We have returned from Vegas where K’s family has an annual reunion. After my day-before-vacation bout with the flu, I was feeling better and finally hungry after two days of eating bites of bread (and a really ill-advised Wendy’s Frosty). Having napped on the plane, I decided it would be a good idea to experience ALL of Vegas in one night.
* This began with a small group dinner at Carnevino – the Italian/steak restaurant from Mario Batali and Joe Bastianich in the Palazzo Hotel. We didn’t get there until about 9:30 and I was starving so I was happy when they gave us each a little fried parmesan potato bite. Then I was still starving so I really enjoyed the bread with salty butter and lard. Yes, lard. Turns out that just a little slick of lard with meat undertones on good bread is fantastic. Good call Mario!
The boys ordered a bottle of red wine for the table (sorry, couldn’t tell you what it was, but it was pretty good) and I got an arugula salad. It was huge, easily enough for two people, but it didn’t say that on the menu, when all other portions were specified as half portions, for two, etc. I don’t know if the salad was dressed, but if it was there wasn’t enough dressing to detect but there was definitely too much arugula. I would have gone with 1/3 arugula and 2/3 other greens. As it was the salad was overwhelmingly bitter, offset only by the large pieces of triple cream goat cheese. For his starter, K got tuna crudo with a delicious, salty sea bean and lemon salad. I should have gone with the tuna.
For my entrée, I ordered two appetizer pasta portions — the braised duck cannelloni and the evening’s special, lobster tortellini. The pasta was (of course) homemade and was tender yet al dente. The duck was rich and meaty and so dense rolled inside that cannelloni. The lobster was delicate and sweet and paired amazingly with the tarragon pasta and butter sauce. Total decadence. K couldn’t resist the veal saltimbocca made with organic, free-range veal. There was so much of it, but it was crispy and salty and melt-in-y0ur-mouth delicious. We were so full we couldn’t be talked into dessert.
I’d definitely recommend Carnevino if you’re visiting Vegas. They are local, sustainable and even the hand soap in the bathrooms is made from the glycerin extracted from waste grease from Mario Batali’s restaurants so it closes the loop! P.S. The soap smells like herbs, not grease.
After the wine, food, casino cocktail and hanging out late night to meet the fam, I realized that I was not, in fact, over the flu like I thought I was and that it is a terrible idea to try to cram all of Vegas into one evening. Consequently, I laid very low the next day. We had a reservation at Bouchon that evening and K was worried I wouldn’t rally for it.
* Far be it from me to miss fine, fine French food by one of the world’s best chefs (Thomas Keller) so — feeling much better after a day of resting out of the 107 degree heat — off we went to the Venetian to the gorgeous, open, light-filled Bouchon Bistro.
They started us with warm pistachios and really, really crusty warm French bread and K quickly honed in on the escargots. The tiny puff pastry hats on top of the heavily garlic infused snails were buttery and yummy, but I left the eating of gastropod mollusks up to K while I enjoyed my salad. The fancy sounding Salade Maraîchère au Chèvre Chaud was really a simple stack of mixed greens with red wine vinaigrette, herbs and warm goat cheese. As simple as it was, the flavors were incredibly layered and, though I knew I had an entrée coming, I couldn’t stop eating the salad.
It was very difficult to decide on an entrée, but K went with steak frites and I went with Truite aux Amandes (trout amandine). K said his was the best steak he’d ever had — cooked to perfection with crispy, perfectly salted skinny fries. My trout was like candy — sweet and flaky, the brown butter silky and making the fish sing. The haricots vert were crisp tender and the pile of toasted almonds was enough to have many in each perfect bite.
We were full, but who can pass up French dessert in a French restaurant? K couldn’t! So he ordered two — a meringue with a vanilla creme anglaise, almond and caramel and creme brulee (which isn’t on the menu). The meringue was the best crispy yet soft marshamallowy pillow and the creme brulee was simply the best I’ve ever eaten. It was flecked with vanilla bean bits and had the absolute perfect crisp crust that shattered deliciously when cracked with the creme brulee spoon (which neither of us knew existed).
Who knew that such refined perfection existed in Vegas of all places?! It was a lovely, elusively quiet and romantic evening with sparkle.
That was just the first two nights we were there!! Stay tuned for the rest of our eating (and drinking) adventures in Vegas!