So here's my version of events of the infamous Vegas Boys. It's a pretty long report so kudos to all that get through it. So last year at Christmas I made my first trip to Vegas and got hooked and went down to Vegas again for Christmas this year. This was actually the third time I’ve made it back since breaking my Vegas cherry just 12 months ago. The Flight So nothing too exciting happened on the flight until landing. I was on the right hand window side of the plane and we had looped around and were coming from South to North to land. I did get a view of M Resort and realized it’s way out there. Anyway we’re in our final descent when all of sudden the plane’s nose start arcing skyward and you can feel the engines gunning as I got pressed back into my seat a little. I take this opportunity to look out the window and notice there’s a plane about 150 feet below us taking off on the same runway it seemed we had been aiming for so that got the adrenaline going a bit as we made the seemingly somewhat emergency climb. Everything turned out ok and we looped around the city for another Â½ hour and ended up landing I think east to west as I ended up with a great view of the strip again. My bag was about the 6th off the carousel and there was no cab line so I was in the taxi to the Palazzo within about 15 minutes of landing. Palazzo The bell guy was super nice when I pulled up and I was pretty surprised to see the entire entry port corchere empty besides my taxi. This was about 1 PM on the Monday before Christmas. Even when I had flown into Bellagio at 2 am the same time last year, their entry was pretty crowded. In any case since this was my first Room Comp ever I went to the Invited Guest line, even though it looked like the regular line was just as quick. In any event it took very little time to check in and I ended up with Room 41-915 which overlooked the Wynn Golf Course. The Room was fine and I didn’t notice any problems with it at all actually, which seems in comparison to bart’s deal with Light bulbs and the last palazzo review on vegastripping. The room seemed really big, but with just a lot of empty space. It did have 3 tv’s, though it was odd that it had a fairly small one in the living area while having the biggest TV opposite the bed. The curtains were controlled by a remote control, which took me a second to figure out. I guess the only thing I could mark the room down was for the choice of using velvet/velour for various things in the suite as that stuff shows the slightest stain. Here’s a couple pic’s of the view: Zine I unpacked and setup dinner with BJ and Airball and headed downstairs to grab a quick snack. I walked around the floor a bit before I found the entrance to the restaurant. I grabbed an order of bbq pork buns and shui mai. They were tasty and hit the spot though it took forever to get the bill. The ambiance in there kind of sucked too as it was a tiny entrance to the casino floor and then opened up in back and wasn’t all that inviting. I usually hit up some dim sum in the hotel I’m staying at and I think this was my least favourite out of Wazzazu, Red 8 and Noodles at Bellagio. The Pre Party I went back to the room for a bit and then headed out to Aria to meet up with the boys. I think at some point we had changed dinner from Serrano’s to Blossom, hence why I ended up double dipping Chinese. It took a long time to get to Aria by cab from the Palazzo as it seems like the only way to get to it is via the strip? Anyone figure out a better way to get there? I flirted with getting them to drop me off at the North valet at Bellagio and walking but that seemed far still. It was kind of exciting driving up the port corchere to Aria, to finally get to see what all the hype was about. I had a pretty good idea of what to expect following all the coverage but still way different when you gaze upon it for the first time. I got out of the cab and got directions to Blossom, which I promptly forgot and walked into the lobby. I stood in the lobby for a couple minutes, enjoying the light streaming in behind the Maya Lin piece hanging behind the front desk. It’s a really nice piece, a tracing of the Colorado River done in silver. At first I wandered to the right of the check in desk and ended up at Sage/Bar Masa. I checked out the menu at Sage as I had reservations there for Christmas Day, and then looked at the doors to Bar Masa. They’re fricking massive and cool looking. I wandered through and found Blossom over by the High Limit area. I was pretty early so I wandered off to the Pai Gow Poker tables and was about to start my first session of the trip when I ran into BJ and Kevin in the hallway. Seeing as we were all hungry already we headed over to Blossom only to find it wasn’t open until 5:30 PM. In any case after making a reservation for “Gaggles” we headed back up to BJ’s suite to drop off my meager contribution to the party. Before heading up we hit the concierge lounge for some strong vodka and sodas (Apparently this was just a foreshadowing of shenanigans to come). The Suite We say hi to the girls working reception and are off to BJ’s suite. Up on the 52nd floor we go and BJ points out the non-existence of 52034 which is where they tried to put him originally. Maybe they’re smarter then we give them credit for? We find the correct suite and inside we go. WOW, it’s a pretty nice suite. Clean and modern without being too stark would be my description. A wet bar with TV right as you enter, with a dining room, Living room and 2 bedrooms. Airball and Vegas Rex have some good pictures of it. Each room at Aria has Control4 installed in it and this system controls all systems in the room. I program that system and others for a living so it was cool to actually get to use it from the user side. Blossom After knocking off our drinks we headed downstairs to make good on our “Gaggles” dinner reservation. Not sure what type of clientele they were prepared for but it certainly wasn’t a group of three “boisterous” guys, two of them being straight out gaijan. I’m actually not sure how we got seated but our waiter definitely didn’t know what to make of us. He really didn’t seem to get our joking or sarcasm so it was a touch awkward but amusing. Airball asks for a drink menu and gets the wine list and he’s like wtf, do you have any specialty cocktails. Surprisingly they didn’t, so we tried to order some Sapparo. The waiter comes back sheepishly and says they’re out so we ended up with Asahi. The first thing out of the kitchen was the amuse bouche, which was more then a little amusing, as it was a single bean on top of a gelee or something. Somehow these didn’t get flung across the room and we all partook. We got some appetizers, Pot stickers and veggie egg rolls. The pot stickers were good, the veggie egg rolls not so much. They were just like sliced bell peppers in the egg roll wrapping and they sucked. Despite everything that happened afterward I still remembered they sucked, so don’t order them. Our mains were Mongolian Beef, Lobster Fried Rice, Kung Pao Chicken and Seafood Chow Mein. They were pretty average and widly overpriced. Well at least everything but the Kung Pao Chicken was, somehow Airball and BJ managed to eat all of that before I had a chance to grab some doh. BJ was kind enough to charge it to his room (52034 j/k), thanks BJ. Not really sure what they were trying to go for with Blossom. It seems like they’re trying to charge Wing Lei prices with PF Chang quality. Also it’s not like it’s the quick/cheapish place to go to for Chinese food like Noodles/Red 8 as they’re not even open until 5:30 PM. I wouldn’t recommend this place, rather it’s probably worth the walk to the real PF Chang’s across the street at Planet Hollywood. The First Session I hadn’t gambled yet and had been in town for 6 hours or so I pushed our group to hit the tables before the party. We actually ran into Mike_E and his parents on the way to the tables so that was a good sign right? Well not so much. BJ had a fiasco with cigarettes where the waitress wanted him to give her 8 singles for each one. Maybe she misunderstood what he wanted or there’s some slang I’m unaware of meh, it does seem a little odd that they’ll comp him a suite but not give him free cigs while he’s gambling. BJ took that as a sign to leave the table up a bit while me and Airball battled on. I should of took that as a sign but kept plodding on. Airball hits a big Black jack to get to near even while I bust out dropping like 20 bets in 15 minutes, ouch. The Party Disclaimer: Most of the rest of the night I have pieced together through flashes of vodka/scotch soaked memories, BJ and Airball’s trip reports and the waitress I ran into later in the week that served me this night. In other words, James Frey may have co-authored this part. We then make a detour through the Sky Suite Lounge and get another triple vodka and soda. I vaguely remember playing Rashambo with Airball over the tip and we both threw rock like 5 straight times, mainly because I couldn’t remember how to throw any other sign at that particular moment. He finally bested me by throwing paper the sixth time as I went with old reliable rock. I think we met up with Pnut and party somewhere here and we all trooped upstairs. Walking down the long curved hall (This has got to be a bit hard to process if you’re drunk right?) we notice that there’s one maid’s cart in front of a room. Of course it’s in front of BJ’s room and so now we’re all trooping in with the maid. For some reason she didn’t leave right away but kept working, which was a bit odd, our presence probably got her flustered and led to the no blankie situation. Bj and Pnut went off on a quest for ice, leaving Airball and I alone with the rest of Pnut’s party which I’m not sure was the safest move. The maid finishes in the second bedroom and hits some button that dimmed all the lights, turned the tv from the football game onto some music channel, basically turning the room into Sexy Time. It was a good thing that Bj wasn’t in the room at this point because it looked like Airball was ready to jump something, I suppose it was good thing that even the tiger wasn’t there. My contribution to the party was I had found that there was 1 distillery in Canada producing single malt whiskey. I managed to snag a bottle of that and brought it to represent us Canucks. We had cracked that after finishing our lounge drinks and I think at this point Mike_E showed up. I actually think I answered the phone and before the desk could say anything was asking if it was Mike_E which confused them. In any case I gave them the go ahead to give him a key and let him up and he joined the party. This was a good move on my part because I ended up with that key and used it to impress the ladies at the PGP tables throughout the week. I may even give it a go for our trip in April, saying this is where I’m staying with my Swedish wife but I can take you back to the Flamingo for some fun. We opened up the Crystal, and I remember enjoying the glass even though I don’t usually. Actually just because that was so good I ended up getting a glass of Veuve Clicquot with Christmas Eve Dinner. The night gets blurrier and blurrier but I think at this point a couple Pnut and Airball knew showed up. We then got down to the serious business of the night, a glass of Johnny Walker Blue King George V edition. I do remember this part, in a coincidence we had a scotch tasting at work the Friday before my trip. Now that was some good scotch but it just didn’t hold a candle to this stuff. I remember it being like the epitome of hot fiery goodness. In fact this is probably the last clear memory I have of the night. Apparently after some