Las Vegas 2014 – A Great Place to Celebrate! Image 1
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Las Vegas 2014 – A Great Place to Celebrate!

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We just got back from a long weekend in Las Vegas to celebrate my dad’s 70th birthday.  Las Vegas is the perfect place to meet your family and friends because it is a place of indulgence.  The hotels are abundant with restaurants, bars and of course casinos just waiting for out-of-towners to partake in the fun.  Our trip began at the Aria Hotel & Casino located at the City Center.

We have stayed at the Aria before and for the most part the hotel has kept up its reputation, there were only a few niceties missing from the last trip – turn down service with chocolate on your bed stand, slippers in the room and reasonably priced drinks at the pool –18$ for a cocktail poolside??




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After checking in we headed to the sports book to meet my dad for a drink before heading to the pool.  We decided to get a piece of pizza and a salad to eat in the casino while we were waiting for the races to start at Del Mar. Five 50 was right next door and I could smell the wood fired pizza from where I was sitting.  The slice was flavorful with zesty sauce and a crunchy crust – not a bad quick lunch or pie to go spot.

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After my sister and brother in law joined the group, we headed to a happy hour in the Aria Hotel at Sirio Restaurante which was located on the promenade.  They had wine, beer and cocktail specials plus small appetizers to nibble on before we went to dinner.  The Ricotta Dumplings were soft and tender to bite into and the Octopus Pizzaiola had nice flavor, but was a tad chewy.

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The waiter new we were celebrating, so he poured us all a shot of Limoncello to kick off our night.  Very kind!

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After drinks we headed to the Cosmopolitan Hotel for dinner at Rose.Rabbit.Lie.  It is the sister restaurant of Faith & Flower in downtown Los Angeles.  I had read the food was mostly tapas style and that there was entertainment but, no one mentioned how delicious the French style small plates were or how the piano top club-like tap dancers were so impressive.

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The food was so fantastic and we ordered our share.  Our waiter, Michael was sensational in helping us select a great variety of dishes.  We started with the Truffle Mornay Gougeres.    Las Vegas 2014 2014-08-08 044 (480x480)

Followed by The Warm Bloomsdale Spinach Salad with Grilled Shitakes and Goat Cheese and a dish of Sweet Corn with Cotija Cheese, Guajillo Peppers and Cilantro.  All the flavors were fresh and seasoned perfectly.

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Some of my favorites were the Crispy Oysters Rockefeller with house-cured bacon, spinach and bacon dust and the Rock Shrimp and Corn Agnolotti.

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The Short Rib Stroganoff with Roasted Maitake Mushrooms was served deconstructed, in great meaty packages – lovely.

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The Duck Confit Pasta had an elegant sauce that enhanced the shredded duck and the table loved it.

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A fun and flavorful Pizza – that isn’t being done all over – was the Caviar Flatbread with 63 Degree Egg and Bacon.  The caviar acted as a salty accompaniment to the already flavorful pie.  (no photo)  The Wagyu Steak Frites was a nice treat from the chef with Tempura Potatoes and Wilted Spinach.

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The most dramatic thing of the evening, other than the entertainment where my dad was serenaded by a women with feather boa and kissed with ruby red lipstick was the Chocolate Estuary.

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This chocolate creation was one of the most unique and tasty treats we have had.  Under the dome lay frozen chocolate pieces, ganache bars and marshmallow covered in chocolate crumbs.  Remarkable!

The next day we relaxed by the pool after a good workout in the gym.  That evening, we were pressed for time, so ended up at Double Barrel which was located on the outside of the Monte Carlo Hotel & Casino.

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The space was quite large and looked more like a club than restaurant and quite frankly, was a bar and not a restaurant in my opinion.  The food was average at best and I would consider it fast-casual and definitely not anything above that.  The service was good and the best thing we tasted were the BBQ Oysters and drinks.

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We headed to the Riviera Hotel for the Forever Doo Wop show for dad’s big weekend. The entertainment was good and I would highly recommend getting tickets at the Same-Day Discount Ticket Booth for this show.

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After the show we wanted to see Fremont Street in downtown because we hadn’t been there in 20 years.   The covered pedestrian-only street displays animated film to music on the ceiling starting at 9:00 p.m. nightly.  The place is loaded with locals walking up and down the street to hear the live bands play for free.

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We stopped in Mob Bar at the downtown Grand for a quick drink and realized it was a dualing piano bar that evening — hmmm – good drinks though.

Las Vegas 2014 2014-08-09 016 (480x360)The following day was my dad’s actual birthday and we ate at Burger Bar in the Mandalay Bay Hotel for lunch. The burgers were just okay and the service was beyond slow, but it was nice to walk around and visit some touristy favorites like the M&M store.

That evening our dinner was at Portofino at the Mirage Hotel.   The restaurant was chic with a large bar area in the front and white tablecloth dining in the back.  It was a Sunday night, the place wasn’t too crowded and we were told the restaurant was just redone four weeks prior.  Chef Michael La Placa was at the helm and Chris was the manager/sommelier.

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The menu read like we were in Italy and all the pastas sounded exquisite. Chris mentioned every pasta was made to order, so we could order half and quarter portions if we wanted to taste them all — and we did!

For starters we had the two salads – Caesar and Heirloom Tomato with Burrata and an Arancini Crab Cake to share.  The salads were fresh and I loved the addition of rice to a large crunchy cake.  My only complaint would be the crouton strip on the Caesar tasted a little stale.

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As for the pasta course – all of them were over the top delicious and it was hard to choose which ones we enjoyed the most.

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Starting with Short Rib Lasagna!

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Rippitini Pasta with fresh Meaty Ragu ( a play on words from ripping the pasta by hand)!

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Herb Gnocchi!

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Carbonara Pasta!

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Burrata Agnolotti with Lobster!

All of these dishes were fresh and flavorful and didn’t skimp on quality. You could really taste that the pasta was made in house.

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For entrees, we shared the Veal Saltimbocca and the Snapper in Parchment with Fagioli pasta.  The veal was slightly overdone and had a tough exterior, but the crispy prosciutto made the flavors meld.  The fish had a wonderful texture and the sauce was rich tomato with a hint of spice – really nice.

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For dessert – they brought my dad Tiramisu as well as Creme Brulee with Fresh Berries and Banana Chocolate Cake with Chocolate Gelato.  The creme brulee had a hint of lemon, but for me – no banana desserts. My sister loved the banana cake with a frozen banana inside.

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We took a long walk back to Aria and viewed the erupting volcano at the Mirage as well as the Bellagio fountain at night.  I ordered a birthday cake from Jean Phillipe and had it delivered to my dads room to sing Happy Birthday that night.  If you haven’t had a cake at Jean Phillipe Patisserie, you’re missing something extraordinary – Lemon Curd with Raspberries.

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Another great weekend in Las Vegas with my family – Happy 70th Birthday Dad!


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