Las Vegas, NV

Le Cirque June 2009

On Wednesday evening, Lance and I had the pleasure of dining at Le Cirque in the Bellagio.  Las Vegas is one of the few cities in the US that has Michelin rated restaurants and, while planning our meals for the trip, eating in one was a goal of ours.  We had initially planned to eat at Picasso but, after seeing their menu, it didn’t appeal to us as much as it should have.  We switched our reservation to Le Cirque and there is no question that we made the right choice.  I think it’s safe to say that it was the best meal of my life until now.  

CeilingThe restaurant itself was on the small side, there were only 19 tables.  One side of the restaurant had windows that looked out over the Bellagio’s fountain display.  The rest of the walls had circus themed artwork, and the ceiling was stylized like a circus tent.


I found the plates to be quite pretty, so I took pictures of those as well.  

The menu presented us both with some hard choices.  Lance opted for an appetizer, main course, and dessert, but after careful consideration, I went with the degustation menu.  This was a 5 course meal that included an amuse-bouche, “pre-dessert” and dessert.  

RollsBut first, we got rolls.  Lots and lots of rolls.  Starting at the bottom and going up, the options were French rolls, olive rolls, something that I can’t recall, bacon and onion rolls, and pretzel rolls.  Between the two of us, we tried everything except the middle bread.  Each was perfect.  The butter on the table was stamped with the Le Cirque logo.


We each received an amuse-bouche.  Lance’s was a fresh gazpacho and mine was an oyster topped with caviar.  I was envious of the gazpacho since I’m not a huge shellfish fan and oyster is especially shellfishy.  It was tolerable with a bread chaser.  I’m sure an oyster lover would have enjoyed it much more than I did!  

SaladOur first courses were served at the same time.  Lance ordered the Petit Mesclun de Salade which was organic mixed greens, heirloom tomatoes, and Crotin de Chavignol which is a type of cheese.  Shaved fennel tops the entire thing off.  The tomatoes are thinly sliced and wrapped around the salad in a beautiful and colourful presentation.

SaladMy first course was the Lobster Salad “Le Cirque.”  I really needed better lighting for these pictures because none of them do the food justice.  This salad was wrapped in thinly sliced cucumber and, hidden within the cucumber, was a mixture of greens, diced haricot verts, avocado, cucumber, and three chunks of lobster.  The salad was extremely light and refreshing.  I would have never thought to combine all of those ingredients, but it worked perfectly.

FoieThen Lance got to watch me eat for a few courses.  This is Sautéed Foie Gras, Candied Cherry, Peach, Late Harvest “Verjus.”  It’s served on top of brioche and, sadly, I had a taste before I remembered I needed to take a picture!  I’ve only had foie gras once before and I was not very impressed.  This, however, was amazing.  It melted in my mouth like butter.  The verjus is a reduction of grape juice and I had to fight the urge to lick the plate when I was finished.

RisottoNext I had Pesto Risotto with Diver Sea Scallops, Tomato and Basil.  It also has pine nuts scattered on the top.  Phenomenal.  Eating this made me want to rush home and figure out how to make pesto risotto in the privacy of my own home.

ChickenOur next course was served at the same time.  Lance had Poulet Rôti Contiser à la Truffe Noire which was roasted organic chicken, summer truffle and long macaroni noodles with a foie gras sauce that filled the pasta.  It had mushrooms and some tomato on the top.  While you can’t tell from the picture, on the right side was light meat and the left side was dark meat.  The chicken was amazingly moist and Lance declared it the best of his life.  He generously shared a taste with me and it was pretty fantastic.  The skin was nice and crispy as well.

Sea BassI got the Paupiette of Seabass with Braised Leeks and Pinot Noir Sauce.  I’m pretty sure this is one of those dishes that I’ve seen on Top Chef.  It’s sea bass wrapped in a very thin layer of potato that is then cooked somehow to get nice and crispy.  Beneath the bass were braised leeks and a rich pinot noir sauce.  Sea bass, like foie, is something I’ve eaten before and haven’t been impressed with.  I now understand why so many people love it, when prepared correctly, it’s just awesome.

LambMy next course, and the only one for which I had a choice, was Colorado Lamb Loin, Cocoa Nibs, Peas Mousseline, and Potato “Souffle.”  The other option was Kobe steak but, having had it the night before and being a lover of lamb, this was an easy decision to make.  The potato thing on top was hollow and crispy.  The shadow on the right side of the plate was the cocoa nibs.  The green underneath the lamb was the peas mousseline and you can see white mushrooms between the lamb and peas.  The lamb was medium rare and absolutely delicious.  Again, I wanted to lick the plate to get all of the rich sauce.  But I behaved.

