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Best high end solo dining experiences

I will try to be precise without becoming long-winded, but you will notice through the years almost anything I have said about B&B has been for particular dishes, or tasting menus, and purposefully not an overall reference. In response to the OP, I thought it could be a fit because those tasting menus often get overlooked, and bring a take on regional Italian dining that can be a new experience almost regardless of where someone has traveled in from. And they have tended to be well thought out, including the wine pairings.

For me it has been a love/hate relationship with B&B and Carnevino both, because of a maddening inconsistency. When they do it right they do it very right, but then there are sloppy mistakes in execution that are so unnecessary given what they have to work with (on the last trip to Carnevino, a dining companion and I had to send back a side dish that was genuinely inedible, which should not happen at that level).

But when it comes to summer, B&B goes near the top of the list, and that does matter in Las Vegas, where the “seasonal” dining aspect remains a step behind. You could spend some time perusing current menus up and down the Strip, and not have any idea that it was the middle of July. Batali & Co. did a superb job of cultivating west coast sources for their Las Vegas properties, and this is the time of year when they shine. Not only do the appetizers and pastas get reworked to take advantage of the season, but they also change the accents with the proteins (the Rabbit Porchetta is now paired with a carrot sformato and sunflower sprouts; the Pork Chop is with Frog Hollow peaches, etc). And their side of Charred Sweet Corn with Fregola and Mint, back on the menu in the summer once again, plays so well to a steak.

So in the summer, and when the specials or tasting menus work, B&B is in play (their current Tuscany tasting menu was created to also be a nice tribute to some local farmers). But as for overall consistency? I can‘t genuinely say that it has gotten better – the most recent experience was excellent, but my dining companion was a well-known owner of a local restaurant, and because of that we were given a level of service that probably should not be considered standard. I guess I ended up being long-winded after all.

Jul 17, 2014
QAW in Las Vegas

Best high end solo dining experiences

Las Vegas is among the most solo-friendly dining scenes anywhere, so the options are plentiful. In addition to the three top-notch places listed in the previous post, you may also want to look at some of the tasting menus being offered. The rotating regional menu at B&B is a good example - the current feature is Tuscany, which you can see at the bottom of this menu link (http://www.bandbristorante.com/dinner...). That assumes that "Italian rustic" can be considered high-end; at B&B it is more than a fair assumption.

Since you will not be coming until the fall, you can also follow along the developments at Omae. Web site is still in development; "@TakeshiOmae" on Twitter. They are at 3650 South Decatur, and still in a "soft" opening phase - when the liquor license clears, they will be doing evening kaiseki offerings.

Jul 16, 2014
QAW in Las Vegas

Lotus of Siam: What else to add to our order?

How about:

Kana Moo Krab - Saipin was doing great things with pork belly many years before it became the rage (in particular, that is a good dish for the children)

Sea Bass Som Thum - A fantastic way of bringing out the sweetness of the fish through both hot and sweet spicing.

Jul 15, 2014
QAW in Las Vegas

What is the appeal of Yusho?

We can have some fun with this, clarifying a bit more for non-residents of Las Vegas, because it ties directly back to the OP, and subsequent points made in this thread - many have been just a bit too quick to anoint Yusho, with reputation perhaps overshadowing realities. I mentioned Ogden's failed experiment in an earlier reply, and it only takes a quick read to get to the crux of the matter -

Review Journal (http://www.reviewjournal.com/columns-...

)

Vegas Seven (http://vegasseven.com/2013/06/19/hops...

)

Las Vegas Weekly (http://www.lasvegasweekly.com/dining/...

)

John Curtas (http://www.eatinglv.com/2013/06/hops-...

)

There was the stereotypical "Las Vegas critic" phenomenon of using Ogden's past reputation to rush positive judgments of a place that never really got off the ground (and the person responsible for the layout and design of that space should be set off in a corner with a dunce cap). There have been a few too many examples of this in recent years.

It happens universally, of course, and in a day and age in which food blogs and forums are so common it becomes a minefield to sort through (those that are inexperienced are even more likely to allow reputations to influence their senses, especially when it becomes "chic" to praise a new place). But in the Las Vegas media it is a little more to the extreme. Hence why a place like Chowhound can be such an asset - there is a higher element of trust in discussions here, and hopefully there are some takeaways from this thread that will be meaningful to the readers.

