes or so? The staff made no attempt to talk to us whatsoever. Not a good start.

Finally we got seated and our waitress took our orders, etc. That was more or less the last we saw of her until our bill came - over ninety minutes later. All we ordered was a single appetizer and sandwiches (which took FOREVER), so it's not like we were going for a drawn-out dining experience. We literally did not see our waitress again until we were ready to go, and she processed our bill without any hint of a smile.

My question is, is this kind of service customary at Campanile? The food was very good (albeit overpriced) and I had hoped to come for a special occasion, but I can't see myself spending $150 on dinner in a cramped, cacophonous, sweaty space where the staff doesn't acknowledge my presence. Was this some sort of aberration, a normal Thursday night, or just an average experience at Campanile regardless?

Dec 15, 2006
uclaben in Los Angeles Area

Yet another Mozza review (long)

I know Mozza has been beaten to death already, but as a pretty new Hound I thought maybe I'd have a slightly different perspective. My girlfriend and I stopped by for an early dinner yesterday, waited just a few minutes for a two-top at around 5:00 PM. It took our waitress at least five minutes to acknowledge us, quite annoying. This set the tone for the rest of our meal there; the busboys were excellent and made sure we had everything we needed, but our waitress was unattentive and seemed generally uninterested. She was nice enough, but not really the kind of service we were expecting.

Ultimately we decided on the salt cod bruschetta to start, followed by margherita and funghi misti pizzas. I really liked the bruschetta - it featured a cream-like salt cod paste on top of your standard crostinis. At first bite it seemed a bit fishy, but after another taste I was used to it and it was perfect. The buttery cod was just salty enough, and played perfectly against the crunch of the thin, crispy crostini. My only complaint would be that there wasn't a whole lot of food - three bruschettas for $9 is not exactly a bargain (and it's not like salt cod is a luxury item). Nonetheless, good way to start a meal.

After another lengthy delay, with no word from our waitress, we received our pizzas. It's probably clear by now that the pies aren't very big - four small slices each, maybe seven or eight inches in diameter. They came piping hot, and "perforated" for easy cutting. The first thing I'd say is that the debate over whether these dishes are truly "pizza" is ridiculous. They are pizzas - there is nothing about them that suggests otherwise. They may not be authentic Italian pizzas, they're certainly not like the pizza you'd be served in New York, but they are pizzas. The crust was very good - crispy in the middle, expanding to a bit doughier towards the outside. I liked the blistered look and the flavor was excellent. I was somewhat less impressed with the rest of the pizzas. The margherita had a nice, interesting sauce, but there wasn't enough of it. Nor was there enough cheese for my taste; my overall impression was that the pizza was good but in no way memorable. I would say roughly the same thing about the funghi misti: nice, big chunks of mushrooms, excellent creamy sauce, but...something seemed missing. Considering there wasn't a lot of food and the price was fairly high, I was waiting for something special, and it never materialized. Maybe it's my fault for picking two of the more reserved pizzas on the menu, but I was hoping for more. Both pizzas were good, but I'd almost call them boring.

We were in a rush and skipped dessert, so I have no comment on that section of the menu. All things considered, I liked Mozza - the pizza was certainly above-average and the space was classy. But considering the prices and the hassle involved in getting a table during prime hours (so I hear), I'm not really in a hurry to return. The service was average at best...I'll try it again in a bit, but I'm not sure I see what all the fuss is about.

Dec 11, 2006
uclaben in Los Angeles Area

Las Vegas Steaks Houses - worthy of a bachelor party - Suggestions please

I really enjoyed BOA at Caesar's. Great food, great view on the patio.

Nov 15, 2006
uclaben in Southwest

NYC Chowhound visits Vegas for a Bachelor Party

Hope it's not too late, but I'd recommend BOA Steakhouse at Caesar's. Last time I was there they had a bachelor party of about the size you're talking about seated on the balcony, which is spectacular. The view of the strip is really tremendous, the service is excellent, and the food superb - also a good wine list and nice-looking cocktails (didn't try any). I would really only consider it if you could book the patio, though.

Nov 15, 2006
uclaben in Southwest