Seem Real Land

Food, Travel, Literature, Art, Architecture, Gardening and more Food

Vegas 24

So then, why does one travel? If not out of necessity, then from the idea that enjoyment awaits in your destination, more or at least different enjoyment than one usually encounters at home. I go to Vegas to eat vastly better than I can in Vancouver. And so I left this city on Flair Airlines (my first for this airline) on the afternoon of March 11. For the first time in memory, I was assigned Zone One. I was the first person, minus children, to board the plane. It was a quick and pleasant flight. I was reading (for the 3rd time) Mark Twain’s Innocents Abroad. There is always a signature book on my Vegas travels. Twain seemed appropriate.

On my last trip to Vegas last year, at the conclusion to some profoundly unsatisfying food at a Tapas place whose name is far too painful to recall, I was approached by a woman named Autumn, who seemed to know a lot about Vegas food. I gave her my card, and she actually listened to my foodie play Vegas/Egypt. I gave out 40 cards during the trip, advertising my play, and I doubt many more people listened to it. So I’m impressed. This time, we’ll enjoy a meal together from the beginning.

New restaurant called LPM, in the old Milos space in the Cosmopolitan, promises to transport the diner to the south of France. Olive oil. Popeye too! Something about dining with others, you get to sample a greater variety than my usual solo dining.

We are given tomatoes, lemons and olive oil. We are instructed to amuse our bouches with these. Even with the oil and the lemon, the tomato still tastes like a tomato. Now, I love tomatoes. But there is no enhancement here. I tell Autumn, if this were Southern Italy where the tomatoes and lemons achieve singular levels of enchantment thanks to the volcanic soil, our bouches would be wondrously enhanced. This was not the case.

LPM advertises its warm prawns in Southern France’s iconic olive oil. I order that. Thankfully, Autumn orders something else. The sweet pepper. We use some of our underused lemon to mediate the pepper’s sweetness. Combining the prawns with the peppers is wondrous.

For drinks, I order the Pablo, Autumn goes with the Letter to Coco. It comes with an actual letter, one the Patron Saint of LPM, Jean Cocteau had sent to his friend Coco Chanel. The drink menu is imbued with his art and artful writings, as is the architecture of the restaurant. I go with the Pablo, celebrating Cocteau’s friendship with Pablo Picasso. It is both scenic and exquisite. Autumn’s cocktail is at another level entirely. We mix the extraordinary beverages with the lemon-assisted peppers and oil lubricated prawns. The combination of the drinks, the well-lemoned peppers and the prawns could bring Cocteau back from the dead, howling in poetic ecstasy. “If I had not been an academician, I would have been a bartender,” quoth Cocteau.

I am intrigued by the Linden tea cocktail. Alas, it is unavailable. Why? Its accompaniment is unavailable tonight. OK, I order something else, which is less than memorable. The Mains Arrive.

Autumn goes with the daily special Duck. I opt for the salt-baked sea bass. I have seen it on the menu of numerous fine restaurants but feared it would be too salty. Thankfully, I have another opinion at the table, ensuring me it will not be. Thanks, Autumn. The fish arrives. It will be the highlight of the trip. It sets a standard for sheer taste-bud enchanting goodness that will at best be approached by other meals, but never surpassed. The manager came over. She reminded me of the comic strip character Sluggo. I’ve been thinking of Sluggo a lot of late. Sluggo, and comic strip characters in general had bumps on their heads when injured. I have never seen this in real life. Then last month, upon falling, I received a lump on my head. I feel like I’ve turned into a comic strip. The Peanuts comic strip was central to my life as a child. None of this is relevant to Sluggo-haired LPM manager who is full of knowledge and delight. She talks about Cocteau, who is no stranger to me. We arrived late, 9:15 and the restaurant closes at 10 although we are allowed to linger a bit. The Food and drinks are So Good. Madame Sluggo gifts us the house cocktail, which isn’t on the poetic menu. It goes marvelously with the bite of Autumn’s duck, not so much with my fish. All in all, an enchanting evening, and the perfect start to my Vegas trip which is, as always, focused on finding the best possible things to eat. I’m off to Spain, and in particular, The Basque Country in May, Was Bourdain right about it having the world’s best food? Will soon find out.

In a Lyft ride towards the end of my trip, a driver asks me my favourite restaurants in Vegas and I tell her Guy Savoy, first. Act 3 of my play Vegas/Egypt takes place there. And then, I tell her, there’s a new restaurant called LPM, in the old Milos space at the Cosmopolitan. It’s even better than Milos (where I would have some splendid halibut later in the trip). It’s worth going to Vegas for. Guy Savoy, watch out!