Jul 13, 2014
QAW in Las Vegas

Great Mexican (Indian, Ethiopian) anywhere close to I-15?

If you have not made your trip yet, here is something that you should incorporate into your planning - http://www.reviewjournal.com/columns-.... Because of those delays, you may want to consider a pit stop in Cedar City or thereabouts before you reach I-70.

Jul 13, 2014
QAW in Las Vegas

What is the appeal of Yusho?

Wouldn't it be great if we could get Jonathan Gold on loan for a month or so each year? But the base issue of "no negative reviews" would likely not change - that is the ongoing problem of Las Vegas still being as much a resort as a city. Consider the reviews in the weeklies to be close cousins to paid advertisements.

There needs to be clarification on one point - no one is ever going to see John Curtas "beg" for a comp. He will be comped on occasion, and will always mention in any critique that he writes if he did not pay for the meal. What the public does not see are the number of comps that are offered and declined. Through the years I have found his knowledge of the culinary world (and yes, he is known outside of Las Vegas, from serving as a judge for shows like Iron Chef America to taping a series for the Travel Channel that is still sitting on the shelf) to be a valuable asset, whether it be through his writing or PM's that we exchange, and because he does not need the income from his food commentary, I have found an integrity to his processes. He does not hesitate to criticize, but these days he does not do much public posting.

I can not make a precise measurement on the gap between Yusho and the reviews yet, but will submit China Poblano as my "Hall of Fame" entrant on that front. The irony is that for all the deserved criticism of Yelp, in this rare instance those reviews may be the most useful - a lot of young hipsters that do not know who Jose Andres is rated the place for the food put on their plates, without pre-conceived notions. Those ratings have not been very favorable to the restaurant. I like Andres a lot, and am particularly looking forward to his upcoming venture at the SLS, but the critical fawning over China Poblano was ridiculously reputation-driven (IMHO).

Jul 13, 2014
QAW in Las Vegas

Looking for reasonably priced authentic Mexican in Vegas.

I believe that place is Tacos El Compita, one of our literal fiesta of quality hole-in-the-wall offerings. The emergence of these places over the past decade is one of the most under-rated aspects of the Las Vegas food scene.

If you are a tripas fan I would be interested in your take on a place that has truly withstood the test of time - Tacos El Rodeo, 2115 North Decatur. Unassuming place in a small, dilapidated strip mall that has been around for over a decade. No frills, but they put an immense amount of pride on their plates. It has been my favorite tripas in the valley so far (the far left in the first photo).

Jul 12, 2014
QAW in Las Vegas

What is the appeal of Yusho?

Your experience actually meshes with what friends have reported to me; hence why I have not felt compelled to try Yusho yet until there has been time to work out the kinks, especially since the precision of execution is so important for that style of cooking (admittedly, spending a lot of time in Vancouver and the lower mainland of B.C. also reduces an urgency). But it does touch upon something that makes Las Vegas rather unique, and hence the importance of a place like Chowhound, and reviews like yours. For a city of this size, and with the importance of the food and beverage industry in the grand scheme, Las Vegas does not have a full-time professional food critic. We have representatives like John Curtas and Al Mancini who have knowledge and experience, but they are also only part-timers on this scene. The Review-Journal relies too much on advertising relationships in the industry to dare genuine criticism, and the same could be said of the local weeklies (Vegas Seven, Las Vegas Weekly, The Sunday). What ends up happening on too many occasions is the quick rubber-stamping of places where reputation ends up counting for too much, especially when it is driven by the personality/karma of a particular chef.

If one were to take the time to search the archives of the local critics, they would quickly find glowing first takes of Bratalian by Carla Pellegrino (which has done little but float along rather aimlessly); there was the quick rush to label Bradley Ogden’s Hops & Harvest as a great addition to the off-Strip scene (lasted about a year before closing); I shudder to think about how different reviews of China Poblano would be if the name of Jose Andres was not listed anywhere; and on and on. It is the issue of the part-time critic being caught in that awkward position of wanting to maintain relevance, despite not having the time to properly evaluate a new venue (a person can genuinely critique their experience at a restaurant from a single visit, but not the restaurant as an entity) . So there are often forced quick reviews of openings where the reputation of a chef is leaned on, and the actual realities often take a back seat (to credit Curtas, he will rarely ever comment on any place until he has made multiple visits). To avoid the risk of “falling behind”, the critic can take what appears to be a safe gamble in order to be among the first, and the consumer can end up being the loser.

