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John Mariani-Com.Dec.2013

John Mariani-Com.Dec.2013

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Published by Frank Caiafa
Food and Beverage writer, John Mariani, reviews Polo Steakhouse at the Garden City Hotel. Beverage Program Consulting by Frank Caiafa.
Food and Beverage writer, John Mariani, reviews Polo Steakhouse at the Garden City Hotel. Beverage Program Consulting by Frank Caiafa.

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Categories:Food & Wine
Published by: Frank Caiafa on Dec 29, 2013
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial

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12/29/2013

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MARIANI’S
Virtual Virtual Gourmet Gourmet 
 
December 22,
 
2013
 NEWSLETTER 
HOME | BOOKS | ABOUT US | CONTACT
Bing Crosby, Rosemary Clooney, Danny Kaye and Vera-Ellen in "White Christmas" (1954)
❖❖❖❖
THIS WEEKVEGAS VARIETY, Part Oneby John Mariani
NEW YORK CORNERPOLO STEAKHOUSEby John MarianiNOTES FROM THE WINE CELLAROF MANY BRUNELLOS, SOME PARTICULAR MODERN STAND-OUTS by Mort Hochstein
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❖❖❖❖
 VEGAS VARIETY
Part One
by John Mariani
 
Frank Sinatra's Private Plane
 
T
hose who in the past have tried every which way to pass off Las Vegas' dining scene as everything from lacking in breadth and depth tomerely copying what other cities have already done simply haven't eaten around town in the past five years. True, a decade ago Las Vegas entrepreneurs tried to buy their way into the culinary big leagues merely by signing upchef/restaurateur celebrities like Emeril Lagasse, Julian Serrano,Daniel Boulud, and Jean-Georges Vongerichten, and the posh andsize of the restaurants was more in keeping with the city's appeal toextravagance than refinement. Then there was a period of bringingin concepts that began elsewhere, like Rao's, Spago, and Craft. But, for at least the past three years the restaurant scene inVegas, both on and off the Strip, have begun to show far more breadth and individuality. Some new places even seem downrightneighborly. 
F
or the second time I stayed at the three-year-old Aria Resortand Casino (
left 
), within City Center, which in its architecture andsweeping arched design is among the finer looking new structuresin the city, veering away from the monolithic hotels of recent years. There are some spectacular corner Sky Suites (
below
) with anear birds-eye view of the desert and a good deal of Las Vegas.The closet space in the rooms is commensurate with the size of allelse. I also count Aria’s multi-lingual concierges as among thefinest in a city that always takes care of its best clients. Therethe usual high-end shops, the requisite Cirque du Soleilextravaganza, Zarkana, and the casino itself is well away fromthe suites for both comfort and relief from that kind ointensity. None of this goes cheap, of course, but Vegas hasseveral off-peak seasons each year and the prices dropeverywhere in town: at the moment, there are rooms (not
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suites) going for just $109. You could easily spend your entire time in Vegas —assuming you are there an average of three nights—never leaving Aria to dine, for the resort has more than a dozenrestaurants, including a buffet and various cafes; these showwhat I mean by the breadth of offerings in the city’s hotelcasinos now. Julian Serrano’s fine dining room is here, as wellas Sirio, an Italian restaurant run by the Maccioni family; Jean-Georges Vongerichten has a steak house here, and MichaelMina has American Fish.
TETSU
 
I
 
had dined at these other restaurants in the past, so this time my focus wason other, more personalized places. One of the best was Tetsu, a teppanyakiconcept by famous sushi master Masa Takayama (
left 
), whose previous restauranthere was a dark, dreary, extremely expensive Sukiyaki restaurant of surprisingdullness. Tetsu (the name means “iron,” as in Iron Chef) is the happy opposite, a brighter, more convivial area dominated by a counter—shaped like a blackjack table--in front of the teppan griddles used by the cooks to prepare your meal, whichmight begin with signature dishes like
toro
tartare with caviar (
below
); nice, fat butterflied Scottish langoustine, and Kobe garlic fried rice, yakisoba noodles andseafood udon, accompanied by 100 varieties of sake available by the bottle and 13 by the glass, plus a 600-selection wine list. You can see thequality of theingredients here as youenter and pass a showcase of seafood, meats and vegetables. Locavorism is simplynot an option in Las Vegas, so the restaurant brings in the finest produce, meats andseafood from wherever they may be on a seasonal, even weekly basis, whether it’sMaine or Manila. There is a “fried & sizzling” section with items like a pankoseafood roll and “Dancing shrimp,” both delicious, and of course a very fine arrayof sushi and sashimi. You cannot avoid ordering the teppanyaki dishes here, which include animpressive Australian wagyu filet mignon and luscious duck breast with assertiveThai basil. Along with all this are irresistible side dishes like garlic butter fried rice,habanero shrimp nuggets and a spicy mango-zucchini salad. I think it critical to go to a restaurant like Tetsu with at least three friends, tasting,switching, swooning, nodding. This is interactive Asian cuisine at a very very high level fit for discussion over many sips of sake.
LEMONGRASS
 Lemongrass is another Asian restaurant at Aria, this with a particularly Thaislant, and I found the management here, from hostesses to servers, among themost cordial I’ve come across in town. Lemongrass also functions very well asone of the city’s best places to have a really fine lunch—not so easy as you think in a town that only really comes alive after 5 p.m. Most of the better restaurantsare not open midday and some only five days a week. The room is high, wide and very handsome, with plenty of fine wood andenchanting hanging lamps. Lemongrass is made for an ideal and very relaxing Sunday lunch, and I verycontentedly sat alone at a big table, ordering a wide array of dishes, almost allextremely savory,not least thedelicately crafteddim sum (
right 
). I gorged on
 siu mai
, steamed BBQ pork buns, minced chicken basil bun, aspinach shrimp dumpling, minced pork curry, lobster infused with ginger andscallion quickly cooked in a wok to perfect succulence, and much more. Rather than take a walk in the 108-degree heat after lunch, I cranked up the a/c in my suiteand drifted off into a long nap before cocktails that evening.
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