Tag Archives: restaurant review

Vegetarian Vegas – Other Notables and Pending Places…

18 May

Last month we went to Las Vegas… it was the first time for me, the second one for my Mom. Because we’re not that into gambling, we decided to spend our time visiting the fabulous hotels and casinos, lunching at delicious restaurants and at night, enjoy the extraordinary nightlife and shows.

Let’s do this chronologically…

New York New York Hotel – Il Fornaio

We started most of our days with stops at the New York New York hotel – the hotel so nice they had to name it twice 🙂  Our hotel shuttle would leave us to start our daily Vegas adventures. It is also the home for Zumanity, the first of the Cirque du Soleil shows we went to. Nice place to start… it’s a small theater in comparison to the others we saw and the theme is very risqué and very apropos to the image I had in my head of Vegas.

Afterwards we had dinner at Il Fornaio, an Italian restaurant right next to the Zumanity Theater. I’ll be honest – I was for a while confused with this restaurant thinking that it was a Vegas arm of the Rhode Island restaurant Al Forno, famous for developing baked pastas like my favorite Baked Pasta with 4 Cheeses… The names are soooo similar, no? I was disappointed there were no baked pastas suitable for vegetarians, but was glad they had a VEGETARIAN vegetable soup, meaning made with vegetable broth and not chicken broth. It was comforting on a chilly Vegas night.

MGM Grand Resort

The next night we went to see Ka from Cirque du Soleil. SPECTACULAR!!!!! Simply superb… I was so taken by surprise. I did not expect at all the visual overload we experienced. Fully recommend it.

Ka is shown at the MGM Grand Resort. We tried to eat at two places at the MGM Grand – The Wolfgang Puck Bar & Grill and ‘wichcraft, Tom Colicchio’s sandwich place. We checked out the menu at Wolfgang Puck’s place and it seemed super nice… I loved the ambiance too. It’s an open restaurant that you can see straight from the casino floor, but the day we decided to eat there, CLOSED. Apparently some filming or something… and the sandwich place, we looked for it, but never saw it. Could someone please tell us where it is???

 

Vegetarian Picnic @ The Grand Canyon

The next day… Grand Canyon Trip. We opted to travel with Grand-Adventures.com because they offered a sunset walking trip. How nice!!! Start with breakfast, followed by a stop at Hoover Dam, another stop somewhere along Route 66, a picnic overlooking the Grand Canyon, some walking thru the Grand Canyon Southern Rim trails and a drive back to Las Vegas.

I was a bit skeptical of the breakfast and lunch options – McDonald’s Breakfast and Arby’s Lunch, WHAT?!?!?!  Lucky for us online menus and ingredient lists exist. We could order ANYTHING we wanted at MacDonald’s, but I had not stepped inside a McD in over 10 years. I used to love their fries and chocolate shakes until I learned all their potato products are generously sprinkled with beef broth. Yep!!! But we maneuvered thru the menu and got a Brown Sugar Oatmeal with Apples and Raisins, Apple Pie and Orange Juices. Surprisingly satisfying for a fast-food joint… 

And lunch… we could pick among all the Market Fresh sandwich menu at Arby’s, a fast food chain that was very short-lived in Puerto Rico, mostly known for their roast beef sandwiches. Well… because LV is so close to the West Coast, they do not offer them openly in their menu, but you could order a vegetarian sandwich – just imagine any of these sandwiches here, but without the meat filling – 2 kinds of cheese, lettuce, tomato, red onions, mustard… you could even order it w/o the mayo. The view was spectacular, so the food, to be honest took second billing.

You work up an appetite when climbing the Grand Canyon...

Sunset at the Grand Canyon South Rim

The Bellagio

The next day we went to see O at The Bellagio, the logest-running of the Cirque du Soleil Vegas shows. It’s AMAZING!!! I was afraid people had hyped it so much for me that I would not enjoy it. But it is everything people told me and MORE… I hope I am not overhyping it for you…

But O is not the only spectacular show at The Belaggio… the décor inside the front desk with Chihuly’s glass sculptures on the ceiling, the wonderful interior gardens and the Fountains in front are just sublime. We got to watch a few shows there – some in the afternoons, and a few at night. I got some video, but it does not do them justice.  I would definitely stay at this hotel if given the opportunity… lovely, just lovely and elegant.

We went to the later 10PM show for O. We were not hungry before and by the time the show ends at 11:30PM, it was too late to have dinner at Olives by Todd English. I was so much looking forward to eat here because one of the first recipes I did when I discovered online recipes was their marinated olives recipe… We were eating olives for almost a month. I went overboard with the measures, as if I was really doing them for a restaurant crowd. Now Olives is in my TO EAT list on my next Vegas or NYC trip.

