Friday, July 20, 2012

Las Vegas Trip Report - July 15 - 20, 2012

This was a quickly decided SOLO getaway.  My son was heading to do a Contiki tour in Europe for a month so I decided to make a return to Vegas to try and de-stress from the craziness at work and just unwind...My last visit was in May of 2011 for my son's 21st birthday.  We stayed at the MGM and I knew that this trip I wanted to stay mid-strip.  I had absorbed myself in Trip Advisor trip reports before leaving (love them!) but the one thing I always wanted to know while reading, was how old the writer'm 47 for what it's worth...

I don't usually go away in summer anymore and I imagined it would be HADES HOT, but I didn't really care.  I knew I could find A/C if I needed to.  I even decided I was going to spend some time at the pool and get some colour on my whitey skin.  I joined Total Rewards and booked Bally's for $260 all in.  That got me a 440 sf room in the North Tower.  I used AirMiles for my flight, so the five day trip cost $450 for air & hotel.  I know they say, "No Resort Fees" but they charge $14 a day for WiFi so that is a "resort fee" to me as I need my WiFi.  I don't usually book anywhere that doesn't include free internet, BUT, most places don't have rooms like Vegas either and/or as cheap!  So, add another $70 for WiFi into the trip cost...

Pic from website

I love dining in Vegas.  So many great opportunities await! I had my reservations for dinner booked for all five evenings.  I only booked one lunch because I really was trying not plan too much...that's hard to do being the anal planner I am!  Anyway, I booked one show too, Phantom and left everything else alone..., but I know...some would consider that I planned everything, anyway.  :-)

July 15th:

I got up at 6am to start the day. I had a flight that suited me by leaving at 10:15am on WestJet.  Flight was uneventful and landed exactly on time about 12:45.  We landed in the new Terminal 3.  After checking in with Bell Trans she said they had no buses right now but would send us a stretch limo.  That was nice and unexpected.  Two other couples and myself headed out.  One for Aria, one for Vdara and I was the last stop.  A short wait for check in and I was soon settled in on a non-smoking floor.  The room was big!  Had a large powder room outside of the bathroom with a large closet.  My view overlooked Bills, the Flamingo and the Venetian.

I decided to head to Walgreens by Planet Hollywood for some wine and water for the room.  Holy humidity!  It was drizzling out and much more humid than I would have liked.  I returned and had a quick glass of wine and headed to the casino.  No luck but my $40 entertained me for about three hours.  I had good cocktail service too and I had a champagne at Paris and vodka/sodas  at Ballys.  I was feeling no pain since all I'd had was toast at the airport this morning.

Then it was time for dinner.  I had made reservations for Lawry's as I've always wanted to go there.  I took a taxi and it was $7 with tip each way.  Dinner was everything I expected and more!  Absolutely delicious!!!!  I had the Lawry's cut prime rib ($39) with creamed spinach ($6).  They start you off with their table side prepared spinning bowl salad which was very good.  They recommend you use Lawry's seasoned pepper on it which did make it taste even better.

 They cut your prime rib table side

I ordered mine medium

Yorkshire pudding

It was sooooooo good.  Melt in your mouth tender.  It really was a slice of meaty heaven.  They give you hot and mild creamed horseradish so I combined them and that was perfect.  Unfortunately, I could only finish half my dinner.  I took it to go because I could not stand to leave it.  It deserved to be eaten.  Service was great and the dining experience was a real pleasure.  Dinner with a glass of cab and tip was $75.  I took a cab back and immediately went to sleep!  I was done like my dinner!  First night in Vegas and I'm in bed at 9pm!

July 16th:

I arose wide awake at 2:30am.  I debated going to the casino but in the end, just decided to eat the remaining prime rib (I still couldn't finish it) and have a glass of wine while writing up the trip report.  I went back to sleep about 4:30 and got up at 7:30.  I called the front desk and asked what time the pool opened.  They said 8am so I got ready and arrived at the pool exactly at 8.  It was really nice and quiet but with music which I enjoyed.  I tanned for two hours.  Bar opens at 10 am so no champagne for me as I was just leaving.  Then I went back to the room to shower.

This was the deep end of the pool - 11 ft.

