Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Vegas Ate: Sunday and Monday

Feb 10 Sunday

By booking early, I was lucky enough to get a noon flight from Vancouver to Vegas. Appeared overcast out the plane window and the shuttle to the Luxor had a few drops on the windshield, but they did not prepare me for the evening's soaking. Yelp reviews warned against the long wait to check in and were not inaccurate, though Luxor had sent me an email earlier telling me I had pre-checked in. This did not keep me from waiting in line. More detail on how to avoid said line would have been appreciated. I got into my room, which seemed pleasant, and changed into another shirt. Did the appropriate unpacking. Decided to find out how to get to the Strip from Luxor. It was more complicated than I expected. A considerable outside walk took me to the Excalibur, my previous home base, and connected by a bridge to New York, New York, a good place to start one's venture into the Strip. I leave the hotel by the back and the rain has commenced, but I have brought an umbrella. I make it to the Park MGM without serious wetness. Then a long indoor walk to their tram to the Bellagio and my welcomed meal at Le Cirque. The Park was the Monte Carlo when I was last here, and Eataly tempts as I discover it on my way to the distant tram. It's surprisingly cold outside, though I am warmly dressed. Wind is no friend.
Le Cirque is a great place to start, and a great place to finish one's culinary explorations in Vegas. You don't have to worry if it will be good or not. Your only concern is to how good it will be. I'm cold, so request a cup of chamomile. It warms me up. For an amuse bouche, I get a tiny tartlette of duck in a duck-friendly collection of pretend plants. It is not the best duck I've ever eaten, but not bad. Next, a veloute of artichokes, poured over an egg. Well, the veloute was a good idea in itself. Egg should have remained in its shell.
Veloute sounds like velvet, and that's what the dish should resemble. Thickly luxurious. Make those vegetables sing! Chickens, remain unborn for a bit. My tea cup is refilled. I'm happy dining and tea-ing at the same time, no booze needed. Next, lobster risotto. OK, I'm not really capable of eating rice, but in tiny quantities, this can work. It is a Le Cirque-quality dish, and suitably tiny. But diminutude was just warming up. I requested a glass of wine for the langoustine.

Roasted Brittany Langoustine
caviar lemon, buerre blanc
Supplement additional

I assumed it would be a big langoustine, and a small glass of wine. The opposite occurred. The langoustine was the size of my thumb. It would have worked better in a restaurant in Lilliput. The glass of wine loomed over the rest of the meal. It was a very good langoustine, Was it worth a supplement of $40 plus an equal amount for said glass of once-grapes? Of course not. Nothing is worth $80 for a few grams of protein and some grapey confluence. But I'm still in my appetizer phase. Next up, the Meat. The best piece of chicken I've ever had in a restaurant.

Roasted Organid Jidori Chicken
wild mushrooms, asparagus, foie gras sauce
That's what the online menu says. A typo I assume, but maybe Le Cirque has a new kind of chicken, the organid. Maybe it plays the organ.

It's bigger than a thumb. It has asparagus and mushrooms, which fight over whether to compliment or subtract (the asparagus) from my enjoyment of the dead bird. The meal itself is the winner. Some peary ice creamy thing follows.
I have always left Le Cirque happy.

Had a reservation at L'Atelier for their version of langoustines later. Had some time and had to go through the new Park MGM Hotel on my way to the MGM Grand. Heard wondrous things about the NoMad bar, both the hamburger and the cocktails. One of NYC's top bars can certainly do wondrous things for my cocktail-loving palate. OK, gimme your yuzu drink. It's called Nod to Nothing and it consists of gin, lemon, green tea, apricot liqueur, yuzu, sage. It was largely ice. There was enough of that going on outside. The drink wasn't bad and I thank it for getting me into yuzu, an old friend from many years in Japan. Would later go on to some amazing yuzu cocktails elsewhere. Still, it was a tiny cocktail. Mostly ice.
Then out into the snow. It's not a long walk from the Park MGM to the New York, New York which has a bridge over to the MGM Grand. While walking over said bridge, people around me were yelling about the snow. OK. I came down here from Vancouver to get away from that weather.
I had a great cocktail with the langoustine fritters at L'Atelier before. I requested it. It was so far off their menu, they had no recollection of ever having it. When I mentioned yuzu, they brought out an actual yuzu fruit and grated it over my drink. It was considerably bigger than the drink at NoMad. I'm not sure I'd say better, but it wasn't bad and its vastness impressed me. It's hard to say which langoustine was better. At L'Atelier, there were two, which is twice as much as Le Cirque offered. As always, they bring me the foamy fois amuse and the little bowl of Robuchon's potato-flavoured butter. It took a long time to finish the cocktail. My servers began calling me by name as soon as I sat down and went on throughout the small meal and large drink. Did they remember me from my frequent appearances at L'Atelier or just from the reservation? It was pleasant. I was there not just to compare shellfish but to pay my respects to the founder of the feast, the late Joel Robuchon. May his potatoes keep on clogging arteries forever. 