Could Yusho be the latest on the list of places in which pre-conceived notions overly impact the senses? I am not sure when I will find out, but at those price points (the Poser Ramen is $15 in Chicago), there will not be any particular hurry, not when Raku, Yonaka and soon Omae (the quality control I have been shown so far leads me to believe that project has a legitimate chance to stand up to reputation) are readily available. But your review is well taken from this end, not just for Yusho, but the overall Las Vegas dining arena.

Jul 12, 2014
QAW in Las Vegas

Bachelorette Party - 11 women

There are a couple of places that come to mind that would be a fit for what you are looking for, and also have experience at handling the size/kind of party you will have - Tao at the Venetian (http://taolasvegas.com), Hakassan at MGM (http://hakkasanlv.com) and Lavo at the Palazzo (http://lavolv.com/index.cfm). They are all places where you can tie dinner into a nightclub package as well, should you wish to do so, and at that time of the calendar year they should be extremely accommodating to you.

Jul 08, 2014
QAW in Las Vegas

Looking for reasonably priced authentic Mexican in Vegas.

This would be a good time to bump this thread -

http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/6059...

Jul 07, 2014
QAW in Las Vegas

Lotus of Siam's lunch buffet

Although for most on Chowhound the buffet will not necessarily be missed, it does mean that we will have to ask for Saipin's version of "Hot and Sour" soup (a Wednesday staple through the years) by request.

Jul 06, 2014
QAW in Las Vegas

any tips to replace Lotus of Siam

Ordinarily I would be quick to second Komol - for years it has been a good #2 choice to Lotus, particularly since they are open in the hours in which Lotus closes between lunch and dinner. And there is probably not a restaurant in Las Vegas with a more extensive vegetarian menu. But I must admit that I have not been there in over a year, and perhaps some Chowhounds can help with recent reviews - some of the Komol staff left to open Kinnaree Thai, at 7365 West Sahara, and I am wondering how it might have impacted the Commercial Center location.

Jun 29, 2014
QAW in Las Vegas

Cornish Pasty Co.

The verdict is pretty positive. The Las Vegas location has been the beneficiary of the owners testing and learning through their formative years in the Phoenix area (serving to a lot of ASU students), working on the basics of the craft while also developing the variety of flavors needed for the modern marketplace. So there is the best of both worlds - the integrity in the making of a proper pasty, but also a lot of tweaking in developing a contemporary menu. Think of a courtship between Wales, and the west coast of the United States, even including vegan pasties. The list of libations is also well thought out, blending the best of Britain with U.S. microbrews (there is something about the Rogue Hazelnut Brown that plays so well off of the saltiness of a pasty).

Parties in the 6-8 range can also fit well - there are church pews and long tables that can easily accommodate that size. And since it is that very rare Las Vegas property without either gaming machines or televisions, it is actually conducive to people talking to each other. Rather novel here, for 2014.

Alas, some of us can not be of much help with the late-night aspect. But it is fun and "conversational" food - the pasties are served cut in half, which makes for easy sharing.

Jun 29, 2014
QAW in Las Vegas
1

Great Mexican (Indian, Ethiopian) anywhere close to I-15?

It may be a good idea to steer clear of the corridor around the Las Vegas Strip and downtown, where there are not many easy on-or-off exits because of the congestion (there is also now a far left "thru lane" on I-15 around the Strip area that can help you to save time). But for quality Mexican, with extremely easy access, you might want to consider Viva Zapatas ( http://vivazapataslasvegas.com). 3826 East Craig, Exit 48 off of I-15, after you have passed through downtown. That exit gets a lot of truck traffic, and is particularly designed for ease if you have a trailer. The portions will also have you full until you get to Grand Junction or so.

