Sunday, February 19, 2012

Saturday Vegas 3: Mon Ami, Milos, Fleur, Bartolotta & Bar Masa again




“Steam billows, and the teapot, fragrant. I enter a state of desires diminishing within the stillness of further pleasure. Nothing course, or superficial. This is drinking tea.”

The Minister of Leaves from the mint tea I’m savouring at Mon Ami Gabi for breakfast again. Organic Mint Fields, it’s called, from The Republic of Tea. No Chamomile today but no problem. I’m actually able to drink it with no sweetener, something normally only possible for me with Jasmine tea.

Had a craving last night for ginger beer. I’m sure that’s in anticipation of the candied ginger that goes with the grapefruit here, along with mint leaves.

Now at Milos for the 2nd time. This time with no lunch reservation but it’s not a problem. The server actually thanks me for patronizing the place twice this week. I order the same thing, only this time instead of tea, a wine pairing, a cheap Greek wine Anna the server recommends when I order the Lavraki. She also tells me it’s the main dish at Milos. Not eating it here would be like going to Ivars House of Clams and not having the clam chowder. Anna also insists I dip a piece of bread in the olive oil at the bottom of the salad. It is unearthly good. Fish as good as it was on Tuesday.

If Mt. San Michel is called The Wonder of the West, so is this Lavraki. After I have the fruit plate, Anna tells me I should have had the walnut cake because it’s made with gum from trees that grow only on one specific Greek island and thus have a unique flavour. Lunch was already a profound experience.

In the nearby Chandelier Bar. Decide to have a cocktail before leaving City Centre. I’d read about a drink called The Sage 75 which I see on the menu. When I order it, I’m told the bar is out of sage. I had the French 75 at L’Atelier, the little cocktail that could on Monday night, because the Sage 75 was based on it, and now I’m not getting the beverage I had been anticipating. Instead, I order a Lime in the Coconut. Thankfully Harry Neilson remains dead. Hangar 1 Kaffir Lime, Crème de Cacao, Coconut cream. The drink gets more subtle as it goes along. Never overwhelmingly coconut of lime, but pleasantly blended. I have been craving coconut of late, because every time I enter the Excalibur, I smell the coconut liqueur Malibu. Must be a popular hotel drink. Coconuts are forever tied to King Arthur because of the Monty Python sketch from Holy Grail. Hope I don’t get carried away by an African sparrow.

Later I walk the considerable distance from The Excalibur to The Wynn for my reservation at its seafood palace, Bartolotta de la Mare. Will the fish be as good as Milos, I wonder? A decent cocktail and a vast langostine appear before me. Apparently I have to wrest the meat from it myself. A mess is soon made. The fish is sold by the 100 grams, but sometimes they have the course on the menu, and sometimes not. I end up with Gilt-head sea bream, new to me, in a very mild sauce. Stress the word “very.” As always on this trip, some excellent vegetables accompany the fish. A good meal overall, but not one worth walking 7 miles for. On my way back, I stop in at Bar Masa to see if the Maitaki are as good as 3 days ago. Nope. But I’ll be back in Vegas one of these days, and I’ll have them again.

Fleur for me was a welcoming place, a home away from home. The red sangria reminded me what I drink at home. Fleur’s sangria could have used an additional straining but it was better than I’m used to and the best I had in Vegas. In a service industry town, Fleur’s service was a step above everyone else, perhaps because I was a regular. When the gnocchi, my favourite item, disappeared from the menu I received a detailed explanation for its absence, first from my server Faryal, then Chef Keller, then the General Manager David Oseas who gave me the good news that they were planning to bring it back. My server Jill informed me that she was leaving Vegas after 10 years here, and going back to Florida. “These people at Fleur are like a family to me,” she said and I felt that as well. David told me about a TV show called The Big Time that would spotlight Fleur and a week later, I see the show. It’s all about chefs competing – not a format I would pay any attention to if it weren’t set at Fleur. Chef Keller is as mellow as ever, even when he’s evicting contestants. The most unsettling thing about the show for me was those wonderful chairs and hallways I found such great relaxation in were the site of conflict and tension- the opposite of my Fleur experience.

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