Another place we wanted to try was the Mandalay Bay… we visited there one morning and of course all the restaurants were closed still. There we wanted to try several places – Fleur by Hubert Keller, Aureole by Charlie Palmer, with their impressive wine tower where the “Wine Angels” suspend in wires to get your favorite bottle of wine. Amazing, even when they’re just taking inventory in the morning hours…

My mom really was taken by the menu from China Grill, she really wanted some Asian food. Unfortunately, China Grill is only open for dinner and our theater options were not close to Mandalay. I promise her we will eat here on our next trip. And we also wanted to try Border Grill from Top Chef Masters Mary Sue Milliken and Susan Feniger. Unfortunately for us, the menu is not very vegetarian-friendly. Although the quinoa fritters Mary Sue made last week on Top Chef Masters seemed interesting enough to consider again.

I hope if you’re vegetarian like us you also get to experience Las Vegas as deliciously was we did… and until the next trip, Ta ta!!!

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Vegetarian Vegas – I LOVE Burgers

16 May

My apologies to the local people of Las Vegas, but visiting Vegas for the first time you feel like going to an amusement park. It’s really visiting one street you walk up and down the whole time you’re there. And depending where you’re staying, you get to really learn the ins and outs of the hotels, where everything is, how to best get there from here…

 

A hotel we visited a few times because of the ambiance, the décor, and basically because it’s THE LARGEST HOTEL in the world was The Pallazo/The Venetian hotel combo. And The Shoppes that connect both hotels are just so special with a replica of a Venetian Channel running all through the center and the ceilings painted as a clear Italian sky… it’s really like an amusement park for adults.

We traversed these shoppes so many times that one particular restaurant captured my eye, time and time again – I LOVE Burgers. I love burgers too… but I needed to know if they loved vegetarian burgers just as much as I do.  AND THEY DO!!!! They have one Eggplant Parmesan Burger on the menu and a Vegan Burger that they only tell you about if you ask about vegetarian burgers. I think they should put it in the menu so people KNOW they have 2 options to choose from.

One day we made it a point to have lunch here. Here is what we had:

Of course we ordered the 2 vegetarian burgers on the menu… The Eggplant Parmesan is just that, an eggplant parmesan sandwich with tomato sauce and cheese on a whole grain burger bun.

The Vegan Burger is a patty made from a bunch of stuff… because it’s not on the menu I’m going by what I remember the server told me – black beans, rice, oatmeal, and a variety of veggies. It comes served on a whole grain bun with onions, lettuce and tomatoes. I was extremely tempted to ask to put some cheese on top, but decided to go truly vegan and opted not to. But not being the greatest fan of beans, the texture is creamy like refried beans, luckily not so much that a little ketchup and mustard could not solve for me.

I LOVE Burgers claim themselves to be on the way to having the Largest Fry Menu in Las Vegas… typical Vegas where everyone is in LOVE with superlatives. We asked the server which were the MOST POPULAR and she recommended the Parmesan Garlic Fries with Roasted Garlic. The fries were AWESOME… really crispy and salty from the sharp Parmesan grated on top. The whole plate was GONE. We had to negotiate who would get the last bites…

We almost ordered a Salad… remember I need to have a salad to feel I am being good to my figure. But luckily we didn’t order because we would not have been able to finish it all. After yesterday’s Buffet at the Wynn, we wanted to take it easier today… We would have ordered de Warm Spinach Salad – The Vegan version with warm wild mushrooms and truffle balsamic vinaigrette. Sounds delicious, no???

The verdict… A great alternative if you want something more casual. And if I go there again, I am sure going to break character and ask some cheese on my vegan burger… deal??

Vegetarian Vegas – The Wynn Buffet

13 May

To go to Las Vegas and not experience the delights of a true Vegas Buffet is just inconceivable!!!!

Growing up, Buffets and Topless fantabulous reviews were two of the things Vegas was known for. So even though today, Las Vegas has evolved into the mecca of the celebrity chef – Bobby Flay has Mesa Grill, Mario Batali has Otto, B&B and others, Wolfgang Puck, Todd English, Michael Mina, Tom Colicchio, Charlie Palmer, José Andrés, Scott Connant,  Hubert Keller, and Thomas Keller (no relation…) all have one or various posts where they showcase their delectable creations, we needed to give fair chance and airtime to the long-standing Vegas Buffet.

