We celebrated Christmas in Las Vegas this year and it was glorious. One whole week together, relaxing and enjoying the opulence that is Vegas. I took a bunch of pictures on our trip, as usual, but this was far from an action packed vacation. We did a lot of walking, spa-ing, napping, and shopping – fun for us but not exciting enough to include in my recap. So I’m going to change it up a little bit and bring you just the highlights of our Vegas trip in three separate posts this week – The Sights, The Attractions, and The Food.
It goes without saying that we had some absolutely fantastic meals in Las Vegas. As I noted in The Attractions post, Vegas is what you make it. And The Food of Las Vegas is no different. You can have pub grub, high end sushi, classic French cuisine, hot pot, New York style pizza, any kind of fusion, In-N-Out Burger, buffets galore, etc. – just about anything you could possibly want in any ambiance at any price point. Here are the greatest hits of our food journey through Vegas.
Located just four floors below our room, in the lobby of The Venetian, is the Bouchon Bakery. We’ve been to the Bouchon Bakery in Napa (as part of our endless obsession with Thomas Keller, more on that in a minute) and the Vegas location was just as good, if not better (because there wasn’t a 30 minute line). We stopped at the Bouchon Bakery almost daily for either breakfast (delicious muffins, breakfast sandwiches, tea) or an after dinner treat (amazing cookies, cupcakes, macarons).
My pick for best restaurant hidden gem has to be Eat in downtown Las Vegas. We found this place on the day we had the rental car (i.e. it’s not on The Strip). The ambiance was funky, the ingredients were super fresh, the menu was healthy, and the service was great. This is totally a place that would fit right in in Somerville, and a place I would frequent all the time if it were here at home.
Another off-of-The-Strip indulgence was frozen custard at Luv-It Frozen Custard in downtown Las Vegas (also driven to with our rental car). They only offer a handful of flavors every day and we both got the special (“Blue Moon” aka pistachio) in their Western Sundae (covered in caramel, chocolate sauce, and pecans). It was ridiculously good!
One night while strolling through the shops at The Palazzo hotel (adjacent to The Venetian) we noticed a Grimaldi’s Pizzeria. Grimaldi’s, of course, being the Brooklyn-based pizza institution. We decided to try it out and were not disappointed! Who knew Grimaldi’s was making fine pizzas on both the east coast and west coast?!
Nachos are one of my favorites foods and I can sniff them out anywhere. When I read the rave reviews for the 1842 Nachos over at Michael Mina’s Pub 1842 in MGM, I knew I had to have them. They were some of the best nachos I have ever had. I also have to admit we went back to Pub 1842 just to have them a second time, they were that good!
Last but certainly not least, Bouchon Bistro in The Venetian. We’ve been twice before and have had nothing but exquisite meals there. This is what we have come to know and love from Thomas Keller. In fact, this is a perfect time to note that in 2013 we completed the Thomas Keller Trifecta: going to The French Laundry in May, Per Se in August, and Bouchon in December. And what better time to have a perfect meal at Bouchon than on Christmas Day?
The Christmas specials menu was full of classic, traditional holiday fare. However, I opted for two of Bouchon’s classic dishes – the frisee salad with a poached egg and lardons and the Croque Madame with frites. Both perfectly prepared and effortlessly executed.
Our waiter was fantastic and we chatted with him about our year of Thomas Keller adventures. He learned quickly that we were fans and right before giving us our check, he declared that he had a Christmas present for us. I assumed it was one of Keller’s signature homemade candies or pastries to take with us but no, it was something much better – he let us know that the manager of Bouchon was going to come over and take us on a tour of the kitchen. The Kitchen. At Bouchon. YUP!
The manager was so personable and knowledgeable. He led us through the pass area – where all of the dishes are prepared, explained the meaning behind the numbers being called out in all directions (tables corresponding with menu items), and pointed out each member in the kitchen and told us what their roles were.
He also pointed out the TV behind us with a live video feed to Bouchon Beverly Hills and Bouchon Napa. Those, of course, were closed on Christmas night but he noted that the demand for Bouchon Vegas is so high, that they don’t close, even on Christmas.
Next he led us through the bakery in the back where the breads are prepared. The pastry kitchen is in the back too but wasn’t accessible through this part of the kitchen.
We looped back around to the pass and learned more about the equipment Bouchon uses and how the frenzy we were seeing in the kitchen is typical for a booked night at the restaurant. It was fascinating. And made me realize I could never work in a fast-paced environment like this. I would crack under the pressure. It’s an onslaught really. An unrelenting assailment of orders, tickets, dishes, special requests, etc. – all perfectly orchestrated to come to your table, timed all at once, piping hot, and perfectly cooked. It really gives me goosebumps to think about how much work goes in to a kitchen like this. And it’s really inspiring to see these chefs work so passionately and so precisely in this kind of crazy environment. I felt so fortunate to have this behind the scenes look at Bouchon – it deepened my love and respect for the restaurant so much.
We actually went back to Bouchon a second time on this trip too. We met up with a group of about 10 friends who also came to Vegas over the holidays. We all had different travel dates but happened to all be there at the same time on December 29th so we booked a big group reservation and had another great meal.
We got different dishes for visit #2 – the cheese plate to start…
…along with the Bibb Salad as well as the Scallops. Different but just as good. I could eat anything on this menu and be happy!
So that wraps up our latest Vegas Vacation! We’ll likely be back soon – I promised John we’d go again when he finishes his MBA (sometime in 2014/2015).