Christmas with Mom I’ve made an escape down to Las Vegas the last two years for Christmas and planned to make 2010 the third year in a row. My mom had listened to my various Vegas tales, well the censored ones at least and had been bugging me to take her down to Vegas one day. Killing two birds with one stone, I took her down with me on this trip as her Christmas present. I picked the Mandarin Oriental to stay at, as I had stayed there in August and enjoyed it as a bit of an oasis from the craziness. I figured that this would be the best way to introduce my mom to Vegas as we’d be able to relax back at our hotel. Another plus was that it was a totally non-smoking hotel as she isn’t fond of smoke. It was a bit amusing as the reservation manger had put us in adjoining rooms originally and I had to ask, “Ummm actually can we get rooms on different floors”, which luckily was not a problem at all. Our itinerary had us leaving the morning of the 23rd and getting back in the afternoon of the 27th. I had booked Sage for Christmas Eve dinner, followed by Twist for Christmas Dinner and we had got tickets to Love on Boxing Day. Other then that we didn’t have much planned though I did want to check out Cosmopolitan. We ended up eating at China Pablano (X 2), Jaleo and Holsteins. Departure My mom arrived her customary 15 minutes early so I wasn’t quite ready yet. After finishing up my last minute packing, it was off to the airport. Hardly any lines at the airport and we were at our gate within an hour and a half of leaving my place. We had a window and middle seat, I had resisted the urge to grab two window seats. I do generally like Westjet but this was the third flight in a row that there was a delay as our plane had landed on the domestic side and they needed to tow it over to the international side. Hey Isn’t that my Name Nothing too interesting happened on the flight down, it was cloudy so nothing really to see out the window until we got into Las Vegas and we did get an ok view of the strip, coming in from the East. I had arranged a stretch limo pick up through Presidential, so as we came down the escalator to the baggage claim area I pointed out one of the guys was holding up a sign with my name. My mom at this point was so busy taking in all the blinking lights and sounds already, it took her a while to clue in what that meant. Desmond, our driver mentioned that this was his first day, and that we were his first fare ever. He got our luggage out to the limo and had the rose for my mom and champagne going. Took some pictures in the limo as we sampled the champagne. I got him to drive us out to the sign for pictures. Unfortunately the traffic really sucked so this took a while. Even though it was bright and sunny on arrival, some of the roads from McCarran were still lakes from the rain storm that had ended the day before our arrival. Mandarin Arrival Pulling up to the Mandarin, we had finished about half of our bottle of champagne and as I hadn’t really eaten yet I was feeling pretty happy. The guys in top hats had our luggage out and we had the separate bags setup to go to separate rooms. Unfortunately at this point I forgot to do something with our champagne bottle so I ended up rolling through the upper lobby and check in walking around with it, classy! Mandarin Check In The sky lobby at Mandarin is definitely one of the nicer places in town to check in. They had warm towels and their welcome tea for us during check in and the manager came out and introduced himself to us. We ended up in rooms on the 9th and 19th floors, which was kind of cool as I had only booked the standard room which weren’t that high. After grabbing our keys we went down to my mom’s room and I showed her how to work the controls. Like Aria the Mandarin has the Control4 system to control everything. I’m not sure how well that ended up working for her as some weird things ended up happening. We hung out in the room for a bit and admired the view while finishing off our champagne. The bags had been delivered at this point so I headed back to my room to unpack before heading out. Cosmopolitan First Impressions The first plan of the trip was to go check out the Cosmopolitan which had just opened. The doormen pointed out a shorter way then we had gone in August to get to Crystals. There’s a small set of stairs that take you to the sidewalk along the driveway to City Center. Then up the escalator to the overpass that takes you into Crystals. I noticed they had hired a staff person to stand at the corner of the over pass and the top of the escalators to give directions to Aria/Crystals. A walk through Crystals, out to the outdoor overpass over Harmon and it was into Cosmo. Someone had pointed out that the sign indicating that the escalator to Bellagio was through Cosmo might be the most subversive sign in all of Las Vegas. It’s probably true too as you can continue on by the front of Cosmo and not need to go in at all. The overpass puts you into the second floor and the second level of the Chandelier Bar dominates the view. There’s mostly stores on this