We did a little bit of research… and we had some time, because we had a trip scheduled for The Grand Canyon 4 days into our stay in Vegas, and the recommendation of the Tour is not to eat at any buffet prior to the trip because they WOULD NOT give us any refunds if we got food poisoning from eating at a buffet. What a vote of confidence for the buffets of the city… or the overeating habits of the average American consumer… discuss amongst yourselves.

We got various recommendations, but they were based on the amount of meat and shrimp we could eat. Unfortunately, Las Vegas has many vegetarian options, but the FullVegetarian restaurant or Vegetarian Buffet is not part of the alternatives just yet.

We wanted a SPECIAL BUFFET, somewhere where the food would be more special than any self serve/all-you-can-eat cafeteria. So we turned to one of the most special hotels we encountered on this trip – The Wynn Hotel. We LOVED the Wynn and Encore Hotels… So chic, so modern, everything decorated so whimsically and bold at the same time. We said that if the hotel décor and ambiance are that special, the food at the buffet for sure would be too.

 

Check out the décor of the place… It was stunning. We felt we were inside Wonderland and that Alice would pop up at anytime asking us the way to a Tea Party… I was feeling special already. I felt I was underdressed and needed a hat, like those at the Royal Wedding or the Kentucky Derby to fit in more appropriately.

The options were MANY… you will have to excuse the presentation here. I am not a very good platter and buffets are not conducive to the best plate presentation. It’s about what you like and how much can you pile on your plate to avoid constant trips back and forth. Here was what we had:

I had to start with SALAD… Eating salad first makes me feel, regardless of my choices afterwards, that at least I ate something raw and fresh. And there where were many Salads to choose from. You mixed and matched ingredients and topped with your favorite dressing. I think I decided on a creamy parmesan dressing. There you also see a Butternut Squash Risotto made with vegetable broth and currants, Crispy Corn and Quinoa Polenta Triangles with a Tomato Ragu on top, one of my mom’s faves as she went for seconds on this. Also some roasted potatoes… I loved the risotto and the polenta triangles.

The next stop was a bit more International in flavor… Here you see in the cup a Waldorf Salad with blue cheese, grapes and pears. Sooooo delicious… and I had 2 salads under my belt. I was being healthy, right?? Also, some grilled naan bread, hummus and cucumber/yogurt raita. The whole grain bun is to counteract the fact the naan was made of white flour… and no offense, but my hummus recipe is much better.

Continuing with the international flavors, we moved onto the Japanese and Mexican side of the Buffet. Here we had Vegetable Sushi Rolls, various vegetarian ceviches and corn tortilla chips served with red and green salsas. I picked the red salsa because it was milder and the raita was an awesome dipping sauce for the tortillas… note to self to create something that integrates Mexican and Indian flavors. I also had some vegetable spring rolls with a tangy apricot sauce, but the photo did not come out pretty at all…

I was particularly surprised with the ceviches – I only noticed them in a third go around to the buffet line… I had dismissed then as seafood ceviches until I read the labels well. One was made with jicama, shitake mushrooms and hearts of palm and the other one was made with a mixture of beans… I preferred the jicama/mushroom one because we already know how I feel about beans. But the flavors were interesting and certainly something I would entertain to make in the future at home…

Desserts… OMG!!! The only difficult thing about desserts in a non-vegetarian environment is that most of them have some sort of egg or gelatin in them. But we managed… We had strawberry and coconut sorbets, the filling of an apple cobbler and the strawberry and whipped cream filling they were using for the crepes… I just couldn’t resist myself and had to have a crepe made to order. I know, I know it was true gluttony, but I just couldn’t resist myself…

Lucky for us, in Vegas you need to walk as much as you need… because after that “jartera” you need to walk if you don’t want to fall into a food-induced coma. So for all you vegetarians or vegetarian-friendly people… if you go to Vegas and need a recommendation for a Buffet, I fully recommend the Wynn Hotel Buffet. You will not be disappointed AT ALL… I dare you to go out to dinner afterwards!!!

Vegetarian Vegas – Otto

11 May

Yes… we were in Las Vegas and we were on a mission to eat lunch at the big name chef restaurants.

When we were hanging at one of our favorite hotels, The Venetian and went to The Shops at the Pallazo to listen to the gondoliers sing and push on their gondolas that travel all across the shoppes, we got hungry.  Las Vegas is like going to Walt Disney for adults… you walk sooooo much!!!  Which is a good thing; because you eat and drink so much you need a way to burn off the calories.

Right in the Piazza San Marco replica… next to the street performer’s platform is OTTO, the Pizzeria and Enoteca from Mario Batali and Joe Bastianich.  I’ve been meaning to eat at OTTO in NYC for years and always something happens…  Once we actually got there, but they were closed in between lunch and dinner service.  So here in Vegas, I would actually have the chance to taste Mario Batali’s recipes.