Back across the bridge to the NYNY and then on its other bridge to Excalibur. Then through its tunnel to the Luxor. I had read terrible reviews of the hotel, and it did take a LONG time to check in, but aside from that, it's quite nice. My room is great. On the 3rd floor so close to the main floor and therefore, to the Excalibur and the Mandalay Bay, making it very convenient. 

Audio: https://s3-us-west-2.amazonaws.com/autobkiography/Vegas+Ate%2C+Sunday.mp3


Bought a 3-day Deuce pass for $20. The Deuce doesn't stop at the Venetian, for 2 years in a row now but, though cold and windy, I take Wynn's bridge to the Palazzo, a hotel I don't know. Saw its conservatory's pig decoration for Chinese New Years. Not as impressive as the Bellagio's amazing display, but not bad.

 Then through the acres of slot machines to the elevator up to Bouchon. Of course, they no longer feature exquisite soup, but I can count on their Quiche Florentine. It doesn't disappoint. Always makes you feel good to walk through the Venetian. Then the Deuce to Flamingo. I must have just missed the Flamingo bus because I wait half an hour for another. Then a considerable ride to Pizzeria Monzu, which I had read great things about. Special dough from Sicily. Interesting appetizers. Swordfish! At night, you can only get a whole pie, but for lunch they promise one big slice. Actually it's two, plus a salad. My server raves about a fennel salad so I go with that as it seems to be part of the lunch set. Small amount of money (I'm drinking tap water. It's considerably better than the tea at Bouchon, which used to have great tea, long ago). I order mushrooms and peppers on the pizza, but they are few and their moisture is missed. The 2 slices are actually more than I can eat, and they aren't very good to begin with. Same with the salad. They give me a serious saw of a knife expecting my difficulty cutting it. But it's not worth the effort.

 Another long, cold wait and then back to my hotel. Will try ride sharing for the first time to get me to Partage for dinner.
Had no idea Lyft rides come so quickly. Drivers only stick around for 5 minutes. I barely make it from my room out to the front of the Luxor where the rides are. Thankfully they have my picture and I'm easy to spot. No more having to worry about having the right amount of money for the ride. Everyone who doesn't live in Vancouver knows about this already. And it's much cheaper than a cab.
I'm at Partage before it opens. When it finally does, not surprisingly, I'm the only person there. I had studied both food and drink menus on line, but discover the passion fruit cocktail on their online menu isn't on the day's cocktail menu. They agree to make it for me. I ordered 3 small dishes: crab, lobster and scallop.


Cooked in citrus & herbs salt crust dough, sunchoke puree, candied Chinese artichokes, crispy ginger



Raviolini stuffed with mascarpone, Candied lemon zest & Ginger paste lobster bisque puffed rice


French rouille sauce, fennel & Ricard jelly, Imperial ossetra caviar

They are sensational. So is my passion fruit off-menu cocktail.

Passion rosemary

Gin, Aperol, lime juice, grapefruit juice, passion fruit, rosemary

I have a craving for bananas, so order the banana cocktail. It's terrible. I complain. They replace it with a drink on their real menu called The Tropical. It is astonishing. It's a very thick drink, and I'm not fond of thick drinks unless they're tomato juice or gazpacho. A splendid blend of tropical fruit and it's a sizable libation. I'm not that full, so make the mistake of ordering the Nigerian prawn. When is a shrimp not a shrimp? I should have anticipated its vastness by the menu which tells me it's for 2 people. It comes in a pleasant sauce and the salad is great, but there's just too much.