level along with two restaurants, China Pablano and Holsteins. We walked up to the third floor and took a look around the restaurants up there. I had wanted to grab a bite a China Pablano but they were closed from 3-5 and I was starving. Holsteins With China Poblano closed, we ended up at the burger place at Cosmo, Holsteins. We got seated right away but it did take a touch longer then normal to get service from then on as they were on some sort of shift change. The first beer I ordered wasn’t pouring right so our waitress was kind enough to bring out a sampler of another beer to see if it was ok and it was. I ordered the burger with the fried egg on it with onion rings on the side, while my mom had their basic burger with no bun and yam fries. My burger was good, nothing earth shattering, though it was the first time I’d had a fried egg in a burger and that was good. I’d say this was better then KGB burger and the lounge area looked like not a bad place to watch a game or two, the waitress uniforms there were the most eye catching in the whole resort. Exploring After finally getting some food in us, we did a bit of exploring throughout Cosmo and got an Identity card. The main casino floor at Cosmo is sort of long and rectangular and pretty easy to find your way around. If you get on the terrazzo floor as opposed to the carpet it will lead you to either the lobby or the strip depending which way you’re heading. The lobby was pretty cool with the LED screens but it seemed both times I looked at it, the art they had up on it wasn’t that great. After Cosmopolitan we headed out towards Bellagio. It’s a real short walk to the people mover on the south side of the driveway and again they had people standing on the corner directing people into Bellagio and handing out maps. We headed up the escalator and stayed near the top to watch a fountain show. That spot is probably my favourite to watch the fountains actually as usually there’s little crowd there and you get a bit of an elevated view. Continuing on we checked out the Bellagio Porte Corchere, the Chihuly ceiling and Conservatory dressed up for Christmas. A quick spin through the casino as well. We ended up hitting the bathroom in the Baccarat Room and subtly pointed out the guy betting 25k a hand to her as we left. Shopping and Gambling At this point my mom wanted to go shopping so we crossed the street over to Miracle Mile and I dropped her off in the mall as I went to go gamble. All the Pai Gow Poker tables at Planet Hollywood were full so I popped across the street back to Cosmopolitan. This was a quick trip, almost shorter then getting from the Bellagio lobby to Cosmopolitan. I found the Asian pit such as it is at the Cosmopolitan, basically two Pai Gow Poker tables and a Mini Bac table at one end with Black Jack and Roulette tables filling the rest of the pit. At Cosmopolitan they have the machines that will read each hand as it’s dealt so the dealer can check on the LCD screen built into the table if they’ve set their hand right. Not sure how I feel about that, and it actually affected game play at a later session. In any case the dealers I hit during the first session weren’t great and were completely relying on the screen to check how to set their hands. This really slowed the game down, but I didn’t really mind. It got even more confusing for the dealers when I had the table to myself and started banking, as they had to figure out which player hand to check how to set. I ended up just treading water during this session. At shift change one of the pits recognized me from Encore so that was kind of cool. At this point I did ask about grabbing a couple buffet line passes. The pit guy actually didn’t know and made some calls and apparently no one knew if they did or not at that point. He did say he called a host down to talk to me, but unfortunately I ended up having to leave to go meet up with my mom before I got to talk to her. Mandarin Bar Mom didn’t actually like the Miracle Mile shops at all. We planned then to get changed and head out to a late dinner over at Cosmopolitan. After changing we met in the Mandarin Bar and ended up enjoying the view, drinks, company and bar snacks so much we didn’t make it to dinner. Mom had the Lychee Smash and I stuck to beer for the duration. Cosmopolitan Gambling After Mom called it a night at the Mandarin Bar, I walked over to the Cosmopolitan. It was time to do some serious damage at the Pai Gow table. The Pit boss from Encore was still working so we were talking and she said she much preferred Cosmopolitan over Encore. The beer selection wasn’t that great, there were no micro brews really and I chose to make do with Heineken. As for the gambling, the dealers were still pretty bad technically but friendly enough. As the hour got later I ended up playing heads up a lot which is cool because I can bank. They do have some weird house way going on here so that’s something to note. They split J/7 or better instead of J/6 with an ace. This turns out to become important later in the trip. I managed to get a nice little run going and