Being a resident in this surreal city, (think adult Disneyland) we have so much available at our fingertips; it can be overwhelming and after a while, one can get jaded over the constant barrage of overstimuli pounding at you like a sobakawa pillow repeatedly beating your face. But, you gotta take advantage of what's available to you, so we regularly don our armor, spray ourselves with tourist repellent and trek on over to the strip (consequently we have to burn our clothes from all the smoke)... We don't normally drink so we come up with other amusements...
So instead of a Pub Crawl, we do a Foodie Crawl; where we go to several restaurants, dine on their signature dishes and enjoy multiple ambiences... which turns out to to be an entertaining nite!!
The Cosmopolitan is the perfect destination for such a night; there's dedicated restaurant floors so each venue is in close proximity, they are as diverse in cuisine as well as ambience and there's exists a perennial, 'hipper than thou' vibe that makes it conducive people watching and casually hopping in and out of venues sans guilt...
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And it's our first stop at the Food Crawl, where we parked ourselves at the Bar (no reservations necessary) and thus started an evening of debauchery and culinary mayhem....
The first to do upon arrival arrive is to get a carafe of their Sangria, it's the best ever- it's got hints of Cinnamon and even Apples in it! It's lighter than most and has just a clean finish to it (Sangria has a tendency to be either sickenly sweet or harsh from the cheap Wine) neither which you will get when you order Sangria form Jaleo. It's memorable and quite addictive; forever ruining Sangria ordered anywhere else..
Pan con Tomate y Jamon Serrano: A classic Spanish dish and great way to open up your taste buds is the Toasted Bread with Tomatoes on top with Serrano Ham, drizzled with a touch of Spanish Olive Oil. The heavenliness is in the crunchy carbs married with soft, acidic texture and creaminess of fat. it sates all senses and leaves the appetite wanting more...
To balance the meal a bit, we ordered a Salad, the Remolacha con Citricos: Salad of Red Beets + Citrus +La Peral Cheese + Pistachios + Sherry Dressing. The salad was balanced and harmonious with that unique flavor that Beets have with a mild acidity that was pleasant.
A great little dish to get at Jaleo is the Mixed Olives, Aceitunas Rellenas y Aceintunas Ferran Adria: Olives stuffed w/ Anchovy + Piquillo and Ferran Adria Liquid Olives. This little number is awesome with drinks; salty, briny and bathed in luxurious Olive Oil, both traditional and avant grade version entertain the palate, as wells the mind.
There are so many dishes at Jaleo that are so awesome and deserve special recognition; the Sunday Roasted Pig and the Lobster Paella to name a few. But due to timing issues, we weren't able to order those, so the highlighted dish is a special favorite in the seafood category, Calamares en su Tinta: Basque style Squid Stew with Ink. I'm a firm believer that that this may be the best, softest Squid that I have ever had; the Ink sauce was so savory in conjunction with the lime colored concoction which I wasn't' able to recognize, but relished it with fervor. I can't say I remember it with Ramps and Micro Greens but it's added value in any case.
It was truly hard to tear ourselves away from Jaleo, but we were on a mission to explore and more needed to be done. So down the hatch with our last sip of Sangria and moved On To The Next One (Hold up freeze. Somebody bring me back some money please....)
Working ourselves from light to medium on heaviness, we ventured to what is another Jose Andres restaurant, China Poblano- a Chinese Mexican (not fused) cuisine that confuses and delights at the same time. It's definitely a split personality (akin to that psycho you may have dated at one point....)
but if you go for the ride, you may be pleasantly surprised. I tend to favor more of the Chinese cuisine, and their appetizer/dim sum selections is quite addictive and a perfect fit to our second leg of the Food Crawl...
The interior decor is an attack on the senses, an onslaught of hyperbolic technicolor thrown together miss mosh, like graphics on an side street in Tokyo...chaotic. And with two unseeingly mismatched cuisines housed under one roof, so is the the decor; the room is bifurcated down the middle, Mexican on one side, Chinese on the other (a modern West Side Story? Jets and Shark Fins?)