SHRIMP U2 (for 1 or 2 persons)

Grilled & flambée with VSOP cognac, celeriac remoulade, tangerine segments, couscous & shrimp coral

My tropical cocktail is also very filling.

Tropical temptation

Rum, orgeat syrup, pineapple & mango juice, lime juice, passion fruit, angostura bitter


Orange pineapple and mango juice, coconut foam

I find myself once more sawing my meal, just as I was doing at lunch, for no greater reward.
Excessive lumber-jacking aside, I'm vastly impressed with the meal and 2 of the 3 cocktails. Maybe I'll come back to Partage again? For now, it's off to Sparrow and Wolf. 6 blocks away but its neither snowing nor raining and I'm dressed warmly enough. Also hoping the walk would give me an appetite for Sparrow's maitake dish.


Turkish Hummus, Cascabel Chili

They tell me they just took it off the menu two days before. I complain that I had walked to this restaurant from its competitor, Partage and flown down here from Canada specifically to eat it. I was depressed at the closure of Bar Masa in the Aria, whose maitake and truffles was one of my favourite things to eat. Could Sparrow and Wolf work similar magic with its maitakes? The bartender told me it was the best thing on the menu and that made it worse. Thankfully, the woman who seemed to be in charge informed me that the chef still has the ingredients and can make me one. I'm elated. My sore feet suddenly feel much less sore. I start talking with the bartender about what drinks she recommends. I tell her of the exquisite cocktails I've just consumed at Partage. She recommends Tea Thyme:
Tea Thyme
  • Jameson Black, Lemon, Earl Grey Ginger Syrup, Thyme Tincture
Should have remembered that Jameson is a whiskey. I have no love for whiskeys. The drink reflects my long standing prejudice against that spirit. The other ingredients are wonderful but the whiskey poisons them. I tell her of the yuzu cocktail I had the previous night at NoMad Bar and she says she'll make me one. She does. It's amazing. It greatly adds to my enjoyment of the maitake dish. The dish uses mushrooms as chips. Unfortunately, the hummus suffocates their excellence. The yuzu drink mitigates the maitake's suffering. It appears to be on the menu, as she makes it for many guests, but Alannah tells me she's added a few things. It's Plymouth Gin, Aperol, yuzu juice, lavender bitters, scrappies, smidgen of syrup, muddled mint, egg white. It flashes me back to the first time I had yuzu in 1971. I feel I'm suddenly sitting under a yuzu tree. She insists the male bartender Terry is the real drink wizard and he proves it by following her yuzu spectacular with his drink made from St. Germain liqueur, macha, yuzu juice, egg white and I can't read my handwriting, along with what appears to be a Chinese character on top. Quite pretty, and effective in canceling the hummus onslaught. Suddenly, my phone locks. How am I to summon a Lyft? Have I been hacked through Sparrow's wi fi? Thankfully one of the servers knows how to fix it and as soon as it works, I summon my ride. Outside waiting for my Lyft, I am accosted, although not that malevolently by a group of young men. One of them insists I interact with him, which I do as briefly as possible before the Lyft arrives. My first Lyft was there too quickly, this one, not quickly enough. I think the provocative one was the most intoxicated of the group, and his friends were very good about distracting him. Maybe I should have stayed inside Sparrow until the Lyft was actually waiting for me outside, although I found myself frequently confused by exactly where I was to be picked up. Should be able to follow them on my phone in real time, which more use of the app would no doubt facilitate. Perhaps one day it will come to Vancouver. 

audio: https://s3-us-west-2.amazonaws.com/autobkiography/Vegas+Ate%2C+Monday.mp3 

Vegas Ate: Tuesday and Wednesday

Tuesday and Wednesday

My favourite restaurants in Vegas keep disappearing. But that's okay, I usually find new ones just as good. This is what happened for my 2nd breakfast in Vegas. Instead of going outside even briefly into the cold, I walked through the Mandalay shops and then through its vast casino to the Four Seasons to sample its Veranda, a place I'd found online in searching breakfast places in Vegas. I was assured by the fact that it was in the Four Seasons that it would be good. Just had no idea how good. I ordered the frittata Bianca, which I'd lusted after on its menu online. It was extraordinary. And the service was worthy of Le Cirque. I'm given a daily paper to peruse, constantly called by name and served endless chamomile tea as good as that fine tea can get. Initially I can't open my honey jar. Nor can the server. I am then brought two pre-opened jars and my love affair with the tea commences. The Bianca looks daunting. How can I eat that much food at 7 AM? That's serious dinner quantities. But instead of overwhelming me with its quantity, it thrills me with its quality, to such an extent that as its ending looms, I try and cut smaller and smaller pieces to avoid the depression of its cessation.