time upstairs we headed down to the baccarat bar, not before I tried to play bartender killing a whole bottle of Grey Goose between three Tom Collins glasses and the counter. Again apparently my companions made me some sort of Shirley Templish concoction and tricked me into thinking it had alcohol in it, nicely done! I however decided I hadn’t done enough gambling and snuck away. I’m pretty sure I made it to the Pai Gow Poker Tables by the Hi Limit room, I must of missed Airball and Mike_E when they came by. I’m pretty sure I was betting all over the place, the waitress I ran into later told me I was a riot and was having trouble finding my seat? I think I remember making some really big bets and I thought I ended up losing them. I should of probably checked what they had me rated as but didn’t. After losing my money there I think I made it to the poker room and was playing 3/6 limit hold em with whatever I had left in my pocket. Airball wrote this, “I did manage to see Alexanbo sitting in the poker room being shoved a large pile of chips. By the looks of it, I'd assume it was a $3/$6 table. He seemed to be less obliterated and more focused, so instead of stopping in, I let him continue his winning streak.” I’m pretty sure I wasn’t any of that and was basically just betting and raising each hand, which put the table on mega tile and was pretty amusing. In any case for once that drunk idiot actually ended up losing the rest of the money he had on him. So now I’m as BJ puts it “homeless drunk” and acted out the part. I really should of curled up in the pocket park for a nap but I walked around and around Aria and the outside of Crystals trying to find the strip. Apparently I was eventually successful as I woke up the next day in my room, after making the long walk home to the Palazzo. I think it took me like 45 minutes to find my way out of Aria to the strip. It obviously wasn’t designed with the “homeless drunk” in mind, and wouldn’t that make it feel more like an urban center? The Day After Owww Owww Owww So not only do I probably have alcohol poisoning I’m pretty sure I picked up the flu/cold on my long walk home last night. So I lay in bed alternatively shivering and sweating, raiding the mini bar and watching tv. I finally pull myself out of bed and BONUS!. I had thought I lost my entire bankroll for the night last night, but apparently in the a hidden pocket in my wallet I or someone else had shoved half of my nightly bankroll in there so now between not crashing on landing and that I’m on a freeroll. Had a pizza down at Grand Luxe, realized I still felt like crap, went to Walgreen’s and got some spullies and went back to bed. The Day After the Day After Ok still not feeling great. I had reservations for CUT tonight and rallied to get to that. This was actually the first fine dining place I had been back to in my 4 trips to Vegas. I had actually tried to get to Bar Charlie but it was closed during the holidays so this was a great consolation prize. I did manage to get some PGP play in here at the Palazzo before dinner but ended up like less then a bet after about an hour or two. CUT I actually screwed up the time for my reservation so was a bit late. It looks like they had one large group in the restaurant as they were almost completely full. Not only were they full but everyone was ordering at the same time. Despite being completely slammed they still did a great job of service, though not quite as great as my last trip there. The meal started with the cheesey breadsticks (I didn’t have too many of these , they were yummy but a bit rich for my stomach). I did manage to take full advantage of the gruyere puffs as those are just too good to pass up. The pretzel bread, especially with the mustard they provide you for your steak was good and I think I had the bacon focaccia too. They did the meat presentation: And I picked out the Waygu/Angus cross Ribeye which is the one on the right middle. For my side I had the pureed potatoes. The Steak came and it was just about perfect. Slightly charred on the outside and juicy and tender on the inside. So buttery I could cut it with my fork, the marbling just swimming through the meat in veins of buttery goodness. The potatoes were the perfect side too as they were light and fluffy, a little like what I had at Robuchon but a perfect offset to the rich meat. I had a half bottle of Hitching Post Highliner Pinot Noir, which I had also had last time and it was again very good. To end off I had an Americano and they brought out some mignardises, a lemon bar and carmel peanut bar. Of the Steakhouses I’ve gone to, I’d rate them as CUT, Craftsteak and Botero while having to give Prime an incomplete grade because my memory of it, isn’t that good. After Cut I hit the tables after dinner. First I wandered over to Encore and after an hour and half session I was back to even for the trip. Sweet! I then went back to the Venetian and was looking to play some low level BJ but sat at a $25 table by mistake and said screw it and bought in. Was up and then down and then down again before hitting a big bet to get to even and quitting. I then just went and hit some low level BJ losing a bit when my last chasing bet didn’t come through. Moving Day Today was Christmas Eve and I was switching to Aria. I had booked the day at Palazzo so didn’t have to move out early which was a God send. Did a little more PGP play and ended up losing 5 bets or so called it a day and packed and checked out. This session was a little interesting as the guy I was playing with was betting the most I had ever seen at a PGP table, usually around $1800/hand. So now I’m in the taxi on another long journey to Aria. I have a habit of brushing my pockets to make sure I have all my stuff and realized I don’t have my cell phone DOH! In any case I decide to check in first and then go