Thursday

Bravo. Encore!

Encore Las Vegas
702. 770-7171 for hotel reservations
888. 320-7110 for dinner reservations

There’s the train of thought that a “junior” is never quite as good as the “senior”; a copy of an original is somewhat less than. Throw that concept out along with the fear that you can’t afford Vegas in these tough times. Steve and Elaine Wynn have brought us Vegas like you’ve never seen before, and this time it’s on steroids: The Encore Hotel and Spa.

You might as well plan on spending your entire stay at the Encore (with a field trip to the neighboring Wynn), because there is so much to do, see, and eat that there’s no need to go anywhere else. At the end of the famed Las Vegas Strip, the gold shimmering Encore is a product of imaginative genius and detail that one-ups its already superlative neighbor. From the exquisite tropical flowers in the lobby to the seamless and friendly check-in, we knew we were in for a treat.

Arriving on the 61st floor (we suggest booking a strip-view room, and hook a right when you exit the elevators for a room as far in that direction as possible), we opened the doors to sweet suite that has absolutely outdone anything we’ve seen in Vegas before.
Some creepy owner somewhere once thought that ugly rooms will keep people on the casino floors spending, but finally the Wynns have realized that indulgence, sophistication and luxury only encourage you to open your wallets all the more. There are Salon and Tower suites on each floor that range from an unheard of 1,408 to 2,261 square feet of exquisite marble bathrooms, handsome wood furniture and electric curtains that open to floor to ceiling, wall to wall awe-inspiring views of the strip and the mountainous desert beyond. Like flies, we had our noses glued to the window taking in the scene like a kid waiting in line at Disneyland for that ride on the Matterhorn. Add in an abundantly comfortable bed with divine sheets and beyond-soft down pillows, and you have a win-Wynn situation.

SINATRA’S

Man cannot live by a fabulous hotel room alone, one must eat; and eat is what we kept doing. The first stop for dinner must be Frank’s place. If you like Italian, you will love this restaurant. Steve Wynn sets the tone at the door with a picture of his young self with Frank, and when you swing through the doors, with the sound of Frankie swooning in the background, and non-stop Sinatra movies playing in the bar, you feel as though you’ve arrived in Frank’s personal dining room. Elegant and comfortable, the light wood paneling centers a simple 50 x 100 photo of Frank. The soft orange tablecloths offset the giant green chandeliers that have a slight pagoda look. There is an expansive wall of windows that overlook lush formal Italian gardens, complete with pergolas and fireplaces, where you can dine during the warm weather nights. The details to be served on your plate are initiated with even the fine linen napkins, embroidered with butterflies, all to compliment the smart leather chairs.

The Dining Duo always hates when a waiter says, “everything on the menu is good”, so it pains us to relay that, everything on the menu is not good; it’s great. The sommeliers at all of the Wynn restaurants are top notch, so we threw ourselves into their hands at each restaurant, asking for appropriate pairings.
Executive Chef (and one heck of a nice guy) Theo Schoenegger, has created a menu that is simple, but sublime. We suggest starting with the Cappesante ($21), which was a most unusual combination of seared Maine diver scallops, celery and kumquats. It practically melted on our tongues and we are not even scallop fans. The Zuppa di Fagioli (no comments please, and it was $15) was light and flavorful as it offset the bean soup with tubettini and garlic and rosemary oil.
Butternut squash is becoming de rigeur as of late, but Frank’s puts a spin on theirs by adding vanilla and amaretto which sets it apart from the pack.

There is a dish which we have to rate amongst the best we ever tasted and we can not recommend it highly enough: Uovo in Raviolo, Parmigiano-Reggiano, Truffled Beurre Noisette, quite simply this is soft boiled egg in a ravioli with black truffles ($25). When you break the egg yoke and it combines with the other pasta ingredients, it creates a taste sensation that is unparalleled.