kept winning and winning and by the time I cashed out I was up 14 bets. It was 3 Amish by this time and I managed to stumble home to the Mandarin. China Pablano The next day I rallied and met up with mom for lunch. We decided to hit up China Pablano for lunch as we had missed it the previous day. China Pablano is one of two Jose Andres restaurants in Cosmopolitan. Jose Andres studied under Ferran AdriÃ at Ell Bulli in Spain and is one of the more well known chefs right now running The Bazaar in LA and minibar, Jaleo and a couple other restaurants in Washington DC. China Pablano was a mixture of Chinese and Mexican dishes, with some mixtures of the two cuisines. It was an intriguing concept as I love dim sum and wanted to see how he’d combine that with a Mexican influence. Here’s a link to the menu: http://www.chinapoblano.com/pdf/chinapoblano_menus.pdf Our Order Lagosta Tacos: These were gone so quickly we didn’t get a picture of them. Lobster tacos with a light touch of salsa and chile sauce which gave a bit of kick to the lobster. Vegetable Noodles: This dish had a number of different vegetables cut into noodle form with a soy-chile dipping sauce. It was really the sauce that made this dish, though I think my Mom ordered this so she could pretend to be somewhat healthy. When Pigs Can Fly: Steamed Pork Buns are one of my favourite dishes in the world, so I had to try this version of them. It actually was a tad disappointing as they weren’t anything special. Sui Mai Scallops: Sui Mai is another Dim Sum staple and this version sounded interesting as they’re not usually made with scallops. This dish also turned out to not be that special. A good example of Sui Mai but not earth shattering. Dessert My Mom really enjoys her deserts and we ended up ordering two that looked good. Mango Rice Pudding: This was there take on Mango Rice Pudding and the first dish that we had that was showing off a bit of his molecular background. Rice was soaked in milk then strained out and the milk was extruded to create a kind of custard that the mango was put on. That was topped with a whip cream. This was really good as the custard had the slightest taste of rice in it was a pretty unique taste/texture combination. Terracotta Warrior: A Chocolate Shell in the shape of a Chinese Terracotta Warrior filled with a delicate Chocolate Mousse. The shell then sits on top of some Chocolate dirt and ginger Ice cream. The ginger ice cream made a nice contrast to the heaviness of the chocolate but I did prefer the Mango Rice Pudding, though if you really like chocolate you should try this one. To drink I asked for Coke and got the Mexican version which was cool. The interior dÃ©cor of the restaurant was pretty interesting. It was kind of an institutional type setting almost, with some Mexican flair. They had some cool projections onto some big lantern things too. The Death March to the Fashion Show Mall My Mom wanted to do some more shopping so I thought it would be a good idea to walk up from Cosmopolitan up to Fashion Show Mall. It wasn’t that great an idea as it took a while longer then I remembered it. In any case I dropped her off at the Fashion Show Mall for some retail therapy. At this point I went over to the Mirage to pick up our show tickets and hit Wynn up for a bit of Video Poker. Meeting up at the Fashion Show Mall we then went through Palazzo, checked out the Christmas decorations in the two atrium spaces and the shoppes on the canal. They actually were having some decent sales in the canal shoppes it seemed like. After that we grabbed a cab back to Mandarin. Sage As we left for dinner we tried to grab the house car but it had just taken off for Wynn so we walked up to Aria. Sage had a pre-fixe menu going Christmas Eve, though it didn’t seem to be anything special, just limited the choices. This would be the third time I’ve eaten at Sage and I like it as it’s good food served at a decent price. It was pretty full that night and they were turning tables pretty quick, which was good to see as they had cut back on opening hours here. The room almost has a Jazz Age/Great Gatsby feel and suits it well. For some reason I forgot to take pictures of our meal here. To go with Dinner we got a half bottle of Veuve Cliquoet as champagne pretty much goes with anything. The first item listed is what I had and the second one is what my mom had. Appetizers: Foie Gras Custard Brulee: Blood Orange/Toasted Cocoa Nibs/Salted Brioche Here the Foie was in a custard form with the Brulee type top. The brioche was pretty spectacular a light piece of fluffy dough that still somehow had heft at the same time. The foie custard had a bit of bitterness to it to temper the richness. Taylor Gold Pears & Shaved Brussels Sprouts: Red Endive/Macadamia Nut/Bacon Mustard Vinaigrette This seemed to be mostly pears and endive with the brussel sprouts shaved on top. The piece of bacon served on top looked pretty tasty. Mains: Braised Veal Cheeks: King Trumpet/Mushrooms/ Creamy White Polenta/Black Garlic This dish was served in a stainless steel pan. Two pieces of veal cheeks on