Jun 28, 2014
QAW in Las Vegas

any tips to replace Lotus of Siam

You have a nice itinerary so far, and am looking forward to reading your take on Omae - since they are still in a "soft" opening right now, I have not made a trip over. They will be closing on July 1st for a couple of weeks, and hopefully when they reopen the liquor licensing will have been accomplished.

Since you have a broad gamut of cuisines so far, would there be a consideration of Italian? The "Liguria" tasting menu currently on at B&B is a great way to experience what that kitchen can do.

Jun 27, 2014
QAW in Las Vegas

Best Char Siu

And one more - Asian BBQ & Noodles - at 3400 South Jones, in the same strip mall as Chada, China Mama, and District One. I have not had it, but have seen it - another place where you can see the offerings hanging before you make your selection (the place is good "bang for the buck" in terms of portions/prices).

Jun 26, 2014
QAW in Las Vegas

Beijing Noodles Cafe: Excellent hand-pulled noodles in Las Vegas

Under new management, different concept (though still marginally "Chinese"), and no particular reason for Chowhounds to keep it in their address books. Sad to see this happen; those noodles were a treat. But it also raises the question as to whether they ever had much of a chance in that location.

Jun 21, 2014
QAW in Las Vegas

What is the best place on the strip to watch the world cup?

A lot of the top tier restaurants on the Strip have televisions for bar diners; unfortunately the 3 PM starting time on a Sunday rules almost all of them out. But for a combination of food quality and game viewing, Public House at the Venetian should make any "short list". And it will not be as loud as the Sports Bar/Sports Book settings, unless that is the ambience that you are searching for.

Jun 20, 2014
QAW in Las Vegas

Review #1: Border Grill

It is going to be another Border Grill. Not sure if the menu will be a duplicate of the Mandalay Bay location, but the name and concept will be the same.

Jun 11, 2014
QAW in Las Vegas

Review #1: Border Grill

Perhaps it is worth filing away that I believe this is the first review of Border Grill here since Mike Minor left, after 10 years in that kitchen. He can now be found behind the wheels of Truck U Barbecue (https://www.facebook.com/TruckUBBQ). His departure closely coincided with the timing of Milliken/Feniger signing a deal to take over the space in the Forum Shops that was formerly P. J. Clarke's, so it is not out of the question that the quality control at Border Grill might have suffered a bit.

Jun 10, 2014
QAW in Las Vegas

Thanks chowhound! (lv review)

Two locations - for most tourists the easiest access is 3049 South Las Vegas Boulevard, just a short stroll from the "Wynncore" complex, while the other is at 1724 East Charleston.

Jun 10, 2014
QAW in Las Vegas

Giada at The Cromwell - Opening Night review (long)

"Giada is easily one of the most expensive dollar-per-bite restaurants on the strip." Without a visit?

Sorry, but there is just too much editorial license. The definitive "is", instead of the speculative "could be". The quantitative "easily", which really should demand experience.

What many of us aspire to do here as a community, unlike places like Yelp, is to build a trust with each other, so that information can be relied on. You have been doing an excellent job of that with the reviews of your actual experiences, and the detail is much appreciated. This is particularly important for a destination like Las Vegas, where some visitors only get a few days each year, and want to maximize their experiences. The amount of time that a Chowhound like Long Island Chef spends in making his decisions is a good example. I do the same thing when I am on the road.

Striving for accuracy and integrity has cost traffic in recent years, but that is also a sign of the times. The standards are lower elsewhere. It is also why some of us will flat-out cringe when we see the post below, the sort of thing that is a rarity here (if there has been a silver lining to the loss of traffic, it has been the minuscule amount of spam).

What I have tried to do in this thread is keep a degree of accuracy in place for those that are coming to Las Vegas, and may have Giada's as a prospect on their list. That is why your comments on the price points ring hollow. It requires experience if one is to be that definitive in a judgment, and not only is the experience lacking, but I am not sure that the judgment is accurate. All it takes is a cursory glance to see that Giada's and Buddy V's are both at $9 for Pasta e Fagiole; Giada's is $28 for Spaghetti with Shrimp, Lemon and Basil, while Buddy V's is $28 for Capellini Shrimp Scampi; Giada's Veal Chop is $43, Buddy V's is $42 (although they are served slightly different). Up and down their menus the prices are comparable, and Buddy V's would be considered "middle of the road", by Strip standards. Or try it this way - other Italian Veal Chops on the Strip are $55 at B&B, $55 at Scarpetta, $54 at Bartolotta, $53 at Rao's, $49 at Sinatra, $49 at Allegro and $44 at Zefferino.

