Stephanie & Henry Yuen
Las Vegas is ever-changing – brighter, flashier and always expanding. Cheap eats along the main strip are no more. $9.99 all-you-can-eat buffets belong to outskirt hotels and casinos, those who must do whatever means to remain competitive.
Our 4-day Vegas vacation began on noon Wednesday and ended on late Saturday night when we hugged our friends goodbye and got ready to take an early morning Sunday flight back home.
Vegas at dawn is like a hung-over middle-aged woman with smashed make-up who struggles to go back to her suburban home. The dining rooms are less than half-full. Look around and you’d find your breakfast companions with blurred faces and sleepy eyes, quite often, smoking cigarettes to stay awake, a scene far away from the glamour Las Vegas sells to the world. However, Vegas’ indoor world never ceases to amaze passers-by. Unique architecturally designed restaurants, million-dollar wine lists and the best of the best menu items. Do go to Bellagio and say hello to Lady Chocolate and look up to find the top of the Chocolate fountain at Jean Philippe Patisserie, and admire the mega cage-like structure of Maestro’s Ocean Club Seafood Restaurant at Crystals.
Quality breakfast buffets average $12 and more nowadays, but we knew ourselves good enough not to go for buffet at 11am but instead, we opted for sit-down meals: An Egg Sausage and McMuffin meal and a $1.00 Parfait at McDonalds ($2.50); a top-notched sit-down breakfast at Grand Lux Café Palazzo ($15.00); and a very disappointing sit-down brunch at Café Vettro at Aria that cost $20 each. There’s not much one can say about Mcdonald’s, except that it’s cheaper down south. The Tuscany Farm House Eggs at Grand Lux Café ($12.95) was a delicious deal: Egg white scramble, sautéed halved grape tomatoes on bruschetta and toasty hash brown. Café Vettro has a beautiful sun-filled dining room that ran out of peanut butter and tea-pot lids already at 11:30am. The fries were soggy; the ham steak hard and dried; and a very salty plate of pasta with clam in pesto sauce. The very testy female manager who blamed everyone else for her mistakes, however, topped the list.
A late lunch buffet at Paris Hotel’s La Village ($17.99) received a B+ from both of us. Stations like Savoie, Provence, Alsace offered French fares such as Duck confit, Orange Duck, Leg of lamb, Roasted pork and apples, Bouillabaisse, along with a handsome platter of cheese at the fattening dessert bar and a made-to-order crepe station. Itchy for 2-steps? Gilley’s at Treasure Island is where the dancing cowboys and cowgirls go. Their award-winning (N. America best Chili cook-off) is pretty exotic. Another fun spot we dined at was the Nine Fine Irishman Pub at New York New York. The Beer & Cheese dip paired wonderfully with the Smithwicks and Snake Bite. Being the only Chinese couple who didn’t know any of the songs the Iris Band was playing, we did enjoy watching the folks around us singing and tapping along. The young lady with long legs who performed Irish dances at the stage side was also very entertaining too.
An afternoon snack at Bellagio’s Petrossian Piano Bar was a pleasant interlude. The $15 Crab & Cucumber Roll was a piece of culinary art. Scallop Crudo was fresh and juicy ($16). There’re ample choices for the Trio of cheese which would be even better if accompanied by proper bread selection.
Inside the tacky and overly adorned Wynn we had a scrumptious dinner at The Buffet. From salad to dessert, Asian dishes to Alaska King Crab legs, each item was professionally prepared and presented. The array of seductive feast, including melt-in-your-mouth Prime-rib roast, rack of lamb, made-to-order pasta station, energy-filled wok-fried meats and vegetables; plus many more pace-yourself courses, were definitely worthy of $38.95.
Chinese Cuisine at Vegas
While one could find a Chinese restaurant in almost every hotel establishment, Chinatown (Off Spring Mountain Road) still offers the best value in Chinese dining. The now bigger and more noticeable Chinatown houses a handful of decent Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese and Thai restaurants. The dinner we had at Sam Woo BBQ soothed our hunger for Cantonese cuisine, though their BBQ meats could be more moist and didn’t look like they’ve been hanging for at least a couple of hours. We enjoyed the Pork stomach & preserved mustard green soup; loved their Tofu Hotpot and wiped out the plate of wok-fried green. However, though rated highly by Zagat, please do not apply the Vancouver standard here at Sam Woo.
What about Chinese food inside the Vegas hotels? They are mostly vogue-designed restaurants with new Asian menus. You can probably get an okay meal of dimsum, chowmein and fried rice at about $20 each (don’t mind the MSG!). Sorry but we had no desire to try the $33.80 per order of Pork Chowmein, the $62 1-course Peking Duck and limited menu choices in these fine-dining Chinese restaurants with hefty price tags. Yes, we’re completely spoiled by the good-value Chinese restaurants in Vancouver!
Oh, if you’re ‘lucky’ enough to dine in any of the fine Chinese restaurants, send us an email and let us know how you enjoy it.