Las Vegas is a crazy, crazy place. Huge buildings with any number of different themes simply sprout out of the middle of the desert, creating this insane bubble like no other place you’ve ever been to. In Vegas, time stands still, people spend money like it’s going out of fashion (sometimes making a little bit back) and generally cause all sorts of damage to both their livers and their bank balances.
I had never thought to associate Vegas with good food. A recent trip there, however, showed me that there certainly is more to Vegas than just the gambling, and food is definitely a huge focal point. Here are my thoughts on a few of the restaurants I was lucky enough to dine at:
Tom Colicchio’s Heritage Steak
This rustic steak joint, brought to us by New York chef and host of Top Chef, Tom Colicchio, had only been open a mere couple of weeks at the time we visited. We stumbled across it by chance, with no expectations, yet we were incredibly impressed by everything from the service, to the setting to the delicious food.
Heritage Steak prides itself on its wood-burning ovens and charcoal grills – basically anything with an open flame – to achieve that gorgeous smoky flavour that adds to the beauty of eating meat. You can see these open flames through the open kitchen at the back of the room, creating a warm and comforting atmosphere.
For starters, definitely try the grilled octopus and the grilled lamb ribs, both of which are unbelievably tender and delicious. If there are enough of you, and you’re happy to share, also give the wood-roasted peaches a try.
The steaks at Heritage Steak are a must; it is a steakhouse after all! I was equally impressed by the roasted market fish (sea bass on the day we went), stuffed with roasted tomatoes and topped with a lovely, light zucchini relish. Definitely the best fish dish I’ve had in a long, long time.
Prices are on a par with Hong Kong, but service is a million times better. Granted, you are expected to tip (and heavily) for this service, but when it’s worth paying, it’s really worth paying.
The Mirage, 3400 Las Vegas Boulevard South, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA
Tel: +1 702-791-7111
Kumi, a brand new restaurant at the Mandalay Bay, serves classic Japanese favourites with its own unique “Korean-American” twist created by renowned chef Akira Back. Aside from the expansive sushi bar seating, the gorgeous design in the restaurant, with a tree in the centre of the circular room and a painted backdrop of beautiful cherry blossoms, makes you feel as if you were in a lovely Japanese garden.
Standout appetizers were the crispy rice with blackened tuna and ‘screaming O sauce’, the rock shrimp tempura and the gyoza.
Of the signature rolls, the kumikaze, made with snow crab and Cajun spiced salmon, was good, but if there’s one dish you must order, it’s the pop rockin’. Made with spicy tuna, crab, salmon, avocado and pop rocks, these tasty bites pop and fizz in your mouth as you eat them, creating a unique multi-sensory experience.
Despite the majority of the food being excellent, service was definitely not. It’s either several dishes coming at once, or impossible to get any service – there’s no happy medium. We found the staff a little arrogant and rude, right until the end of the meal, when of course they changed their tone in the hope of getting a big tip; they didn’t.
Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino, 3950 Las Vegas Boulevard South, Las Vegas, Nevada 89119, USA
Tel: +1 702-632-7777
It was actually our friendly waiter at Heritage Steak who recommended this place to us, earning him even more brownie points. STK is not just a steakhouse (although evidently that is its main selling point); it is a bar, a hangout, and generally a cool place to see and be seen. With fun lounge music blaring and excellent food, I can see why this place is jam-packed even on a Monday night.
Before moving on to the awesome, succulent steaks, we shared a beautiful foie gras waffle with juniper berries and foie gras cream. To say it was heavenly would be an understatement.
My 7-ounce fillet medallion was divine, cooked to tender perfection. Just in case the foie gras starter isn’t rich enough for you, you’re welcome to add a slab of foie gras, or even foie gras butter to your steak. Personally, I opted for some spicy chimichurri. Sides of Parmesan truffle fries, creamed spinach and spiced maple carrots were the cherry on top, particularly the latter.
Of the multiple delicious-sounding dessert options, it was the bread pudding with English toffee, salted caramel and cap’n crunch that took our fancy. Cap’n Crunch, when I was even littler, was my favourite breakfast cereal, and here it added a welcome crunchiness to a wonderfully decadent, gooey dessert.
Prices, again, are not cheap, averaging at around USD150 per head including a beautiful bottle of wine. Service is tip-worthy, making it even pricier, but it’s definitely a restaurant/bar/hang-out I would recommend to anyone visiting Vegas (or LA, Miami, Atlanta, New York or even London for that matter, as apparently there are branches there too!).
Cosmopolitan Hotel, 3708 Las Vegas Boulevard South, Las Vegas, Nevada 8910, USA
Tel: +1 702-698-7990
The Cheesecake Factory
We actually went to The Cheesecake Factory in Henderson, about a 15-minute drive from the Strip, but it is in fact a chain that can be found all over the US.
The minute I saw the name of the restaurant, I insisted we needed to go there, resulting in negative grumbles from the other half. Eventually, he came around to the idea and we found ourselves waiting for a table and gazing longingly at a counter full of mountain-high cheesecakes.
Looking around the room at the dishes our fellow diners were being served, we quickly discovered that portion sizes at The Cheesecake Factory are as big as the menu itself: huge. Therefore, after a starter of hummus and pita, we decided to share a main course of crusted chicken romano – Parmesan-crusted chicken in a light tomato sauce. Although we swapped the pasta with which it is originally served for sweet potato fries, the portion size was more than sufficient for the two of us.
You can’t go to the Cheesecake Factory without trying a slice of cheesecake, and that is an indisputable fact. There are over 30 different kinds, and each slice is closer to three slices of an ordinary cheesecake, but this is no ordinary cheesecake. We tried the caramel pecan turtle one, and although a few spoonfuls was enough to give us a sugar-high, it was definitely worth it.
Prices are reasonable (particularly if you’re sharing dishes), and service is efficient. It’s not somewhere I could eat every day, but I think it’s worth a trip, even if just for the novelty factor!
160 S Green Valley Parkway, Henderson, Nevada 89052, USA
Tel: +1 702-207-6372
Other locations can be seen here: http://www.thecheesecakefactory.com/