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March 11-14

Discussion in 'Vegas Trip Reports' started by milehiman, Mar 17, 2005.

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  1. milehiman

    milehiman VIP Whale

    Sep 21, 2002
    Scottsdale, AZ

    My Trip Report

    This TR is about our (my best friend and my) recent trip to Vegas for NASCAR weekend. Since a majority of time was spent either at the track or getting to the track I’ll break the report up into categories rather than a day to day account.

    Sorry if it is so long, but since it is broken up into categories you can read what interests you. If you have any questions, please let me know what you're interested in. I included a small part on the race so if you're not interested you can skip it.

    When my friend and I get together for these weekends we usually eat high-end dinners. This year they consisted of NOBU on Friday night, Delmonico on Saturday, Bouchon on Sunday and Mon Ami Gabi for lunch on Monday. We split expenses for the trip and I didn’t pick up any of the meals – I paid for the race tickets, hotels and car rental – so I’m guessing at the meal cost.

    Nobu, Hard Rock Hotel & Casino – we originally had reservations at Bouchon on Friday night but they had to reschedule us due to a Venetian event on Friday night. So we were able to get a late reservation (9:30PM) at Nobu at the last minute. We had to push these reservations back at the last minute due to a delay with my friend’s flight.

    We both had the tasting menu, which is either $100 or $120 (different ingredients). This has changed, since they used to have three different price levels. We both had the more expensive version and were extremely happy with the meal. It’s a seven-course meal. It covered everything from appetizers, salad, fish entrée, meat entrée, sushi, soup, and dessert. I don’t remember exactly what we had, but do remember that we had Kobe beef which was excellent. The courses use the freshest and most exotic ingredients we’ve had. We’ve had the tasting menu before (this is my fourth visit to Nobu), and other than the general type of course, we’ve never had the same meal twice. We only had bottled water with dinner. The meal came out to be around $275. We like Nobu because it’s rare to be able to eat a meal like this in most cities i.e. you can get a great steak just about anywhere, but having a meal like this is completely different.

    Delmonico at the Venetian – this is our usual Saturday night meal. I’ve eaten here several times in the past and have never been disappointed with any of the meals. Service is usually amazing, but sometimes we’ve had a bad waiter. We checked in around the same time people were either trying to get reservations or lying about having them – “What do you mean I’m not on the reservation list. I called in months ago. What number did you call? The main Venetian number which handles all your reservations. Sir we only take phone reservations through the restaurant’s phone number. I don’t see your name on tonight’s reservation list. Our first opening is at 11PM (it was 6:30PM), would you like that? As the guy leaves, I can’t believe you guys lost my reservation…†Needless to say my comment “That’s why I made our reservation 5 and a half months ago and re-confirmed it yesterday†was met with a chuckle and a “Welcome back, we’re glad you’re dining with us again.â€

    Dinner that night was excellent as usual. I started with a Ketel One martini and my friend had his usual non-alcoholic drink. My meal was the barbequed shrimp, spinach salad with fried mozzarella, the rib eye (not the bone in) with a baked potato. My friend had the lobster bisque, spinach salad and filet mignon. We also had bottled water and I had a glass of pinot gris with the salad and a glass of pinot noir with my entrée. Our welcome back gift was a shrimp appetizer. The team service that night was very good. We weren’t rushed and the small touches through the night were appreciated i.e. I just like butter with my potato so when asked what else I wanted on it when it was delivered and I just said “butterâ€. Moments later a small plate of extra butter appeared by the potato without me having to ask for it. When my friend commented on how his favorite sauce out of the three served was hollandaise he had a small bowl delivered also without even asking for it. I also appreciated the fact that when I asked for the waiter’s opinion on Pinot Gris, he actually steered me to the lower priced selection rather than the most expensive one on the list. He said why he liked it over the others and said he thought it would accompany my entrée a little better. We didn’t have dessert and the meal was around $250.

    Bouchon at the Venetian, in the Venezia tower. Our Sunday meal is usually one that we choose just to relax. After spending most of the day getting to and from the track and watching the race we’re ready to just unwind. We’ve never been to Bouchon, but had heard a lot of good things about it and of course Thomas Keller. Originally we had planned on eating here on Friday, but they had to reschedule us due to a Venetian event. They were very apologetic and promised us any reservation time that we wanted on Saturday and Sunday even if they were booked. We dumped our reservations at Sea Blue that night and we were not disappointed. We had moved to the Mirage on Sunday, so going to dinner that night was just a quick walk across the street.