Panna CottaAh, dessert.  Lance and I both received the dessert menu and made our choices.  Then I was informed that I would be getting a “pre-dessert.”  I tried to talk my waiter out of it but he insisted that I try so I capitulated.  I was getting fairly full at that point, you see.  I am so glad the waiter won because this was yet another outstanding dish.  The glass is surrounded with lime cotton candy.  The layers are, from top to bottom, blood orange foam, panna cotta, and then blood orange gelee which you can just barely see at the bottom.  Between the foam and panna cotta was a dollop of meyer lemon sorbet.  This might have been the best dessert in my life.  I might attempt to cook panna cotta myself in the future.

StrawbOur “main” desserts were served together.  Lance got the Fraise Pochée à La Vanille, Crème au Yuzu, Streusel Croquant.  This was a vanilla poached strawberry with yuzu cream and vanilla ice cream.  It was served in this amazing bowl made of ice that kept the dessert chilled while you ate and melted if you left your spoon resting on it for too long.

SorbetMy dessert was a humongous bowl of pineapple sorbet.  After all of the rich food I wanted something light and palate cleansing.  I had no idea that there would be so much of it!  I ate about a scoop and a half and the two shortbread rounds that you can see peeking out from underneath the bowl.

Petit FoursWe also got a plate of petit fours.  There was a marshmallow in the middle but Lance ate it before I could take the picture.  I can’t vouch for their tastiness since I was too full to attempt to eat any of them.

This meal was amazing.  The service was perfect although I’m sure we made the sommelier sad by sticking with water only.  Once the waiter saw me pull out my notepad to take notes during the meal, he asked me if I wanted a copy of the degustation menu to take my notes on.  How awesome was that?  Our water glasses were always full and all the staff at the restaurant was attentive to our needs.  

The silverware was also amazing.  Each course came with 2-3 new pieces of silverware and, if necessary, an explanation of why I was getting each piece.  (A knife for risotto?  Apparently it was to cut the scallop.)  

If I ever have the chance to eat at Le Cirque again, I will, without hesitation.  The food was fantastic, the service was flawless, and it was a very comfortable experience overall.  I’ve talked with many people who fear fine dining because they worry they’ll feel out of place.  This was a very easy and comfortable meal, it left us both feeling completely satisfied.  

Total price, including tip: $311.48

Le Cirque
3600 Las Vegas Blvd South
Las Vegas, NV

Reservations: (866) 259-7111

Le Cirque (Bellagio) on Urbanspoon

Delmonico Steakhouse June 2009

Oh Delmonico, we had such high hopes for you and you let us down gloriously.  I wish we had opted to eat at B&B Ristorante across the hallway instead of using up a precious meal at Delmonico.   

Lance and I had the pleasure of eating at Emeril’s Tchoup Chop in Orlando back in early 2007.  We’d both been pleased with our meals and I figured we’d get another great meal at Emeril’s Delmonico Steakhouse while we were in Vegas.  

At the start of the meal, our servers introduced themselves, we requested our typical glasses of water, and proceeded to peruse the menu.  Everything was off to a good start and we ordered our salads, steaks, and sides.  Sides are served family style and sized to feed 2-3 people.  

Tomato SaladI started my meal with the vine ripened heirloom tomato salad with red onion, mozzarella cheese, extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar.  When tomatoes are in season, I just can’t get enough of them so tomatoes tend to be my standard first course in some form.  The salad was delicious if a little bit drippy.

Green SaladLance ordered a salad from the specials of the day and it was called Emeril’s green salad.  In addition to the mixed greens, it had sundried tomatoes, pepper jack cheese, and creole croutons.  It was a well dressed, nice salad.

FiletOur steak course followed.  Lance ordered filet mignon which came with a nice dollop of herbed butter.

Rib SteakI ordered the bone in rib steak which is, apparently, the house specialty.  Both steaks were fine and done to our liking.  The rib steak was extremely flavorful and Lance helped me to finish off the last few bites.

potatoesOne of our sides was roasted fingerling potatoes and whole garlic with fresh herbs.  These were pretty, garlicky, and tender.

MushroomsOur second side was sautéed garlic mushrooms.  This was a mixture of wild mushrooms with butter and garlic and also tasty with our steaks.

It was during our main course that we noticed something was amiss.  For both our salads and main course, we hadn’t seen our servers after they delivered our food.  No one checked in to make sure everything was satisfactory; no one refilled our waters, nothing.  We briefly wondered if our lack of alcohol intake made us below the staff’s notice.  For whatever reason, we didn’t see our servers again until well after we were finished with our main course.  This was extremely disappointing and surprising.  There was another long wait to be able to order desserts, but we did, hoping that dessert would redeem the meal. 

silverOn a slight tangent, the silverware looked like something Uri Geller had gotten to.  A few Matrix comments were also made.