top of the polenta. The meat was just as tender and juicy as you’d expect and the polenta was a bit of a revelation, nice and creamy. Main Day Boat Scallops: Braised Oxtail/Wil Mushrooms/Salted Caramel Reduction This dish made my mom happy she didn’t order the chicken. Dessert: Chocolate Grand Mariner Mousse Cake: Crispy Bownie/Orange Custard/Marinated Citrus A good example of chocolate but not earth shattering. Not to say that it wasn’t good, just wasn’t excellent. Vanilla Gelato: A Simply but effective dessert. I also had my traditional Americano to end the meal. First Time Gambler After dinner Mom decided it was time to gamble for the first time at the tables. We found a $10 BJ table at Aria and were away for the adventure. Showed her how to buy in and soon we had chips in our hands. It took her a while to work out that she had to make the hand signs but everyone was pretty patient, and they waited to make sure the hand sign she did was actually what she wanted to do. In any case we went on a little bit of a run and before the table turned cold I got us coloured up. A successful first time for Mom, though I’m not sure that’s a good thing as she almost immediately wanted to go back and earn the rest of the purse she wanted to buy. We wandered a bit around Aria at this point and I showed her the Maya Lin sculpture behind the registration desk and the Jenny Holzher piece down by the North Valet. We did sit down in the City Bar, but for some reason the cocktail mom wanted wasn’t available at that bar. Well they didn’t have lavender was the reason give. In any case the waitress was super nice and directed us to Bar Moderno where they did have the drink, as she was adamant that mom should try it. After all our walking and our plans later, to do something I’ve never done in Vegas before we retreated back to the Mandarin Bar for a Christmas Eve night cap. There’s a first time for Everything When we were planning the trip, my mom had come up with a request I had never thought about before. She wanted to go to Midnight Mass. So we did a bit of research and found two churches, one by Luxor and one by Encore. We ended up heading out to the one by Encore as it was a shorter walk to go and catch a cab after the service. I figured that it wouldn’t be that busy, who goes to church in Vegas after all, so we didn’t leave until 11 PM. Oops the place was packed by the time we got there at 11:15. Luckily I found my mom a seat but I had to stand in the back. They had a choir and mini orchestra going and they were quite good. I guess there’s a few talented musicians kicking around Vegas. They had an older gentleman singing and then a younger woman, she kind of reminded me of Carlotta from Phantom as she liked to trill her voice a bit. The bishop of Las Vegas was officiating the ceremony so that was interesting. The ceremony lasted until about 1:30 AM and as far as anyone knows I spent the whole time standing at the back of the church. Encore was way too far away to be able to get to and back in time. Luckily walking out we grabbed a cab pulling into the church and were back at Mandarin momentarily. The Bar by that time was close however and I retired back to my room, drew a bath and fell asleep in the bath. Was worried a bit when I woke up and the TV said 5 AM but I realized it was eastern time. The bath tubs are pretty nice though the plug was a bit difficult to figure out. I had the partition for the bathroom pushed back so I can view south out the strip and catch the sports hi-lites on the TV. I did never actually get the TV in my bathroom to work however. Christmas Present At some point during the night, Mandarin had put up stockings for all their guests. They filled them with some truffles and a Ginger Bread Cookie from their in house Patisserie. Both were wonderful and I didn’t even get around to eating the Ginger Bread Cookie until I got home, but it wasn’t at all that hard ginger bread but rather melt in your mouth gingery goodness. Christmas Morning This was our designated sleep in morning but for some reason I was up by 9. I knew I had some time before lunch with Mom so I ran over to Bellagio to the bar tops where I had hit my royal last trip. The bartender was nice and had me set up with a coffee and frangelica while I chased another royal. Unfortunately it didn’t show up and I had booked a bit of a loss as I had moved up to chase the royal at dollars. The interesting part of this session was the couple that sat next to me. The guy was the keyboard player and the girl was the singer of some sort of singing outfit and she was rapping and started singing while sitting next to me. She was actually alright but it was a tad annoying. My Mlife account had shown I was just below getting Gold so I went to the Player’s Club to see if that gaming had taken me over the limit. However I got some lady who seemed like she was mad at me bothering her about it and she was giving me some line about how each property was going to have different tier levels and that I was basically SOL at Bellagio for anything. Screw you! MOZen Bistro I had