The actual evidence at hand so far does not indicate that Giada's is anywhere near being one of the most expensive "dollar per bite" restaurants on the Strip. I do know first-hand that Caesar's was not aiming for high-brow with this project, but was aware of the traffic that places like Rao's and Il Mulino were attracting (not that their upper management has been correct about much in recent years). For them, Giada was the ideal partnership - a personality and a menu that tourists will be comfortable with.

Over time, those that dine there will help us all to establish just what the value ratio is, but it would be best if confusion could be avoided until those experiences accumulate. One likes to think that there is a code of chivalry in the Chowhound community.

Jun 08, 2014
QAW in Las Vegas
1

Giada at The Cromwell - Opening Night review (long)

Making disparaging comments about a place you have not dined at is discriminatory.

The sad irony is that one of the tools Yelp makes available for users to flag a review is "It doesn't describe a personal consumer experience".

One of the genuine pleasures of this board through the years is that such a filter has almost never been needed.

Jun 08, 2014
QAW in Las Vegas
2

Giada at The Cromwell - Opening Night review (long)

It isn't just you. A thoughtful and detailed review got taken off-track in a fashion that is not ordinarily what one finds at Chowhound. While there is much appreciation for uhockey sharing his dining experiences on this site, when someone gives Buddy V's a very positive review, but then criticizes the creativity and price points of Giada's menu, it does raise some "doth protest too much" questions.

I think a proper way to resolve some of it would be the Montesano's comparisons. I like Montesano's, and have been eating their food for nearly 20 years, mostly at their original location on West Sahara. There is even one particularly fond memory that remains etched in my mind - a carry-out order of meatballs, bocconcini and roasted peppers watching Curt Schilling get blood on his sock while beating the Yankees (has it been 10 years already?). But the comparisons between what they do and what Giada is attempting to do have precious little correlation.

Montesano's actually does some things better than high-end strip properties, which would make for a good Chowhound topic (the notion of balancing the spicing and flavoring of a large entree so that a customer wants to consume all of it, vs. those bolder smaller plates that often do not hold up well beyond a few bites, after the first pleasant shock to the palate). But you can not compare the price points of a place in a strip mall in Henderson to something at the Cromwell. Would they like to get those prices? Of course. Could they maintain anywhere near their price points in Giada's location? Hell no. It is an entirely different operation - the Montesano's competition is the likes of Siena-Roma-Cugino's, and neighborhood places like Capo's, Bootlegger, Pasta Shop, etc. Those are not fresh baby artichokes on their menu, but fried artichoke hearts, usually with a side of marinara. And they are just fine, but they are what they are.

I have not dined at Giada's yet, but here is one item for Chowhounds that should matter - there was a note on sourcing in this discussion, and that aspect should be a major positive. Giada is working with Kerry Clasby ("Intuitive Forager") for produce, much the same as B&B - it was Kerry who helped Mario Batali to develop what was first the "Bet on the Farm" farmers market, which has now morphed into the "Downtown 3rd Farmers Market". Kerry's sourcing is remarkable - most summers B&B will do an "Heirloom Tomato" tasting menu, and last summer there was a "Farmers Market" tasting menu - when that time comes around Chowhounds should be on alert. Giada may not go to those same levels of creativity, but the produce being used on the menu should be first-rate.

Jun 08, 2014
QAW in Las Vegas

Giada at The Cromwell - Opening Night review (long)

In fairness, we really should make some distinctions here. As stated above, the Giada menu does not create a desire to make a reservation. But as for the price points, it is not just that B&B, which I really like, carries higher tariffs strictly because of the menu creativity and ingredients. While there is not a lot of crossover between the two, at Giada the Porterhouse for two is $78, at B&B the rib-eye for two is $120. At Giada a veal chop is $43, at B&B $55. At Giada a rack of lamb is $45, at B&B the same price brings lamb chops. As much as I enjoy the imagination and sourcing of B&B, which also seasonally turns the menu over with much more frequency than most high-end Strip options, there is also smirking at the absurdity of "Linguini with clams, pancetta and hot chili oil" for $33. But that, of course, is not what I go there for (a shame that "Ragu Norcino" has not made the specials board in a little while). Yes, some exotic ingredients carry high price points, but at B&B, so do many of the simpler dishes as well.

