Saturday, 26 October 2019

A few great places to eat and drink in Las Vegas

Las Vegas is a ridiculous place.

From its over the top architecture, to its countless bars, restaurants, shops, shows and casinos, it’s the natural conclusion to humanity’s consumerist excesses.

And that’s why I love it. But I can I see why so many people hate the sound of the place.

We visited Vegas at the end of September when the average temperature was a perfect 27°C. We spent our days by the pool sipping on frozen margaritas and our nights inhaling craft beer and excellent food. We gambled a sum total of $1 and still had an epic time.

Here’s a run down of the best places we ate:

In 'n' Out Burger
The Linq Hotel + Experience, Las Vegas Boulevard

In 'n' Out Burger make the quintessential American hamburger. Everything tastes impeccably fresh and that’s because it is - nothing is frozen and everything is cooked to order.

A signature Double Double ($4.45) combined a squidgy bun, juicy slightly pink patties, oozy cheese, uber fresh salad and burger sauce. The toppings on their animal style fries outshone the slightly limp potatoes - caramelised onions, melted cheese and tangy burger sauce were a filthy combination.

Egg Slut
The Cosmopolitan, Las Vegas Boulevard

I can't stand the name of this egg-focused cafe but everything we ate eggceeded (sorry) our expectations.

A sausage, egg and cheese ($8.75) saw a sweet soft brioche bun loaded with herby turkey sausage, golden yolked runny fried egg, oozy cheese and mustard mayo.

Even more indulgent was a Fairfax ($11.75) loaded with buttery scrambled egg, fiery sriracha mayo, crispy shards of bacon, melted cheese and sweet caramelised onions. On this showing, I’d recommend checking out the London branch which has just opened.

Milk Bar
The Cosmopolitan, Las Vegas Boulevard

I've wanted to visit Christina Tosi's Milk Bar since I was captivated by her creative confections on Netflix's Mind of a Chef.

Milk Bar Pie, formerly known as Crack Pie ($6.50), was a buttery, soft, crusty, salty and sweet, caramelised sugar and oat twanged delight which reminded us of a cross between a flapjack and treacle tart.

Cereal Milk soft serve ($6) with cornflake crunch tasted exactly as described - it was utterly genius and a nostalgic reminder of arguing with my brother over who got the Frosties and Ricicles in our Kellogg’s Variety pack as children.

Greenberg’s Deli
New York New York, Las Vegas Boulevard

This is one of the best sandwiches I've ever eaten and certainly the best Reuben ($13.50). Who would have thought that I’d find a sandwich as good as New York’s Katz’s Deli in a faux delicatessen in Las Vegas’s slightly dated New York New York Casino?

Everything hit the mark from the marbled toasted rye bread which was perfectly crisp yet soft to the melted Swiss, cleansing kraut and creamy thousand island sauce.

But that pastrami was the star of the show - a mountain of beautifully spiced beef was so juicy it poured down my arm. I think we inhaled our sandwich in about 30 seconds flat and we resisted the urge to order a second.

Best Friend
Park MGM, Las Vegas Boulevard

Roy Choi's Best Friend oozes LA cool from their resident hip hop DJ and menu of Korean-Mexican fusion cookery to the servers wearing bespoke Adidas tracksuits and entrance resembling a kitsch grocery store.

As the menu is set up for sharing, their tasting menu ($50) gave us the best chance to eat as much as possible.

Highlights included their signature Kogi shortrib beef tacos with tender meat which oozed savoury complexity and crisp chilli soy slaw.

Savoury and spicy Kimchi fried rice, topped with a gooey egg, was compellingly crisp and caramelised in places and soft in others.

House banchan included zingy house made kimchi, fiery pickled daikon and a cleansing yet well spiced marinated cucumber.

Barbecue pork belly was impossibly tender whilst garlic chicken packed a massive amount of seasoning.

Slippery shrimp saw crisp battered crustacean in a spicy and decadently rich chilli mayo sauce.

The Cosmopolitan, Las Vegas Boulevard

David Chang's iconic noodle bar has been one of my grail restaurants for what seems like forever. We played their greatest hits and they rocked.

Pillowy bao buns ($14) were loaded with super tender pork belly, diced spring onion, cucumber and sweet hoisin sauce. It's such a simple yet devastatingly delicious flavour combination - you can see why it's the dish which launched a global bao trend.

