The Best Clubs and Restaurants in Las Vegas and why a Chicken Cacciatore Recipe?

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Look who I met in Vegas – Rocky and PeeWee photo bombed us. That’s Vegas!

Its nice to be back home – One week of Vegas took a toll on me. No matter how hard I tried, there just was no way to get to bed prior to midnight, not even on a business trip, or maybe just because of it. There are just not enough hours in the day to squeeze in a conference, meetings and dinners, so dinners were usually held around 9:00 pm and would last for 2 hours and by the time you crossed the casino, played for 30-60 minutes (I confess I have somewhat of an addictive personality and walking by the slot machines and tables 30 times a day breaks down even the strongest mind), run into colleagues and had another drink it was at least midnight or 1:00 a.m. and then back up at 6:00 a.m. to make the 7:30 a.m. breakfast meetings.But I have to say every time I leave Las Vegas it never fails to amaze me, its such a one of a kind experience.

My first time in Las Vegas dates back to 1994. I traveled for 3 weeks with my girl friend Jutta and our respective boyfriends through California and we had planned a one night stop in Las Vegas. I was adamant to see the two German magician’s Siegfried and Roy and their white tigers. We walked into the Mirage and I could barely contain my excitement when the lady at the show window told us that the show was sold out for that night. We had only planned to stay one night in Las Vegas and I was the only one out of us 4 who really wanted to see Siegfried and Roy and now I waited so long to see them and traveled so far and the show was sold out – I started crying! My boy friend was really sweet and convinced Jutta and her boyfriend to stay one more night and we got tickets for the show the next night (and had to re-arrange the rest of our travel itinerary). Once in the show Siegfried asked if anyone is from Germany and so they came to our table talked with us in German and after a quick chat about their and my home town Cologne they started their show, I was one happy camper!

I only traveled one more time to Vegas for fun for my girl friends (hi Laura :-)) bachelorette party – that was the best time I ever had in Vegas –  and all my other trips have been to Vegas for business. I have to say I like Vegas much better during a business trip than on my own dime. Vegas is expensive! A decent dinner is around $150, drinks are around $15-20 and a show costs around $150 and then you still haven’t gambled or shopped.

Vegas is also very “young”, especially if you are into the club scene and like to go out dancing. The Marquee in the Cosmopolition used to be the hottest club in town (with lingerie girls dancing in cages that hang from the ceiling) but that has changed now to Hakkasan in the MGM Grand  with an incredible line up of DJ’s like Calvin Harris, Steve Aoki and Tiesto. Surrender in the Encore and next door XS club in the Wynn are currently also very popular. XS hosts DJ’s such as Deadmou5 or David Guetta. All these clubs have one thing in common – EXTREMELY long lines of very beautiful, young and eager women to get into those clubs. The wait is long, there is almost no space in the clubs to actually dance, with the exception if you “buy” a table and order bottle service (that costs an easy $6k at Hakkasan, yes you read that correctly SIXTHOUSAND DOLLARS) and the headliner DJ usually starts around 1:00 am. So be prepared for a long night if you want to go out and dance at one of the hot Las Vegas clubs!

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I skipped the late night scene of Las Vegas – after all I was here on a business trip and the first meetings would start around 8:00 am. – but that wouldn’t stop me from enjoying fine dining in Las Vegas and there are a LOT of fine dining places in Las Vegas. As I mentioned in my prior post was I really looking forward to my fine dining experience at Joel Robuchon (in the MGM). My friend Christy and I dined at the “L’Atelier” which is Joel Robuchon’s low key version right next to the swanky full fare restaurant. I am not sure if the chefs at the L’Atelier cook different than the chefs at the actual Joel Robuchon restaurant, but I have to say the experience and food was not really “out of this world” like you would expect for a Michelin star restaurant. A small group of my colleagues went to the restaurant and liked their menu much better, so maybe I have to try the restaurant next time and not the L’Atelier. The entree’s – Tartar for me and Lobster pasta for Christy –  were average at best, the Tartar tasted like it had mayonnaise in it and the Lobster Pasta was fishy, the desserts were also kind of average. There were a couple of appetizers that had the potential of fine dining like the sautéed calamari and the king crab and turnip ravioli but overall I have to say it was very disappointing and “wildly” expensive. The bread was actually the only item that really stood out, I haven’t eaten bread this good in 10 years!

