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stuckinsillyvalley's Profile

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Las Vegas Dining Dilemma

I think the pricing at Carnevino has triggered a wave of of frustration and I think that the opinion of LVI on such matter has some merit. We can all agree that Las Vegas has moved beyond a gambling destination and can now lay claim to being a full service entertainment mecca where many people venture who will never set fut in the casino unless it is on the way to a show or restaurant.

For many visitors, including myself, choosing among the wide variety of restaurants is one of the most enjoyable parts of my trip. Unlike the old days where large buffets were subsidized by the casino to bring in more gamblers, the new restaurants are also profit centers that can exist on their own and have their own customer base. Moreover. I have come to accept that such fine dining establishments will charge a premium for the experience since they will have to rely on a higher cost of goods in Las Vegas (e.g., see my previous comment regarding the Mansion and Guy savoy and their reliance on French ingredients). Nevertheless, I think the pricing at Carnevino has gone beyond economics and is simply testing how big of a profit margin they can get their customers to swallow. Since opening, the porterhouse for two has been reduced from $160 to $140; unfortunately, the rest of the menu has not followed.

As climberdoc mentioned, Las Vegas is the land of $500 drinks and $100 burgers but these are usually novelties on an otherwise appropriately priced menu (e.g., see Boloud's menu as an example). The problem for Carnevino is that it has applied the novelty concept to the whole menu. For places such as Guy Savoy and the Mansion, they are serving a small number of diners a very complex menu and utilizing a large number of employees. The cost of such an experience is going to be high and it is hard for diners to say that they can go to many other similar restaurants and get a similar experience for a better price. On the other hand, you don't have to leave the Palazzo to find a reference for Carnevino: Cut. Cut is not cheap and its steaks are not "choice" yet looks at its menu. Prices on everything from appetizers to main courses are significantly lower (and as any person will tell you, pasta dishes have one of the lowest cost of goods around). The leads me to the question: What is Carnevino offering that will make me choose it over Cut (or Craftsteak, SW Steakhouse, Prime, etc.)? To date, I have not found a reason. Maybe if BBL beef is hand massaged by Mario using red wine from his Italian Wine Merchants, it is worth a try at those prices (this coming from someone who was almost willing to bite at the current prices).

In the end, the prices at Carnevino made me feel like I would be playing a part in a bet between Mario and Joe. It is one thing to charge high prices, it is another when people realize that the emperor has no clothes.

Apr 07, 2008
stuckinsillyvalley in Southwest

Las Vegas Dining Dilemma

I think that Picasso is too similar to Alex to warrant its inclusion. Although Alex is mentioned in the same group as the Mansion and Guy Savoy, I think they take different approaches to fine dining. Robuchon and Savoy use innovative dishes to demonstrate their mastery of technique, refining disparate elements into a cohesive whole. I think that Alex takes a more straightforward approach, using more identifiable combinations but ensuring that the chef's mastery of technique is expressed by coxing the most out of each element. If Stratta has a french counterpart, it is Ducasse. One thing I wonder is whether the prices at the Mansion and Guy Savoy reflect both restaurants over reliance on French sources for their ingredients. The U.S. presents a bounty of artisnal products that neither chef seems to embrace. When I hear that they import even the most basic elements such as butter, I shudder. Do they not know of such great American producers as Animal Farm and Adante dairy? I would be more impressed by both chefs if their U.S. restaurants embraced local providers and demonstrated that such sources can still provide a compelling experience, if not greater.

As for Picasso, I think it is too similar in style to Alex to warrant inclusion. I appreciate the recommendation but please keep them coming.

Apr 04, 2008
stuckinsillyvalley in Southwest

Las Vegas Dining Dilemma

Thanks for your thoughts. Your comment regarding Guy Savoy raises an interesting issue that I have found with many high end restaurants: frequent guests or those with a contact at the restaurant have a very different dining experience than many first time visitors. Although this makes perfect business sense, it can be rather frustrating for a first time visitor to a restaurant such as Guy Savoy or the French Laundry where they are spending serious money. While I was on the receiving end of the generosity at the French Laundry (that was a six hour meal), I have also experienced the jealousy of watching as a six course tasting menu is turned into a sixteen course meal for an adjoining table. It is a fine line the high end establishments have to navigate to maintain loyalty while not alienating first time visitors who may become regulars.

As for steak, the reason Carnevino is on the list is Adam Perry Lang. The guy is a zealot when it comes to beef. Unfortunately, prior to Carnevino, his steaks were served in Robert's, a steak restaurant in the Penthouse Club in NYC; not exactly where I want to spend an evening. Again, I love the menu conceptually but it seems that they have not executed on that concept. I don"t know the executive chef but he is now in charge of three restaurants, including two high end places. It is one thing to have name chef's like Batali associated with multiple ventures but does it make sense for the guy actually in charge of the kitchen?

