After polishing off our tomahawk chops at Jean Georges Steakhouse, we walked across the corridor to American Fish by Michael Mina. With ceiling lights emitting a serene oceanic glow over every table, glass, and chair, the setting could not have been any more perfect for a restaurant celebrating the bounty of America’s waterways.
The best part of the dining room was the huge window peering into the kitchen. Every seat in the house offered a perfect view of meals being made from start to finish. Dinner and a show—how very Las Vegas.
American Fish is one of sixteen restaurants owned by San Francisco-based chef and restauranteur Michael Mina. On our tour of American Fish, Chef Mina demonstrated the restaurant’s four signature cooking methods: salt-baking, wood-grilling, cast iron-griddling, and ocean water-poaching.
“I wanted to pay homage to rustic cooking methods from across the country—lobster boils, clambakes and campfire cookouts—but apply them with modern finesse for a truly refined dining experience,” said Chef Mina in an interview with Vegas magazine.
The first technique that he demonstrated was ocean water-poaching. The filet of halibut was packed tightly with water from the Pacific Ocean, kelp, and a pat of butter prior to being dunked in a sous vide bath that the chef designed.
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Day two of the #Foodies2Aria press trip started off with red meat and lots of it at Jean Georges Steakhouse. Located on the second floor of the Aria Resort & Casino, the restaurant feels worlds away from the usual hustle of the casino floor. Here, legendary chef and restauranteur Jean Georges Vongerichten has created a different kind of steakhouse experience, one that’s surprisingly playful, seriously sexy, and bloody good. Literally.
Before we sampled select items from the menu, Chef Vongerichten took our group on a tour of the facilities. In addition to hearing about the restaurant’s architecture and menu, we also learned about the chef’s philosophies. I was especially pleased to hear Chef mention that even with over thirty restaurants in his empire, he insists on having a say in every last detail of each one. From ambiance to food to everything in between, nothing gets the green light unless he gives it.
Chef also pointed out several fun little touches that set his steakhouse apart from the pack—the tables are adorned with tufts of green grass, the bar features spilled milk icicles, and if you look closely, the walls are covered with bovine silhouettes.
The fun really started when we made our way into the kitchen. On the menu this morning were half a dozen Angus 300 Australian Tomahawk Chops. I can’t say I’ve ever eaten a slab of steak larger than my face before.
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The weekend before last, I was whisked away to Las Vegas for three days of food, wine, glitz, and glam at the Aria Resort & Casino. I was invited to the property, along with a dozen journalists, bloggers, and media types, to experience everything from a Cirque du Soleil show to spa treatments, and of course, unbelievable meals.
In addition to being spoiled at every turn, we were given access to world renowned chefs including Masa Takayama, Michael Mina, and Jean Georges Vongerichten. It was an experience of a lifetime, and I am thrilled to relive every delicious morsel in this space.
After saying hello over champagne and limoncello flights at a Diamond Sky Suite, our group was escorted downstairs for dinner at BarMasa.
Chef Masa Takayama offers two separate dining spaces within Aria. BarMasa serves an à la carte modern Japanese menu, while Shaboo offers an omakase-style experience similar to his New York City flagship. Both spaces are minimally appointed and exquisitely cared for.
Of all the meals and events on the weekend’s itinerary, I was most excited about this one. I mean, it’s not every day that I sit down to a dinner orchestrated from start to finish by Chef Masa. This was once-in-a-lifetime stuff.
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The Astronomer and I had a quintessentially Vegas evening on our final night in town. First, we attended a mesmerizing Cirque du Soleil show at The Mirage, and then we dined at a trendy restaurant at Mandalay Bay. After taking most of our meals in low-key spots off the beaten path, we were looking forward to experiencing all the glitz and glam The Strip had to offer.
Located at the top floor of THEhotel, Mix is the vision of Alain Ducasse. The restaurant serves contemporary and classic French and American fare, as well as signature dishes from the chef’s restaurants in Paris and Monte Carlo.
I was inspired to dine at Mix after reading a glowing review from fellow L.A. food blogger Weezer Monkey. It wasn’t until I made the reservation online that I learned the restaurant was awarded a Michelin star in 2008 and 2009. [The red book abandoned the city in 2010.]
A stunning 24-foot chandelier made of 15,000 hand-blown glass spheres was the highlight of the thoroughly modern and stark white dining room. As we walked toward our booth near the window, I secretly wished that I had reserved one of the hooded pods for novelty’s sake.
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Smack dab in the middle of the Palace Station casino floor is an eighteen-seat Oyster Bar with a cult-like following. I was sent here by three pandas, two hungry ones and one that knows kung food. “Get the pan roast,” they all advised. “And make sure to go at off-peak hours,” they added. Never once have these pandas led me and my stomach astray, so I happily did as I was told.
On our second day in Vegas, The Astronomer and I headed to Palace Station for lunch. In the excitement and anticipation of it all, I forgot to heed my friends’ second piece of advice. As a result, we stood in a lengthy line that ultimately took nearly two hours to get through. Eeek!
The unassuming counter serves a diverse selection of seafood offerings, including a handful with a New Orleans bent. While waiting in line, I met a fellow Angeleno who originally hailed from the South. She’s been coming to Oyster Bar for years now and always orders the gumbo with either rice or pasta. Even though I had decided my fate from the get-go, I briefly considered switching it up. People passionate about their food can be so convincing!
When it finally came time to grab two stools at the bar, I let out an enthusiastic squeal—the moment had finally arrived for me to experience the mysterious pan roast.
Every seat along the counter offered a great view of the open kitchen. The steam-powered pots with tilt-able handles were constantly bubbling away, filling the air with steamy goodness.
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