Thursday, February 23, 2012

U.S. Adventures: Vegas, Baby! (Part 2)

English: The Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas SignImage via Wikipedia
And...the first part of a post of which I have already posted the second part. Enjoy....

Some people go to Las Vegas for gambling, some go for the shows (and apparently some go for the very short skirts). Me, I go for the food.  And to meet up with a very dear friend who I met when I lived in San Francisco, and who remains one of my closest friends. She needed to get away, I was tired of everyone telling me about how great the food is in Vegas, so it seemed perfect.   She was happy to let me plan every meal and accompany me as my date.
Upon my arrival the first night, it was dinner time in Vegas (even though it was like 10:00 p.m. Indy time) and I was excited to start our marathon of food!  I quickly checked in to the room and went down to have dinner at Jaleo, one of the restaurants in our hotel, The Cosmopolitan.  Jaleo is a restaurant from Chef José Andrés, and is a Spanish tapas restaurant.  We caught up, drank (too much) and enjoyed some food.  Honestly, the food highlight was probably our simplest dish, which was toasted bread with a fresh, light tomato spread and white anchovies ($10) with some Jamon Iberico ($15) and Manchego ($9) alongside. I loved the tomato spread.  We also had the Ensaladilla rusa con atun en conserva (a salad type dish of conserved tuna, potatoes and egg ($9) and a Brussels sprouts salad with Serrano ($10).  But truly, the real highlight of this meal was the girl talk.  It is a fun lively restaurant, but nothing food-wise totally wowed me.

The Cosmopolitan
3708 Las Vegas Blvd., South
Las Vegas, NV 89109

Our lunch the next day we ended up at China Poblano, which is another venture of Chef Andrés, and also in the Cosmopolitan.  I really enjoyed this one.  I liked the seemingly completely incongruous menu of Chinese and Mexican small plates.  The flavors in the dishes were flashy and I really liked everything.  We had several tacos, my favorite probably being the carnitas taco ($4.50) with a little avocado and fried pork rinds on top, although the fried fish taco has an amazing, and quite hot, salsa verde hiding under the fish.  And there were chipotle pickled red onions across the top. We also had a lengua taco (tongue) ($4.00) and scallop ceviche ($12.00).  The ceviche was fun—little scallops stacked on top of a seasoned lime half which you popped in your mouth together to squeeze the juice out of with your teeth.  My favorite of the Chinese items was probably the “dancing eggplant” ($9.88) which was a lightly fried whole Chinese eggplant (you know, the ones that are more long and skinny) which was served in a teriyaki/soy thick smoky sauce with black garlic, and had wispy flakes of bonito laying all over the top, and any slight breeze (just from the airflow in the room) made them dance.  Not only was it visually beautiful, but it was delicious.  We also had some lovely pork belly/shrimp dumplings ($12.88). For dessert, there was a dish called “Giggling Buddha taking a bath” that involved blood orange sorbet and because of the name, I just had to try it.  It was really cute.  There was pomegranate gelee (fancy name for jello) shaped like a Buddha head, belly and feet swimming in a bowl of "tequila air" and bubbles and with scoops of blood orange sorbet.  It was fun, and refreshing (and I love blood orange).

China Poblano
The Cosmopolitan
3708 Las Vegas Blvd., South
Las Vegas, NV 89109

China Poblano (Cosmopolitan) on Urbanspoon

Dinner that evening was Raku, which was a place my friend was really excited about.  This is a really interesting place—it is not a restaurant on the strip. It is a few miles off the strip in what is essentially Vegas’ Chinatown.  It was really cool just to experience another part of Vegas, a more local side.  Anyway, it is a Japanese robota (charcoal) grill restaurant and one of the first things you notice about it is the extreme soothing and well-thought out décor.  The walls and table are all warm woods, and even the containers of sauces on the table were beautiful.  Don’t even get me started on the bathroom, where there is grass with stepping stones and a tree with birds that are singing and rose petals artfully arranged on the floor.  I would go back just for this.  But the food was a piece of art in itself as well.  Again, it is a small plates shared style of eating, which suits me just fine.  One of the food highlights was the agedashi tofu ($10) which is their own housemade tofu that is somehow very lightly fried on the outside edge and served in a lovely broth with teeny little mushrooms.  When you break the tofu with your spoon, it is like the richest creamiest custard you can imagine.  There was salmon roe on top that popped in your mouth with each bite. My friend could not get over this dish. She said she would eat it every day for the rest of her life if she could. The charcoal grilled items we had were buttery scallops ($7.00 each) and Kobe beef skirt skewers ($7.50 each) with crispy garlic.  Both were good, but the Kobe beef was better.  Slightly chewy from the fat content, but still wonderfully seasoned and perfectly bite sized and the garlic was a nice crispy counterpoint. Crunchy asparagus spears were a good side dish to get a little bit of vegetables but with crunchy bread crumbs fried on the outside.  Yellowtail carpaccio ($12) was buttery and served with just the right, slightly spicy, thick soy based sauce and teeny dabs of wasabi and chili paste. Finally, one of the more interesting dishes was the crispy pig ear ($3).  Having had pigs’ ears before, but where the pieces were really thin and deeply fried and crunchy, these were different.  They were crisply fried on the outside, but left in thicker pieces (but still bite sized).  They were slightly chewy from the cartilage of the ear, but not so much that it was unpleasant.  The only downside about this place is that they serve bluefin tuna on their menu which is highly endangered.  I really wish they didn’t, but I thought I would put it out there for your information.  This place is quite small, and quite popular, so make a reservation if you go.

Aburiya Raku
5030 S. Spring Mountain Road, #2
Las Vegas, NV 89146

Raku on Urbanspoon

It was an amazing whirlwind trip to Vegas, and a perfect getaway.  You really can just plan a long weekend around food with a little bit of this and that in between. Can't wait to go again--so many more places to try! 

Enhanced by Zemanta


  1. Jessica in NoblesvilleFebruary 23, 2012 at 7:02 PM

    The food sounds delicious, the pictures look great ... but what I really want is a picture of the bathroom at Raku!

  2. Jessica, we tried to get a picture of the bathroom. It was completely impossible due to the size, to get any kind of picture that made sense. She even took a narrated video on her phone and you still can't follow it... I will look again and see if there is anything useful. totally worth seeing though. I told hubby I have to take him there...