back. Thinking some more I realize I left my shoes and phone charger behind too doh. In any case the taxi drops me off at the North Valet at Aria, which was lame as it’s not impressive, not near the lobby and no bellmen. I go to check in and there’s about two groups in front of me. The two college dudes behind me are rolling up with two cases of beer and I exchange pleasantries with them. This would prove to be a good move as it pays off later. I get to the counter and reminded him I had the room upgrade to the city view. He’s like I have the perfect room for you, on the 12th floor with a view of the fountains. Thinking to myself this isn’t Bellagio, I’m like no thanks do you have anything higher. He checks and gives me a room 32170 on the 32nd floor. This again turned out to be a great move. The Room So after navigating through to the guest elevators I find the correct elevators and go up. I get off and notice that there’s windows right outside the elevator lobby and take a peak out. Then I walk, and walk, and walk eventually coming to a y in the hallway. I take the right branch and immediately notice that the right hand side of the hall is all glass and looking out down into the main entry and over to Monte Carlo etc. Walking around the curve, I can see that we’re the top floor too on this little piece that sticks out along the curve of the building. Reaching my room I realize that I’m on the right hand side and in fact there are only two suites, mine and a corner suite and that we’re the top level of this area. So basically it’s like a mini pent house suite, score! I doctored up a photo to show where my suite was: Here’s some crappy Photos from my phone: Here’s a slightly bigger pic taken from the pocket park: Note that the endcap actually changes colours throughout the night. The view was pretty amazing too. I looked south down the strip, so I was dead on Monte Carlo, with the light from Luxor peaking over the top, the Skyscrapers from NYNY off to the left a bit and I could see the MGM sign. Also I could see the Veer Towers and then down into the Port Corchere. One thing to note is that the windows are very clear and you can see into them at night from anywhere. Here’s the views from my suite on my crappy phone: The suite itself was nice, although it is the smallest I’ve stayed in Las Vegas. Like BJ’s suite the lines were clean and modern but not too stark (or is that starck?) The closet in the entry kind of reminded me of Encore’s but was maybe a little more useful as it had drawers in between the two closets. The bed was nice and big and comfy, though I really hate bolsters. 6 pillows was a little much too and I really prefer a super thin pillow and these were just a touch too thick. The curtains were cool because every suite is a “corner suite” so they actually have to travel on a curved track to close. It also lets you look into the suite next to you out the corner. I liked the bathroom though I noticed the counter was small and the plugs between the sinks behind the Kleenex box. However it would probably suck if there’s two of you and one of you wears makeup/takes a long time to do their hair. There’s not separate vanity area so they’d be taking up the bathroom while doing whatever it is they do. I like the frosted glass for the Water Closet and the fact it didn’t close automatically like the one at Palazzo. The one at the Palazzo made me feel claustrophobic. The tub through the shower didn’t really matter to me, though I like really hot showers and having such a large space it didn’t get as hot as a smaller enclosed shower were. It was weird that they put the hand towels in the sink when making up the room as it guaranteed you’d mess them up and then have no where to put them. Room Technology As I mentioned before I install/program Control4 systems and others like them for a living. It was nice to get a chance to be on the user side for once and now I get to give my own critique. The first thing I noticed was that when I went to open my room the first time I waved the card in front of the lock the lock didn’t actually open right away but I was still able to open the door. I actually think something was wrong with the lock as I had to make sure it was closed all the time and after housekeeping was in it wasn’t locked. The welcome scene did play when I came in with the curtains opening and the tv turning on and such. This scene was never triggered automatically again though, not sure if it was supposed to be. Speaking of scenes, I didn’t actually like the fact that the curtains and tv and lights were tied together on certain scenes. Usually I’d want to turn off all the lights at night and keep the tv on and the curtains open but hitting the lighting scene All Off turned off the tv and closed the curtains. I did like the wake up/off timers as it was cool to be able to tell the room to go to sleep a certain time from now and have everything else you wanted happen. Conversely it was cool to be able to choose a channel to wake up to. However I still would of liked some sort of Alarm Beep to wake up to as TV doesn’t really wake me up. Navigating the channel guide was a bit slow and I noticed they didn’t have a page up/down function which was annoying. I did appreciate the number of HD channels they had and they’re HD offering dwarfed Palazzo, which it should. I noticed at the Palazzo you could get Sunday Ticket/Center Ice which was a nice feature but this was not available at Aria. I did noticed that Aria had some pay channels that you could get like the ethnic ones and Setanta Sports, however I was able to tune them in by going channel down from channel 2 etc. 1 of the light switches by the entry didn’t actually control anything I could see and it wasn’t on the system either. It may not have had the load attached yet or something, there wasn’t any lights I could see that