 I walk by a large statue of Michael Jackson, who must have loomed as large over the young boys he preyed upon, and fill a cup of the filtered sparkling water they are offering on tap in the lobby. It's cold and good.
Back to the NoMad Bar for lunch. I'd heard Humm makes a mean burger.

 The last hamburger I recall eating was Daniel Bouloud's deluxe burger when he ran a couple of restaurants in Vancouver long ago. It was the day of Obama's inauguration. The day was very cold. The burger took me two days to eat. Two very good days. Humm's burger lived up to my expectations but the cocktail I had with it did not. No midget like its sister yuzu-implied beverage, it instead swaggered onto my table with a cucumber sash as bold as Mohamed Ali in drag. You do not want to drink a cocktail with cucumber when you're enjoying a pickle. The pickle really made the burger, but the pairing was destructive.
A great piece of art brings me as much enjoyment as a great meal or drink. Yayoi Kusama was having a show at the Bellagio so that was my afternoon plan. Still had an hour to kill before her show, stopped by Vesper, my favourite Vegas bar to see what extraordinary concoction they could create. Long benefited from their creativity, and today is not different. 

Bar queen Jennifer Yim discerns I like Tiki drinks, so she makes me one combining Alva Cachaca “Amurana,” Plantation over proof rum, Gifford banana liqueur and passion fruit liqueur, pineapple, lemon and lime juices, shook and topped with passion fruit pearls. It is a miraculous drink. Yayoi's mirrored balls are thought-provoking and her room of mirrored lights does great things to my eyes.

 An extraordinary breakfast frittata, a great burger, a wondrous drink and an art experience that expands my enjoyment of the lights I encounter while wandering the shiny, sparkly halls of the hotels means this is a great day, right? And then my Lyft takes me to Mordeo.
A kind of Mordor for food. Well, the staff is real nice. When I tell the clinging service person (owner? Chef?) that I had wondrous crab at Partage the night before, he insists that his crab is better. It is superb.

 And then things begin to descend. Trusting the online menu and reviews more than I should, I order the trout ceviche. It is hotter than the sun. Unlike Jennifer's healing helio-trophic Tiki drink, this sun is not my friend. I complain, and the cheffy guy exchanges it for another trout dish; this one, he insists isn't so strong. Well, maybe Superman isn't as strong as Superduperman but they're both coming from the wrong place. Cheffy guy sends out a glass of white wine to go with his ardently promoted crab dish and unfortunately it doesn't extend its charms to my charring tongue from the spice insult. Forced to flee from the conflagration, I summon the wetness of a white sangria. Not as good as what I drink at home, and not as wine-knowledgeable as I'd expect from a wine bar, it at least puts out the fire. Next, I risk a dish of baby scallops. Alas. They reeked of the sea. And not in a good way. That's one good dish, and three really bad dishes, plus drinks that functioned more as amelioration than even the suburbs of beverage pleasure, I vastly over tip (they are so Enthusiastic, and maybe when they learn to avoid spices and fishy seafood, they'll eventually feature edible food) I depart for what I expect to be an easy walk over to Edo tapas, which on my phone is only a few blocks away. Well, maybe I should have called for another Lyft. I have great difficulty finding the place in time for my reservation. So many strip malls! But find it I do. The chef is from Barcelona, where tapas first entered my life in a serious way. Would these be as good? I begin with a kiwi based cocktail. “We have really fresh kiwi today,” my server tells me, but I appreciate it insufficiently. Last year's was the kiwi trip. I make the mistake of ordering the lobster thing, which my menu does not mention, comes with avocado. I go out of my way to avoid this evil fruit. If only I could escape to a universe without avocados. Nonetheless, with careful, selective forking, I avoid their poison and enjoy the lobster thingie. Luckily, I order some bread with tomato gratings. The bread is from Spain, I am told. Well traveled, yes, but well flavoured? Outstanding. And remember, I'm still full from the bad food at Mordor or whatever it's called. Next up, the mushroom dish. Once more it has vanished from their real menu, but because it lives on on their online menu, they create it for me. Maitake and other mushrooms dance and cavort atop a custard of cauliflower which is so good it validates the whole trip. And that's saying a lot!

