12 May 2012

The Baker's Nuts: Vegas Vacation Part 2 - Food

By no means am I restaurant critic, nor really a foodie in the typical sense of the word (I enjoy McDonalds just fine). I don't feel my opinions are any more valid than anyones else, but I know what tastes good, and I know what I like. I'm also perfectly willing to admit that each one of these restaurants may have been having a bad day or even a good day depending on the situation.

I'm reviewing things chronologically and the places that I'm speaking about below all happen to be on the main Las Vegas Strip. Some may require a little more walking depending on where you're staying. And one is an adventure in itself :).

Unfortunately, I have no images of the food for nearly all of these restaurants. I had to yet to get into the routine of using my camera at meals.

Our first eating experience was at the Blue Iguana Mexican Express in the Circus Circus Hotel (our hotel). It is barely worth mentioning other than as a warning. Like many who probably stumble into this place, we had just arrived from the airport, were waiting for our rooms, and we were kind of hungry. Everything was bland. Super bland. It was all cooked well enough but at the same time it all lacked seasoning. Burritos, tacos, tamales, even their salsa for their corn chips was bland. Needless to say, stay away.



Later that day our travels to and from a Walgreens to stock up on some supplies (complete with Disney World pricing), lead us past the Peppermill. It looked like a big diner but what caught my eye was a sign advertising 24 hour breakfast. Other than the bad Mexican food, I hadn't eaten all day, and breakfast for dinner sounded fantastic.

When we were back at the hotel we found some very high reviews for the Peppermill, making our decision to eat at there quite easy.

As we approached the entrance to the restaurant we could smell the fried food. More specifically, onion rings. We were drooling.

Yup, it looks that crazy on the inside.

I ordered french toast, my brother corn beef hash with a side of blueberry muffin (no lie :) ), and his girlfriend some type of "berry salad" (I can't find it on the menu). However, to start we ordered their appetizer sampler: onion Rings, chicken tenders, fried shrimp, mozzarella sticks, and bruschetta. And with the allure of onion rings still in the air we ordered extra onion rings on the side.

When they brought out the appetizers we couldn't believe it. Our onion rings side dish was more like a meal. They must have fried just about every ring of the onion.

The chicken tenders were probably the best I've ever had. Perfectly cooked, lightly breaded and moist. They even warmed up the barbecue sauce for dunking. Everything else was terrifically cooked as well and and the onion rings were pretty fantastic. Amusingly, the onion rings on the platter were breaded differently then those we ordered as a side. One smooth, the other not. Both were great. The chicken tenders though, stole the show.

After the appetizers we were all pretty full and I was the only one that finished their food. The french toast was traditional, nothing extraordinary but good. My brother said his hash was good, though he wasn't a fan of how they had diced the potatoes. And his girlfriend enjoyed her salad, even if as a berry salad it was topped with a chicken breast :). The meal wasn't perfect but we all really enjoyed it and it was only enhanced by the wonderful wait staff. I would definitely recommend you check out the Peppermill. Good food and good people.


How good? Well, my friend and I went back the next morning for breakfast (he was staying at the hotel across the street from ours). It was early so the place wasn't busy yet. We walked in and were seated right away, but found out this wasn't the case a few hours later. Once again our waitress was very nice, not batting an eye when it took us twenty minutes to order. And despite the early hour we were even asked if we would like anything from the bar. Oooh, Vegas :).

My friend ordered the Marco Polo Omelette (Savoury breast of chicken sautéed with spinach, sun dried tomatoes, garlic and Provolone cheese topped with tomato Hollandaise sauce) and though I absolutely never order waffles at restaurants, for some reason I just felt like one. I wanted something sweet, not pancakes, and I had had french toast the night before.

The omelette must have been made with a dozen eggs. It was enormous. Literally, a wall of egg. And it was folded like a towel. If I remember correctly it was about six or seven inches long, three inches wide and two inches high; with the other half of the plate reserved for hash-browns. My friend said it was really good; and since he couldn't finish, I helped myself to a taste. He was right, it was good, and definitely tasted "Italian."

As far as waffles go, mine was amazing. Better than any I've had before. I'm not sure how they did it, but it was super crispy on the outside (and stayed that way) but soft like a pancake on the inside. It was soooooo good and I'm not really a waffle person (my assessment of the waffle was confirmed by my brother's girlfriend when she ordered it later that morning based on my recommendation).

Also worth noting are the milkshakes. My brother and his girlfriend ordered one when they went and said it was really good but really big. So big that they decided to do the double straw sharing thing. Awww... so cute :).

Later that day the groom, our friend, and myself went searching for Secret Pizza. It's a pizza place in the Cosmopolitan Hotel that isn't listed on any directory (just showing up as Cosmopolitan Pizzeria on my Mastercard bill). You would never notice it if you weren't told where to look. There is no sign, there's nothing. It's behind a giant wooden door (thankfully left open) on the third floor next to a Japanese restaurant (Blue Ribbon). All you see is a long hallway with a white room at the end of it. When you walk down the hallway you're suddenly in a pizzeria; complete with tiled walls and floors, a pinball machine and a glass counter. Awesome!