Chocolate thingLance ordered the chocolate brioche bread pudding with Hawaiian vintage chocolate ice cream and warm chocolate fudge.  The bread pudding was moist and soft, the ice cream was dark, slightly bitter, and rich.  It was a very rich dessert overall and extremely delicious.  The combinations of warm and cold worked very well together.

Pecan pieI ordered the pecan pie with an oatmeal shortbread crust, vanilla bean ice cream, and caramel sauce.  The crust for this was very tasty but I’m not sure that, as a whole, it was better than the pecan pie I make for my family every year at Thanksgiving.  It was good, but I wasn’t blown away.

We were then ignored some more by the staff before getting our bill and leaving.  Perhaps the staff was just having a bad night?  The restaurant certainly wasn’t full and there wasn’t smoke pouring from the kitchen, so we saw nothing that would give us cause to believe our service should have been so inattentive.  Members of the waitstaff were frequently hanging around in a corner of the room together, so it’s unclear what exactly was going on.  

This meal, which was our last one in Vegas, was a letdown.  We’ll probably give other Emeril restaurants chances in the future, but we will not be revisiting Delmonico anytime soon.  Or ever.  

Total price, including a below-average tip: $217.10

Delmonico Steakhouse
The Venetian Resort Hotel & Casino
3355 Las Vegas Blvd. South
Las Vegas, NV 89109

Reservations: (702) 414-3737

Delmonico (Venetian) on Urbanspoon

"wichcraft June 2009

Thursday’s lunch was at another Colicchio restaurant, although one a tidge less fancy than Craftsteak earlier in the week.  After a much longer walk than anticipated, since distances are deceiving on The Strip, we had a lovely lunch at ‘wichcraft – Colicchio’s sandwich joint.

The restaurant is a typical fast food type of place.  You grab your drink, go to the counter and order your food, get a pager, and grab a seat.  I was thrilled that they had cane sugar soda, that in and of itself would take me back to ‘wichcraft again.  

Chicken PaniniLance ordered a panini with chicken breast, roasted red pepper, mozzarella and pesto on country bread.  It was delicious and melty, Lance loved it.

BLTI ordered the BLT which was bacon, Boston lettuce, tomatoes and mayo on country bread.  I hoped it would be the best BLT I’d ever had and, while it might not have been, it was pretty close!

The menu has a lot of great options and it was very difficult to pick just one.  This is another place I would revisit given the chance for a light and low-key lunch.

Total price: less than $30

MGM Grand
3799 Las Vegas Blvd S
Las Vegas, NV

'wichcraft (MGM Grand) on Urbanspoon

Mesa Grill June 2009

On Wednesday, we wandered over to the Mesa Grill for lunch.  Mesa Grill is one of Bobby Flay’s restaurants and I usually find his food to look very appetizing.  We opted to go there for lunch because none of the dinner items were that amazing sounding that it seemed worthy of dinner.  

I know there is a lot of controversy around Bobby Flay; many people think he’s a bit of a jerk due to his Food TV shows.  I used to feel the same way about him until Throwdown with Bobby Flay started.  My opinion of him did a complete 180 after watching him interact with his sous chefs and watching him through many food battles.  When he wins, he is kind and gracious to his opponent.  When he loses, he’s equally gracious and a good sport about things.  

The Mesa Grill site shows the restaurant fairly well.  The kitchen is open with a huge exhaust system over the grilling area.  

Corn MuffinWe started our meal with a basket of fresh bread including a blue and yellow corn muffin, two slices of sweet bread with raisins and nuts, and two slices of jalapeno bread.  Sadly, I only thought to take a picture of the corn muffin which had kernels of corn throughout and was great.

Blue Corn PancakeLance ordered the Prix-Fixe Lunch menu so we started off sharing his Blue Corn Pancake.  Inside of the pancake was barbecued duck and it was plated with cilantro oil and a pepper sauce.  The flavors all worked very well together and I would have been happy with just a few of those for my lunch.

BurgerContinuing on with the Prix-Fixe menu, Lance had the Mesa Buffalo Burger.  This was served with Swiss cheese, pickles and the regular burger toppings.  The fries were crispy and spicy and the ketchup shown in the picture is spicy chipotle ketchup.  Lance also got some lime ketchup which was fantastic.

Cobb SaladI was feeling a bit vegetable deficient, so I ordered the Barbecued Lamb Cobb Salad.  It was a mix of avocado, tomato, Cabrales blue cheese, bacon, extremely flavorful lamb, and buttermilk dressing.  I’m not usually a fan of blue cheese, but the quality of this blue cheese made quite a difference.  This was a fantastic salad.

DessertThe last course of Lance’s Prix-Fixe menu was the Banana Hazelnut Profiteroles.  Being allergic to nuts, Lance and I worked out a split and he ate the profiteroles while I ate the ice cream.  The ice cream had a very strong banana taste and the profiteroles were light tasty.