Back at my hotel early, I decide to check out its central bar, as it's on my way through the casino. I order its blackberry drink, but it somehow forgets to be a drink. It isn't shaken. It isn't stirred. It's some blackberry spirit on the bottom, and then a bunch of gin. Now, I'm no enemy of gin. Tanqueray is a fave. But I didn't order a glass of gin, I ordered an attempt to see what the bar could do with my favourite fruit. It flunked.
I had planned to venture off into Gehry land today, lulled by the unusual sun, though it was Vancouver-like cold outside; but decided Yayoi was enough art and getting out and about for one day. Didn't use my 3-day Deuce pass at all. Lyft seems reliable, and beats waiting out in the cold for a bus for half an hour. 

audio:  https://s3-us-west-2.amazonaws.com/autobkiography/Vegas+Ate%2CTuesday.mp3

Up Wednesday morning anxious to see if Veranda's Italian omelet could be as good as Tuesday's palate-boggling frittata. Once more, I am papered, spoken to pleasantly, and am generally enchanted. Their Italian omelet was perhaps the best thing I've had with eggs.

There was a time in university when I basically lived on omelets. All kinds of omelets. Tangerine omelets. Peanut butter and honey omelets. I could drift away into eggy possibility but then, as now, craved a cheese and tomato omelet above all others. Veranda's eggy wonder earthquake of tongue pleasure arose from the enchanting mushroom sauce that filled the omelet like Coltrane fills a solo. This is really what I come to Vegas, or go to any restaurant for. My wife can get these inspirations from friends or even TV shows. You always want to find a better version of what you already love. If you love pizza, there is really no Best Possible Pizza. Same with omelets, grilled cheese sandwiches, burgers, and many other rather pedestrian things. This isn't fine dining or serious expense. This is paying attention to your tongue and following where it points. Your taste buds can't let you down. They are you. This Italian omelet, along with yesterday's frittata Bianca are things that I can make at home. These are not impossible. What Edo did with its mushrooms and cauliflower would require Dona Flor to come to life with her cook books from the great Jorge Amado novel Dona Flor and her Two Husbands. (flick ain't bad, but read the book and droool.). Spending the travel points and staying in a hotel long enough to eat at all the restaurants I want to explore, and increasingly, the physical demands of endless walking takes a greater toll than it did 8 years ago, I have to evaluate, is this trip worth it? Were it to be the last, have I gotten everything I could get out of this city; these excursions, these expenses and the wear and tear on my tendons this city requires, do they balance out in my favour? That doesn't happen often in this town.

It rains on and off. Can I go downtown to bask in the expected torrents of pleasure I expect from the Gehry building? It is the last day of my 3-day pass so I must do it.
Lunch at Milos.

 It requires some convincing that I don't want the whole lunch meal, just the shrimp. They reluctantly subtract the appetizer Greek salad, which is big enough to float me to Greece on a raft of bad dreams, and the desert fruit plate. I meliorate their greed for my dracmas by ordering a wine pairing with the tomato partnering shrimpy protein. They all yelled “Opa!” I left unfull but that was a good thing. Back at Vesper, Jennifer makes me a blackberry beverage which serves as an excellent prologue to the sangrias at Hexx bar whose berry-intelligent sangrias had so besotted me last year. But alas, the micro-sangrias flunked out. They were served warm. Does any serious bartender serve a glass of sangria warm? There was ice as an afterthought but it did not mitigate the horror of warm booze uncoupling its most appealing molecules and drifting into a taste dungeon that defies all hope. The drinks were that bad. As bad as Mordeo's food. Uh, we haven't gotten to the scary bad food yet, but keep reading. Sauron lives and lives well on the Vegas strip.
The Deuce delivers me to the Bonneville Centre. I make my way to the Cleveland Center for Brain Research, the Gehry Building I had come to Vegas to gawk at. It is gawk-worthy.