arranged to meet my mom for lunch at the restaurant in the hotel. It’s kind of an interesting concept as the menu covers all sorts of different cuisines and they have a tandori oven and sushi chef. Bento Box I got the Bento box and it had Sui Mai, Pork Buns, Potato Samosas, Prawn Salad, an Oyster and a Shrimp Ceviche. I also got an order of Ami Ebi Nigiri. Everything was pretty good here though it is a bit on the pricey side. In August they charged $10 for a refillable coke and I noticed this time it had been lowered to $6. Mom just had a Chef’s Salad and enjoyed it. Book and Stage and Shopping Mom wanted to do some more shopping and I didn’t so I put her in a cab to Fashion Show Mall and I took off to Cosmopolitan. Found a bartop in the Book and Stage which is their sports area. I wanted to watch the Lakers/Heat game and before that I got to watch the Celtics collapse. The first hand I played was a full house and from then on I just couldn’t lose. The bartender mentioned to me that there had been a lady playing my machine for two days and not hit anything so I seemed to have turned the luck around. I ended up hitting 9 quads, with Aces once and quadrupling my buy in. The bar serves some decent looking food and because of that it’s actually non-smoking, which I enjoyed. I watched the Lakers get smoked and it was time to go back and get ready for dinner. So in talking about each others day upon meeting up, it turns out the Fashion Show Mall was closed for Christmas and she had booted over to Wynn for Drinks and more gambling. That was a bit surprising though I think I almost cried when she mentioned she had tried that video poker thing but couldn’t figure out how to hold cards and had thrown away 3 of a kind, doh. Twist For Christmas Dinner we chose to go to Twist which is in the Mandarin. I had been there for Christmas Dinner last year and out of the options of Twist, Alex and Robuchon Mom picked Twist. It’s located on the 23rd floor down a hallway to the left of the reception desk. Our table was next to the windows and we got a great view north down the strip. Twist had a special Christmas menu, but unlike Sage it was all completely new and made up just for the 24th and 25th. We opted to add the Champagne Toast and Wine Pairings to the meal. Initial Place Setting Plate CanapÃ©s Veuve Clicquot Forgot to take a picture before eating the first of the CanapÃ©s in the silver bowl, it was a warm almond biscuit with a bit of cream on the bottom. The bottom of the cup that was holding the two bread sticks had a Chantilly cream flavoured with something I forget. You broke the bread sticks into little pieces and dipped it into the cream. The brown cubes were a Jack Daniels/Guiness Gelee dusted with chili ginger topping. The small sandwich things next to the cubes were filled with Marscapone Cheese and I forget what the wafers were. Behind the breadsticks was a coriander salad thing I think. My favourite of these was the Marscapone Cheese things. Foie Gras Grilled & Glazed Terrine, Saffron Fruit Marmalade, Braised Turnip, White Port 08 Francois Pinon Vouray This was really like a nice smooth meaty butter. I liked having both the Marmalade and Turnip available to pair with the Foie as you could pair the richness of the Foie with either sweet or tart. Pea Soup Corn Ice Cream, Diced SautÃ©ed Scallops & Curried Shrimps 08 Alexana Pinot Gris The White Pea soup was served with a scoop of Corn Ice Cream. The mixture of the warm Pea Soup and Cold Corn Ice cream was heavenly and the Scallops and Shrimp just icing on top of the cake. Loup de Mer Sliced & Cooked Twisted Olive Oil, Seaweed Brioche 09 Langwerth Von Simmein Riesling The fish here was cooked perfectly and the seaweed brioche was interesting. Roasted Pheasant Breast Almond & Pistachio Sauce, Arugula, Chicory Tartlet, SautÃ©ed Wild Mushrooms 07 Sidori Pinot Noir Leefes Ranch The crusted skin on this was out of this world. You can kind of see that small piece on top was just basically a large piece of skin. The Pheasant is similar to chicken but just a touch gamier. The Tartlet was a palette cleanser, warm and tart. Grand Dessert 06 Chapoutier Barylus This course had three parts to it Classic French Buche de Noel Cake, Preserved Orange There was something similar to this served last Christmas and again it was good. Chocolate Ice Cream, Pistachio Parfait & Mocha Syrup Rose Champagne Sorbet, Litchi Granite, Orange Marmalade & Passion Fruits This was my favourite of the desserts. A Light Fruity way to end the listed courses. Petit Fours Americano The sticks are meringue airs. They just melt in your mouth and it’s really like eating sugared air. We had passion fruit and strawberry flavours. On the left of the block is a Madeleine, this had a nutty/cake flavour In the middle is an Almond thing that actually changes colour depending on how the light strikes it. It was really good, as it was filled with an almond paste. The last petit four was a miniature cup of chocolate filled with Chantilly cream. When going to nice dinners like this I ask for a signed copy of the menu as a souvenir. It