    Bouchon lived up to the expectations I had for it. The seating was kind of tight but not as bad as Aqua where you feel that you’re rubbing elbows with the person next to you. Your napkin holder substitutes for your menu – you simply unfold it and turn it over. They had a pretty varied selection of seafood appetizers going so far as having different types of oysters available. It had a toned down approach as your bread was served on the paper table covering. The butter was served with a small bowl of pistachios, which were really good. We once again had the bottled water, and I had the Bouchon for my cocktail. I would call it a light orange martini, which was OK. I couldn’t decide and told our waitress that I was stumped. When I asked for her recommendations, she was more than happy to give me suggestions. I started with the country pate, which was a generous slice. It was served with sliced radishes, sweet pickles, country mustard, watercress and slices of whole wheat bread. We had a frisee salad, which was very good. It had a poached egg with toast and light vinaigrette. For my entrée I had the braised pork roast, which was served over mashed potatoes, peas and carrots with a sweet aux jus. I once again had a glass of pinot gris with the salad and pinot noir with my entrée. My friend had the Onion soup, frisee salad and the dinner special which I can’t remember right now. We didn’t have dessert and the meal was around $190. On the way out I thanked the waitress for her help in making the course selections as it was a great meal. She was really happy that I enjoyed them and that I had trusted her selections.

    Lunch on Saturday was In and Out. There was a long line, but it moved quickly. It’s a great burger with really good fries. In and Out is on our annual to do list, and well worth the quick drive down Tropicana. We saw a couple of people who had taken cabs to get their fix.

    Lunch on Sunday was hotdogs and sodas at the track. One of the worst meals of the trip and pretty pricey for what we got.

    Lunch on Monday was at Mon Ami Gabi. We got there right when it opened – 11:30AM. There was a line but it moved quickly. We were seated right away on the patio with a good view of the non-functioning fountains (too windy!). We met my friend’s friend who had never eaten here, but liked good food. They had the lobster bisque while I had the Belgium endive salad. Biere, ice tea and pinot gris were the first round of drinks along with bottled water. I liked the fact that the waitress “number 23†poured a tasting of the wine to make sure I liked it before pouring me a glass. She gave generous pours too. Entrees were Steak Classique, Steak Au Poivre, and Trout grenobloise. Another glass of beer and a generous glass of pinot noir for myself accompanied the entrees. No dessert for any of us. Lunch for the three of us was close to $170. My friend established a re pore with our waitress (he and his wife live in Chicago, she moved to Las Vegas from Chicago) and we were well taken care of.

    Breakfast on Saturday was America at NYNY. This is a usual meal stop. Of course we had the usual slow service, but it’s great food. My friend had the “Iowa†which is two eggs, bacon, toast, hash browns and pancakes. I had the “Southern†which is two eggs, bacon, a link sausage, hash browns, biscuits and gravy and toast. Breakfast came out to be $20 which included orange juice and coffee.

    Breakfast on Sunday was the buffet at Paris. We got there early – 7:30AM - so there wasn’t a line. If you haven’t had the Paris breakfast buffet, you really have to try it. It was very good and I was very stuffed when I left. Highlights were the made to order crepes – blueberry, with raspberry sauce and whipped cream, the Belgium waffles with mixed berries, and made to order eggs. They also have a chicken pot pie thing which is really good.

    Breakfast on Monday was at Cravings, the buffet at the Mirage. As part of our Mirage room package we received $20 food credit if we charged the meal to our rooms. We decided to try this out and were not disappointed. While it isn’t the Paris breakfast buffet, it was good nonetheless. The service was very good, and there were a wide variety of choices. After our food credit the meal came out to be $6 for the two of us.


    We had originally planned on staying at the Monte Carlo all three nights. We made our reservations back in October, but with a flurry of e-mail specials being sent out at the last minute we cancelled and changed our reservations. The first change was to TI. We spent Labor Day weekend there and really enjoyed ourselves. This reservation was also cancelled and our final hotel destinations were Mandalay Bay for two nights (Fri/Sat) and the Mirage for one night (Sun.). We actually ended up spending less money on our hotel bill by making these changes as compared to staying at the Monte Carlo.

    Mandalay Bay – amazing hotel! I used valet parking and checked my bag when I got there. There was a very short line at check-in and I didn’t have any problems with my room request – non-smoking, two queen beds. We had a room on the Fiji wing, with a view of the pool area. The MB has floor to ceiling windows and the view was amazing. Surprisingly it didn’t take that long for my luggage to arrive after I called the Bell desk. The room was pretty good size with a large bathroom. It had a separate shower and deep tub. The toilet had it’s own little room with a phone in it (although the thought of using the phone while taking care of business is a little weird). It also had a twin sink and a lit magnified make up mirror (for the people that care). The bathroom also had a lot of amenities – cotton balls, q-tips, bath salts, mouthwash and very fancy soaps, shampoos and cream rinse. The room also had separate closets with an iron and ironing board along with an in-room safe. There were a lot of hangers and an extra pillow. I tipped my usual amount for the maid and she made sure to thank me when she saw me the next day. She also left two of everything (soaps, shampoo, etc…) when she restocked our bathroom. Although I didn’t get a chance to personally check out the pool, my friend said he really liked it. There was also some sort of concert held by the pool on Saturday night. It was extremely loud and whoever was playing really liked a HEAVY bass. I didn’t have problems falling asleep, but it took a while for my friend to. He had the bed closest to the window, but I don’t think that would have been that much of a difference – I was exhausted.