Apr 04, 2008
stuckinsillyvalley in Southwest

Las Vegas Dining Dilemma

All:

I am heading to Las Vegas at the end of the month with my brother and father and I am having trouble deciding on the diner reservation for our first night. Currently, the line up is as follows:

1. Carnevino or Guy Savoy
2. Alex
3. Bartolotta

On my previous trip to LV for two nights, I ate at B&B Ristorante and L'Atelier. Although I did not encounter the same oversalting issue that is apparent in many of the other posts about B&B, I thought the food was good but not great. I live in the Bay Area and consider the pasta dishes served by Michael Tusk at Quince superior to the offerings at B&B. While each dish was very appealing conceptually, the execution lacked a certain discipline and care that one would expect from a restaurant of this caliber. The wine list was very interesting (although marked up a bit high in my opinion) and the atmosphere was a welcome respite for the hustle and bustle of the casino. Based on this experience and the few posts regarding Carnevino, my concern is that the same execution issues exist at Carnevino. When you couple this issue with the prices that they are charging, I am not sure this is a good bet.

As for Guy Savoy, Frank Bruni's recent review in the New York Times as well as several posts on this site as well as other blogs have made me reconsider this option as well. Since I will be dining at Alex the following night, I would need more persuading that the experience at Guy Savoy is so different and worthwhile that the price tag is justified. As someone you had the good fortune to experience a 21 course diner at the French Laundry recently (I went with a regular), the $290 price tag at Guy Savoy is troubling given the feedback. Since I was introduced to Robuchon's cooking ar L'Atelier last time (he was there that night and had a chance to speak with him in broken French (his English is not so good and generally has one of his staff with him when he walks around to interpret customer's comments), I want to try something new and would prefer to save a meal at the Mansion for a trip with my wife.

Alas, this is my problem: I wanted to structure the meals so that we had a different dining experience each night: steak (Carnevino), tasting (Alex), seafood (Bartolotta). Although Guy Savoy would have put two tastings on the list, I don"t think I have seen enough evidence that it is worth the trip. Other possibilities I have considered are Cut, Louis's (although the whole mall idea bothers me) and Restaurant Charlie (yes, I know that would make two seafood choices). Rosemary's is not a possibility and Lotus of Siam would not fly with my father. If anyone has any insights that could help me resolve this dilemma, I would greatly appreciate it.

Apr 04, 2008
stuckinsillyvalley in Southwest

Vegas Bars Serving Real Drinks

In New York you have the Pegu Club and in San Francisco you have Bourbon & Branch. Does Las Vegas have any watering holes on the Strip that take cocktails as seriously? The type of establishment I am thinking of uses fresh squeezed juices and no pre-made mixes when making its cocktails. Any suggestions amidst the ubiquitous watered down drinks and frozen margaritas?

May 02, 2007
stuckinsillyvalley in Southwest

Plea to Vegas Chowhounds

All:

Thanks for the informative replies. Based on persally's response, I might stick with Bartolotta although lvnvflyer's comment about SW steakhouse make it a possibility as well. It would be nice to try one of Wynn's offerings....

Apr 02, 2007
stuckinsillyvalley in Southwest

Plea to Vegas Chowhounds

Thank you for the replies. Since I am in the Bay area, the thought of going to Fleur de Lys does not appeal to me despite the recommendations. I thought of crafsteak but had three hesitations that could be overcome - (1) we are already dining at the MGM (L' Atelier) and would like to add a bit of diversity, (2) steakhouses tend to have a absurd mark-ups on their wines (400% is not uncommon) and (3) steakhouses in general tend to attract the loud abnoxious types in greater proportion to other restaurants.

Mar 30, 2007
stuckinsillyvalley in Southwest

Plea to Vegas Chowhounds

All:

I have searched all of the prior messages regarding restaurants in Las Vegas and do not intend to torture you with another what is the best restaurant in Vegas question. I will try to be specific and hope that the collective experience of this site's members will yield an answer to my predicament.

I am visiting Las Vegas with two other couples for the first time in May. We are staying at the Wynn for 2 nights over a weekend and I have been tasked with choosing the restaurants. The group includes a sophisticated group of eaters with one caveat - two of the individuals do not eat fish. Prior to obtaining this bit of information I had booked our first night at Bartolotta Ristorante di Mare and our second night at L' Atelier. Clearly the first choice will not work.

Accordingly, I am looking for recommendations for a high end restaurant on the Strip for a party of six. If it was my choice, I would love to the Mansion or Guy Savoy but, alas, my dining companions do not share the same masochistic devotion to all thing culinary as me. Thus, if anyone has any suggestions for a high end dining experience ($150 per person), I would appreciate it.

We do not want a tasting menu and Picasso, Michael Mina , Mix, NobHill, and Bouchon (tried in Napa and was not impressed) do not hold interest for the group. All suggestions are appreciated.

Mar 29, 2007
stuckinsillyvalley in Southwest