I couldn’t control. The ability to turn the Privacy/Service lights on from bed side was cool, and it did give you the status of that and the lock on you touchscreen/tv. I noticed that the reading lamps had stickers in saying to use compact florescent bulbs but they had incandescent in them. This is to get the dimming effect I think as CFL’s are notoriously hard to dim. I also noticed the hall lights flickered when turning on and I think it’s because those are LED lights which again don’t play nice with dimmers. We did run into the VP of Control4 who was opening up the Sky Villas on the top two floors. He had some interesting insites on the place and mentioned they were having problems with the RF locks and that AT&T hadn’t paid to be in the building and that’s why there service sucks. Twist by Pierre Gagnaire For Christmas Eve I booked the new restaurant by Pierre Gagnaire in the Mandarin Oriental. I was a little apprehensive about this because of the reviews I had read but figured what the hell you only live once. First walking from Aria to MO I missed the set of stairs by the typewriter eraser and walked all the way out to the strip and then walked into MO from the auto entrance. Greeted by the top hated dudes at the door and up the elevator to the 23rd floor. I found the MO super dark and in fact missed the hallway to Twist and had to get someone from the front desk to point it out. After walking down the hall it opened up into the Twist front desk. A Maitre’d and hostess where there and showed me to the table. I was kind of in the central area, if you’re there and want to be romantic try and get one of the window tables. There’s little light globes that hang down over the place. The walls are white and look like they have giant cracked egg shells in them at random points. For the 24th and the 25th they were doing a special fixed 5 course menu. To start with I ordered a glass of the Veuve Clicquot Yellow Label. Next up were the canapÃ©s. It was a bit odd as they first brought out some Truffled Butter, Unsalted Butter and Sea Salt. It was odd because the bread that you would of thought would come with this came later. Next 4 different little canapÃ©s were brought to the table, and before I had much of a chance to even figure those out three more on 1 plate were brought. It was after that the bread was brought. It seemed like this was on purpose because I observed other tables were served that way. Throughout dinner they were very precise as to the order each dish was put on the table as there was usually 3 parts or more to each dish. A note on the descriptions is that they usually contained about 10 more things then what was listed on the menu. There’s no way I can remember what all of those were so I’m just going with the menu descriptions. CanapÃ©s I actually can’t remember much about the canapÃ©s. I’ll write a description of the ones I remember and I’ll leave those that I don’t blank. Sarrasson Cream and Organic Salmon This was a great way to wake up the taste buds. I think the salmon was actually smoked and it set off against the cream wonderfully. Ginger Biscuit Souffle Cake with Pecorino Cheese Holder Salad Mix This might have been my favourite canapÃ©s as it was chorizo bits and then salad and I think something like grape fruit mixed in. Braised Lettuce Foie Gras Custard, Turnips Soaked in Campari This was really the whole miss in the meal for me. The Fois was just too bitter and I didn’t find the Tunrip/Campari really levened this like the table beside me said they found it to. Toast Melba “5” This was like a little mini sandwich with cheese. It kind of reminded me a little of the cheese gruyere poofs at CUT Zezette Gnocchi, Langoustine Cake, Cuttlefish, Zezette Broth I love soup and this is one of the best examples I’ve ever had. It’s probably only exceeded by the next course. There was a breaded Langoustine Cake at the bottom of the dish with some different types of Gnocchi spread around it. On top of the Cake was the Cuttlefish, cut super thin like noodles. They then poured the Zezette broth over it, enveloping the pieces that had been resting there. Wow, the little pieces of noddley cuttlefish on top of a bit of the cake with the broth coating everything was just so good. Even the gnocchi got into the act, adding a bit of starchy texture to the proceedings. I actually was debating using the bread to scoop the remaining broth up out of the bottom of the plate. Scallops Foie Gras Soup Perfumed with Amontillado Roasted Scallops, Montgomery Cheddar There was a choice for the second course between Scallops and Pumpkin Veloute. So glad I picked the Scallops, words really fail to describe how good this is. No joking this may have been the best dish I’ve ever had. The menu description doesn’t even began to give this dish justice. The bowl came out and there was one Scallop resting on the right hand rim of the bowl with a deep fried turnip with nuts resting on the left hand side. In the bottom of the bowl was a super thinly sliced piece of cheese and then on top of that some green herbs. Then they came out with the coup de grace, the Foi e Gras soup. Now the soup actually had truffles in it as well and as they poured it into the bowl it slowly spread its tentacles over the cheese and herbs. Now they had said to dip both the scallop and turnip in the broth. I started off doing this with the scallop and wow, fireworks in the mouth for sure. The turnip was an interesting piece as it was sweet and actually tasted a lot like the peanut candy we got at Blossom. It’s turn to bathe in the Foie Gras soup wasn’t quite as glorious as the higher pedigreed scallop but still so good. Maybe the analogy was is the scallop was like winning a million dollars in the lottery and the turnip was 900k. Knowing there was enough broth to more then bath the turnip and scallop in I was taking