    I was at the hotel when the MB was robbed at gunpoint. Not at the actual robbery location – cashier/change/ticket redemption area near the House of Blues – mind you, but at the hotel. Other than the crime scene tape and LV Metro detectives working the scene, you couldn’t tell anything had happened. The HOB was lining people up for a concert that night in a small area that hadn’t been roped off by the crime scene tape, people were playing slots right next to the area and the restaurant in the shopping area with crime scene tape was getting ready for the dinner rush. I actually didn’t know what happened until I got back to Denver.

    On Sunday night we moved to the Mirage. I had received the Spring Fling e-mail promotion that we took advantage of. By booking on-line we were able to receive a free room upgrade, which meant we had a view room. The promotion also gave us a $20 food credit, which could be used, at any of the casino’s restaurants, room service or mini-bar. We had a pool view room on the 23rd floor. Check in was very quick, which we were happy about since we had come from the Cup race and were exhausted. After getting lost in the casino on our way to the elevators we finally made it to the room. It had an amazing view. We had a great view of the strip and were able to see all the way down to the MGM Grand. We were able to see the fountains at Bellagio clearly and when the sun went down, the view was even better. The room at MB was definitely better, but you couldn’t beat the view from our room at the Mirage. The valet service was good, but we had to wait for a bellboy to come to check our bags (north valet). We heard the Mirage is getting rid of their magnetic keys and switching to a magnetic card system.


    I actually signed up for player’s cards this time – the One Club and the MGM/Mirage which will probably be one system soon. I’ve been going to Vegas for quite a while and while I play slots infrequently I decided to sign up for cards after talking to my friend. There’s no way my regular gambling will ever get rated as I play low limit blackjack and hit and run craps, but I guess you never know. My friend says that he gets snail mail offers from his One Club play, which is why I signed up.

    I mainly played nickel slots and although I hit some bonus rounds I didn’t hit anything too big. I was able to pay for lunch one day since I was able to turn my $10 into $30. I tried a halfhearted attempt at Megabucks, but the machines quickly ate my buy in. I actually had the best luck at the Aliens game. The new MIB slots quickly ate my buy-in and I didn’t play it again.

    Although I did see low limit craps tables at the MB and Luxor - $5 on Friday I didn’t jump in. I actually didn’t make it to the Aladdin this time to gamble, which is a first for me. This is also the first trip in years that I didn’t play any craps at all. It was pretty busy weekend with the races and dinner. I didn’t want to play $10 min. craps which is all I found when I did have time.

    I did play Pai Gow Poker at MGM though. It was on Monday right before I had to head to the airport. I played for around 30 minutes and won twice and pushed the rest of the time. I think this game will make it into my regular rotation, as it was very low key and a great way to just hang out. I’m not sure about making the bonus bets as the only one I made lost. But I was dealt a flush, straight, full house and a three of a kind.

    There was one hand where my little voice told me to put $10 on the bonus bet, but I didn’t listen to it – it went something like this:

    Little voice - “Hey you should put $10 down on a bonus bet.â€
    Me – “Huh???â€
    Little voice – “Too late!â€

    Needless to say when I turned over my cards I felt sick. I had a straight flush for my high hand. I groaned when I put down my hand and the guy next to me said “Bad hand?†I could only reply “You’ll see…†When the dealer turned over my cards, he became very excited and then noticed I didn’t have a bonus bet. I looked over at what I would have won and felt even worse. A straight flush paid 50-1, which would have paid me $500 if I had listened to the little voice in my head and made the $10 bonus bet. As the dealer turned over the cards in front of him for the camera to see a couple of other guys on the other side of the table said “Wow, what did that pay you?†The dealer looked at them and said – “He didn’t make the bonus betâ€. Regardless I still had a good time and will definitely play this game again.

    On Monday morning after breakfast my friend and searched for a cheap blackjack table to play together. We started at Harrah’s and worked our way down the strip. We had previously vowed not to play any blackjack at the Barbary Coast since the last time we were here we were spanked. I lost 10 hands in a row, and my friend had lost 9 out of 10 hands. But everything we saw was $10 a hand, even at O’sheas! I thought there might be some chance at the IP, but that was $10 a hand too. So we decided to give the BC one more chance. It wasn’t bad. We had a fun dealer and stayed there for about an hour. I sensed my luck was turning and got out of the game. I was only down $18 so I was happy. My friend stayed for a while longer and soon lost his buy-in.


