We recently paid the 9th Hawaiian island another visit and once again, it wasn’t to hit early
retirement on the slots but mainly for shopping (the Mrs) and gluttony (yours truly). I pre-
booked reservations at several restaurants strategically giving ourselves enough time between
lunch and dinner so as not to transform into Jabba the Hutt. Since we left on a red-eye flight
from Honolulu, no reservations were made on the first day (since last years flight was delayed
about 6 hours) and you never know when you’ll simply collapse from lack of sleep, caffeine, etc.
However what followed was Olives at the Bellagio, Aureole at the Mandalay, Daniel Boulud at
the Wynn and Joe’s Stone Crabs at Caesar’s Palace.
The Breakfast Buffet at Bellagio
After leaving our luggage with the bellhop at the Flamingo, we were in search of calorie
replenishment after that relaxing one hour of sleep aboard ATA Flight 4406. We stumbled upon
the Bellagio a little before 8am and noticed that their breakfast buffet started promptly at 8am.
Might as well give it a try, no hurt in waiting another 15 minutes. Wow! For $14.95, the Bellagio
provides quite a breakfast spread. From cold smoked trout and salmon (not salty at all), to a
dozen or so baked pastries, to the obligatory omelet bar to the Chinese station with fried rice,
noodles, braised veggies and soups to the 10 different pizzas, breakfast meats, tenderloin tips and
biscuits and gravy, the Bellagio breakfast spread was a pleasant discovery. Jabba the Hutt in one
Mon Ami Gabi at Paris
Since we often passed the Paris while making frequent shopping trips (for the Mrs) to the Desert
Passage Mall at the Aladdin, we decided to try Mon Ami Gabi. As you walk the Strip, diners at
Mon Ami Gabi are often seen in the outdoor seating area (often with those ubiquitous Vegas
water misters blowing to help diners tolerate the Vegas heat) but we frequently walked on by
due to the heat. However, since Vegas was in the 80s during our last sojourn, we finally gave in
to our culinary inquisition.
Mon Ami Gabi is like your typical French brasserie or bistro with classic homey French cuisine.
Steak and fries, raw and cooked seafood, charcuterie plates and roasted poultry and pork dishes
along with an excellent wine by-the-glass list.
We started with the mixed charcuterie plate consisting of chicken liver pate (I had to compare it
to my own creation), coarse country style pate, salami and turkey rilette (turkey cooked in its
own fat then shredded) along with cornichons (small sour pickles), radishes and toast points. We
then proceeded to their Steak Bordelaise, a flattened piece of lean steak (cooked perfectly
medium rare) in an onion and mushroom red wine sauce along with frites (French fries) though
these fries were unlike any I’ve seen. Slightly thinner than udon noodles and about as wide as
fettuccine. The tops were crisp and the bottoms absorbed all the wonderful au jus red wine
sauce. Perfect with a glass of Northern Rhone red wine! We also feasted on the Paillard of Lamb,
a flattened piece of lean lamb once again cooked perfectly medium rare with a ragout of white
beans. We ended the meal with Apple Tarte Tatin, thicker than most tatins but with that rich
caramel glaze coating every piece of apple. What’s interesting is that the outside tables had a
wait time whereas the inside seating was immediate. If you plan to dine there, forget the
outdoor bistro seating and go for the AC. A meal is more enjoyable at 68 degrees than at 90
Olives at the Bellagio
I know that I previously reviewed Olives last year but since it’s one of my favorite Vegas
restaurants, I just had to do it again. We started with my favorite; Carpaccio with Gorgonzola
polenta cake – simply the BEST carpaccio bar none. We also tried the Spring Pea & Mint Ravioli
– A new fave of the Mrs that I’m trying to recreate in my own kitchen as your read this. It’s like
that British classic, mushy peas but it’s freshened with mint and served with a fontina cheese and
mushroom sauce with sautéed pea tendrils. The Crab Stuffed Skate Wing was a step above the
usual stuffed sole and the Scallop Risotto had perfectly seared diver scallops on a mound of
creamy (from the starch in the rice) risotto. Since we had dinner reservations at Aureole that
evening, we skipped dessert and decided to burn calories with the Mrs favorite aerobic activity,
Aureole at the Mandalay
I was anticipating dinner at Aureole ever since we had dinner several years ago at Charlie Palmer’s
Dry Creek Kitchen in Healdsburg. Aureole’s notoriety stems more from its wine tower and wine
“angels” who retrieve the wine tethered ala Mission Impossible. They do offer the best deal for a
7 course meal at $99 and $65 additional for wine pairings. The meal starts with an amuse bouche
(complimentary appetizer) of cauliflower bisque followed by Ahi Tartare with pear chutney,
Dungeness Crab Ravioli with browned butter sauce, Grilled Escolar with lime and Spanish olive
oil, Roasted Quail with roasted root veggies, Beef Tenderloin and Shepard’s Pie, Assorted
American cheeses, Blood Orange Sorbet and Pear Tatin. Whew!