March 12

Will the Frittata Bianca at the Veranda in the nearby 4 Seasons be as good as it was before? Well, it is not a precipitous decline. I leave satisfied. Reading Innocents Abroad really sharpens my subjective wit- I hover over saying something to the servers, and service here is always first rank. I feel a need to be honest with what restaurants I dine in, for their good as much as mine, ie, I don’t return to the same failed dish, I can rely upon a good meal. It was a fine morning. I decided to walk to the Arte Museum. It was across the street from the Cosmopolitan parking lot, where I’d been the previous night. Perhaps a mile from the Luxor. I like walking on the strip, even in the morning. My reservation was 10 AM. I’m there maybe 15 minutes early and discover I’d left my printed ticket back at the hotel!. No young person would ever do that. We are told to keep our reservations on our phones. Just not adjusted to that yet. I had wanted to go back to my hotel to take some back pain pills so it worked out. I had to get another ticket, online this time and kept it on my phone. Back at the Museum for the 11:30 show.

It’s OK. Alright that’s not much a review. Was it worth buying 2 tickets to see? No. It is certainly disorienting. You go into various rooms to experience, mostly vast screens which pretend to be Nature. A wave for example. A beach where you feet are suddenly surrounded by visual foam. Most reassuring for future generations was a room where you could colour outlines of animals and see them instantly appear on the moving forest scene. I wanted my grandkids to be into this. The flower room was particularly inviting.

The one room not dominated by mirrors was called Star. It was full of paper lantern thingies. Reminded me of the sense distorting mosque/cathedral in Cordoba, in its imperially invasive confusions, so I kept to the mirror wall and slowly made my way out of there. I must say, the staff was wonderful. One young woman helped me to the 2nd floor elevator and later, to the elevator to Ocean Prime.

When you are assaulted/expanded with visual information, your brain needs another less taxing sensory input. For example, Food. Ocean Prime sells itself well. Does it live up to its hype?

No. It’s OK. When my greeter and I get there. Empty room after empty room, where I was expecting a packed restaurant. Only the back, sunny space has fellow lunchers, For lunch, I dived into the scallops and pea risotto. I don’t eat rice so why would I order a risotto? Ask Ocean Prime if one can just get the scallops, ditch the rice? The cocktails kept Vaudeville alive. The cocktail creator insisted I video his presentation. I thought the drink was on fire! Later he comes by and asks how I like it. I tell him, I can’t drink a still smoking beverage. He informs me that it’s dry ice, the the beverage is indeed quite drinkable. Superb, in fact.

Picking peas out of the rice empire is tiring enough, but combined with constructing elaborate taste destinations with the scallops and attended greens was intellectually involving enough, eh? I foolishly ordered a broccoli dish, which should have gone un-ordered, at best. There is no reason to go to this restaurant.

I foolishly choose to go the Sphere way early. I had other plans for the early afternoon, but they didn’t happen, so off to the Sphere I went, 2 hours before my ticketed time. They gave me a new ticket for the 3:00 show instead. A $250 ticket, row one, seat one. Sort of Comp’d, eh? I watch the show. It’s great. But. It’s just a visual thing. From my phone to the halls of mirrored walls at Arte Museum to the vastness of the dome is just walking up stairs, not transformational. I’m glad to see Vegas expand, but it must go beyond-visual if it wants to attract the already visually besotted and easily bored youth Sphere and Arte seem so last century to me, eh? I was at 5 World’s Fairs. They aspired higher than you, Arte/Sphere folk. Think bigger, please Not more pixels, more other-sensory enticements. Arte does it, clumsily, with its Star room full of lanterns one can’t help but bump into. But visual images,however vast, can only go so far. They do not increase in pleasure with size. A wall view of a wave has its occasional pleasures, but they do not overwhelm you. It’s just a screen. The outside of the Sphere is a wonderful addition to the Vegas sky. The Sphere is worth seeing, if you’ve run out of things to spend your money on. Combining Arte Museum and The Sphere is a successful jaunt into tourist Vegas, and more rewarding than you are likely to get gambling, but they are limited pleasures, at best. Do not expect wonders and you will not be disappointed.

It was a long walk from the Sphere to the Palazzo. I was rewarded by a couple of good cocktails at Sugarcane. One is called the Pain Killer and I was in an immense amount of back pain. The drinks helped.

