las vegas: good eats edition

last week we spent three and a half days in las vegas for the very first time. we had some great eats and some not so good eats. below are the good eats, from best to good:

scarpetta, the cosmopolitan
jason and i often find ourselves watching chopped on the food network friday nights and have seen scott conant go crazy over chefs that cook pasta incorrectly. so we decided - since we were celebrating our anniversary on this trip after all - to have one night out in a swanky restaurant and chose conant's scarpetta. partly because we love italian food and partly because we had to taste his pasta!

we made a reservation through opentable, requesting a view of the bellagio fountains. the restaurant is on the fourth (or fifth?) floor of the cosmopolitan and the dining room overlooks the fountains. it was beautiful.

throughout the whole dinner, service was incredible. the waiters were knowledgeable, funny, and had perfect timing. as we waited for the starter, we  sipped wine and dove into the breadbasket - homemade rolls and stromboli. and the stromboli lived up to the hype! we started by splitting the creamy polenta with a fricassee of truffled mushrooms. we were each served a covered small bowl of polenta. the waiter lifted the top, and topped each portion with a perfectly placed spoon of mushroom from a small silver pot (and left the pot of mushrooms for us to dip our bread). it was perfect. the polenta was perfectly creamy, perfectly seasoned, and the mushrooms were the perfect accompaniment.

there's no way we could come all the way here and not taste the spaghetti with tomato and basil. i've read about it in magazines. watched scott conant make it in food network. seen others try to replicate it on their blog. so we split that as our second course. just as the first, it arrived in a covered dish. i don't know what it was - too hyped? - but it didn't live up to my expectations. yes, the homemade pasta was cooked perfectly. the sauce was delicious - although i thought it had too much crushed red pepper and jason disagreed with me. it was good none the less.

for our entrees, jason had the black farfalle with maine lobster and basil breadcrumbs and i had the sirloin with potato gnocchi, wild mushrooms, parmigiano, and barolo ragu. jason's pasta was delicious - the waiter explained that there's no cream in the dish, the sauce is made from the lobster cooking liquid, so the whole dish had a great lobster flavor. my sirloin was good, but the mushrooms and gnocchi were perfect. i've never had gnocchi that light and fluffy before.

too bad we were full and skipped dessert. the couple next to us had the nutella filled donuts. they looked delicious!

stripburger, fashion show mall

i had heard good things about stripburger so it was on the short list for lunch. while jason went for the chocolate fudge milkshake, i had jeff's shakin' lemonade. the milk shake was one of the best we'd both ever had - hand dipped chocolate ice cream whipped up with rich hot fudge. but the lemonade. oh the lemonade! homemade lemonade and vodka whisked with a rosemary sprig and lemon slice. it was incredible. the best lemonade i've ever had. ever.

onto the food. and since we were at a burger bar, we both had them. bacon cheeseburger for jason and mushroom cheddar for me. they were cooked perfectly and went well with our garlic french fries - fresh fries tossed with raw garlic and herbs. it was the best lunch we had. and since it's on the corner of the strip, we had a great view too.

wicked spoon brunch buffet, the cosmopolitan

after a bad experience at another buffet, we almost skipped it. i'm so glad we didn't. the only thing we did wrong is get there around 1:15 when the buffet ends at 2:00. the selection was perfect for us - homey, comfort foods, nothing too different, and not a lot of seafood. wicked spoon is unique in that about half of the dishes are served preportioned in small bowls or covered metal pots. not only does it look good, keep other people from coughing on your food, but it also keeps it warm, since it's covered. and the decor is gorgeous - clean and modern, just like the rest of the hotel.
i started with macaroni and cheese, fried chicken, and a sweet barbecue glazed chicken. the macaroni and cheese was perfectly creamy and rich without being cloying, although we couldn't quite figure out if there's a vegetarian version or if mine just didn't get much sausage. don't skip it. the 'wicked good fried chicken' is some of the best fried chicken i've ever had. the glazed chicken was cooked perfectly but the asian glazed flank steak was perfect, but a touch too pink for me. once i passed the dessert island, i knew i had to save room. after some vegetables (for good measure, of course), i dove into the most perfect chocolate souffle cake served in a pool of warm caramel sauce. it was divine. the raspberries in the fruit tart were some of the most ripe, sweet berries i've ever eaten in a restaurant. the chocolate gelato was good, but was overshadowed by the cake!we will definitely be back.

hash house a go go, imperial palace
we left las vegas relatively early tuesday morning and stopped at hash house a go go for a hearty breakfast before we hit the road. the pancake was the size of my head! literally, it was 12 inches in diameter! and a really good buttermilk pancake. the eggs, toast, and coffee that came with my tractor driver combo were good, just not amazing. jason is a sucker for biscuits and sausage gravy so the famous sausage gravy, buttermilk biscuits, mashed potatoes, and scrambled eggs were his. when the platter was brought out, neither of us could believe our eyes. his breakfast could have very easily served three people. it was huge! the potatoes were delicious, as were the biscuits and gravy. i would definitely go back here for breakfast or lunch, just be sure to bring your appetite!

level 107 lounge, stratosphere
this one makes the list not so much because the food was amazing - we actually didn't eat - but the view was unbelievable. while in vegas, we knew we had to see the strip at night from above, but where? it just so happens we made it to the stratosphere just after the sun went down and the strip started lighting up. it was hard for us to swallow the $13 a piece price tag to take the elevator to the top of the tower, so we went one floor lower - to 107 - to the lounge for free instead. we each had a drink, listened to live music, spied on the top of the world restaurant one floor down, and enjoyed our view of the strip.


  1. Those burgers look delicious! My grandpa lives in Vegas and I just may have to check out Stripburger next time I'm in town for a visit. I am a huge Chopped fan myself, so Scarpetta looks very intriguing as well. Last time I was in Vegas, I sampled Bobby Flay's Mesa Grill. In fact, I've got a review featured on my blog if interested: http://foodforschmitty.blogspot.com/2011/08/taste-of-grill-masters-place.html


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