On the flip side we went to Shibuya and didn’t expect a fine dining experience at all and it was one of the best dinners we ever had. I chose the “Omakase” menu which offered 10 courses of a great variety of Oysters, Sashimi, Tartar, Wagyu steak, Soup, Foie Gras, Scallops, Sushi, crab and 3 kinds of dessert. You can also chose to have your menu paired with different Sake. Absolutely noteworthy are the Oysters and the Foie Gras. I don’t even like Oysters and they were delicious, the Foie Gras was very light and creamy and almost tasted like Chocolate Mousse (I know that sounds strange but it was absolutely delicious). The Foie Gras at Robuchon was the exact opposite – it was served hot, liquid with foam, neither Christy nor I could eat it.

Photo sampler of the delicious menu at Shibuya:

Shibuya collage

Other restaurants I can recommend are:

  • Julian Serrano (Aria) – Tapas
  • Wazuzu (Encore) – Pan Asian
  • Twist (Mandarin Oriental) – French – while you are at the Mandarin, check out the sky high Mandarin bar on the top floor
  • Sushisamba (Venetian) – Japanese/Brazilian/Peruvian – they have the most Amazing Omakase Menu

Hotel wise the Aria is one of the latest hotels in Las Vegas but I think that the “old” MGM actually provides the better price/value ratio considering it hosts the hottest club in town, some great restaurants, a decent Cirque the Soleil Show (KA), a fun “Madhouse” where you can run into Pee Wee Herman and Sylvester Stallone, and 5 or 6 different pools which on the weekend all blast Techno music out of their pool speakers. I did lose approximately $100 at the slot machines in the MGM, the Wynn was more generous and rewarded my $10 investment with a $82win/$92 pay out. It seemed like the MGM tables did not only clean me out but also my colleagues. The Craps table was the only one I made money at. Not sure that can be generalized but I found it strange that everybody I know lost money at the blackjack tables in the MGM.

Las Vegas collage

I am sure the Las Vegas scene is changing constantly so it you read this blog 6 months from now, make sure to “Bing” the latest categories for Las Vegas so that you are up-to-date on the latest Vegas trends.

While I had my fine dining experiences, Mike lived out of frozen boxed food and his first home cooked meal wish was Chicken Cacciatore – so here we go:

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 stick of butter
  • 1 tablespoon Olive Oil
  • 1 large onion finely chopped
  • 3 cloves Garlic, crushed
  • 6 slices of bacon, chopped into thin strips
  • 2 cups/1 package of fresh mushrooms
  • 1 bell pepper cut into thin slices
  • 6 skinless chicken thighs
  • salt, pepper, garlic salt, pepper flakes, paprika
  • 1/3rd cup dry white wine
  • 1/2 cup of chicken broth
  • 1 28 oz can crushed tomato’s
  • 1 sprig fresh rosemary
  • 1 sprig fresh oregano
  • 1 bay leaf

Directions:

  1. Heat the butter on medium heat, add the mushrooms and season with salt, garlic salt and pepper. Fry on medium to heat, approx. 4 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  2. Add the onions and cook until golden (another 3 minutes)
  3. Add the garlic to the mushrooms, stir and cook for 1 more minute. Spoon the mixture out on a plate and set aside.
  4. Add the bacon to the pot and cook on medium heat until crispy (5 minutes) – also spoon out onto the mushroom plate.
  5. Add 1 tablespoon oil to the pot with the bacon grease and left over mushroom butter, season the chicken thighs with salt and pepper and fry from both sides until brown (2-3 minutes each side).
  6. Now add the wine  and increase the heat, cook until almost all the liquid is evaporated
  7. Add the mushroom/onion/garlic/bacon mixture, tomatoes, chicken broth, bell pepper, oregano, rosemary, bay leaf, 1 teaspoon paprika, 1/2 a teaspoon crushed pepper flakes to the pot, stir, bring to a boil and then cover and let it simmer for 45 minut3es.
  8. Prior to serving discard the oregano and rosemary sprig and taste if the sauce needs any additional seasoning.
  9. Serve over pasta or rice and garnish with some fresh rosemary and/or oregano sprigs.

Chicken Cacciatore

Guten Appetit and Happy Travels – clearly what happens in Vegas never really stays in Vegas ;-).

 

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