As for drinks, we started with a Cantelope Agua Fresca; this beverage is naturally sweet and just the right amount of nectar and water, no sugar comas or bouncing off of walls like the Tasmanian Devil on a pogo stick.
An alter.....to what? it's so friction strange, I dunno, do you sit here, or pray....? but the food's good, so I let this one pass...
This dish my favorite: Lamb Potstickers 'Stuck on You': six dumplings connected together with a crispy lace-from a visual standpoint, it's so delicate and fragile as you break off a piece, but it's another story when you put it in your mouth. The dumplings are fried pouches full of unctuous lamb meat, full of juice and fat it bursts in your mouth, the cumin is just a powerhouse of spice, making it a hearty dish.
NNPK 'SECRET' PIZZA
This Pizza joint has got to be the coolest thing ever on the Strip, there's no sign, none of your normal indicators that this venue actually sells food; just a open hallway line with albums and pictures-at the end all you see is a pinball machine and a throng of people. The waft of crusty bread and pizza sauces permeates the halls and the lobby, marketing it's own original advertisement!
It's your typical Pizza Joint, Pies laid out in front with giant stacked ovens in the back; lines of people ordering and paying at the register. The interior is remarkably chic; Carrera marble counter tops and other beautiful finishes make this the best dive to grab a cheap eat!
I had to take a pic of my favorite Pizza condiments: Parmesan, Chili Flakes and Oregano, missing is Garlic, my frenemy (love the taste, hate the after effects of lingering garlic in my mouth and breath)
BLUE RIBBON SUSHI
Blue Ribbon is the Vegas outpost of the famous New York brand that elevated sushi, baked goods etc. to another level. I had resisted for a long period of time while living there (there were soooo many other local places to go) but once I did, I realized their food stacks up to the highest quality of venues in NY.
Given the price range of restaurants at the Cosmo, this falls in the higher end range. Previously I've had more of their kitchen dishes, which were remarkable. I was really impressed with this place, sadly, I saw the portion size of their Fried Chicken and could not bring myself to order it after the mounds of food I had already consumed. And therefore the time had come to conquer the monster that was left for another battle!
We started off the meal with some Sushi- the Spicy Hamachi Roll and Unagi; just enough to feel like we're in a Japanese restaurant (the main dish IS Fried Chicken after all...) The Sushi is pretty solid, albeit the selection is standard fare, the Hamachi hit the spot and the sweet sauce on the Unagi is such a palate pleaser, it's hard to go wrong!
The Fried Chicken came out; four pieces of beautifully fried poultry covered deep in batter with crevices of crunchy craters that make eating fried chicken so much fun. There was an adequate amount of spices, enough to compliment the protein without overpowering the entire dish.
D.O.C.G. is an amazing restaurant for dinner as well, the causal counterpart to Scarpetta, it offers similar homemade Pastas that are to die for, the best that Vegas has to offer in my opinion.
The View at Scarpetta is absolutely georgous, and D.O.C.G. has the prettiest of interiors..
The Salted Carmel Budino is the dessert to get here, and amazing thick, Panna Cotta like (but thicker) custardy pudding with a layer of liquid caramel and whipped cream on top- this dish gets consumed really fast, there's just not enough to go around! (I think i'd like a vat of Budino for my last meal on death row.......amongst other things, of course)
In conjunction to the caramel, we wanted Chocolate to balance out the sweetness; the chocolate Mousse Bar with the Malt Shake was an obvious choice. Creamy and thick in consistency, it wasn't overpowering but very smooth and a perfect marriage between the shake and mousse combo.
I'd definitely order these two desserts together in an artery-clogging heartbeat!
And there you have it, an absolute debaucherous evening of gluttony; it was the Olympics of marathon fine dining, but instead of gold medals, we had protruding bellies and six hours of cardio to do the next morning! Gotta love Vegas!!