Mark Damon Puckett
Yes, you’re still in Vegas. And no, you don’t want to think too much about which hot spots to hit after a night of gambling, more so if you have lost at the casinos. While you may have lost your shirt, you’ll feel like a high roller with these restaurants and bars. If you are developing carpal tunnel on the slots, you will hit the jackpot with these five delicious places (with backup choices).
Breakfast: While the pseudo Eiffel Tower might make the Paris Las Vegas Hotel and Casino look like an amusement park from the outside, Sugar Factory has a brasserie feel and rich food and drinks that surprise and delight. The Sugar Factory Benedict uses gratin potato instead of English muffin and adds asparagus. "People really enjoy it and it’s one of our most popular items," said chef Matthew Piekarski. The banana bread French toast has a unique smoky flavor from the grill mixed with the sweetness of the bananas Foster sauce. The steak and egg pizza is a heartier breakfast item that had to be invented by someone familiar with hangovers, and you must try the s'mores crepe that uses toasted house-made marshmallow sprinkled with crunchy graham cracker crumbs. And even though it's breakfast, you're in Vegas, so these dishes all go very well with the sweet, sweet Reese’s Martini made with Monin chocolate syrup, peanut butter, Three Olives chocolate vodka, Baileys, Nocello Walnut Liqueur, and heavy whipping cream. The thick peanut butter rim is off the charts. Give the Cotton Candy Cosmo a shot, too. Afterward, go straight back to your hotel for a post-sugar siesta. Backup game plan: Wicked Spoon, The Cosmopolitan.
Lunch: White and red wine cocktails at Payard Patisserie & Bistro at Caesars Palace Hotel and Casino are already mentioned in The Daily Meal’s 10 Insane Cocktails to Try in Las Vegas, but they deserve a second mention. Start with the Tournevis (Screwdriver) red wine cocktail that infuses pinot noir with house-made citrus tea, Orangina, lemon juice, and Monin candied orange syrup. The food here is superb and just a short walk across the way from the remarkably diverse but crowded Bacchanal Buffet that will have lengthy lines. Seating is intimate and you receive some cordial attention from the staff. The barbecue pulled pork sandwich is a top choice along with the Citronelle white wine cocktail with chardonnay, lemonade, soda, and a salted rim. The savory croque-madame uses a sunny-side up egg, ham, béchamel sauce, Swiss cheese, and baked tomato. Since you’re already drooling at the patisserie’s pastry selection, make sure you grab something sweet for dessert. Backup game plan: Simon Restaurant & Lounge, The Palms.
Pre-Dinner Drinks: Wine Cellar & Tasting Room at the Rio Las Vegas Hotel & Casino is a logical afternoon segue from the luscious red and white wine cocktails at Payard Patisserie & Bistro. If nothing else, take a cab from Caesars Palace over to Rio because you have to see the 10,000-bottle wine cellar. Gawk at bottles more than 100-years-old like a Chateau d’Yquem from 1900 and ones priced all the way up to $28,750. When you meet your madcap sommelier Hung Nguyen, who knows wine inside and out including how to pair it with good cheeses and fruits, he might dance on the counter if you pay him. "No $1 bills," says Hung. "Only $20s." Watch for some celebrity sightings, but Nguyen alone is enough of a celebrity to make it worth the visit. Backup game plan: Hyde, Bellagio.
Dinner: Arguably the best place to eat out West, Tetsu at ARIA’s interior welcomes diners with architecture that resembles a massive Japanese kite with lights reminiscent of shooting stars. The smiling chefs go by names like Bruce Lee (they even break out the ID’s to prove it) and will knock you out with the most succulent dinner of your life along with sake pairings. Diners can watch their food being cooked on a stainless stovetop the size of a football field, and boy does it glisten. Start with the beef tartare and jalapeño calamari and follow it with the filet mignon with spicy cilantro verde and chile soy sauce. And the sake. Wow. "At Tetsu, we strive to have the most extensive sake list available for our guests," says Melissa Bremner, sake sommelier. "It is with true joy and passion when we are able to provide the wine/sake experience he or she is looking for." Backup game plan: Piero’s Italian Cuisine (where the movie Casino was filmed).
Post-Dinner Drinks: Since you are already at ARIA and floating dreamily on a day of breakfast martinis, wine cocktails, wine tastings, and sake, head around the corner to Sirio Ristorante, also in ARIA, for some wild homemade ‘cello concoctions. By the time you arrive at this point, if you make it all the way through my five-stop challenge, believe me, you will want to walk. In addition, these drinks transition perfectly somehow with the sake you just had at Tetsu. "Each of the ‘cellos in the ‘cello flight is based on my grandmother’s recipe, which took her years to perfect and I believe truly captures the flavors of Italy," said executive chef Vincenzo Scarmiglia. "I began creating ‘cellos in new and exciting flavors and have developed five staples that are smooth, delicious, and great as an after-dinner digestif. I use fresh seasonal produce to make the Trufflecello, Cocoacello, Tangerinecello, Berrycello, and Limoncello. Each batch takes about three weeks to create and I am constantly experimenting with produce to find my new favorite flavor." Midway through the ‘cello flight, I suggested a blood-orange flavor, and Daniele Tavernaro, lead sommelier, thought for moment before heading back to chef Scarmiglia with my suggestion. I bet you anything that the next time I’m back there, it might just be on the menu. Now that I think about it, I wonder if I should have also suggested sakecello. Backup game plan: Insert Coin, a warehouse bar of old video games.
Mark Damon Puckett has written for Saveur and Greenwich Magazine. He is the author of The Reclusives, YOU with The Ill-usives, and The Killer Detective Novelist (October 2012), all available on amazon.com and bn.com. Please visit him at www.markdamonpuckett.com.