Look closely
That's a pizza place down there

It seemed like their speciality was a white ricotta pizza but we were told by an employee that we should try both the pepperoni and the ricotta. And we did. The ricotta pizza was fantastic. A nice balanced amount of mozzarella, ricotta and tomato sauce; with a good crisp crust and not at all greasy. The pepperoni wasn't nearly as good. It wasn't terrible, but the crust was soggy and the top was quite greasy. Almost the opposite of the ricotta version. The groom was quite harsh on it, and perhaps rightfully so. He didn't feel like trying the ricotta, and I had promised him big things from the reviews I had read. I really wanted to go back to order more of the ricotta but never got the chance. Granted the little bit I had was definitely worth the trip. My advice: order the White Ricotta Pizza avoid the traditional stuff.

That night was the wedding "rehearsal dinner," sans rehearsal (thankfully, as I'm not sure the groom could have taken it :)). All those attending the wedding showed up at the Spice Market Buffet in the Planet Hollywood Hotel. It was the only buffet I visited during my trip and it was quite unique (I think). It was comprised of different stations each with a themed cuisine; Mexican, Italian, Asian, Middle Eastern, American, as well as a sea food table and a dessert table.


When the food was good here, it was good. Unfortunately when it was bad, it was exceptionally bad. A few of the items, though cooked well, were beyond salty. The biggest offenders were the beef kebabs (Middle Eastern), BBQ Ribs (Americana) but worst of the worst was the roast chicken at the Italian table. It was like eating a salt lick with a sea water chaser.

Nearly everything at the seafood table was well prepared. With the crab salad being especially good. Unfortunately the cold shrimp were limp and mushy and had obviously not been thawed properly. The Italian table had a decent pizza, some good meatballs and amazing short ribs. However, my favourite thing of the night was the sweet and sour pork at the Asian themed station. It wasn't heavily battered or sauced like you would typically find and the pork was cooked flawlessly.

Most of the desserts were just "okay", but the cannoli were downright offensive. They were not even a little crisp, just a soft disappointing shell with a filling that tasted "off". Thankfully there were a few gems at the dessert station (I ate a lot of dessert just to make sure). Specifically the deep dish apple crumble, served warm; the ice cream, which was made from a custard base so the chocolate version was fudgy; and the creme brûlée, which was creamy, but not too rich. Though, my highlight was the Hostess cupcake knockoff. Super moist chocolate cake, with a light and creamy frosting. There were also two hidden desserts on the Middle Easter table; a fantastic hand rolled baklava and candied figs. Truly two of the best desserts available, despite being of simpler fair.

The day of the wedding there wasn't much eating. For breakfast/lunch I had an eight dollar cup of fruit from the food court at Caesars Palace. It wasn't good.

The wedding dinner was at Trevi Italian Restaurant in the Forum Shops at Caesars Palace. The menu was minestrone soup and a simple salad to start; a choice of a chicken pesto risotto, seafood linguine, or a tenderloin steak for the main; as well as strawberry cheesecake for dessert.

The soup had good flavour, but nothing super special and the salad was salad :). I ended up choosing the risotto, as I had never had a restaurant prepared risotto before (I'm Italian remember :)). When it arrived, I was a little shocked. It was really more of a bowl of rice then a risotto, as their was nothing creamy about it. The flavour was really good, and the chicken was cooked well, but a bunch of my rice was criminally underdone. I probably should have sent it back, but didn't feel it was really worth it at the time. Those that ordered the linguine and tenderloin seemed really happy with their choices. The tenderloin was probably the most tender steak I had every seen; making me wish I had ordered it instead, even though it wasn't on my radar at the time.

The cheesecake was amazing. That's all. It was probably one of the best cheesecakes I've ever had, and definitely the best one I've ever had in a restaurant. I asked if they made it on site and they of course said no. I never found out where they ordered it from.


The wedding cake was really good. It was a terrifically moist chocolate cake with a cookie and cream filling, which was light and creamy and not too sweet. My only "criticism" of the cake, if there was one, was the addition of a caramel layer between the outer frosting and the cake. It made it a little too sweet for me. Overall though it was a fantastic cake and a great way to end the meal. The newly wed couple made some fantastic choices :)




That's it for now, but stay tuned! My next post will deal almost exclusively with restaurants off of the strip.

"You did send me back to the future, but I'm back, I'm back from the future!"

To be concluded...

~Adam

4 comments:

  1. I'm not a cheesecake person, but that looks like an amazing slice! I wish you could have gotten the recipe! Holy 'Leaving Las Vegas' via the stomach, though! It helps me appreciate why Americans have such a weight problem and why it is correlated with going out so much--so many people don't realize that when confronted with gargantuan portions you don't have to eat all of it! Some of the food sounds great, even if kind of scary-large.

    I don't 'brunch,' really, but as a kid breakfast for dinner was one of my favorite things. I feel the same way about waffles. I'd often be disappointed when I wanted pancakes, but a really great three-textured waffle of crisp, chewy, and molten soft is a thing of beauty (especially with real maple syrup and butter).

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  2. Yeah, I kind of fall into that camp. I only turn down food in a restaurant if it tastes bad. Typically if it's there I'll eat it (wait until you see my next post :)).

    And It's funny because as a kid I was almost the exact opposite as now. I wasn't a breakfast person at all, and outside of cereal or toast, only really liked french toast. Waffles (unless prepared by my friend's father) were typically frozen in my house, which I didn't really want to eat; and I didn't mind pancakes but they weren't my favourite. And breakfast for dinner always felt like I got cheated out of dinner :). This is all in stark contrast to today. Strange :).

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  3. Thanks for the advice...I'm going to Circus Circus next month...I will take heed about the bad restaurant in the hotel.

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  4. You're welcome :). Hope you have a great time in Vegas, eat lots :).

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