Also in fairness, the "better" question could come off as very misleading to those that do not live in Las Vegas. When Montesanos adds branzino, a porterhouse, rack of lamb, a veal chop, farotto, baby artichokes, etc., then that question could lead to a better discussion. For now the comparison does not serve much purpose

Ultimately Giada is not going to be B&B, Bartolotta, Valentino or Circo (the latter two will be greatly missed), but instead will be competing with the likes of Rao's, Allegro or Il Mulino. It will come down to service, quality of ingredients and execution, if not culinary imagination, and the OP helped to get us started on a peek inside of those issues.

Jun 04, 2014
QAW in Las Vegas
4

Giada at The Cromwell - Opening Night review (long)

Giada has not made my radar yet because the menu is a little "standard" (if others chime in positively on the execution points perhaps there will be a visit), but you might want to read through that order list again in terms of the price point aspect -

"5 antipasti, 3 pastas, 2 entrees (including a steak meant for two), 1 side, 2 desserts, 2 cocktails, a $28 bottle of beer, and 2 espressos came to $380 before tax and tip." It would be an extreme challenge to do that less expensively at B&B or Bartolotta. At B&B antipasti averages $17-$19, the current range of pastas are $23-36, "ribeye for two" is $120, etc. The Giada price points are actually well in line with the Strip standards, the question is whether the creativity and execution will be good enough to add another place to "the list".

Jun 04, 2014
QAW in Las Vegas

Andiamo's?

Andiamo is the latest outpost of Joe Vicari's group of restaurants, which started in the Detroit area, and brings a lot of "old school" Las Vegas feel to it, something that has sadly become rare (they were savvy enough to keep some of the more experienced servers on hand as Fitzgerald's transformed into the "D"). There is a nice Italian flair to the menu, which led to one particularly pleasant surprise on a recent visit - sun-dried tomatoes, spinach and a sambuca cream sauce were an intriguing pairing for fresh scallops that delivered well. They have some signature pasta dishes, you can still get a Caesar prepared table-side, and the wine prices are more than reasonable by Las Vegas standards.

It is an easy call to put Andiamo near the top of the list for anyone staying downtown, or anyone looking for that kind of vibe, but whether one makes a trip from the Strip just to eat there is a little trickier. The food will not be any better than the major Strip steakhouses (though the setting/service can be a little more comforting), so it depends upon how your time lays out, and also whether you can tie anything else downtown into your evening (for some of us, a post-dinner stroll on Fremont to hear Carl Ferris play the saxophone is a nice way to aid digestion).

May 30, 2014
QAW in Las Vegas

A & K CHINESE RESTAURANT, anybody been?

It should be noted, to help clear some things up, that "1900" is the current incarnation of "Three Villages" - same ownership; they moved downstairs. I have found the XLB to be decent (nothing better than "decent" in Las Vegas so far, alas), but with a catch - good for multiple diners to share, not so much for a solo.

Here is the gist - one of the impressive things about them is a thinner skin than usual, yet despite being so thin, it holds up well and does not break easily. But that comes with a catch - because of that they cool quickly. So when you get an order of eight (at a very reasonable price, by the way), the first one will be too hot, the next 3-5 just about right, but by the time you get to the end of the steamer the temperature has dropped a little too much for the last few.

May 25, 2014
QAW in Las Vegas

The dreaded steakhouse question....

To help your process of elimination, Old Homestead could be one to drop - the restaurant is open-air to the casino area, so there can be a lot of noise and distraction, unless you can be guaranteed a table tucked away in the back.

May 23, 2014
QAW in Las Vegas

4/28/14 Dining Report - Baguette Cafe, Del Mar Deli, Naked City Pizza on Arville, Sugar Factory Town Square

Yes. Pretty low-key atmosphere, although that might actually be better on some nights.

May 21, 2014
QAW in Las Vegas