Vegas, I owe you an apology and I am deeply sorry. I imagined you were still a land of $5.99 all you can eat buffets that bake under heat lamps all day long, gathering the germs and bacteria of a thousand semi-comatosed gambling junkies. I thought there would be little to do but waste away the day at the one-armed bandits, while sipping watered-down, comped drinks. I’m sorry Vegas, I was wrong.
Not being the least bit lucky at gambling, I never had a desire to visit Vegas until recently. Two things gave me a bit of hope for the food scene here. The first was last season’s Top Chef on Bravo. It took place here in the restaurants of Vegas and when I saw the calibre of the chefs here, I thought there may be more to this town than slots.
What sealed the deal for me was one of my food-heroes, Anthony Bourdain, visited and wrote about Vegas. Tony gave the food rave reviews, so I knew it was worth a look (er taste…).
Luckily for Andrew and I, we had the inside track. One of our friends is a native of Las Vegas and agreed to meet us for our first weekend. We spent the weekend at the stunning Aria hotel and casino, which just opened in December. Aria gets high marks for style but takes the in-room technology a bit too the extreme.
Saturday, we spent the day with our friends exploring the various themed casinos. The decor at some of these places is so over the top it’s a bit hard to believe. For our Saturday night dinner, the four of us visited Sage. The decor, wine and food was all to perfection. I had a yellowtail starter and lamb main course and both exceeded my expectations.
Sunday we had the buffet champagne brunch at Aria with our friends and their family. This was not the typical heat-lamp buffet. The food was great, fresh and varied. (The champagne was pretty good too). After lunch we explored the art galleries and shopping centre that are part of the new Aria complex.
Andrew and I had a lazy afternoon and then met up with our friends to check out the MiX lounge at THE Hotel (now Delano Las Vegas) at Mandalay Bay. With a name like THE Hotel, you can expect it to be pretty glamourous and it was. MiX is located on the 61st floor and offers an incredible view of the Strip. I’m hoping to get back there with my camera.
Vegas is the land of excess so when in Rome (or Vegas) sometimes you need to act like the Romans do and jump in a limo instead of a cab. We headed over to the Wynn resort for supper at Okada, a Japanese restaurant, where we were joined by two more friends of our friends. We ate the freshest sushi I have ever had in addition to some incredible Kobe beef and other delicious dishes. The company, food and drinks were all superb and we had a great night. (Update Jan 2016: Unfortunately, Okada has since closed which is a shame since it was one of the best sushi experiences we’ve had.)
Monday it was time to switch locations to the MGM Grand hotel for Andrew’s work conference. The Grand is a bit older than Aria so our room was a bit of a let-down after the luxury of Aria. That said, the bed is still more comfortable than my bed at home and somebody else cleans the bathroom so I can’t complain. There are some pretty impressive food options here at the Grand as well, although we haven’t had the opportunity to try them yet.
With Andrew at his conference from 7am until 9pm every day, I’ve had lots of time to explore the Strip. I’ve been in just about all of the resort casinos now, visited the lions here at the Grand and the Shark Reef at Mandalay Bay. I’ve taken load of photos already and hope to get out for some night shots in the next couple of days. I’ve also managed to get in a little retail therapy and I’ve walked for miles. At least I can justify a few of those delicious calories.
There is so much to see and do here that we are faced with the dilemma of how to spend the little bit of free time we have here together. We are still debating a trip out to the Grand Canyon, although it will be rushed, or maybe catching a show and some more great food here in Vegas. Whatever we decide, I’m looking forward to our last few days here in Vegas.