Las Vegas has long been a favorite destination for islanders. After years of waiting, I finally got to sample what makes Sin City so popular with Hawaii folks and even managed to venture off the beaten path.
I know what you are thinking: who cares about Nevada’s desert wasteland when I’m sitting pretty in paradise? Las Vegas is everything that Hawaii is not, adult Disneyland in a tight hot package. Its attractions are man-made, neon delights. You get your days and nights reversed. You can legally drink, eat and gamble 24/7 (as long as you’ve had your 21st birthday).
(This being the Food & Drink section, I’ll focus on grinds and sippables. For a full account my my Vegas venture including tips on travel, accommodations and the hottest parties, visit www.mauidish.com .)
With a buffet of 24-hour options, Las Vegas can feed you any time of the day or night. There are two major “neighborhoods” in Vegas: the strip and downtown. You’ll find a lot of Hawaii folks downtown; it’s older and more established. The strip is comprised of the mega-resort properties that line Las Vegas Boulevard. There’s a Roy’s and lots of sushi options, and Chinese take out (like at the Lanai Express at the Fremont where I got my 3am Saimin fix), but I zeroed in on the kind of foods I can’t get back home.
Downtown has a few Cuban joints like Florida Cafe and Q-Ba, or Mexican and Cuban fusion at Mamitas in the Fremont East district, right off of the Fremont Street Experience. The Cuban food at Mamita’s—a nice little hole-in-the-wall—is served with a healthy dose of cultural color, plus they have ’80s Latin videos that kept us amused throughout the meal. They make a tasty black bean chile and fried plantains; combine the two for a balanced sweet and savory experience, Caribbean style.
Fine Dining and sight seeing are combined in fashionable French flair at Alize at the top of the Palms. Chef and proprietor André Rochat is one of the top restauranteurs in Vegas and has maintained an elegant menu and intimate, romantic experience in his 56th-floor dining room since 2001. The views are some of the best in the city; you can see the entire strip skyline. In fact, while I dined, a helicopter flew by at eye level.
The French cuisine is incredible, and their extensive wine list catapults it to the next dimension. The chef can do a five or seven-course tasting menu, paired or not, or you can venture through the menu at your leisure. The sauteed foie gras is memorable, served over a delicate apple crisp and vanilla creme anglaise, thus nailing the classic but blissful salty and sweet palate combination (best enjoyed while sipping the Carnes de Rieussec Sauternes). Alize is known for it’s collection of cognac, and also offers flights of port, armagnac and calvados. Don’t leave without having the dessert souffle. You must order it with dinner to give it time to bake, and it comes to your table as a spectacular hot fluff in chocolate or Grand Marnier.
For locovore deconstructed, visit the Hash House A Go Go at the Imperial Palace. This place is taking American cuisine and reinterpreting it, adding fresh veggies and incredible sauces and giving you a new dining experience. It’s corn-fed livestock meets local ingredients, with entrees featuring the bounty of our American farms and re-imagined dishes in huge portions. The dining room features new-school galvanized metals and Naugahyde seats with an old fashioned flair. The cocktail menu is in line with their overall philosophy; I had a BLT Bloody Mary, served in a pint glass, with a rib of romaine and crisp bacon garnish along with a piece of dry toast. The Mary was zesty and rimmed with bacon salt. Their mimosas are stellar as well, also served in a pint glass with fresh juices; try the tangerine. The eggs Benedict was served with biscuits and mashed potatos and a red pepper cream with tomatoes and spinach. It was out of this world, and bigger than my head. Expect leftovers.
Speaking of which, the best thing about leftovers in Vegas is that it means you can take the rest of your cocktail to go. My pint glass of champagne got tossed in a cup with a lid and I hit the strip ready for inebriated early-afternoon action. Every major casino from downtown to the strip carries top-shelf liquor. It’s cheaper in the downtown area; you’ll pay extra to drink in the glam of the strip, but you can also find some great sidewalk bars that keep it real.
Got a hot food scoop? Contact Jen Russo at 808-280-3386 or fax to 808-244-0446.