So, I decided I should probably eat before starting gambling and drinking til I passed out again  I decided to try Mon Ami Gabi at Paris.  I got a seat on the patio and it was still not too hot to enjoy all the people watching along Las Vegas Blvd.  I got my glass of champagne and went for a light lunch since it was pretty toasty outside and I didn't have much of an appetite.  What I ordered ended up being perfect.

Gazpacho Soup $7.95

Frisee salad with Duck Confit and Grilled Peaches $13.95

I loved the soup.  It was refreshing and flavourful with the chives highlighting it.  The salad was good, but not amazing.  Everything tasted good but it didn't wow my taste buds.  I finished it all though.  That with a a small piece of baguette and lunch was a perfect meal.  I had two glass of champers and bill after tip was $51.

Then I went to gamble, and lose...I played all kinds of slots, did well on most - breaking even, but never ahead.  I wonder what happened to my luck like last visit where every machine I played almost gave me $100.  Not today...Anyway, I played at Paris all afternoon and left about 4:30 deciding to stop at Walgreens for more wine.  Oh my, was it HOT now...Argh, yeck, blah...I couldn't wait to get back to my room to cool off!  When I did get there, I found out it was 98 degrees.  I'd hate to feel 110!  Plus, I was pretty buzzed again and wondered how I was going to make it through the night since I was seeing Phantom at 9:30?!?  I changed my pre-theatre dinner time at Sage which was at 6:30 to 7:30 instead and then took a nap!  Unfortunately I woke up at 7:15.  I changed my reservation to 8 and raced to get ready.  I decided to take a cab...

I knew it wasn't going to be good when I got in.  He had a laminated sheet hanging from his mirror that said something to the effect that "$3 is NOT a TIP.  He has to pay 9% tax on every fare and so the lowest tip we should even consider is $4 minimum".  I found it really offensive.  Then he asked me where at Aria I needed to go as there are two entrances.  I said I did not know, I was going to Sage restaurant and I hadn't been to the hotel  before.  So he got quite snotty with me saying cab drivers know a lot but they don't know all the restaurants in Vegas.  Then he asked me if I wanted to go to check-in and see if it was there.  He said, "I can't HEAR you!  What do you want to do?".  I was trying to digest what he was telling me so just told him that was fine.

The restaurants are all when you walk in at check in it turns out.  I saw him ask the doorman.  My fare was $7 and I gave him $10 and mentioned sarcastically I was sorry that he wouldn't like the tip.  He didn't respond.  What a jerk.  In hindsight, I wish I didn't tip him at all.

I was seated immediately and service was really good.  I realized I only had an hour before I would have to (sigh) get another taxi to the Venetian.  I ordered the "Artful Margarita" specialty cocktail ($14) which had these ingredients: Oro de Jalisco Blanco Tequila/Cointreau/ Art in the Age Root Liqueur/Fresh Lemon = a really unique taste.  Not sure if I liked it or not to be honest.  I just drank this with dinner as I knew I didn't have time to do the wine pairings and linger.

I also had the Signature Tasting menu which is four courses ($79).  They brought a bacon roll (yum) to start with, butter and sea salt and an amuse of cold squash soup.

WAGYU BEEF TARTARE - Crushed Caper Aioli, Slow Poached Egg, Crispy Chocolate

MAINE DAYBOAT SCALLOPS - Braised Oxtail/Wild Mushrooms, Salted Caramel Reduction

IBERICO PORK LOIN - Crispy Pork Shoulder, Spaetzle, Creminelli Mortadella

PINE NUT TART - Apricot/Elderflower Gelee, Salted Brioche Gelato

Dinner was pretty fabulous.  The steak tartare might be the best I've had so far.  I LOVED the toasts they served it with and the chocolate crisps surprised me though fit well with the dish.  The scallop dish was amazing.  Who knew that oxtail and scallops went together?  The pork loin didn't thrill me.  It was a little tough and not memorable, however, I wish the dish was just served with the crispy pork shoulder.  That was beyond words incredibly good! (It's the little square chunk in the back of the pan in the picture).

Unfortunately it was 9pm and I still hadn't got my dessert.  I told my waiter I needed to pay my bill now and had to go.  He got everything done.  (He was fantastic with his service and funny!).  My dessert got to me about five minutes later.  I only had a quick bite and really didn't get to appreciate it.  Dinner after tip was $125.

