Heading To Vegas For The Great Food

When I go to Las Vegas, I don’t go to gamble (much). I go to eat! Indulging is not something I do too often, but life is too short, and sometimes you have to just go off the diet. This week and next I am going to share some of my Vegas finds with MidWeek readers.

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Hakka steamed dim sum platter. Photo courtesy Hakkasan’s

When entering Hakkasan’s main dining area, you are immediately enveloped in a world of pleasant lighting, sounds and aromas, which create a relaxed mood.

Located on the main level of MGM Grand Hotel, the restaurant is separated by latticed woodwork, which creates intimate dining spaces. Renowned chef Ho Chee Boon and his highly skilled staff prepare mouth-watering menu items that delight the senses.

Extensive wine and cocktail choices complement all facets of the menu, and beverage manager Constantin Alexander is gracious and extremely knowledgeable in finding just the right accompaniment to your meal.

On the menu you will find Hakka steamed dim sum platter, roasted silver cod with champagne and Chinese honey, stir-fry black pepper rib eye with merlot, noodle dishes, rice, seafood and a good variety of vegetables for vegetarians. Supreme special dishes include braised whole abalone with black truffle, and braised emperor’s seafood.

For dessert, tempt your palate with house-made macarons, Yuzu and mango mousse, and passion fruit panna cotta.

If it’s the finest aged prime beef you are craving, look no further than Tender Steak and Seafood at the Luxor. General manager Dave Casey has a well-trained and knowledgeable staff.

Six different types of beef and seafood are flown in daily from Hawaii, Alaska, California and New York — choose from among Black Angus, bison and Japanese Kobe Wagyu beef, Hawaiian big-eye tuna, Maine lobster, sea scallops and Lake Superior white fish. A selection of sauces, vegetables, grains and potatoes, as well as soups, salads and specialty cheeses assures the menu has something for every taste.

The atmosphere is intimate, with paneled walls and recessed lighting, and the service is impeccable. Tender also has an extensive wine list, which has won the restaurant the Wine Spectator Award of Excellence five years in a row.

Save room for dessert with such choices as luscious Grandma’s old-fashioned chocolate cake, assorted fresh fruits, and bananas foster bread pudding.

What restaurant can say that the tomatoes and Buffalo mozzarella for their Caprese salad are flown in daily from Italy? Portofino at the Mirage boasts this, and it is well-deserved, as their Caprese salad is one of the best I have tasted! Executive chef Michael LaPlaca imports the cheese from a buffalo farm at the base of one of Italy’s mountains, which makes all the difference in the taste.

The gnocchi is light as a feather and served with wild mushrooms and truffle cheese, and breads are all house made. Some of the specialties include osso bucco, burrata-filled agnolotti with lobster and chanterelles, seared day-boat scallops, fresh pasta to order, outstanding meatballs in a rich tomato sauce, and roasted branzino with olive oil fingerling potato salad.

Desserts include my favorite, an authentic house-made cannoli and almond torta, and the impressive wine and beer list features an array of specialty wines.

The intimate dining room is in the rear of the restaurant, and general manager Chris Zadie is a most attentive host.

If it’s authentic deli food from New York you are craving, look no further than the Carnegie Deli at the Mirage. The original Carnegie Deli has been a landmark in New York since 1937.

General manager/chef Dennis Didio is originally from my home town of Brooklyn, New York, and you can’t get more authentic than that! It will take you 10 minutes to read the menu and decide from the numerous choices.

The house-cured pastrami and corned beef must be tasted, but I warn you the sandwich will have your mouth gaping open at the size of it — definitely for sharing. Other menu items include chicken in a pot with fluffy matzo balls in a soup with noodles, tuna, chicken salad, turkey, blintzes and knishes that are baked not fried, (is your mouth watering yet?). The desserts are to die for with huge slices of specialty cheesecakes, cookies and other goodies.

Next week, stay tuned for a few more treats in Vegas!

heartychef@hotmail.com