Friday, April 01, 2011

At least I ate well in Las Vegas

I was confined against my will to the Mandalay Bay Hotel for 2 1/2 days this week at a trade show where I knew absolutely no one. I had only about 1 day worth of meetings, so I had plenty of time to eat.

So on the first day I was on my way to register when I noticed the life size photo of a good looking chef at the front of a restaurant called Fleur, just at the edge of the mammoth hotel lobby, but with inviting patio like seating. On closer inspection, the sign said the chef was Hubert Keller, whose name was vaguely familiar enough to suck me in for lunch. (He is actually famous.) Turned out to be a very sophisticated menu and I immediately settled into an uphostered chair in the front row to watch the tourists go by in their T-shirts and flip-flops while I sipped a sinful mid-day glass of prosecco. I restrained myself on the food side and ordered only a pair of appetizers, although the chef is known for creative high concept burgers. My first delivery was a selection of marinated olives in a long ceramic boat - interesting variety and great bar food but really didn't count as a vegetable. My second choice was gnocci, which were superb: light, tender and in a dual puddle of pesto and tomato sauce, each of which were intense in opposite and complementary ways. I seriously considered asking for another portion. But sufficiently fueled & lubricated for a few more hours, my work ethic prevailed and I tacked the trade show for the rest of the afternoon.

Not having been offered dinner by any of the 325 exhibitors at the show (actually I wasn't offered anything by any of them as apparently my badge was color coded to shout "ignore her!") I bravely decided to be my own best date and decided after my restraint at lunch, something substantial was in order. I presented myself at about 6 at StripSteak (is that a burlesque pun?), was seated politely right in the middle of the room which is certainly not always the case for a lone diner in a fancy restaurant, and acquired a solicitous waiter who wanted to know if I was in a hurry to be somewhere else. Embarassingly not, so I enjoyed my very excellent Manhattan and had time to read every word of the menu about 6 times before he came back to take my order. Meanwhile the place filled up and I was able to enjoy easedropping at the tables on either side of me, both obviously filled with people who WERE invited to dinner by someone else at the show.

Under the influence of my cocktail and wanting to do something wild and crazy I ordered the Foie Gras Sliders as an appetizer. I really could have been happy with dinner made up entirely of these little guys because they were amazing. The slices of seared rich and juicy duck liver was combined with very thin slices of fresh pear and it was both rich and fresh at the same time.

Still debating the entree, I was delivered a trio of french fries, sitting up right in a special holder and with a trio of interesting dipping sauces. The waiter said it was compliments of the chef and for a couple minutes I thought it was a special amuse for the charming single woman sitting alone. Shortly after I saw other tables getting the same treat. Nevertheless it was a nice touch and although never before a fan of truffles, I couldn't stop munching on the ones fried in truffle oil and served with a truffle aoli. I'm a fan now.

Finally, after perusing prices on the steaks over and over and trying to suppress my sticker shock, I settled on the mid-price range and confidently ordered a $65 hunk of "American Kobe" dry-aged wood fire roasted rib-eye beef (yes, $65), plus creamed spinach and a glass of Australian Malbec, 2008 please. The steak was indeed perfectly done, kind of crusty on the outside and juicy pink on the inside. Yum. But sadly I left about 3 bites on my plate, too stuffed to finish and no dog to take the leftovers home to.

I did give serious consideration to the desert menu, not being even slightly inhibited by prices any longer. But nothing really called to me and I felt like I had been eating for hours (actually it was almost 2). I asked the by this time semi-frantic very busy waiter for the peppermint-ginger tea to go and he kindly took time to bring me a teapot and drinking glass bound in several napkins to carry some back to my room. In face he was so accommodating I hardly noticed that I had spent about $150 on dinner for me, just me. Hello expense account.

Contentedly I signed the check and said good night to my table neighbors who were probably on their way out to some wild late night casino parties. I quickly made my way back to the elevator banks and my room and my comfy bed.