I was in a taxi after a short queue and decided to tell my driver about my last driver.  He was shocked about the sign and said he would not be able to do it with his company.  Then he explained about the problems with drivers, quotas, taxes, etc.  He talked about being tunneled from the airport and how that makes the fare about $8 more for every passenger and why drivers do it (quotas) and how it screws other drivers (drives the percentage of fares up that drivers have to meet)...I told him all my horrible cab ride stories in Vegas and he admitted I have had some bad luck!

I made it right to the show exactly at 9:30.  I was in the middle, six rows from the front, so had to get everyone up so I could get there except one family didn't want to so I had to climb over them!  The production was good.  It wasn't my fave Broadway show to date, but I did like it.  I guess it has taken me this long to see it since I knew it wasn't my type of show...

Upon leaving, I remembered how much I enjoy the ceilings at the Venetian.  This one below was "looking UP" from the lobby.

I took a cab back to Ballys (uneventful!) and gambled between Paris and Ballys until 2am.  I finally got tired of losing and decided it was time for bed!!!

July 17th:

I slept in.  It was nice catching up on all the sleep I've been lacking lately.  I wrote the trip report and puttered in the room getting ready slowly until it was time for my lunch reservation at Milos.  I walked over to the Cosmopolitan.  They told me they didn't have my reservation.  In all the years I've used Open Table, this is the first time this has happened.  Anyway, they seated me, though at probably the worst place in the restaurant (right beside a walkway that was very busy - hard to explain really) and the hostess was also very unpleasant.  

Everyone else besides the unfriendly hostess was very nice though, though I found there was a strange vibe to this place.  I just didn't feel comfortable.  Anyway, the $20.12 prix fixe menu is a great deal.

Whole Wheat sourdough, olive oil and my glass of Rose.

Greek Meze Plate - Tarama, Tzatziki, Htipiti, Manouri cheese, olive & 1/2 a cherry tomato

Colorado USDA Prime Lamb Chops - french fries & broccoli ($10 supplement)

Fruit Plate (Yes, it was as exciting as it looks!)

Lunch was good.  Nothing outstanding but nothing to complain about.  With two glasses of Rose and after tip the total was $70.  I decided to try my luck in the Cosmo casino today.  After some hunting, I found this machine:

I lost my first twenty pretty quickly and put in another and then a mother and daughter joined me which made achieving bonuses a lot more fun.  I got up to $140 when I cashed out of this machine but I didn't leave.  I stayed and played at other slots until I was just $20 up on the day (cashed out $60) but I stayed for four hours so that was worth it.  I walked back to Ballys and felt slightly buzzed and tired again. What is it about drinking and gambling all day that makes you so tired?  So not fair!

I relaxed for a bit (because sitting on your ass in front of a slot machine all day isn't enough!), then got changed for dinner and took the monorail to MGM.  $5 each way.  I knew it would be cheaper than a cab and frankly, I didn't want to take a cab and it was too hot to walk that far! Then I walked over to Excalibur and took the tram to Mandalay Bay.  I was headed to the Four Seasons to Charlie Palmer Steak.  A nice security guard walked me over from the casino and set me on the correct path to finding it...he said the resort is 64 acres!

I ordered the "Cut of the Week" which is $48 and includes unlimited wine.  The sommelier brought me two wines, a pinot gris for the salad and a shiraz for dinner.  He was very nice and asked me if I was over twenty-one.  I was surprised when the waiter asked me how I liked my lamb done?  Lamb?  I had looked online and that wasn't what the menu for this week said.  The menu online said steak!  Anyway, the waiter said because Cut of the Week just started for this week, the chefs often do what they feel like, so I didn't get what I was expecting.  I was a little disappointed I was having lamb again to be honest.  If I knew, I wouldn't have ordered it at lunch.

Wedge salad



Colorado Lamb Loin

Lemon Tart

Above is the dining room I ate in.  This was after a few tables cleared out and I was pretty much alone.  This menu is really a steal for $48 and wine was really good.  The sommelier filled my glass up any time it got near the bottom.  After tip the bill was $67.

