Friday, May 20, 2011

Food Fridays: Eating Through KBIS

I was very surprised surprised to discover I’ve never written about our eating & drinking experiences in Las Vegas. Where else can you find restaurants from great chefs like Thomas Keller, Joel Robuchon, Michael Mina, Daniel Boulud and many others all in one city? It’s amazing and daunting all at the same time, and every time we visit Sin City I struggle with where to eat.

Unless you have a massive dining budget (which we do not), you’re going to be limited to one of two options: You can either choose a single restaurant for a single, over-the-top dining experience or go “casual fine dining” for several meals. The second option is our typical modus operandi. Dining this way decreases the odds of having a single, epically disappointing meal and allows us to take advantage of that great American invention, the happy hour.

Many restaurants in Las Vegas will offer a reduced price “lounge menu” during specific hours, allowing you a taste of the restaurant without having to commit to a full meal.  It's a nice way to "try before you buy", or even just graze your way through the Strip.  In the past we’ve explored happy hours at Sensi in Bellagio, and Otto in the Venetian. Recently, while in Las Vegas for the 2011 Kitchen & Bath Industry Show, we added to the list with NobHill Tavern and Fiamma, both in the MGM Grand.

Fiamma is the beautifully designed Italian themed restaurant. In fact, I could have simply sipped a glass of Pinot Noir and gazed into the fireplace the evening we dined there. From 5:30 to 8 the lounge offers a reduced-price menu with all food items falling between $7 and $14.

Bruschettona Caprese (Heirloom Tomatoes, Buffalo Mozzarella, Basil). Such a simple dish, but so wonderful when done well. The toppings were fine, the crostini, not so much. Grilled bread shouldn’t be chewy … just sayin’
Prosciutto and Frico (Prosciutto wrapped around bread sticks, and parmesan “crackers”). Prosciutto was fine, parmesan was chewy, almost cold. It was also served with some preserved figs, which were really good but unless you balanced the fruit on a breadstick they couldn’t really be enjoyed together.

Arancine (Deep fried risotto balls with porcini mushroom). If there is a bar in heaven, it will serve these. Perfect little balls of mushroomy goodness.

NobHill is Michael Mina’s interpretation of classic American pub fare … gastro pub if you will. Cocktails are similarly themed, with the Whiskey Smash (think Mojito meets Manhattan) and the Moscow Mule making several visits to our table.Nobhill’s Happy Hour starts at 10pm)

BBQ Pork Sliders: You know I’m going to be tough on these. The pulled pork on its own was quite good; tender, nicely sauced (not smoked that I could tell). But what’s the deal with the jalapeno rings on top? Was it 1995 Night at NobHill? Seriously, lose the “we-like-it-hot” garnish and I’ll order a dozen.

New England Crab and Lobster Rolls: Meh. Maybe I’m not qualified to “get” this dish. I didn’t grow up with lobster rolls. Same way I don’t expect somebody who didn’t grow up in Vancouver to understand a Tripple-O. Not a bad dish, just not my thing.

Beer Battered Shrimp: The Shrimp were nicely cooked, but seemed misplaced with the avocado lime dip. Honestly, no connection between the two whatsoever. Easy solution: We just avoided the dip.

Korean Style Crispy Chicken Wings: Dish of the night (thanks to our bartender Michael for recommending them). Very comparable to chicken wings I’ve had at Insadong in Burnaby; very crispy with a sweet yet tart Korean BBQ sauce. These would have gone well with an IPA, but the Moscow Mule handled the role nicely.

And just because I wanted to prove to some readers (you know who you are) that we actually got out for some nightlife.  This is the Chandelier Bar.  Located in the Cosmopolitan Hotel, it's 3 stories high and surrounded by glass beads; it really gives you the feeling you're inside a hanging light fixture.

Drinks are everything you'd expect from a Las Vegas lounge, and then some.  I forget the name of this creation, but think S'mores and Booze.  I lost it when I saw the marshmallow garnish.  To each his/her own, but I'll stick with my Negroni.


Kelly M said...

I do like Happy Hour. Plus the size of drinks are always so massive (comparatively) that one should eat first. But still, interesting, right? Except for the marshmallows. That's too much for me.

Arne Salvesen said...

We don't have "Happy Hour" in BC. Against some sort of archaic liquor law that says you can't use booze to promote your restaurant (or something like that). If I love the US for one thing, Happy Hour would be it.

I'm with you on the S'More cocktail. It was one of those train-wreck moments: "Can't. Look. Away."

Nick @ Cupboards said...

Happy Hour = Happiness.

Happy Hour(s) at KBIS with Arne = Rockin' AWESOME!

The Fine Life said...

I love Fiamma in NY. Good to hear they have set up shop in Vegas. I wish I'd known. Too bad about the wonky liquor laws up there. We can't buy wine in the grocery store here, because liquor lobbyists rule my state. Not sorry to have missed the toasty marshmallow cocktail at Cosmo, though. Toasted marshmallows are sacred, and meant to be eaten while meeting your end in your gorgeous, new Warming House!

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