Daniel Boulud at the Wynn
After downloading the menu for Daniel Boulud, this was the Mrs first choice for dinner mainly
since it featured braised veal cheeks. As in the case of most Web menus, what’s listed may not
actually be available when you dine there. As was the case for the veal cheeks. However the rest
of the menu was nothing to sneer at. My main dilemma was whether to choose my dish based
on the menu description or give in to trend. Namely Boulud’s DB Burger. Daniel Boulud in New
York was the first restaurant to offer a hamburger in the $20 price range. TWENTY DOLLARS!!
It’s actually $32 in Las Vegas. How can it be that good!?! Well to start with, it’s stuffed with
Boulud’s braised short ribs (also on the menu as a stand alone entrée), foie gras AND truffles!
All served on a parmesan bun with his garlic pomme frites.
In the end, I knew that I couldn’t pass trying this Big Mac to the 12th degree. It was very good
though the Mrs Braised Lamb Shank with a thick au jus reduction served with couscous was just
as glorious. We did start with the Tomato Tarte Tatin (the BEST tomato tartlet I’ve tried) with
a hint of basil oil and the Steak Tartare fashionably plated with a single quail egg yolk in the
Boulud’s cocktails also were very good with the best Kir Royale (champagne with crème de
cassis) I’ve tried though a bit pricey at $17 (made with excellent champagne) and the Flirtini
(raspberry vodka martini with framboise). We ended the meal with the Caramel Mousse and
caramel ice cream. A light caramel flavored mousse atop a chocolate base with a rich caramel ice
cream. Sweet dreams indeed!
Joe’s Stone Crabs at Caesar’s Palace
Our final stop was at Joe’s Stone Crabs at the end of the Forum Shops at Caesar’s Palace. As I
mentioned last year, though the stone crabs are the specialty of the house, don’t bypass the
excellent USDA Prime steaks offered at Joe’s. Since this is Vegas, I would gamble to state that
they are some of the finest cuts of beef you can gorge on.
Since this was our last night in Sin City (and my trousers seemed to be shrinking in the desert
heat), we started with a simple four crab claw appetizer ($14.95) and the Seafood Chop Salad –
crab, shrimp and scallops along with chopped avocado, heart of palm and lettuce in a
mayonnaise based dressing. The Mrs ordered the 12 ounce Filet Mignon while I had the Stone
Crab Bolognese on fettuccine and we ended the night with Joe’s famous Key Lime pie. Another
Jabba feast for the books!
Las Vegas Recommendations
Overall, I’d say the best find on this trip was Mon Ami Gabi. The service was excellent, the food
was as good as any bistro faire that I’ve tried and the price was good. I would still recommend a
lunch date at Olives at the Bellagio though I also recommend either lunch or dinner at Mon
Ami Gabi. And if you don’t mind splurging a little, try Daniel Boulud at the Wynn. And while
The House of Blues at the Mandalay did have the best biscuits and gravy for breakfast, your best
bet would be the breakfast buffet at the Bellagio.
And make sure you get back to your regular cardio routine once you return home since those
trousers don’t seem to expand back to a normal size when you return home…
Sin City Revisited