The inherent possibilities of a thriving culinary scene tend to personify themselves in the belief of melding the new and the old. In the case of Las Vegas where the celebrity chefs flock like moths to a flame, the relegation becomes one of a balance of competition. Vegas Uncork’d by Bon Appetit brings these appetites together with a sense of diversity that culminates with the Grand Tasting, easily one of the most intrinsic food and wine shindigs in the country.
Find The Food Truck [Hidden Drive – The Bellagio] Hiding an event behind the silver of pavement between the Bellagio and The Cosmopolitan with the Jockey Club just peeking out is a lesson in paradoxes which reflects in the food truck movement in Las Vegas which has started to gain a foothold. A couple years ago, corporate would likely never allow the trucks to come by places like outside HR or call centers but now enjoy a healthy business after a couple of hard years. Entering Bellagio’s Hidden Drive as Vegas stalwart Zowie Bowie plays cover tunes, there is a mixture of big name chef plying perceptions of truck food with the trucks themselves varying within different degrees of possibilities versus their respective So-Cal counterparts.
Lola D’s Kitchen began the trajectory with Louisiana-styled mainstays in the view of a crispy but tart jerk shrimp and a crisp (and not overtly soppy) poutain which involves french fries and gravy finding an equal balance while Roamin’ Dough opted for bacon-wrapped prunes with feta cheese which swirled the necessities of the night with adequate aroma.
Sin City Wings offered finite structure with its buffalo wings replete with sumptuous meat but it was Quality Food Service, despite its plain name, that delivered with a beef empanada with chipotle sauce followed by a fish taco enraptured in mango salsa, simply because the baseline elements in food truck culture tend to be the best, even if it is Kobe beef.
The chefs came out in structure as well with both possibilities and misfires.
Julian Serrano of Picasso [Bellagio] attempted a wide stretch perception of Paella Valenciana combining rabbit, chicken and chorizo with mixed results in deference to too much spice and chewiness but not an adequate amount of flavor while Todd English with P.U.B., brought forth a dungeness crab taco which was by contrast too much within the palette to be “street food” per se.
The Grand Tasting [Olympic Pools – Caesars Palace] The exploration of this marquee event rests within the ideology that one can try only so many flavors to assuage the palette. Overkill is bound to happen within this ideal but fortunately this year, as compared to 2011, there was a moderation of tickets to ensure that everyone could enjoy the progression with only the most stamina driven making it to the far back pool area where Patron’s Bar and the DJ station caroused in full force.
Like last year when it closed the festivities, Comme Ca [Cosmopolitan] came out of the gate with an exceptional and unique intention with an Oxtail Benedict using the surroundings of poached egg, bone marrow and truffle hollandaise to simply propel the possibilities.
Wicked Spoon [The Cosmopolitan] followed in short order with a tart salad of Alaskan King Crab interwoven with asparagus panna cotta and swirled in a Meyer lemon vinaigrette but STK [The Cosmopolitan] bypassed it in short order with their delicious short rib angelotti mixed with peas, fava beans and horseradish for a melt-in-your-mouth feeling.
Scarpetta [The Cosmopolitan] continued with smooth texture of lore with their creamy polenta rife with the fricassee of truffled mushrooms while NOVE [Palms] conceded cool with their coppa di testa salad invigorating salami, wild arugula and cherry mostada sauce (though their carpaccio utilizing octopus and scallops is to die for).
Nobu [Hard Rock], soon to open at Caesars Palace, twirled safely in many circles opting first for a rock shrimp tempura that, while crispy with spicy sauce didn’t overwhelm while the white fish dry miso sashimi fared better optimizing garlic, yuzu juice and a bit of olive oil to its smooth travail.
Rao’s [Caesars] moved with tried and true heartiness with sausage and pepper verisimilitude but opted for more oils than sauce in terms of garnish while Bejing Noodle #9 [Caesars] determined with culture sashayed with a filling noodles and beef followed by a kung pao shirmp skewer for maximum impact.
Heading into the reaches of the back pool, Sushisamba [Palazzo] excelled with its crunchy and intensely vivid yellowtail tacos mixing in elements of shiso, avocado and roasted red miso to exceptional effect while Table 10 followed close behind with an imaginative duck rillette skewed with grilled rhubarb.
The Celebrity Chef Poker Tournament [The Boulevard Pool – The Cosmopolitan] As the night continued on, the Boulevard Pool stretched out above the bustling trendiness of the casino below creating an element of calm and breeze around the curving waterfront. The invited chefs, mixed with cocktails, took up their appointed seats in an effort to play the games that compete for their business in the name of good charity.
After partaking of the wonderful Leffe brew poolside, the lure of strategically placed pool tables allowed for comfortable play-by-play on the poker games as side pockets became pure target practice in the continuing midnight process.
Blue Ribbon Sushi [The Cosmopolitan], also present at the Grand Tasting, offered delicious soy wrapped hand rolls, melding spicy tuna, crab and intermingling spicy sauce to great effect creating the perfect balance of fun and culinary excellence.
Clambake [The Beach – Mandalay Bay] Chilling out into the early evening hours, the lapping (or sometimes strong waves) in the sandy pool area of this cool and seductive end of The Strip destination provided an overwhelming cornucopia of food, both effective and imagined.
Aureole [Mandalay Bay] began the intuition with a full, baked pig integrated with scalloped potatoes and a fish stew that was both intrinsic and yet home felt with a dash of spice thrown in.
The true highlight of the night revolved around the lobster tails prepared with infinite gusto by RM Seafood [Mandalay Place] and its chef Rick Moonen. Grilled over open-fire flames and served with both garlic butter and a special sauce, the succulent meat resounded with both quality and quantity reverberating with true balance into the night.
Vegas Uncork’d by Bon Appetit, as a destination festival, continues to evolve with both a specific taste for fine dining but also progressing with different ideals as shown in the Clambake and Food Truck events while still adhering to the sheer showmanship of the Grand Tasting. While distinct restaurants as with last year stood out (Comme Ca being a consistent), the diversification of Las Vegas continues to make itself both prevalent and known.