turned out that tonight the Chef de Cuisine, Pascal Sanchez was out of the kitchen as he was at the airport picking up Pierre Gagnaire. Chef Gagnaire was coming in to cook for New Years so unfortunately we just missed him. This is the third time I’ve eaten at Twist and every meal has been spectacular, though this was special as I got to share it with. Mandarin Bar After dinner, and feeling quite stuffed we retired to the Mandarin Bar again. Instead of continuing the assault on the cocktail list we got some more champagne to admire the view with. After the champagne my mom called it a night and I was left to my own devices. Push Push Push I decided to go try my luck some more at Cosmopolitan as it had been treating me pretty good so far. I ended up at the PGP table that faced the main thoroughfare. They were having some AC issues as it was blowing so hard the dealer had to weight down my buy in to keep it from blowing away. I noticed that tonight the automatic readers weren’t running and in fact they were back to using dice to determine who gets first hand at the other table. There was a couple from Oklahoma playing and they were pretty fun. He ended up just missing a 7 card straight flush with a joker when his 8 was a diamond instead of a heart. He did still do pretty good bank on it though, of course I missed out as I only play the bonus sporadically. As the night went on I ended up at the table by myself. I kind of like this as it does let me bank, and I even had that work to my advantage a couple time. At some point in the night I wanted to move away from beer and tried to get a single malt. Aparently they don’t have any in the service bars, just Johnny Walker. The waitress did say they were to get some in soon, though I don’t know if she was just saying that or what. This session I really never got anything going either way. In fact with one relief dealer I pushed her entire 20 minute shift. I’ve never done that before, I was actually cheering for something to happen either way. I ended up this session exactly even and did the 3 AM stumble back to the hotel. It was raining as I walked which was sort of refreshing. China Pablano Redux Failing to come up with anywhere better and wanting to try some more of the menu, we ended up at China Pablano again for Lunch the next day. The first time we’d stuck with pretty basic things so this time I wanted to be a little more adventurous. The restaurant was pretty busy and we had to wait a couple minutes to get seated at the Dim Sum bar. Again the link to the menu: : http://www.chinapoblano.com/pdf/chinapoblano_menus.pdf Lagosta (Lobster) Tacos/Cochinita (Barbeque Pork). We repeated the Lobster tacos and added the Barbeque Pork. The Lagosta Tacos were great as last time but in the Cochinita I found the Pork to be a little dry. Chicken Ji Song Lettuce Cups The star of this meal though was the Lettuce. Sort of similar in idea to PF Chang’s Lettuce Wraps, in the way that Brad Pitt and I are similar in the looks department. The fried sweet potatoes really added oomph to the bites. North Meets South Jiaozi And the last dish was the Jiaozi. I was a little disappointed in this dish too as it just really didn’t do anything for me and I found the dumpling wrapping a bit tough and unappealing. It was interesting to note that this time they gave me a regular bottle of Coke instead of the Mexican type they had done earlier. I tried to use Identity points here to pay for part of the bill but they said I wasn’t showing any balance. Since we were planning on eating at Cosmopolitan for dinner this wasn’t a big deal. I did go down to the Identity Desk afterwards and there was a bit of a line. However I just mentioned to the lady directing the line the problem I had and she actually walked over and got the Identity Manager. He was nice and said he would go up there and talk to them about the procedures to use comp points. He also gave me his name and extension so that if we had a problem at dinner to just call him and he’d come up and take care of it personally. I thought this was great customer service as it wasn’t that much money. This was in direct comparison to the blow off I got at the Bellagio Players Club. Wandering After lunch we find a $10 table at Cosmopolitan near the front in a Gaming Cabana. It didn’t start out great and we’re both down a bit and in fact I lost everything and had to borrow some from mom before making a comeback. She actually got back to over even and I ended up losing a bit. It’s always funny listening to some of the advice the dealer’s give you but this wasn’t a serious amount so it didn’t really matter. Mom had actually gone shopping in the morning before I got up so she had blown her shopping bankroll so I couldn’t drop her off at another mall. We ended up just wandering through Paris, she almost got the guy to sell a Silver Elephant that was listed at $750 for a fraction of the price but then decided she didn’t have room in her suit case. Also at Paris I sat down at a VP machine to run a couple points through, with mom watching. I was dealt an Ace and King