the opportunity to just have the broth and herbs. I should note that the thin slice of cheese was amazing how it worked as it added that textured of melted cheese to the mix. That and the slight mintiness of the herbs made the broth alone heavenly. Wow, I’m having fun just reliving this. It was then I discovered that taking a bite of the scallop alone was amazing too. I’ve eaten a lot of scallops and this was without a doubt the best preparation. Cooked exactly right with the right texture and they somehow infused it with this delicate lemon flavour which I hadn’t noticed when dunking it into the broth. So yeah I liked this dish, a lot. Since this was a special menu it seems like you may never be able to get it again either which even adds more momentousness to the dish. Wild Sea Bass Roasted, Black Rice Veloute, Citrusa la Marinniere of Baby Squid, Shrimp, Cuttlefish. This was a nice piece of succulent fish covered with a black sauce. I enjoyed this fish much more then the Sea Bass I had at Roubuchon. It was served with a seafood salad of sorts with Shrimp, Squid and Cuttlefish. On top of the salad was a piece of thin toast and the crispiness of the toast offset the slight rubberiness of the seafood. The salad had a slight citrus flavour to it. Three Deserts Inspired by the French Traditional Patisseries Almond Parfait, Fleur De Sel Caramel This one didn’t stand out for me one way or the other. It was good no doubt but a victim of my fading memory. Exotic Fruit Salad, White Sorbet and Passion Fruit This dish was served in a martini glass and the Sorbet was on top of the fruit. A very nice dish and it was a nice light way to end the meal. Christmas Chocolate Cake, Caraibe Gamache and Pure Cocoa Sorbet The Christmas cake was like those chocolate logs I used to get from my Grandma when I was younger. A roll of chocolate cake with chocolate icing. A really great piece of chocolate cake and then adding the sorbet to that just amplified the flavours more. Over top of the Cake was a presentation of light surgary whisper thin tendrils that made the dish look as spectacular as it tasted. I had gotten a glass of French Chardonnay to go with the Scallops and Sea Bass and it was a competent glass, nothing special. I ended dinner with another Americano and I believe some mignardises were served as well. The restaurant seemed about Â½ full and I was seated next to a couple, where she used to work with Gagnaire and the executive chef Pascal Sanchez in London. It was interesting to listen to their takes on the food. Unfortunately Mr Gagnaire had already returned to France, but I did get a signed menu from the Executive Chef, Pascal Sanchez and he personally greeted me on the way out of the restaurant. I promised him I’d come back to try the Langoustine 5 ways that I’ve read about in other places. Twist Final Thoughts After reading some reviews, the reviewers had mentioned that they were at a loss at how to describe the food at Twist. They also mentioned that Gagnaire was super adventurous, liked to push boundaries and often dishes didn’t work. I’m not sure if it’s because I lack the palate of them or even the vocabulary to attempt to describe the food or even if the menu for Christmas wasn’t pushing boundaries but I could simply describe Twist as amazingly good. It’s also perhaps a little more accessible then Roubuchon, and a better ambiance for sure. Service seemed a little less stuffy here and I was able to joke around and converse with the staff easily. Mandarin Bar After dinner I walked down the hall to the Mandarin Bar. What a great space, well besides the view of the MacDonalds. I sat at the bar and the bar tender suggested a Cucumber/Cilantro margarita which hit the spot after the filling dinner. Christmas Eve Gambling I returned from MO to Aria and hit up the PGP tables. Right near the beginning of my session there was a huge commotion over at the Pai Gow Tiles table next to me. It looked like there were at least two guys there with stacks of Flags that looked to be about 200k each and they were betting something like 10k a hand. In any case there was a dispute over a hand and they had to stop play and get the head pit guy to call up to review tape. After that little bit of excitement my bets didn’t look so big but I was basically treading water throughout the night. Well until near the end I lost a couple hands in a row and decided that I couldn’t lose another so I pushed all in for about 5 bets or so. Of course I get dealt the Jack hi Pai Gow, and then just to rub it in the dealer pulled a King hi Pai Gow. Needless to say when I got back to the room things got broken, Argh. Christmas Day Basketball After getting myself up for the day I decided to watch the Lakers/Lebron game and set out to find somewhere to do that. I did a couple laps of Aria but nothing really seemed to look good and the restaurant by the sports book had a 20 minute wait. I ended up at the Skybox to go place. It was here that I ran into problems that were apparently running rampant through some of the MGM props. Turns out the entire room charge system was down for the hotel so I had to pay cash. I would later find out that people were unable to check in at this point as well, doh. In any case it took about 20 minutes to get a chicken ceasar and I took that to the sports book. Now they have some amazing screens there, it looked like 2 200” LED screens and 65” everywhere. The problem is there’s not a lot of great seating options. I ended up sitting along the front and watching the big screen on the side of the room near the horse racing area. Watching the game was fun as it was largely a LA crowd, though the 1 guy was cheering for the Cavs and I thought he might get lynched. I actually ran into the guys that checked in behind me and they were bringing in their beer to the sportsbook. Security was kind of being