This is what we ordered:

The Acetaia Vinegar Maker’s Salad… this was sort of a chef’s salad but I asked to leave out the bacon and grated eggs.  The arugula, cucumbers, onions and other veggies were really crispy and nice against the lemony vinaigrette.

 

The Fried Artichoke hearts with the whipped Burrata cheese…  This was the second time having burrata cheese, which apparently is one of the “hot” cheeses around.  Fresh Mozzarela di Buffala is passé, move over and make room for burrata.  It’s delicious and creamy and a great contrast to the fried artichoke and salad on top.  I would have had another one…

 

Penne a la Norma featuring a tomato sauce with eggplants… I’ll be honest; I was underwhelmed by the presentation and the amount of food on the plate.  I get it was a pasta plate, primi for the Italians and it was lunch, but almost $20 for the simple pasta we got was a bit pricy.  It was delicious, but it did not blow our minds away.

 

We did not have dessert here either because we unknowingly “splurged” by ordering  a bottle of sparkling water… had I known the water was going to be $10 a bottle, I would have traded for dessert certainly.

 The final veredict… Otto was good, but not great.  I am not going out of my way to recommend it to people. But, if someone invites me there again, I would love to maybe explore other things in the menu, like the Meatless Mondays menu.  We were there some other day of the week, so these alternatives were not available… just like we couldn’t order our pasta whole wheat because it is not the day of the week they serve whole wheat pasta.  Weird, no??

 

I am sure there are better Italian options in Vegas, what has been your experience??

Sublime Vegan Restaurant Review

18 May

I have a thing with vegetarian and vegan restaurants…  the fact that their food usually is filled with so many substitutes or tries to use so many “exotic” ingredients that the flavor is not there.  That’s why I sometimes prefer to just go to traditional restaurants and navigate through their menus to find something delicious yet still suitable for me to eat.  Funny… but sometimes I’ve found a great meal in a steakhouse…  the best baked potatoes and salad you’ve ever tasted!!!  But that’s another subject…

Last month I was in Miami with my mom visiting my sister and coincided with my mom’s 67th birthday.  My sister decided we should celebrate her by going to dinner at a vegan restaurant in Ft Lauderdale called Sublime.  I have heard of this restaurant before, but hadn’t had a chance to go up there.  And from my feelings above, I was a bit wary of what we would find there…

The ambiance at Sublime is really nice… low lights, nice décor, small tables for 2 or 4…  like any fine dining restaurant should be.  The music was nice and the bar area looked really nice.  Sorry I do not have pictures because the low lighting does not allow for nice pictures with or without flash.  Sublime is a vegan restaurant… so even though they do not serve any animal products or any eggs or dairy, they do serve alcohol and chocolate, which are not included in the line of vegetarianism I usually follow.  Just wanted to clarify…

It’s so refreshing to go to a fine dining restaurant that you know that you can eat EVERYTHING on the menu… it’s now a matter of what you like and what you’re in the mood for… not a matter of what can I have, what questions should I ask the waitress, will it have bacon?  But still, I was careful to check out if the food will taste good…

The menu is large… but not unmanageable.  They had appetizers, a “sushi” menu, salads, pizzas and main entrees.  I ordered a “Sublim-ade” which was their featured non-alcoholic drink – really delicious limeade.  I can’t remember if I had one or two.  We were in the sharing mood, which was wonderful for this article – I had a chance to taste what Vanessa (my sister), Wichi (my bro in law), my mom and I ordered… and this is what we had:

 For appetizers:

Crispy Eggplant Rollatini

We ordered this to share for all 4.  This was really good even though the cheeses in the filling were not made from milk.  The eggplant seemed it was fried in panko breadcrumbs.  It was not hot in temperature, but it was really delicious.  I would have ordered another one just for myself had I known what you’ll learn later on…

 

Soup of the Day – lentil vegetable soup with chickpeas

This is the only thing I did not taste. Wichi liked it a lot; so did Vanessa.  The taste was very authentic according to them.

 

Florasian Sushi Roll – made from rice, tempura avocado, vegenaise, mango and toasted coconut.

My sister ordered this for herself because she’s “eating for two”. She wasn’t planning to share, but she was in for a surprise. 