of Hearts in the middle positions. I held and it filled in Queen of Hearts, Jack of hearts and then on the end it was a red ten, but the ten of diamonds. Almost, that would have been awesome. Then a quick sprint through Bally’s and Bellagio, got on the tram, got off the tram at Crystals and made the long walk from the Crystals Tram station to Mandarin. It wouldn’t be a route I’d recommend but it kept us inside, it was sunny but cold outside. Jaleo Mom had originally wanted to go to BB King’s for dinner this night as we were seeing Love but I figured we’d try Jaleo instead as it looked to have much better food. This is the second of Jose Andres’ restaurants in Cosmopolitan and is focused on Tapas. Our reservation was for 5 and I was a little worried we’d be a bit rushed to make Love at 7. In any case I’m super glad we went here. Link to the menu: http://www.jaleo.com/images/uploads/Jaleo_Vegas_Main_menu_10DEC22.pdf Endivias con queso de cabra y naranjas Endives, goat cheese, oranges and almonds This was similar in concept to the Lettuce Cups but instead of chicken etc, Endives were filled with cheese, oranges and almonds. Wow really good, like we told the waiter if I had someone make veggies like this I’d eat them all the time. Croquetas de jamon Iberico Traditional fritters with Iberico ham Deep fried fritters with ham and cheese, these were good as well, how could they not be really. Huevo frito con caviar A fried organic egg topped with caviar Puncturing the egg and letting the yolk run out over the provided toast, topped with caviar, heavenly! Setas al ajillo con La Serena Sauteed wild mushrooms with La Serena potato puree I like mushrooms but the star of this dish was the potato puree. Set off against the taste/texture of the different mushroom, spectacular. I would of licked the bottom of the dish if we weren’t sitting in table in the window. The puree was a bit reminiscent of Robuchon’s mashed potatoes actually. After these course came out there was quite a bit of a break before the next dishes came out. This kind of sucked as it put us right against the time limit and I didn’t get pictures of them. Also we missed out on dessert and I really wanted to try the Olive Oil ice cream with Grapefruit. Vieiras con salsa de romesco Seared scallops with romesco sauce Two Scallops served on top of the sauce, these were huge examples of their species. Tender inside still though and the sauce was good. Conejo en salmorejo con pure de albaricoques Canary Island-style rabbit confit with apricot puree This was my least favourite dish as the rabbit was a little dry and not as flavourful as I expected. I did use my points here to pay some of the bill, though it was a bit confusing as they ended up just taking stuff off the bill instead of showing a credit. Dash to Love We were a bit late at this point so we did a mad dash down to the cab stand. I was a little worried about grabbing a cab at Cosmopolitan as I wasn’t sure how fast the cab stand was. I turned out that this was unfounded and one of the doormen escorted us to a cab. It was pretty down at their port corchere but I can see where Steve Wynn had a point about it being a disaster when busy as it wasn’t when we left but we still got stuck behind a limo for a bit. It looks like the only way to get into Cosmopolitan is off of Harmon heading East to West and making a right turn. This worked for us as the cab turned right on Harmon and booted down the service road on the far side of the highway before cutting back into the back way at Mirage. Seems like it would suck though if you had to head to the east side of the strip somewhere though. Love Out of all the shows I had mentioned to Mom, the one she wanted to see was Love. This worked for me as I hadn’t seen it. Our tickets were in the second to last row of section 209 which I thought would be good as they weren’t too close and you could see everything going on. I won’t give a play by play of the show, but I liked it. It was, as expected less about the acrobatics that is typical of CDS shows but more concerned with the imagery and matching the music. The sound in the theatre was great. I really liked the show, and in fact enjoyed the more modern dance stuff in the show rather then the little bit of acrobatics that did happen. Mandarin Bar, Again To finish up the night, well for my mom at least we ended up yet again at the Mandarin Bar. This really is one of my favourite places in Vegas and just a great place to grab a drink. Mom restarted her assault on the cocktail list, having a Champagne Mojito and Royal Flush. I decided to go with a Sazerac followed by an Oban. After those were done, my mom called it a night and I was left on my own again. Chasing So fortified with drink I decided to go back to Cosmopolitan and kill the rest of the night playing small at VP. I wandered over there and sat at the Book and Stage bartops again, unfortunately a Brazilian woman was sitting at my lucky one, with some older guy trying to get into her good graces. I threw some money into the bartop next to the one I had played at Christmas. Luckily