So, I made my way back to Ballys the same way I came.  I realized I haven't taken many pictures this trip so far except of food and slot machines!  So I stopped and took a night time shot of New York, New York.

So, I played the slots and eventually ran out of all the money in my wallet which was about $200 (My budget is $100 a day so I went over).  It was about 2am so I called it a night, another losing night...and I vowed not to play at Ballys anymore...I'll add that Ballys is a smoky casino, it reminded me of the MGM.  (The ex-smoker I am now after smoking for thirty years, hates smoke now!)

July 18th:

I awoke about 9am with no plans today except for dinner so I was happy.  I felt kinda BLAH!  I had a slight hangover this morning so I was not at full speed.  I debated about going to the pool or going out to eat, for quite awhile...I finally opted to go eat...I decided I'd spend my day across the street.  I'm getting used to the heat now, though it has to be in small doses still.

I made my way to Bobby Flay's Mesa Grill.  Everyone was really nice and service was top notch.  I liked the open kitchen concept and was seated where I was able to see all the food coming out.  Burgers looked yummy!  The bread basket was great too.  I LOVED the cornbread.  I have never had cornbread that good!  The waiter talked me into having Bobby's signature margarita (He didn't have to try hard).

Partida Margarita ($16)

SPICY CHICKEN + SWEET POTATO HASH - Poached Eggs + Green Chile Hollandaise - $18

Brunch hit the spot perfectly!  It was really good but I couldn't finish all the hash.  After tip bill was $47. And then I refilled my wallet and started to gamble again.  I stayed for four hours at Caesars and Bellagio and was down $80.  I realized I didn't need to ban Ballys from being unlucky, just me!  Even when I got bonuses they were lame.  I was starting to feel defeated with that LOSER feeling...

About 5pm, I went back to the hotel to relax (because sitting on your ass in front of a slot machine all day isn't enough!), shower and get ready for dinner.  Dinner was at Scarpetta so I walked to the Cosmopolitan again.  They seated me at a window table overlooking the fountains at Bellagio which was nice. I chose a Hendrick's gin cocktail that was quite tasty.  They served an awesome stromboli bread with salami that was crazy good (it's tucked under the white cloth in the picture below).  The bread dips were a citrus olive oil, tomato caponata and Marscapone butter.

Gallardo cocktail ($14)

CRISPY FRITTO MISTO - seafood, vegetables, artichokes, herbs & lemon  - $18

SPAGHETTI - tomato & basil - $24

The fritto misto was very good.  Salty, perfectly fried shrimp and octopus.  I could finish less than half the plate, but I did dig through it to make sure I didn't miss any seafood.  The signature spaghetti dish was as good as everyone raves about.  Perfect al dente and so simple it was pure delicious!  It was all I was hoping for.  Service was great.  Bill after tip came to $75.  

I went back down to the casino for a bit, broke even and walked back to Paris where I lost my final $20 of the day, reaching my quota budget loss of $100 and went to bed.  All this drinking was taking its toll on me and I needed a good sleep!  And crash I did, I was out like a light as soon as I hit the bed!

July 19th a.k.a last day:

I awoke at 9am and felt much better today.  I got ready and headed for the pool.  I managed to last until 12:30 but that mid-day heat is intense!  I showered and set off for lunch at Le Burger Brassiere at Paris.  I had a $5 coupon from a book Total Rewards gave me when I picked up my card..  

Le Paris burger with Brie, Applewood bacon, caramelized onions - $12

The burger was really tasty.  I had to eat it with a knife and fork though but I really enjoyed it.  I got a side of  potato salad ($3) and it would have been good but the potatoes were under cooked so I didn't eat it.  I also had a Cadillac Margarita ($11).  After discount bill was $22.  I left $30.  I made my way back out into the sun.  Sooo hot today, wish I would have looked to see the temperature.  By the time I got to the Mirage (which I've never been to before), I had to hydrate with a bottle of water because I felt sick from the heat.

