Leaving Las Vegas

Saturday, May 30th , 2015

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Given that it is a city essentailly aimed at tourists, Las Vegas makes it maddeningly difficult for a visitor to find somewhere decent to eat. There is no shortage of places serving food, but other than the high street chain restaurants there is little beyond a seemingly endless supply of “celebrity” chef bistros dedicated to milking the wallets of the convention attendees, gamblers and unwary. An excellent example is Jaleo, a tapas offering from Jose Andre, who has a well-regarded restaurant called Minibar in Washington DC (sufficiently popular that I couldn't get a table when I was last in DC). Jaleo’s menu reads well enough, and there was actually an entirely pleasant tortilla served, but otherwise the whole place reeks of being a tourist rip-off, from the chefs trained to shout out “paella” to the dining room when they finish a batch of rice, to the pushy service, ever anxious to process customers as fast as possible. They did manage a moment of light relief by serving up croquettas not on a plate but in an actual black shoe, a serving idea of such dazzling stupidity that I dread to think what other ideas that the management is working on. My tweet of the photo of this abomination at least caused amusement to many, and was picked up by the BBC’s One Show that week as an example of restaurant crassness. In terms of serving food in items of footwear, I hope that this is an idea where what happens in Vegas actually stays in Vegas.

To eat decently in Vegas you need to leave the glitzy hotels and head out to further afield. Just yards from the enjoyable izakaya Aburiya Raku is a sushi bar called Kabuto. Although its head chef has changed fairly recently, Kabuto continues to offer a surprisingly high standard of sushi based on fish mostly flown in directly from Tsukiji market in Tokyo. There were one or two areas where the experience did not quite work, such as a poor tomago, but the fish itself was generally of a high standard and the staff were welcoming. As an aside, the other curiosity of Las Vegas is also well off “the strip”, a Thai restaurant called Lotus of Siam, where the food is nothing special but the wine list most certainly is, having one of the best selections of German Riesling anywhere. Only in Vegas.