they did have Single Malt at the bar, though I ended up with a Mac 12 instead of Oban. I turned on the charm but got denied on the Mac 18. The gambling here sucked and I was through my first buy in, in no time. So of course to get even I moved up to dollars and still no love. The couple next to me had left at this point and I had moved to my previous bar top. A couple of guys ended up sitting down next to me and they had helped build Cosmopolitan and were working on a mall now somewhere that sounded cool. So dollars had got me no where and I moved back to 50 cents. I liked the option to play 50 cents as it’s not 1 I’ve usually seen and it was still 9/5 DDB all through the denominations. I really liked playing VP at Book and Stage, during the day they had sports on and at night they had a live band. The band was pretty good, doing covers and taking requests from the fellow drunk Canadians at the end of the bar. They also have a better alcohol selection then on the floor and some decent looking food. I also didn’t mind the no smoking at the bar policy. The one thing I didn’t like was the dismal performance that night, as I had quickly given back my Christmas day VP earnings. More Chasing So this is the point I probably should of gone to bed. But then again in the words of the great philosopher, “We didn’t come to Vegas to lay up” So taking a nicely full glass of Mac 12 I once again returned to the Pai Gow Tables. At first nothing much was going on. Had some good table mates here and there. A mother and her two daughters sat down and played and they were entertaining as they had never played before. And then I lost three in a row. The odds of this were low so I of course doubled my next bet. That of course lost so I was then forced to go all in. I ended up with two pairs like 8’s and 5’s with no top so I had to split them, putting the 5’s up top and the 8’s down below. Dealer spreads his hand and he ends up having K’s and 6’s with an ace. Now in most places they’ll split the K’s and 6’s here but with the weird house way they have at Cosmopolitan they keep them together and put the ace up top. Score I push when I should of lost. I then go on to win the next hand to get somewhat evenish, which was a bit of a rush. Now it was about 2 in the morning and just the dealer and I. He had a bit of a bad habit of using the automated reader to check hands before they were all done and such. Now add to that the fact I was banking and he had to check a “player” hand on the machine as opposed to the dealer and he accidently showed his own hand before I had set my own hand a couple times. It didn’t really affect anything but it was a bit odd and seems like it could be a bit of a problem as there’s nothing locking out the machine from displaying info before hands are set. So again I should of gone to bed but didn’t and before I knew it ended up all in again to try to get to even. Unfortunately there was no miracle to save me and I had just enough left to leave a tip. This part was a lot more exciting I think then described here but it was late, I was drunk and that was last week so my memories are a bit blurry. With my tail between my legs I returned to the Mandarin. Departure Luckily before crashing the night before I had double checked our flight time and realized I had it wrong. It meant leaving a bit before I had planned but it was all ok. I packed up my room and went to check out. My mom meanwhile had done a room service breakfast. There had been 1 glitch with the housekeeping service at Mandarin where they missed turn down service on Christmas Day and then hadn’t cleaned the room by the time we were back in our rooms to get ready for dinner the next day. I mentioned that at checkout and they apologized and took off the room service breakfast my mom had ordered. I liked how they handled it, no fuss or muss. Everything else about Mandarin had been perfect and I really enjoy staying there. Something they’ve changed since last time I was at Mandarin was that they allow a taxi or two to wait in the courtyard instead of having to rely on waiting for someone to respond to the flashing light. This worked better as you didn’t have to wait for taxis. The trip through Mccarran and flight home were uneventful and actually on time. Closing Thoughts This trip was an entirely different one for me and I enjoyed sharing Vegas with my mom. I really enjoyed the Cosmopolitan, more for the people, service and food then for any of the design/architectural flourishes. I’m not sure if the place is really viable though as the gaming wasn’t really all that busy. They said they weren’t going after the Asian crowd but it seemed like they were the only ones doing any serious gambling, the mini bac table was always full and the only place I saw yellows in play. It didn’t look like their hi-limit had much going on either, especially compared to when we walked through on Bellagio. It looks like they need to make their money on the rooms, food and night club. That being said I’m looking at booking there for our May trip and look forward to actually staying there.