Just got back from a Vegas trip, one for which I'd had low culinary expectations, and was happy to see them exceeded on average.
Had a nice In-N-Out lunch (single cheeseburger Animal-style, fries well-done) with my parents before getting dropped off at the Aria high-roller-style (in a white, base-model Camry...baller!
). No other good meals on Friday, just a quick slice for dinner at the Monte Carlo food court, from my arch-nemesis Sbarro.
On Saturday, we woke up in rough shape and considered strapping on the feedbag at the Aria buffet, but after 5 minutes in a giant line, decided to check out Lemongrass instead. This ended up being exactly what the doctor ordered: serene atmosphere, attentive service, some of the better Thai iced tea I've ever had, and food that really hit the spot.
We started with a couple orders of crispy chicken wings, which had the perfect balance of crispy skin, hangover-soothing grease, and moist meat. We then ordered a crab omelette, pad thai with chicken, and grilled pork neck and had a nice little family-style lunch. All of the dishes were very good, but the pork neck really stood out - I thought it was on-par with TAC Quick, in fact.
Saturday evening, we decided to splurge with a nice dinner at Jean Georges steakhouse, and unanimously considered it the best return on investment of the whole trip. We started with a bottle of Tobin James 2007 "Dusi Vineyard" Zinfandel (a killer recommendation from the sommelier) and tempura calamari, which was perfectly fried, topped with pea shoots, and accompanied by some light-as-a-cloud aioli.
For our main courses, we all ordered 8oz filets (wet-aged 17 weeks, we were told), medium rare, and shared two sides of mashed potatoes and asparagus. The steaks were just fantastic, over 2 inches thick, cooked to a tee, tender as all get-out, with perfect charred crust, and were accompanied by a really tasty, but totally unnecessary, cilantro-serrano butter that had some nice kick (we all tried a little on our steaks, but mostly ended it shmearing it on bread). The mashed potatoes were very nice, with just the slightest touch of garlic and parmesan, and a polenta-like texture. However, the asparagus blew the potatoes away...fork-tender, tasting like they had resided in a garden somewhere until very recently. A second bottle of the Tobin James washed our steaks & sides down nicely.
Finally, for dessert we split a New York-style cheesecake with sour cherry sorbet & sour cherry compote, and a yuzu/white chocolate pavlova, and each had a glass of Taylor Fladgate 10-year tawny port. The cheesecake was, well, cheesecake. It was really good, and both the sorbet & the compote were nice, but in the end it wasn't super memorable. The pavlova, on the other hand, was very unique & memorable. The tartness went nicely with the port, and it was topped with chopped pieces of meringue, slivers of white chocolate, and Thai basil sauce, so it had all kinds of textures and herb-y flavors going on.
The quiet, understated atmosphere was perfect - we spent a few hours there, enjoying our meals, and B.S.ing over some nice wine. It was definitely one of the best steakhouse experiences I've had in recent memory.
On Sunday morning, we finally hit the Aria buffet before checking out. The only thing I can really say is that it was a buffet. The Alaskan king crab legs were nice, and I'm glad I ate a giant, heaping plate of them, because the rest of the offerings ranged from "meh" to awful (I'm looking at you, disgusting "Hungarian sausage" that was so gross that one bite killed my appetite before I could try anything from the decent-looking dessert spread). I tried the Wynn buffet last time, and thought it landed firmly in the "mediocre" category. The Aria buffet officially joins Bally's, Paris, and Red Rock in the "avoid" category.
Thanks to Stevez's original post in this thread, I made it to Memphis Championship BBQ for lunch on Monday, and was glad I did. My dad was in the mood for ribs, and kept saying he wanted to go to Famous Dave's, which struck me as crazy talk because they live 5 minutes away from Red Rock Casino and its highly-regarded Salt Lick BBQ. Sadly, Salt Lick doesn't open until 4pm on weekdays, so we went to the conveniently airport-adjacent Memphis Championship BBQ location instead.
Great baby back ribs, excellent sides (between the two of us, we tried cole slaw, mashed potatoes & gravy, collard greens and mac & cheese), good sweet tea, and decent prices. I need to try Salt Lick next time, but I wouldn't mind going back to Memphis Championship BBQ either.
All in all, there were some hits & some misses, but the hits were so good that I'll go ahead and call the trip a success, food-wise Lemongrass
Aria Resort & Casino (Casino level, just past the "Carta Privada" high-limit card room)
3730 Las Vegas Blvd.
Las Vegas, NV 89109
(877) 230-2742Jean Georges Steakhouse
Aria Resort & Casino (Promenade level, right between Sirio and American Fish)
3730 Las Vegas Blvd.
Las Vegas, NV 89109
(877) 230-2742Memphis Championship BBQ
2250 E. Warm Springs Rd. (plus two other locations around town)
Las Vegas, NV 89119
(702) 260-6909Salt Lick BBQ
Red Rock Casino Resort Spa
11011 W. Charleston
Las Vegas, NV 89135