I do eat often regular vegetable/vegetarian sushi made at traditional Japanese sushi restaurants, so I have a good comparison point…  this tasted interesting, to say the least.  My sister tasted the coconut, I did not.  Nor did I taste the mango.  The avocado was good, but I never knew if it was tempura or not.  What difference could it make???  To me these sushi pieces were too chewy for my taste…  I would not order them again.  Sorry…

For main entrees, we had:

Pizza Margherita Classico

My brother-in-law ordered this… I was also considering it too.  The taste was good – the tomato sauce was a bit sweet, the basil super fresh and the “mozzarella cheese” did not taste plasticky.  Now, the crust left a lot to be desired… and to me, the best torture test of a great pizza is the crust.  It was kind of soggy and burned.  So it was OK, but we’ve had better.

 

Portobello Stack – a Portobello mushroom cap filled with sautéed spinach and topped with slices of red potato.  It was served with gravy and a side of “smashed” cauliflower.

My mom ordered this…  and this was very delicious.  I really enjoyed the few bites I had.  I am not a fan of gravies, so I found the taste a bit bland.  The spinach and mushroom had enough moisture that the dish didn’t feel it needed a sauce.  Now, the cauliflower did need a bit of help.  It was dry and bland.  It felt as it was raw cauliflower shredded and put on the plate.  It did not taste as if it was cooked, mixed with something liquid to soften – like “milk”, “butter”, “sour cream”, or stock at least.  Maybe that’s the purpose of the gravy on that plate.

 

Sublime Loaf a mock “meatloaf” made of lentils, brown rice, water chestnut, accompanied by Israeli couscous and grilled asparagus

My sister ordered this…  I was never a fan of meatloaf when I ate meat, so I have no real point of original comparison here.  To me it was no show-stopper…  it tasted OK with the not-so-interesting gravy mentioned before, definitely not something I would order the next time around.  The Israeli couscous tasted just like plain boiled pasta without any seasonings or flavorings – a missed opportunity in my opinion. And the grilled asparagus, to me, were the best thing on the plate.

By process of elimination, what did I order???  You might be asking yourselves…  Well, I originally ordered the Ravioli – house-made pasta, spinach “ricotta”, slow-roasted tomatoes, garlic confit, herbs…  doesn’t it sound good???  I was soooooo looking forward to the roasted tomatoes and garlic confit…  Well, something happened in the kitchen that they could not bring me the ravioli.   They had me order anything else I wanted from the menu, compliments of the chef.  When I was perusing the menu, two things jumped at me…  the side dishes, so I ordered the mac and “cheese” with the olive oil mashed potatoes.  I figured if I ordered side dishes, the plates of the other people would not get too delayed.

     

NOT!!!  I have a master’s degree in whipped potatoes with olive oil…  I make these for myself all the time.  These mashed potatoes tasted NOTHING like the ones I make.  They looked old, mushy, and were bland.  I had to sprinkle salt from the salt shaker and I never do that in a restaurant.  But these were REALLY bland.  And at some points it seemed as if these were left to dry for a while in a kitchen corner, because they tasted dry, dry, dry.  Apparently the olive oil they use there is neither Spanish nor Italian… because I could not taste it at all.

And the macaroni was a complete mistake… it was bland and you could taste the “cheese” was not real cheese at all.  And I have made vegan pastas before, I know they’re a challenge, but you can achieve success if the right ingredients are used.  Not here… we all tried it and no one liked it at all. 

 

Now for the desserts… this was a celebratory birthday after all, so we needed some sweets to finish off the night.

Strawberry Cheesecake  

My mom ordered this one because she is a strawberry fan.  It tasted really delicious and we enjoyed the strawberries were mixed in with the cheesecake and not just something on top.  The almond crust was also delicious.

 

Chocolate Nirvana Cake

Like I said, the restaurant and some of my dinner companions are chocolate lovers.  And me, being a choco-holic in a “12-step separation program”, we ordered this chocolate cake.  It had a coffee-flavored Kahlua “butter creme” and dark chocolate ganache…  I only had a few bites because it is not often I can taste cakes without eggs in any restaurant… so a little chocolate was not going to stop me.  This cake was awesome…  one of the best things we had all night. 

Our compliments to the pastry chef… certainly.

So, after all this review, what’s the VEREDICT:

Sublime is OK, just not awesome.  I will go back again and try some of the other dishes on the menu… but now knowing what to stay away from.  I would like to try those ravioli the next time, certainly… and maybe some of the other appetizers.  The frito mixto certainly was calling me a bit. 

But if you’re in the Ft Lauderdale area or just visiting like we were, give Sublime a try.  Just stay away from the mac and mashed potatoes, OK??  Deal…

 

1431 N. Federal Hwy., Ft. Lauderdale, FL 33304
954-615-1431
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