I just got back from a wonderful holiday vacation with my family in Southern California. Part of the trip was in Las Vegas with my parents. Now, none of the 4 of us gamble very much, but we wanted to see Cirque du Soleil's show "O" at the Bellagio. If you've never experienced Cirque du Soleil, you must. It's theater meets circus, and you get the best of both worlds. Okay, maybe the story line needs improvement, but hey, when someone is bending so far backwards you don't know what part of her body is still hers, I'm willing to give them a little grace.
Of course, wherever I go, I make sure to do some research on FOOD! It's sad to say, but sometimes it seems I live to eat, rather than eat to live. Don't judge me, it's what floats my boat. This time around, my list was compiled of solely Asian food. Japanese, Chinese, even a little Taiwanese place made it on my list. All of it was OFF the STRIP, which is critical to me, since I made the assumption that almost everything ON the Strip was probably some sort of tourist fare that would surely disappoint. Yes, my choices were a bit skewed, but whenever I go back home to CA, which is really an Asian state all of its own, I go back to my Asian-ness. It's all I want to eat. It's all I'll really consider. My mom, however, made a great point that my husband, who is a 6'8" and Germanic, may not want to have yet another Asian meal. One doesn't argue with my 5'2" mother, so I relented. Without my usual resources (the Internet), I quickly chose something that would be a sure bet. I chose Enoteca San Marco. Counter to my gut, which tells me I should stay OFF the STRIP, I thought to myself, it's Mario Batali's, and he is one of my favorite chefs because his food usually tastes GOOD. It's also usually extremely flavorful and something I would have difficulty replicating at home. I have been to two of his New York restaurants and have raved about them since. Lupa and Casa Mono are one of my favorite dining experiences in the past few years.
Off we went to the Venetian Hotel on the Strip to partake in another of Batali's restaurants. Let's cut to the chase. It was totally, utterly disappointing. First, I had to help the waiter do his job. I am not usually a mean person, but when it comes to the service industry, I expect to be served in a reasonable sort of way. We all knew it was bad when I had to say for the second time, "You know, it would be great if we could get some olive oil and balsamic vinegar to go with the bread you gave us when we were first seated 15 minutes ago..."
On to the meal itself. Pressed for time before the show, we only had an entree vs. the usual 3 course meal that I like. We ordered the Grilled Hangar Steak marinated in balsamic vinegar, the Crispy Duck, Pork Chops, Bowtie Pasta with Sausage and Broccoli Rabe, Mussels and Linguine, and as a side, the Roasted Beets with Horseradish. When it came, we were so overwhelmed with mediocrity we could scarcely say a thing. The steak came in chunks with a side of watercress salad swimming in vinegar. Not vinaigrette. Vinegar. At least the steak wasn't overcooked. The Roasted Beets with Horseradish was actually a cold dish of potatoes, with some beets. Where was the horseradish? Inquiring minds would like to know. I can hardly talk about anything else because it was so...average. When you go to a Batali restaurant, you expect fireworks. You expect complexity. You certainly don't expect dishes that could be prepared in my Lancastrian home--not that there's anything wrong with my cooking. It's just that I don't get paid millions of dollars to cook! On top of it all, it was expensive. It was Batali prices for tourist fare. I felt duped, cheated, taken for a ride - you get my drift. Learn from my mistake. Stay OFF the STRIP, and don't let the shimmering lights of Las Vegas blind you into thinking differently.