Monday, February 28, 2011

Las Vegas Restaurants: Sushisamba; Il Mulino; Aureole; American Fish

I have always thought Las Vegas was like an amusement park for adults.  You've got the scenery which is incredible.  Where else can you see so many "cities" and "world landmarks" on one strip?  Then there's the shopping and dining.  Dining is definitely an experience in Vegas.  Many celebrity chef-restaurants there.  While the celebrity chefs aren't necessarily in the kitchen cooking up your meal, the quality and flavours of the food are absolutely amazing.  We allowed ourselves two extravagant meals here (well, it was only supposed to be one) and two more frugal meals.

Sushisamba at the Palazzo:  We came here for their $6 Happy Hour mojitos and food from the lounge menu.  Remember that you have to be sitting at the bar for these prices.  We ordered yellowtail seviche, spicy tuna roll, vegetable tempura, salmon taquitos, and salt and pepper squid.  They were all delicious!  It's hard to pick a favourite so I will just explain what I liked best about each dish. 

The yellowtail seviche was served with shredded ribbon of celery, and flavours of ginger and soy.  It was quite sour from the citrus, which I love, but the husband doesn't.  He likes yellowtail so he did eat it, though.

The spicy tuna roll was quite standard.  How can you really get too original with that?  What I did notice was that the spicy sauce was dolloped on tip of each roll, rather than being mixed in with the tuna.  My dad told me (and I don't know how true this is) that sushi restaurants will use old tuna for these rolls because the spiciness will kill off bacteria and mask any "old" smells and flavours.  Who knows?  I thought it was good, though!

The vegetable tempura was exactly what you would it to be.  They did serve it the traditional dipping sauce (tasted a bit weak to me) and their original sauce which is yellow and brown and delicious!

Mmmm... the salmon taquitos were just divine!  Minced, spiced raw salmon in a mini shell.  I don't know how else to describe it!  Again, it's raw fish with spice (dad's words floating around in my head) but it was go-od!

The salt and pepper squid was pretty spicy and had a great texture.  The squid pieces were scored and very lightly coated (not beer or buttermilk-battered).  Awesome stuff!

The mojitos were hand made to order.  I was glad it wasn't some pre-mixed concoction that some places serve up for Happy Hour.

I definitely recommend Sushisamba.  Their regular menu looks good too! 

Il Mulino at Forum Shops Caesars was one of our "splurge" meals.  The husband was looking at their menu online and was drooling as he read.  If you know us, you know that we avoid dairy and wheat but for this trip, we had to say "screw it" and deal with the consequences later.

I apologize for not having any photos of my experience here, but the lighting was so dim.  I also didn't want my flash going off every time a plate was brought out.

We were seated promptly (it was early) and nicely.  A quarter wheel of aged Parmesan was brought to our table and a chunk was broken off for each of us.  Nice!  Then plates of salami, fried zucchini, spicy garlic bread and a basket of other bread (fried bread sticks, foccacia, and what looked like baguette), a mussel and bruschetta was brought to our table as "compliments from the chef".  It was all delicious! 

The husband went on to order gnocci in a basil pesto sauce, but I passed on a first course because I was already a bit full from all the chef's compliments.  The gnocci was soft and chewy, like it had just come out of a pot of boiling water.  The husband loved it, and I loved the several bites I had!  For main courses, he had a pounded veal chop topped with an arugula salad, and I had lagostine split and sauteed with a white wine and garlic sauce, with a mound of spinach (that night's special).  The husband was a bit disappointed with his veal, as it was a bit tough.  I thought my lagostine was cooked nicely (not overdone) but very salty.  The spinach was quite salty as well, and I just couldn't finish it.  For the prices we paid, I wish we had both loved our meals.  Perhaps we didn't order the "right" dishes.  The meal was finished off with small glasses of grappa that had been infused with white raisins.  It Mulino must have several delicious dishes but unfortunately we picked the wrong ones. 

Aureole at Mandalay Bay was another "splurge" meal.  I had a much better experience here than I did at Il Mulino.  First of all, I didn't fill up on bread and the chef's compliments before hand (schoolboy error), and they had 2 tasting menus, plus the a la carte menu to choose from. 

I've linked here to the Parallel Menu, which what we ordered.  Two of everything.  The main course was lamb, something I'm not very fond of.  The husband can't believe that I don't like lamb, and thinks I just haven't given it a chance.  Maybe, but I wasn't going to risk not liking the main dish of the Parallel Menu, so they subbed it with beef.  Again, if you me and the husband, you know that we avoid beef as well but if I really didn't want chicken, so beef it was.  Great choice!

For the first course, the husband and I both liked the lobster and papaya salad over the fluke carpaccio.  The sourness of the green papaya, the sweetness of the the grilled pineapple, and the richness of the lobster were perfectly matched.

For the second course, the husband was very impressed with the coriander crusted tuna, and especially with the carrot sponge cake.  I thought the concept was amazing, but I like the richness of the scallop over the braised short rib.

We liked both of our main courses about the same.

The dessert was interesting.  I'm used to desserts from these kinds of menus to be dense, rich chocolate ganache-type things, or creme brulee, or something like that, not grape sorbet!  I loved the baklava.  The refreshing grape sorbet, with the flake baklava and cream was absolutely incredible.  Then they bring a creme brulee (ah, of course!) and some chocolate macarons as the "chef's compliments".  Too much dessert!

Oh, I almost forgot about the wine tower!  There is a glass elevator for guests to enter the restaurant, that is just stacked with wine.  Each time a bottle is ordered, one of the servers is strapped into a harness and up she goes to fetch the bottle of wine.  It was fun to watch!

American Fish by Michael Mina at Aria was another Happy Hour meal... or at least it was supposed to be, but we couldn't make it there in time.  Still, the lounge menu is pretty good.  We ordered the oysters, crab poppers, lobster corn dogs, yellowtail sashimi, fish and chips, and then the husband had the tuna melt and smoked salmon blt.  We liked them all!  These dishes are all very small but since we were eating quite late at night, it was perfect for us.  The tuna melt and salmon blt are literally a bite or 2 each, in case anyone was expecting a full sandwich. 

Their cocktail menu is interesting as well!  They have a focus on old school cocktails and add a bit on each one's history, origin, etc.  If we go back, I would love to go here again during HH for better deals!

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