Shoyu pork ramen ($17) was also bang on. A deeply savoury and meaty broth was addictive as heck. It was loaded with a bevy of treats including a slow cooked poached egg, noodles with plenty of bite and unctuous pork belly and shoulder.

Shisito peppers ($12) disappointed in comparison; some were a little undercooked and a dusting of nutritional yeast was bland rather than compellingly umami.

Secret Pizza Place
The Cosmopolitan, Las Vegas Boulevard

The not so Secret Pizza Place in The Cosmopolitan serves pizzas by the slice with a killer thin and crispy base and a delicious chew. Pepperoni and jalapeno ($6) was generously topped whilst blue cheese and ricotta ($6) was moreishly creamy, savoury and a little bit funky.

A crisp shelled cannolo ($4.50) was loaded with smooth chocolate-studded mascarpone with a subtle hit of booze.

Pok Pok Wing
The Cosmopolitan, Las Vegas Boulevard

Portland’s Andy Ricker, a James Beard award winning chef, is famous for his Vietnamese fish sauce wings ($15). Crisp and sticky of skin with beautifully tender flesh, they were coated in a killer sweet, savoury, garlicky and spicy marinade. Fresh pickles were a cracking cleansing accompaniment.

Dirt Dog
Grand Bazaar Shop, Las Vegas Boulevard

This LA-headquartered street food stand serves crispy bacon wrapped hot dogs in soft toasted brioche buns; they're pretty friggin' special. A House Dog ($7.95) was topped with a rich yet very well-balanced combination of ketchup, mayo, mustard, crispy onion powder, fiery green chilli spread and a mix of soft sweet onions and peppers.

Grand Canal Shoppes, Las Vegas Boulevard

Emeril Lagasse's cajun steakhouse was the destination of choice to celebrate Mrs G's big 40th. We’d previously visited on our honeymoon and knew to skip starters due to the ridiculous size of their mains.

A 20oz bone-in ribeye ($60) was extremely well-crusted and tender with a savoury Creole rub on the exterior. It was a beauty of a steak.

Sides included crispy charred Brussels sprouts littered with bacon bits and thick and creamy baked grits ($12) topped with a big ooze of melted cheddar and even more bacon.

We just about managed to save room for a whopping slice of banana cream pie ($12).

Tacos El Gordo
The Gold Key Shops, Las Vegas Boulevard

We gave up on our first visit to Tacos El Gordo on a Saturday night when there was a queue of at least 50 people. Returning on a Monday mid-afternoon it was still a full house but we didn't wait long.

There are three separate queues depending on which tacos you want; one for offal, one for pork al pastor and one for steak & chorizo.

I can see why this Tijuana-style taco chain is so popular. With their properly corny tortillas and vibrant salsas, our favourites were the crisp and tender pork al pastor with a slice of pineapple and the smoky chopped steak. They tasted epic even without the slices of lime and radish we forgot to collect (*face palm*). And each taco was a bargainous $2.60.

Rick's Rollin Smoke BBQ
Las Vegas Boulevard

Rick's claims to be the no.1 BBQ joint in Nevada and they've got the giant trophies to back it up.

I ordered two meats ($27 including a side and a large beer) and was really impressed by their ribs which were big on smoke with a lovely spicing. Their thick and gooey smoked macaroni cheese and homemade barbecue sauces were great too. But chopped brisket, whilst well flavoured, was a touch dry - if only they'd mentioned their sliced brisket.

Hattie B's Nashville Hot Chicken
The Cosmopolitan, Las Vegas Boulevard

Brilliantly golden and crisp of crust with a good drizzling of punchy hot sauce, Hattie B's serves first rate fried chicken ($12 including 2 sides). Their crinkle cut fries and meat juice soaked sliced white bread were corking too; it was another win for The Cosmopolitan's cracking selection of street food.

Craft Beer

The craft beer scene in Vegas isn’t amazing but there’s a hazy IPA on draught wherever you drink and that’s good enough for me.

Beer highlights included Bearded Iris’s Homestyle IPA at Momofuku, Modern Times’ sour tropical fruit gose at ameriCAN Bar, the excellent selection available at Downtown's Atomic Liquor, Ballast Point’s Sculpin IPA at Delmonico and Sin City Brewing’s NEIPA which is available at a number of outlets of the Strip.

The Details

We flew with Virgin Atlantic directly from Heathrow Airport and stayed at The Aria, slap bang in the middle of The Strip - they've got an awesome pool deck.

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