Tuesday, February 26, 2019

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


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