 It is also a long walk, and overcast clouds diminished visual enthrallment. I walked as briskly as possible to the Downtown Cocktail Room. It is a long walk, but their cocktails are renowned in this town. I was in need of one. Instead I had 3, but none of them were very good. The three together were smaller in size than the drink I'd had earlier at Vesper, which was infinitely better. There is a lesson here. The brain center building by Gehry spoke eloquently to the disordered brain. I have watched my parents and others drift off into dementia, where perception is gradually at odd angles to reality. Maybe this center can help. With some difficulty and help from a fellow patron at Downtown, I catch my Lyft ride to the Palms. Serious traffic, so I call to explain my tardiness. It is appreciated, but seemingly unnecessary. I am called “darling,” but not for the first time. It turns out to be my longest Lyft ride. The driver tells me there are 40,000 shared ride drivers cruising Vegas. My next driver tells me it's 80,000. No wonder its easy to get a lift. I take the lift up to Vetri, the Italian restaurant I had such high expectations of. Were the expectations met?
Beautiful view. Really nice toilet. Decent cocktail. Opening with the porcetta, it shuffled into the territory of fine dining. It didn't live there, but it flirted with my palate. Alas, I was next delivered a board of dishes so vast, I could never consume them and live. A token bite or two was imperiling enough, and I had another dish ordered, the gnocchi. As I said, the view was exquisite. The server kept calling me “darling,” although she appeared not much older than my grand daughters, it was kind of endearing, as opposed to the food. The dishes reminded me of General Grant's strategy in the American Civil War. The Chinese in the Korean war. Prevail with numbers, despite the casualties. That's what I felt was attempted by Vetri's dishes, but in vain. The wall held. Really great food never made its appearance amidst the onslaught of food that struggled feebly to be very good.

 I could have been depressed, but the setting was impressive and I'd changed my reservation for 2nd dinner from the highly anticipated swordfish at Pizzeria Monzu to return to Partage to see if its drinks and bites were really that good. Uh, no. Should have stuck with the swordfish.
The crab divinity at Partage still retained a shadow of it previous excellence, but the drinks plummeted into a hellish negation of what they had been not many hours before. The passion fruit pleasure fell into a kind of metallic grating that attacked my tongue beyond its capacity for defence. The Tropical seemed like seeing a person with a head and feet but with no body. The drink's qualities were so distantly apart, you could spot a distant universe from their boundaries. And what's worse, the bartenders had no interest in fixing this oddity. Only a waiter who looked like the Firesign patron and popular actor John Goodman was at all friendly. Perhaps because they were so much busier on Wednesday than Monday, they may have not had time to humour my tastes as they did when I was their only challenge. But the result of their disinterest creates my disinterest of ever dining with them again, of ever trusting that something on their online or real menu would resonate with the excellence it displayed on previous consumption. OK, on to Sparrow and Wolf to see it it yuzu cocktails still cook. Yes they do. Yuzu still shines in the excellence with which it is displayed. I spend a long time talking with a man from NoMad. I tell him he makes good burgers. He knows already.

audio: https://s3-us-west-2.amazonaws.com/autobkiography/Vegas+Ate%2C+Wednesday.mp3

Vegas Ate: Thursday and Friday


Back to Veranda to see if it's frittata Bianca is as good as it was 2 days ago. Well, not quite, but it's still a splendid way to break one's fast. I decline the toast this time, and instead, I'm brought a small plate of fruit. Exactly what I wanted, but hadn't known possible. Veranda is the kind of place that, when you wake up, you're ecstatic knowing you'd be going there and plunging into its divine food soon. Not many places like that.
It is pissing outside. Great waves of water pummel the strip. Thankfully, not much outdoorsing in planned today. Instead, I have the first lunch at Eataly, specifically their sit down restaurant where I order the seafood Misti after bringing over a limoncello-based cocktail (not as good as it should have been. Maybe soda instead of
Proseco? Had an unpleasant bitter edge which did not help it pair with the seafood.) Barely above food-court food and drink. I had such high hopes for Eataly. Alas. I make my way over to the Aria for Julian Serrano's apricots and scallops that so delighted me last year. This time, the delight factor had vanished. It was like eating a picture of food. The wonders that Partage explored with its scallop dish, the fine contribution apricots made to recent cocktails and a lifetime of fruit love fail to appear. In the 6 (or more?) times I've dined on Serrano's cuisine, it has been hit and miss. Sometimes, amazing. Sometimes, downright terrible. Maybe Julian should leave the restaurant business entirely, and make a living doing something more predictable, or at least something where lack of predictability is not so sorely felt. Gambling, perhaps. That's two bad lunches in a row. Even Julian's sangria was subpar, compared to previous sangrias I've enjoyed enthusiastically at this restaurant. Last year, the server here told me how much the local hockey team had helped the city heal from its recent horrific massacre. This time, with the team not doing as well, maybe the sangria too has drifted from its glory. 