dicks and not letting them bring in the beer in a case so they took turns bringing a bunch of bottles in. I was also sitting next to a couple and their daughters. Turns out she was a huge sports fan and them not so much. I watched a bit of the Chargers game and kicked myself for not putting down the bet I wanted to on them before heading to dinner. Sage Despite the lack of menus online at the City Center website I decided to check out Sage. This was chef Shawn Mclain’s first restaurant outside of Chicago and the little blurb about the restaurant seemed like it should be interesting. I went up to the front desk and it was really hard to stop checking out the hostesses tattoo. Let’s just say it was in an interesting location. In any case I ended up getting sit in the lounge part of the restaurant which was ok as I got to check out the people at the bar, (There was an older gentlemen there with a trophy type companion who was getting his ass kissed by suits for example). I got the waiter to recommend a cocktail and he went with the Desert Shrub. This had a bit of Tequila Reposado, with like a sparkling grapefruit juice. It also had bit of candied fruit that were floating at the top of the drink but would occasionally dive down into the bottom of the glass before floating to the top again. There was an amuse bouche served and it was a salad of artichoke, bacon, and date served on a spoon. The bread was served and it was a really salty bacon roll and it kind of sucked. Smoked Columbia River Sturgeon For an appetizer I had the Sturgeon, which was smoked and served with thin slices of bacon and a polenta cream. The smokiness of the fish combined with the bacon and a dab of cream created a nice little bite. There were some pieces of apple too in the dish and this added a bit of crunchiness to it. James Ranch Lamb Loin The lamb was nice and moist and yummy. It was served with winter legumes, crispy lamb rillette, dried grapes and quince. There was some sort of sauce served with it as well. The legumes added crunchiness and the rillette was really tasty. It was kind of like a deep fried shell filled with lamp and veggies. I could of done without the quince as I found it tasted like a turnip almost and had the same texture. Dessert I had the beignets for dessert with another Americano. There was a caramel sauce that I poured over the donuts and that made them kind of mushy. In retrospect I’m not sure I was supposed to do that as I was served a similar thing at the end which was hot cocoa like with a bit of a citrus aftertaste. Service Now the food here was good but my waiter really sucked. He seemed awkward and unsure of what to do most of the time. He forgot to mention the specials until after I had ordered and then proceeded to read them off of a crumpled piece of pink paper. This was in direct comparison to Twist where the servers had to memorize a complete new menu with 20 ingredients in each dish. Also when he served the main course he kind of just plopped the plate down without giving any description of the dish at all. The under waiters were good however, one noticed as she went to bring out the Sturgeon that I had no silverware and went back into the kitchen and got another server to bring it out before delivering the plate. Sage Final Thoughts I really enjoyed the food here, and it’s nice change from hitting all the high priced places. I’m sure I just had a fluke with the bad waiter and that shouldn’t deter a visit. Christmas Day Gambling So I again hit the PGP tables after dinner. Sat down and got a nice little streak going. This might have been the weirdest PGP session I’ve ever had though as the dealers weren’t very good at all. First there was a mistake where the dealer had a flush but nothing up top, but she also had a pair of Queens and 7’s. She originally was going to set the hand with the flush behind and 8/7 up top. Now this was no good for me because I had 9’s up top and 6’s and 4’s behind. Luckily the guy I was playing with pointed out that she was supposed to play the two pair and we called the pit. Originally the pit said to play the flush but then after our badgering checked the sheet and it turns out with J’s and 6’s or better they have to play the split. In any case that came out 1 bet in my favour, thanks table mate! Now the relief dealer pushes in and mentions she hasn’t dealt this game in 4 years. Yay! At the very least it meant we’d be going slow and milking comps even more then usually. Sitting next to me at this point was a dude who was playing yellow chips per hand. So yeah let’s have the inexperienced dealer deal to this table. In any case of course she made a couple mistakes, paying me on a loser hand because she forgot to notice that my 1 pair didn’t beat her 2 pair and then setting a hand wrong with a straight and nothing up top, when she could of played a lower straight with a pair up top. Well after being up quite a bit I managed to lose back to starting so called it a night, well I should of called it a night. Actually I did run into the waitress from Monday night here so she filled in some details. City Bar I ended up at the City bar, sitting at the actual bar. Bartender was super nice and even let me sit for a bit with an existing beer. In any case I noticed the Detroit Plane attack and was texting a buddy who was also in the States that we were going to get screwed coming back. I ended up ordered two more beers here while talking to Tony the bartender before being pulled to a craps table, thinking I was just going to play $10 at a time to kill the night. Crap, Craps I really have to remember not to play craps by myself. I ended up playing way more then I wanted, though I had doubled my initial buy in right away. Dude next to me had a nice rack of black going and was putting them into cool sculptures. He was betting the dark side so was kind of