Saturday, February 4, 2012

Eating and Drinking in Las Vegas

To celebrate our second wedding anniversary, Joe and I went to Vegas.  Fair warning:  this post contains talk of food, but its also a travelogue of our vacation.

We stayed at Aria in City Center.  Its the one in the back middle (that doesn't look like the empire state building).
Big-name resort wise, Aria is between New York New York and the Bellagio.  Really, its between Monte Carlo and Cosmopolitan (which are next to NY and B, respectively).  Location-wise, Aria couldn't be in a better place.  We were close walking distance from many of the big resorts (the previously named ones, plus MGM, Paris, Hard Rock, Bally's, Excalibur, etc), feasible walking distance to Harrah's, Casino Royale, the Venetian, and there were bus/monorail stops at the neighboring property.

Aria is one of the few 5-star resorts in Vegas, and it didn't dissappoint.  Every staff member that we had contact with was beyond friendly and seemed sincerely interested in the fact that we were pleased.  When they found out we were there celebrating our anniversary, they upgraded our view, AND we came home to a plate of luscious chocolate covered strawberries and a 'Happy Anniversary' card after our first night on the town.

The hotel itself was gorgeous - with innumerable fresh flowers everywhere you turned and a modern/Asian feel.

Yes, the flowers hanging in the tree were real too!

The pool area had 3 good sized pools, and a "day-club" pool.  We only ate at two of the restaurants, but Aria appeared to have something to please every taste.

Our room was spacious, and the bathroom was beautiful - 5 piece bath with a separate toilet area, and a glassed in soaking tub and shower.  Perfect to soak my feet in after long days of walking in heels.  Our one room complaint (which so many other reviews had raved about) was the bed - sleeping on a queen sized pillow may feel nice at first, but made both of our backs ache.

Our first night in Las Vegas, we were in the mood for Italian food.  We ate at D.O.C.G, which was next door in the Cosmopolitan hotel.  We picked D.O.C.G. because it was described as being rustic, Northern Italian food, and was in the $$ category (out of $$$$).
Joe and I both got the Pici, with Braised Duck Sauce & Black Truffles.  Pici is a thick, hand-rolled spaghetti-like noodle.  The texture of the noodles was perfectly al dente and the braised duck was very flavorful - but a little bit over salted for my taste.  The wine list was out of our price range, but we weren't too disappointed because we planned to go to Vesper next.

Vesper Bar is also in the Cosmopolitan hotel.  Joe is a really big James Bond fan, and the Vesper martini became James Bond's signature drink in Casino Royale.  So of course we had to go!

Atmosphere-wise, Vesper Bar was very modern and chic.  It was too bad that it was right near the hotel check-in area though, because that took away a little bit of the classy ambiance.
 Joe of course had the Vesper martini (gin, vodka, Lillet, and lemon peel).  I had a drink with gin(?), an Earl Grey infused liquor, egg cream on top, and Earl Grey tea leaves sprinkled on top.

We spent the rest of the night walking the strip, stopping into all of the big resorts, and enjoying the sights.
Chihuly glass in the lobby of the Bellagio
Me and Joe in the lobby of the Bellagio - our only picture of the two of us from the trip!
Watching the Bellagio fountains - I think we stopped by to watch these every night on our way back to Aria.
We spent the majority of our second day near the pool, and then took the bus to Fremont Street for the afternoon and evening.

With a street performer on Freemont Street

Fremont Street is a street in Old Las Vegas that has become a pedestrian mall.  They covered it with a video-screen covered roof, that conveniently blocks out the hot Vegas sun and holds in some of the A/C that pours out of the casinos.  The casino's on Fremont Street make you feel like you stepped back in time.  They're also the only place that we saw $3 blackjack tables :-)

Our goal for dinner was to find an old-fashioned cheap Vegas meal.  We certainly did.

At 4 Queens Hotel and Casino, we spun the free wheel and won a buy-one-get-one dinner coupon for their restaurant, Magnolia's Veranda.  (This seemed to be the prize for everyone who didn't win the $10K.)  Magnolia's didn't have the best atmosphere (older, open to the casino), but their prices were great.  With our coupon, we both got a steak dinner and a handcrafted microwbrew for about $25.  Can't beat that!

We spent most of the third day  by the pool as well, and then decided to explore Aria more.  We found a Happy Hour special at one of the nicest restaurants in the hotel, American Fish.  As the name implies, all of the seafood served here is from the U.S.  For HH, all of their lounge menu food items were $5.  So I picked four.  They were so good I nearly forgot to take a picture (and was already half-way done)!
Clockwise from the top left:  Shrimp & Grits (with jalapeno and Serrano ham); Truffled Mac & Cheese (with mushrooms and English peas); Crab Truffles (with masago arare and green cocktail sauce); Oysters on the Half Shell (one with mignonette, one with bloody mary granite)

I'm not even sure which was my favorite - they were all soooo good!

Joe couldn't resist the Diver Scallops from the main menu - served with butter poached leeks, purple potatoes, and grapes.  Such succulent scallops.  Mmm.  The food at American Fish was exceptional.  I would certainly go back.

Once again, we spent the night visiting the nearby sights.

Waiting for the fountain show in front of Bellagio.

We spent our last day seeing the sights.

Monte Carlo and New York New York from the front of Aria
mmm...  Steak.  At New York, New York

The Lions at MGM
I just read that they've since closed the lion habitat :-(

Apparently I was performing at Harrah's!

Joe "climbing" in the Palazzo.
The Venetian
Viva Las Vegas!  We can't wait to go back!

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