To Partage for dinner. I had a splendid A la Carte meal 5 years ago, but they’ve gone to a set menu, alas. They printed out the menu for me, and it is thus:

Tasting Menu March 2024

Asparagus tart, fresh goat cheese crumbled, spicy organic mixed micro-greens, wasabi ice cream.

Did that much pleasure just flood over me? I leave this dish enlightened. Asparagus with ice cream? Never imagined it. From an unsuspected angle, I am filled with tasty light. This is why I come to Vegas.

Scallop sashimi, yuzu and watercress dressing, cod waffle, sesame Chantilly.

I loathe sashimi anything. I love yuzu everything Here the love and hate battle, and the love wins, as it usually does.

Octopus wrapped in A5 Japanese Wagyu. Beet, apple and celery branch symphony.

Sounds better than it is. Too beefy. And I wouldn’t have ordered octopus. Not really a symphony at all.

Fresh premium white fish curry, sweet potato, chickpeas, sweet red pepper, cilantro and ginger. I loathe sweet potatoes, and am no fan of curry, but this was good, to my surprise.

Domestic wagyu tenderloin, morel sauce, sunchoke, coffee foam, truffle croissant.

More over-the-top beefiness. Morels and sunchokes were good.

La mimolette, mousse, fennel, pastis marmalade, fresh mimolette shaved, roasted macadamia nuts, fresh baguette. An inventive desert, to be sure.

La crepe Suzette. French crepe crispy and soft, orange mousse and segment. Suzette jus.

Evokes the Dylan line: “I ordered some Suzette and said, could you please make that crepe?”

Partage remains one of my favourite restaurants in Vegas. I had some cocktails but didn’t write down what they were. They were excellently paired with the food items. All in all, a very good day.

March 13

I had planned to visit the new hotels Durango and the Fountainbleu for breakfasts on Wednesday and Thursday, but did not. Instead, I’m back at the Veranda for their Caprese omelet. Wow. It’s really good.

Better than yesterday’s Bianca and it’s something I could make myself! That’s a major reason for my travels, to find things I can come home and re-create. I am filled with enthusiasm for the day.

Meow Wolf’s Omega Mart was life-altering when I saw it in Vegas in March, 2023. Will it still be as good? YES. It’s both hilarious and very moving. That’s true of The Firesign Theatre, but little else in my experience.

Had a cocktail called The Rainbow Connection (vodka, passion fruit liqueur, white peach puree, lime juice,ginger beer) from a profoundly social bartender whose name escapes me. She was very much into the spirit of the place. It’s Entertaining, eh? Vegas. Omega Mart, They exist for our enjoyment! Thank them for that, and sail into the enjoyment.

After the rush of Omega Mart, I wanted food Just As Good so I went to Milos at the Venetian. Always had great fish lunches there before and knew I couldn’t go wrong with the halibut. It was magnificent. Such tenderness is to be celebrated. Had a mocktail based on earl gray tea which was a mistake. Rather than the complexity I was expecting from the tea, I got basically, sweet water. But the noble halibut prevailed over its pleasure assaulting liquid.

A Leisurely walk over to the Ballagio to see its Gallery of Fine Art. The show on now is called Icons of Contemporary Art:

The magazine that comes with my room talks about Bar Prive in the Bellagio so I check that out. On Tuesday, I had asked a bartender at my old fave, Vesper, if he could make something with apricots. They are an important fruit in the play I’m writing, set in apricot-filled Ukraine. Vesper dude seemed dazed and confused. Seemed insulted that I’d asked for something out his comfort zone. The bartender at Bar Prive came through with a spectacular drink. Even an extra glass of overflow. Not the friendliest bar tender I encountered in Vegas, but he certainly came through with an apricot appreciation libation. The Hotel Nacional: white rum, apricot brandy, simple syrup, lime and pineapple. Lots of apricot flavour here.

Had an early reservation at Orla, Michael Mina’s new place at the Mandalay Bay, easy tunnel cruise from the Luxor for me. I had high expectations, based on MM’s American Fish from long ago, so could he deliver again? Like Turkish Tapas. The tuna on top of a sort of falafal is a rocket ship to taste heaven.

Urfa Dusted Big Eye Tuna* GF
Crispy Falafel, Whipped Tahini
Salada Baladi 32

Also shrimp, thankfully beheaded and betailed but nowhere as overwhelmingly good as the tuna tapa thingies.

