Grand Canal Shoppes, Las Vegas, NV
Our last night in Vegas ended with a bang — not just with me hitting 4 Deuces on video poker, nor eating at Mario Batali’s more casual place, but there may have been some alcohol imbibed, including at the slightly odd but ultimately pleasant Double Helix. Thus, my memories of this meal are a little hazy, in that I could have sworn I must have had an appetizer, but in looking over the appetizers, I don’t think I did. How strange.
Anyway, present me with gnocchi, and I’ll get it. However, Mario decided I wasn’t worthy or something. However, he did offer me a cauliflower ragu with chili and rosemary over rigatoni; far be it from me to decline:
What’s that on the side, you ask? Why it’s brussel sprouts and pecorino. Like I was going to pass that up. I would like to think that I calmly enjoyed the meal and savored every bit. That would be a lie: I inhaled it. Yes, it’s easy to make pasta vegetarian-friendly, but you can miss the earthiness and texture meat can provide: not here. The ragu was slightly spicy, but not overwhelmingly so; it just made the dish incredibly homey and perfectly seasonal. Rick had the rigatoni as well, but he opted for meat — pork belly, to be specific:
And beets on the side, natch. He too raved, as did Sara about her octopus salad. Sure, the $25 restaurant.com gift certificate put just a little dent in the bill, but it was a nice dent; the pastas are in the upper teens, which I thought was very reasonable (I thought the salads were overpriced though at $14). The service was largely efficient, and the setting, though cheesy because of the canal-ness of it all, was fun — great people-watching. With so many options in Vegas, it’s hard to say that I will return places (save for something like the liquored lemonade stand outside of Caesars or Bouchon), but I think I might consider it: reasonably priced Italian food on the Strip? Sure.
Mandalay Place, Las Vegas, NV
Back we were for another meal at Mandalay Place, in the running for the saddest mall in Vegas with the shops at Stratosphere and, at least right now, Crystals. I had long had Burger Bar in my crosshairs, because, well, who doesn’t like a good burger? It’s just that we’re rarely in that part of town, and when we had walked past it, it’d always had a long line. Also, I’d heard conflicting reports. That being said, after seeing Hubert Keller on Top Chef Masters, I needed to get there because he’s just adorable and obviously amazing.
However, we were able to walk right in for a table of six, though it was a bit crowded. One look at the beer list and I knew this was a place I liked: Delerium Tremens on tap. Seriously. I think that is the first time I’ve ever seen that, so I was happy. I started with that, of course, and then ordered what seemed appealing but also appropriate: (apparently) Hubert’s favorite, consisting of buffalo with blue cheese, caramelized onions and spinach accompanied by skinny fries. I also ordered an adult shake with much, coffee and caramel and Bailey’s. Yeah, that was going to suck.
In fact, none of it sucked. The burger, though messy, was thoroughly tasty, if not a bit nasty to look at:
Though it was a bit messy, the bun did a great job of keeping everything together. And, the mess came more from the slipperiness of the onions than any sort of disproportionality: that is, there was just enough of everything, instead of them trying to cram everything on there to the point of inedibility.
The milkshake was a tasty and adult way to end the meal:
Surprisingly, it wasn’t overpoweringly heavy nor sweet: it was, simply, perfect. Burger Bar is not cheap, but I thought I got my money’s worth, frankly. You’re not going there for the bargains but for burgers done well. In her recap of her Vegas adventures (must try Society on the next trip), Sara preferred her hometown burger, which I can understand, and I do want to try the apparently amazing Village Burger, but Burger Bar was darn good.