Thankfully, Jennifer's great Tiki-type beverage retains it excellence. Sitting in the Vesper bar on a rain-soaked afternoon, with no commitments or plans until the evening at Michael Mina, I bask in contentment. And then a strange thing happens. A young woman sits down next to me and asks what I'm drinking. I tell her it doesn't have a name but Jennifer could make her one. She demands a sip, and I extract the straw and allow her to sip from the rim. She is blown away by how good the drink is. She wants more. I tell her to order one for herself. She asks me to buy her one. I tell her to get her own drink and she complains she's lost all her money gambling. Then what is she doing in a bar? I soon discover. Her breasts advance on me like an army of cantankerous cantaloupes. “Would you like to party?” she invites, in a strangely druggy voice. “No,” I reply, feeling both disgust and pity for her plight. What wrong decisions in her life have led her to this occupation? Can she find something less destructive? Immediately, Miss Hooker is seized by Security and escorted from the premises, Mr Security asks if I wish to press charges, but I tell him I'm just glad to be alone again. Jennifer tells me it happens all the time here, but the first time for me. General Cantaloupe must have been really desperate.

So Michael Mina has returned to his fishy roots, I read. Greatly look forward to seeing what he can do with John Dory. His Lion-fish at his far too short-lived American Fish was one of the best things I've eaten in Vegas. What can he do with Sir John? Well, I guess I'll never know. Valentine's Day has pre-empted the menu. The less said about the food the better. Being bitten by a rat and getting the plague would be a step up. I felt I had suddenly fallen into another, more evil universe.
I retreat to Le Cirque to practice my long-vanished Nihongo with Nomura-san and drink champagne courtesy Ivo. It is a perfect antidote to Mina's nihilistic food void. Le Cirque is worth going to Vegas for. Not many places can say that. Guy Savoy? I had ventured over to his place at Caesar's Palace on Sunday after the Le Cirque meal to inquire about his pea dish, which had vanished mysteriously between December and January's menu postings on their website. Peas were used magnificently in my two dinners at Guy's sister restaurant Les Bouquenistes 2 years ago, and I wanted to see what the Vegas chapter of Guy's culinary brain could do with this small but mighty tasty vegetable. The person in charge was horrified. Peas are only served IN Season, which is spring, not February! Come back in March or April. Maybe I will, maybe I won't. But avoiding this weather hostility does make later months more attractive, were I to return to this city, sometime in an unknown future.
Dinner reservations at Zuma at 9. Wanted to try their lime crab. It was on par with the other great crab dishes I've consumed this trip, at Partage and Mordeo. Crab has dominated the list of things I've enjoyed this trip, but it's a rather insubstantial meat. Doing things with crab is a slight skill at best. It's like being skilled at fencing. Uh huh, and?


Back to Veranda for the last time. No fruit this time, and the Italian omelet, though still outstanding, does not stand out far enough. The neural pathways have been established, and the pleasure is no longer new. That can be said with almost everything I've consumed here. The purpose of Great Things Happening To Us is that we can use them into the future. Their resonance brings us a staircase of evolving pleasure, against the chaos of random slings and arrows. But bad things too have their resonances, their echoes tearing at our ears deep into our nightmares. A good thing is a flight back home. My wife awaits me at the airport with my winter coat worthy of the weather; only slightly colder than Vegas, but still. No greater pleasure exists than being home. 

audio:  https://s3-us-west-2.amazonaws.com/autobkiography/Vegas+Ate%2CThursday+and+Friday.mp3