July 30th, 2008

Las Vegas wrap-up

I’ve been recovering from my trip. Here’s a quick wrap up of the other places I ate when I was in Vegas.


Mr. Lucky’s, Hard Rock Hotel


Steve has been talking up these waffles for ages. He has been to a plethora of bachelor parties in Vegas and every time he gets excited for these waffles. He was plotting and planning and how he would get his waffle fix this trip.


One night, our friend Doug was passing time waiting for Steve to get knocked out of the midnight bridge game (yes, you can play bridge at midnight.). Doug managed to win over $600 bucks at video poker in under 2 hours. The man is skilled. He took us out for breakfast the next day.


Mr Lucky’s is the Hard Rock’s 24-hour eatery. The waffle was a sad and floppy affair. The thing that makes waffles great and distinctive from pancakes is the crispy exterior surrounding a light and fluffy interior. Without it, a waffle is just a pancake that someone with golf cleats danced on. I wished someone would have danced on this waffle, peat would have at least added some flavor. There were greasy home fries that were clearly frozen, and imitation syrup. Ick, I had one disappointing breakfast. I think Steve needs some waffle re-education.


Daniel Payard Patisserie and Rao’s, Caesar’s Palace


Bri and I had one night out on the town, after our opponents concede the match early, so we hit the strip. Caesar’s is where R and I eloped 5 years ago and I thought it would be fun to return to the scene of the crime. Unfortunately, the garden/pool area was closed. We had eaten dinner earlier, but were on the prowl for dessert. We first went to Daniel Payard Patisserie; I got a dulce de leche gelato, but Bri wasn’t interested in any of the pastries. I thought the gelato was excellent. Right next door to Payard was Rao’s. The original Rao’s is in NYC; it has ten tables and is nearly impossible to get into. The Rao’s in Vegas is large and spacious, with no wait. Somehow dessert morphed into a salad of marinated seafood (lobster, clams, calamari, etc), an order of their famous meatballs and a glass of wine that Bri would not stop raving about. The salad was excellent; light, tender and refreshing. The meatballs were enormous; slightly smaller than a baseball. I thought the meat was bland, but the tomato sauce was delicious.


Amena Organic Arabic Deli & Bakery


One of our teammates, Lon, mentioned an excellent Middle Eastern place that he has tried earlier in the week. Its way off the strip, so we piled in to the air-conditioned car and off we went. I asked how he knew about this place. He told me that his partner Ivanie read about a website called chowhound. I told him I was familiar with it J.


Amena is a small, bare bones restaurant in a strip mall. The owner was very friendly and Bri asked him to bring a good selection of food for the 5 of us. Out came chicken shawarma, beef shawarma, hommus, baba ghanoush, falafel, salad and pita bread. I thought the beef and chicken were dry, but the rest of it was great. The pita was fantastic; it was homemade, thick and supple, a perfect vehicle for the rest of the food. The falafel was outstanding, in a way no falafel in Vegas has a right to be. It was easily the best falafel I’ve ever had. The baba ghanoush was perfectly creamy and smoky. I spread the baba ghanoush on the fluffy pita, piled some falafel and salad on and voila, the perfect Middle Eastern sandwich.  

2101 S. Decatur Blvd (at O' Bannon, north of Sahara/south of Oakey)
Suite 9 - in the Trader Joe's Shopping Center
Las Vegas, NV 89102


Lawry’s Prime Rib


It was my last meal in Vegas. The adrenaline of victory had transformed to a warm blissful glow, and I had a big juicy piece of prime rib in front of me. The moment could not have been better. Lawry’s was the first reservation I made when I decided I was going to Vegas. The 30’s theme is a little kitschy, with our waitress in aproned outfit, referring to herself as “Miss Wilson.” The spinning salad is cute, and the Yorkshire pudding is nice, but the prime rib is phenomenal. I dream of this prime rib. Last time I was in Vegas, my “vegetarian” friend Danny devoured his prime rib.


Despite how full we were, dessert seemed an appropriate indulgence. Steve had the key lime pie, I had the chocolate cake and Bri had the coconut banana cream pie. The key lime was definitely the best; it was creamy, tart and tangy, a perfect foil to the heavy meal. My chocolate cake was bland and mealy, Bri’s pie was a monstrosity of custard and whipped cream. What I want to know is how a man with such awful taste in waffles, managed to out order me and Bri, not once (rosemary’s), but twice?


Miss Wilson mentioned that two years ago, Lawry’s looked in to a Boston location, but the deal fell through. If anyone from Lawry’s is listening: COME TO BOSTON, PLEASE!


That’s all folks!


El Oriental de Cuba, Jamaica Plain

Until today, I didn’t understand the Cuban sandwich. It seems like a strange combination of meat; pork loin, which is usually dry and overcooked and ham, which is fine, but two pork products in one sandwich? I’m also not a fan of Swiss, give me cheddar, mozz or provolone any day of the week.


But the Cuban sandwich here is famed to be the best in Boston, so we had to order it. I also got the beef tongue in sauce. It came with sweet fried plantains and rice and beans.

It was an excellent meal. I was really impressed by the Cuban. It was zen in a sandwich; all the flavors were perfectly balanced. The saltiness of the pork, the tang of the pickles, the crunch of the lettuce and toasted bread all came together in a harmonious bite. It was really delicious.


The tongue was also great. It was tender and flavorful. The plantains were sweet and caramelized and the rice and beans were great mixed in with the sauce. I love tongue, but R is still a little bit squeamish about it: “it’s weird to taste something that could be tasting you.”


The space is small, but cheerful. I can imagine it would get quite crowded during prime meal times.  We wanted to try the flan, but we were in a rush. Not to worry, we’ll definitely by back.