    We’ve been going to the LV NASCAR race for several years now and are now season ticket holders. Our seats are slowing working themselves to the start finish line and we are now in section J in turn four. Our seats are on the second to the highest row and gave us a great view of the entire track and of the start finish line. We drive on Saturday to the Busch race and take the CAT NASCAR bus on Sunday ($5 each way). We’ve been lucky the last few years and have gotten in and out of the track parking lot on Saturday – around 20 minutes rather than the 2 hours we were stuck there a few years ago. We usually arrive close to the race time on Saturday and have a straight shot out the “back way†rather than fighting all the traffic headed directly to I-15. There were 100K people at the Busch race on Saturday.

    For the “Cup†race we usually take the bus. It picks up along the east side of the strip and we usually catch the one by the Tropicana. It takes an hour to get to the track using the special entrance via Nellis, AFB. The driver this time was pretty entertaining and although we had to stand up the entire way he made it seem like a pretty short trip. The bus drops near the southeast corner of the track and it’s about a ¾ mile walk to our seats. When we have more money to blow, we might think of taking a helicopter to and from the track, but that’s $300 round trip per person.

    In both races, Turn four was a great place to watch the race. There was a lot of action in terms of wrecks. Although I’m not a big fan of wrecks, we had a lot of them happen right in front of us. It’s a lot different in person as the cars seem to be going in slow motion.

    There were fewer people on Saturday so it was easy to spread out and sit comfortably. Although Sunday’s race was packed, there was still enough room between people that you didn’t feel like a sardine.

    The weather was gorgeous both days. A slight wind on Saturday kept us nice and cool. A stronger wind on Sunday was a bit chilly at times, but was actually tougher on my eyes than anything else. I got the usual weird tan from sitting through a sporting event for four hours.

    Las Vegas is a great track and will hopefully get better when they make the banking changes they were talking about. It’s now a two-groove track so there was a lot of great side-by-side racing.

    Misc. thoughts/Observations

    Mandalay Bay is a great place to stay. If you find a discount price you should try to stay there. Most of the time it is too pricey for my taste.

    I’ve said this before - waking up early without a hangover and having an appetite is a nice way to start the day. You easily beat the crowds at breakfast, we walked right into the Paris breakfast buffet without any waiting.

    I’m positive the car rental people get a commission on the insurance option, as I’ve never had such a hard sell before.

    I thought moving hotels during a trip was going to be a headache, but it wasn’t too bad. We saved a lot of money and ended up at two great poperties.

    Booking directly with the hotels has its advantages. We were able to constantly change hotels or prices when we found a better deal. Booking the “Spring Fling†deal at the last minute paid off.

    The pool view option at Mirage gives you an amazing view of the strip. I thought the volcano view was the best, but I was wrong. If you’re like me it’s worth the extra money for this option. I’m not a room is just for sleeping person.

    Eating well in Vegas is so easy to do, but pricey. I think our food bill was probably just as high as our room bill.
  2. kitson

    kitson VIP Whale

    Apr 20, 2004
    if your food bill was not higher than your room bill, you paid way too much for your rooms!

    wow, what a great report, and it is clear that you relish the gourmet eating experiences. very detailed reporting, and a primer for restaurant customers in getting on the right side of the service staff at a business, and then reaping the rewards. watching some of the jerks, on tv shows and in person, you have to empathize with your servers, even when they work in such high end places. probably the reason they wind up there is their great attitudes, but when people are treated nicely, they do respond in kind, usually.

    is re pore "french" for rapport? dont know if i found the only mistake in the report, or if your writing is just so sophisticated that a little language joke went right over my montana head!lol
  3. Vegas Addict

    Vegas Addict Guest

    Nice TR mileman.

    I'm with you. I stayed at the Mandalay Bay last trip and wow, I really love it there. All the small touches in the room reek of great customer service. So much so, that we're staying at THEhotel for my june trip. I can't wait.
  4. milehiman

    milehiman VIP Whale

    Sep 21, 2002
    Scottsdale, AZ

    I'm among the worlds worst spellers and for whatever reason MS Word didn't pick it up or it did and I missed it.

    Yes I meant to say rapport.

    I'm also the goof that wrote Pinot Brassiere instead of Pinot Brasserie in a question about Venentian restaurants.

    Vegas Addict - I'll certainly look at trying to stay at MB again if I have the chance.
  5. IllMarty

    IllMarty Orangutan

    Dec 7, 2004
    Will Co., IL
    Trips to Las Vegas:
    Sounds like you guys eat REALLY well when out there. Thanks for the TR. Nice read.
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