Kataifi Wrapped Prawns
Young Coconut, Spicy Mango
Lime Leaf 28

The whole trip has been just one wonderful meal after another. I take a Lyft back to the Cosmopolitan to continue riffing on tapas at Jaleo. First, I return to LPM for its Linden tea. Not so good. I ordered the sweet peppers (Thanks, Sluggo!) to go with the drink but it’s not as good as it was on Monday. Probably needed lemon, it was better when I had only half of it, having split it with Autumn. I also ordered her cocktail, the Letre a Coco, still excellent. I am walking across the floor of the Cosmopolitan. What looks like flat floor is actually a step. I begin to fall and wrench my knee horribly. I am instantly grabbed by hotel security. No doubt very skilled at assisting falling guests, but most miraculously of all, I was grabbed and helped into a chair by hotel guests, who got up from their slot machines to help me. I was stunned. I was asked if I wanted to go to a hospital. I said no, I wanted to go to Jaleo, on the 3rd floor. I did and had some wonderful scallops there, Then Lyfted back to my hotel, so I wasn’t that injured. OK, it’s a week later and I’m still not fully functional, but that’s age, eh?

March 14

Minor league omelet at the Pyramid Cafe on the first floor. Will try and keep off leg as much as possible today. Do have reservation at Vetri this evening. Go to Scotch Prime 80 first, where I had the highlight of last year’s trip, the oyster mushroom tempura, now vanished from the menu. I order some forest mushrooms but they’re nowhere near as good as last year’s oyster mushrooms. Should have remained in the forest. The shrimp toast was excellent. Taste very familiar, not sure where I’ve had it before.

The cocktail that went so wondrously with the tempura last year fails to click with the toast and forest fungi. Best thing about the restaurant, as I hobbled through its entrance hall, was the art on the wall. Flowers, 3 images. Dining made you think of flowers, as if the flowers were thinking of you. Flower room at Arte Museum, flowered wall here at the Palms.

As it approaches 7:00, I hobble over the elevator and go up to Vetri. Still has a great view, unfortunately not including the Sphere. Swordfish is still on the menu, but it doesn’t taste nearly as good as last year. I was initially thrilled to see dandelions as its accompanying greens. I wanted to learn more about this pesky plant. But alas, no knowledgeable happiness infusions occurred. The cocktail was terrible. My left leg only vaguely functioned. I put the swordfish order at enough distance from being interfered with by the shrimp toast. That was 2 hours before. Nice thing about hobbling It Slows Everything down. No assistance is offered me by anyone at Scotch or Vetri, though I am obviously in need.

Had planned on having the Omi beef at Scotch Prime. I’d had it in Omi in the summer of 1979. Even in a country full of great beef as Japan was in those days, Omi stood out. What I’d just eaten at Partage was enough beef for me. Perhaps, I’ll never eat Omi beef again. The cows won’t mind.

Mediocre food, mediocre-terrible drinks at the Palms on a wrenched leg, to what further depths could I descend? Actually getting a Lyft from the Palms was as dismal and painful as the meals. Turns out I was in the wrong pick up area, but the 2nd Lyft I requested figured out where I was. It’s cold and windy outside and I’m in enormous pain, so failed rides I do not need.

March 15

Lyft to airport. As I check in, my clerk tells me I’m on the evening flight. I tell her my ticket is for the 12:40 flight. No, it’s been pushed til 9 this evening. They give me 2 $15 vouchers for food. I have a lox and cream cheese bagel with one voucher. It’s filling. For dinner, I have some breakfast things from Starbucks.

They’re amazingly good. Also citrus mint tea from Starbucks, truly excellent, and later a couple of glasses of Angry Orchard Cidre at the golf-themed bar. Reading Mark Twain, the 12 hours pass quickly enough. I’m picked up in the middle of the night by Fumiyo, which is awfully nice of her. Was the trip worth the expense? I ask myself that after every trip. The asparagus/ice cream pairing was a revelation. The fish at LPM, et al, were the highlight of the trip, and I’d return to Vegas to experience them again. Tuna at Orla. Halibut at Milos. 2 times at Meow is enough. One trip to Arte Museum/Sphere was more than enough. If there’s a lounge atop the Wynn, it would be pleasant to sip cocktails from a place with a perfect view of the Sphere at night. Is that worth going to Vegas to do? 10 trips seems like a nice round number. Like a Sphere, eh?