Overall, the food was delicious and we felt that this was a good choice for one of our lunch “slots.”  The service was also acceptable.  Our waitress was attentive and friendly.  

Total price, including tip with no drinks: $63.88

Mesa Grill
Caesars Palace
Las Vegas, NV

Reservations: (877) 346-4642

Bobby Flay's Mesa Grill (Caesars Palace) on Urbanspoon

Craftsteak June 2009

Lance and I just got home from spending a few days in Las Vegas.  We opted to indulge in the sin of gluttony while in Sin City, forsaking the other well-known sins.  Lance gifted me with the planning of our meals while on vacation, and it was an amazing foodie experience.  

It all started with a visit to Tom Colicchio’s Craftsteak.  We’ve become enamored with Colicchio, like so many others, thanks to Top Chef.  Craftsteak was the first restaurant to come to mind in my planning so it’s only fair that it was where we dined the first night.  

I apologize in advance for the quality of photos in these restaurant articles.  I’m still figuring out how best to take photographs in restaurants and it’s certainly a learning process!  I still wanted to show all the food, even if the photos weren’t stellar, since the food was all amazing.  

BreadSoon after we were seated, and our servers introduced themselves, bread and butter were delivered to our table.  The bread was in a skillet and brushed with butter in such a way that the top tasted almost like a flakey layer of a croissant.  The bread also had salt sprinkled over the top.

Leather PanelsTom’s food theory is something along the lines of “take amazing ingredients and don’t screw them up.”  We felt that this reflected in the décor as well as the menu.  You’ll notice that the menu doesn’t have any descriptions, just the cooking method and the main ingredient of the dish.  There were no tablecloths on the tables and the walls were covered in fantastic leather panels.

MozzarellaFor my first course I went with the Fresh Buffalo Mozzarella.  This was served with hazelnuts, a balsamic glaze, and roasted red peppers.  I’d never had buffalo mozzarella before so it was a chance I couldn’t pass up.  The cheese was quite a bit more flavorful than the regular mozzarella I can find at my local stores and the red pepper sauce was a pleasant change from the usual tomatoes that accompany fresh mozzarella.

GreensLance’s first course was Farmer Jones’ Mixed Lettuces.  You’ll notice a trend in Lance’s first courses during the week; I think he was on a mission to compare all of the mixed green salads in Las Vegas.  This one was very simple, just the greens, and perfectly dressed.   Each piece of lettuce glistened from the dressing but there was no residual dressing on the plate when he was finished eating.

My FiletNext we had our steak course.  I ordered the Kobe Style Wagyu Filet and Lance ordered the Japanese Kobe Wagyu.  We’ve not entirely sure if we were served the correct steaks, but they were both ridiculously tasty.

Lance's FiletBoth filets were very tender.  Mine, which is pictured first, was a bit more flavorful than Lance’s but almost tender enough to melt in my mouth.  His filet, pictured second, was a bit less “steak-y” than mine and even more tender.

Neither of us had had this quality of Kobe beef before and, I’ve got to admit, that I was a bit perplexed.  Perhaps my palate just isn’t refined enough to detect the minor differences in quality between Wagyu and “regular” filet mignon.  Perhaps the difference in the quality would have been more noticeable with a different cut of meat.  Nevertheless, it was amazingly delicious.  

RisottoTo go with our steak, we ordered mushroom risotto which was served family style.  The flavors were fantastic in the risotto, but it was a bit too toothy and not as creamy as the risottos we’ve enjoyed in the past.

My plateLance's plate

Our meals.

My dessertFor dessert, I opted to go the chocolate route and chose the Liquid Chocolate Cake.  This was served with vanilla ice cream.  The dessert was very rich and extremely enjoyable.  I’ve got to admit that the smear of chocolate on the plate brought back some unkind words from an episode of Top Chef and I tried not to chuckle too much.

Lance's DessertLance is a lover of strawberries and he chose the Strawberry Shortcake which was served with strawberry sorbet.  The strawberry sorbet was definitely the winner of the dessert course, it was stellar.

Overall, this was a great dining experience.  The service was impeccable and we even developed, accidentally, a new “test” for waitstaff.  During the meal Lance blew out the candle while we were talking.  This was completely unintentional on his part but, afterward, he said “I’ll bet it’s relit within 5 minutes.”  And, sure enough, our server appeared in about 2 minutes to relight our candle.  Very impressive.  

Our water glasses were always full; every server we interacted with was extremely knowledgeable about all the dishes and ingredients.  The staff also encouraged us to ask any questions that we had and, of course, I had quite a few!  Given the chance, I would eat at Craftsteak again in a heartbeat.  

Total price, including tip with no drinks: $546

MGM Grand
Las Vegas, NV

Reservations: (702) 891-7318

Craftsteak (MGM Grand) on Urbanspoon