playfully teasing him when it was my turn. In any case I went on a real cold streak and went through 3 buys in, ouch. The Host Office At this point I wandered into the host office. Must have been around midnight and I was hammered. In any case sat down with a host and got my comps done, a late check out 6PM and some passes to the buffet. Early Morning BJ Anyway with the remnants of my nightly bankroll I hit the dime BJ tables and just screwed around for a long while. I think I remember the dealer here being like a soviet matron and not making conversation or even cracking a smile. I even think I was playing as much for the dealers as I was for myself. In any case I ended up killing the remnants of my bankroll and then of course decided to go back to the room to get reinforcements. Well that went predictably well though I had a better dealer and I ended up back in the room around 6 am At this point there was a message light on my phone but the phones weren’t working at all, meh. Check Out Well here comes the biggest pain of the trip. I got up around 2 pm or so and was showering when housekeeping tried to come in. I had the privacy light on and the dead bolt thrown so told her to come back later, so much for late check out. I check the TV for my bill and the comps hadn’t shown up yet. So now I whip down to the host office again and there’s a different host I’m talking to but he has the same first name as the one from last night. He doesn’t see anything setup for my account, no late check out either. Then pushing some buttons he mentions that the comp number I was quoted was too high and I was only to get a lower amount. Whatever I think as the number was actually pretty high for my play. I ask if the comps he gave me were ready to go now or if I had to wait and he said I could go right away. After a short trip to drop off a tip for housekeeping I hit the front desk. Front Desk Mess First the woman in front of me takes forever. Then I get up to the front of the line and they try to bill me for the full amount. I was like that’s not cool, I’m supposed to have comps. So the manager is called over and they try to work it out. Apparently they can now see the comp but can’t apply them. Incidentally the comp amount has now magically gone back to the amount originally quoted by the first host. The Clerk is on the phone with Casino marketing and the manager is hanging out with us and they keep trying different things. In any case it turns out my first host didn’t have authority to authorize that amount. Like really it was less then $500. In any case they end up putting it under two different names or something and I pay off the remaining amount of my bill. Now the interesting thing here was they took off tips off the bill as well as food. I didn’t actually have enough food without tips to make up the comp so this was somewhat good I guess, but odd. This little episode took 45 minutes of me standing hung over to the max and being very dehydrated so it was more then a little annoying. The Buffet Anyway I used the buffet pass I scored to sample the buffet. I grabbed the crabs legs and some turkey and various other things. Have to say I was a little disappointed in the quality of the food. The dim sum stuff was cold and hard and not very good and it was just sort of blah. I’ve actually only been to the Wynn Buffet before so perhaps my standard is to high. The strawberry shortcake I had was yummy though. Homeward Bound After the buffet I hung out in the sports book for a while and hit up Miracle mile for some ginger ale. Felt pretty yucky during this time and almost had to break in one of the new Aria stalls. Got to the airport pretty earlier and had no problems with security or anything. Flight was delayed as that flight always is and ended up getting home at 3 AM Aria Thoughts I enjoyed Aria and City Centre though I wasn’t blown away by it. I remember being way more impressed with Encore when it opened last year. Aria was nice but it did have the look/feel of an airport. Service seemed fairly uneven, everyone was trying for the most part but they just don’t seem to have the training. I noticed the public bathrooms on the weekend nights were a disaster, I can’t imagine that happening at Wynncore. The check fiasco definitely left a bad taste in my mouth as well as the problems other people ran into. Also getting into and out of Aria was kind of a pain. It was a decently long walkway to the strip, the tram was kind of useless, it was up like 3 escalators at Crystals, and then down a couple at Bellagio. It might be better to get on the tram at Monte Carlo as that station is just right there outside the south exit. I probably would stay here if I was getting a free room or even less then $100. I had fun gambling here, I just didn’t feel the gambling as much at the Palazzo for some reason. As ever Wynncore was good to me when I was gambling and I didn’t notice the stuffiness that some have reported. Closing Thoughts In some ways this was the best trip I’ve had and the worst trip I’ve had all rolled into 1. The party was lots and lots of fun, though I probably regret no remembering more of it and probably not contributing to the conversation much. The next day was probably the worst I’ve spent in Vegas between the hang over and catching a cold/flu. I probably didn’t enjoy my stay at Palazzo as much as I could of, it will be interesting if I continue to get offers despite my relatively small amount of play. Twist has to be one of the hi-lites for me all time in Vegas and was just a fabulous experience. Maybe I really need to save up and stay at the MO next time. For the most part I enjoyed Aria and City Centre but I don’t think there was anyway it could live up to the hype. I’m set to go back at the beginning of April for a stag so that should be a completely different experience all together.