Thursday, September 18, 2008

Eat. Drink. Vegas.

Fall leaves at the Bellagio...bellissimo!

You don't have to hit it big to eat well in Vegas. With increased fare-friendly access to short-stay travelers, and a cozy desert climate on a city filled with hotel deals, Las Vegas has become an bullseye for the food-centric. Skip the obvious hotspots for now like Sensi, Michael Mina or the high-end Bellagio buffet. In fact, you can even eat on the (relative) cheap. Here are my Top 5 discoveries and ticked-off Vegas Must-Try's... all of them right on the Strip:

5. Nathan's in the Luxor Food Court: Newsflash! New Yorker's you can go home again—in Sin City. Chili dog, limp crinkle fries and an assortment of watered-down sodas in monster sizes. Since the bloated-latter-day-Elvis-look is expected for a weekend of high-rollin', make this your first stop. It's a great warm-up if you plan to drop bigger bucks on a more special meal!

4. Nothing puts the polish on post-modern Vegas like celebrity chefdom. Bobby Flay wins more of my respect at his Mesa Grill brunch. Spicy scrambled eggs seem cliché until you taste: Golden, velvet folds laced with butter and crisp jalepeños. Served with black pepper biscuits and a side of chewy, salty parmesan grits (blessed with big, bad Bobby Love, we spied him at a back table watching the game!). The superfly touch was the white peach margarita. WORD. Definitely try this at home. Try several.

3. Despite my own recent frozen treat-making frenzies, the multitude of gelaterias in the malls, food strips and hotels makes it impossible not to try at least one—even if it is $5 a cup. Lemon and watermelon sorbetti at Cafe Gelato in the Bellagio was a much needed late night snack after a solitary stroll up and down this uber-renowned strip!

2. When adult Disneyfication got me down, I transported myself at Mon Ami Gabi with rude waiters, rare steak, light, crispy frites and crusty warm baguette. This is the way to eat entrecote saignant, snails and sinful frisee and bacon salade.The refreshing 'Frangria' a French wine inspired was a nice girly-booze touch. I wish I'd room for the Apple Tarte Tatin and Bananas Foster Crepe. Or, went back in the a.m. for the waffles and...oui, oui... blueberry French toast!

1. Jean Philippe Patisserie ("the JPP"). Extravagant yet incredibly simple. I had to go twice. Pushing through the hordes checking-in for an off-peak week at Bellagio, the JPP is tucked in the Spa Tower just beyond the botanical garden (under renovation as of this writing). It's the patisserie for anyone who's ever obsessed over quality ingredients. Check out the rice crispy tree and lush chocolate fountain; sandwiches, salads and pastries vie for attention like works of modern art. The standouts for me were Banana toffee crunch gelato and King crab salad served with fresh mango, papaya and a lemon vinaigrette! They even sell their own peanut butter, honey and jams! With its opulent glass flora and the Clooney-Pitt connection, Bellagio is prime Vegas. And, now, there's another reason to go. Pictures don't even do it justice, the Jean Philippe Patisserie needs to be experienced. If I never go again, at least I've gone.

Old Vegas Lives. But, don't eat there.
(please click pic to enlarge)