Then I set off to gambling.  I loved the hotel and the casino.  There were lots of slots I hadn't seen yet.  I spent a good four hours or so here, no wins but I had fun.  I walked back and decided to walk through Caesars Forum Shops to stay out of the sun.  I ended up buying an expensive pair of shoes at The Walking Company but at least I had something to show for my trip besides a hangover and empty wallet!  :-)  I got back to my room at 7:30 so had to quickly get ready for dinner reservation at 8pm.  Dinner was at: Gordon Ramsay Steak:

I was really looking forward to it!  I have dined at his place in New York and one in London and really enjoyed the meals.  I arrived about 10 minutes before 8.  They told me reservations were running late but I could go in the lounge and wait.  The couple before were told reservations were about fifteen minutes behind.  I went to go to the lounge but there was a line up to get in there, so no where to sit.  I told the hostess and she said to wait outside then.  I waited by this sign....and I waited.  At 8:20 I asked if they had an idea of how long.  She put on a nice stiff smile and said, "When a table becomes available, we'll seat you".  Well, I waited until 8:45 for that!  I was quite pissed off!  45 minutes to wait when you have a reservation is a very long time.

The music was really loud and it was hard to hear.  I was talking to a table beside me and had to ask them to repeat what they were saying a few times.  They were over-the-top happy about their meal though.  Both tables beside me RAVED about the sticky toffee pudding.  My waitress asked me if I had any questions on the menu and I told her I had been looking at it for 45 minutes outside, so no.  I ordered Onion soup and Beef Wellington.

Bread Basket

English Garden - $14 (That's a cucumber ball in it)

boddington’s Pub Ale, caramelized onion broth, Welsh rarebit - $16 

Roasted Beef Wellington - glazed root vegetables, potato puree, red wine demi glace - $52

Soooo, I guess my mood helped colour my meal unsatisfactory.  The bread basket was just ok.  I just tried one of the round "truffle" ones but I couldn't really discern the truffle taste.  The soup was good though served luke warm.  When it was put down, he told me, "Be careful, it's really hot!".  So, I stirred it and blew on the spoon and then, what?  It's barely hot at all!  It was good.  I don't think it was $16 good though.  Then, the beef wellington really didn't impress me and it was served luke warm as well, barely.  The steak was a little tough, the pastry was hard to cut and fell off.  By the time I got through half I asked my server for more gravy.  She said, "You mean red wine sauce?"  I said, "sure, whatever".  The gravy helped me chew through the rest!  I still didn't finish it.

The bill was $107 after tip and Total Rewards discount.  My server tried hard to up sell the tasting menu which comes with a limited edition autographed picture of Gordon that you get to keep with the menu!  What I also thought was weird was after I ordered she brought over the "steak tray" and gave me an overview of the steaks.  She started with, "Gordon wants all our customers to know what steaks we serve"...I had to listen to it three times as new tables beside me were seated but at least they got the lesson before they ordered!  One table asked how long they keep those steaks for and she said they throw them all away and start fresh every three hours.  Anyway, I was disappointed overall.

So, back to Ballys to finish the night by a little more slots.  I played a 5 cent one that I thought I was playing fifty cents a pull at .  5 lines x 10 but it actually was $2.50 a spin.  Anyway, as I was almost out of my $20 (so quickly!)  I got a bonus and won $80 so I was shocked and I left that machine - that's the most I won at a machine all week!  I stayed even and could have cashed out with $80 at the end but I stayed until that was $30 and then I limped off to bed just before midnight.  It was a long day today.  I now need a vacation from my vacation....

July 20th:

I decided to just take my time and laze around the room and finish the trip report until check out time.  My shuttle arrives at 11am for my 1:45 flight home.

In summary, I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE Vegas!  I am just happy while here!  Each casino has its own charm and it never ceases to amaze me at how GRAND everything is!

The restaurant list is endless and it's fun figuring out where to dine at.  Service is usually great and I did really well with my choices this visit except the last one.  I notice that "bread baskets" are a big deal at the fine dining places I was at.  They all had them!  The two best were that stromboli bread at Scarpetta and the cornbread muffin at Mesa Grill but that bacon bun at Sage was pretty awesome too.  I didn't even try the bread basket at Charlie Palmer's but they had an extensive one too.

I'll be back and I hope it's sooner than later!

1 comment:

  1. What a great Blog of Vegas. I enjoyed the pictures and discriptions of your meals. Thanks for very much for taking the time to write this.