It’s a shame you can eat both meat and a fish entree, because the dishes are fabulous. Scott had the Black cod with lentils, celery puree, pancetta and vinaigrette ($45) that proved to be tender and succulent. Michael, the meat eater, devoured the Ossobuco “My Way”. The veal was, well, like “butta” and was served with risotto cannelloni for ($49). There are only four side dishes, Rapini, Ratatouille, Mashed potatoes and wild mushroom sauté ($9 - $12), and we particularly enjoyed the blend of spices in the vegetable ratatouille. Ready to burst, we only tried two desserts, the chocolate sweetheart cake and pumpkin cheesecake, both scrumptious and accompanied by Dow’s 1985 Vintage port and Cockburn’s ten-year-old Tawny port. One should allow Jennifer Eby, the wine manager, to pick out pairings for each course as her choices were nothing short of brilliant. Sadly we had to cut the dining experience short because we were rushing to see Elton John in one of his last performances, and at the end of the show we got to work off the calories because we went on stage and danced and sang around his piano with about 30 of our closest new friends.


SOCIETY

Waking up to this amazing view, we worked up quite a hunger for brunch, and although there are so many choices, the one you simply cannot miss is Society. Elizabeth Blou conceptualized an Oscar Wilde feel for the room, and it proved to be a perfect place to snuggle into and stuff our faces. The décor is opulent, done up in greens and vibrant pinks, framed by lush green and white striped curtains that surround a room of coffered walls and rich paneled walls. The Asian theme is carried over here too with the accents of lime green chandeliers and two giant kensha palms in Asian pots. The black crocodile chairs and tables make the room come alive.


Be prepared to gorge on everything breakfast (there’s more, but this place is “it” for breakfast items). The sticky bun is the best, sweet, most fabulous sinful experience you can have this side of a downtown girlie bar. Piping warm, you can feel the cholesterol coating your pipes. Don’t miss it. The waffle was made with pumpkin and pecans and slathered in butter ($15), and was a sweet tooth’s fantasy. The French toast was surrounded with cornflakes, proving a nice texture and flavor. It was decadent and rich, but certainly hits the spot, especially with the serving of caramelized bananas and chocolate cream ($14). The Eggs Benedict were superb, primarily because of the homemade muffins. The eggs were perfectly cooked, soft on the inside, firm on the outside; and the Hollandaise was gooey and fresh ($15). Do not leave without trying Society’s signature dish, the ultimate Steak and egg sliders. The beef tenderloin, scrambled eggs and creamed spinach were all on a bacon-cheddar muffin ($16) and you simply cannot believe that something could taste so good. Wash it down with a great Caesar Bloody Mary (spiced like a Caesar salad), and you’re ready to hit the spa. By the way, Patrick is the manager and if you mention the Dining Duo, he’ll get you past the ubiquitous line to enjoy all of the above.

WAZUZU

Still hungry? No problem, you don’t have to walk far. Encore created Wazuzu restaurant, a pan-Asian bistro with a gorgeous red and white intimate dining room that sets the stage for the meal, with Thai-American Chef Jet Tila conducting the orchestra. Anchored by a giant Swarovski crystal dragon that took thirteen months to create, white leather booths and chairs are splayed over a carpet of multicolored fans, with accents of gold leafed giant pears.

Jet, an approachable, affable and beyond creative chef has enjoyed an interesting background of writing for the L.A. Times, working for his family in the restaurant biz, and as a private chef for Reba MCintyre and Jim Belushi. He has Grace, Boulevard and The Hungry Cat under his belt as well, but this time Steve Wynn allowed him to bring not a fusion or Asian flavors but an array of tastes from all regions of Asia: Chinese, Japanese, Indian, Singaporean, and Thai cuisines. It’s all about “Sebai Sebai”, which in Thai, means “easy going” or “comfort”. The Dining Duo loved spending Valentine’s Day here (and our 23rd anniversary) because the place is comfort, while screaming red, as well as passion.

At Wazuzu, Chef strives for a balance of tastes: hot, salty, sour and sweet, resulting in what the Thai’s call “yum”, a midpoint between these four flavors which result in balance. We found this balance in so many taste treats that our stomach said “yum” over and over again. If you’re daring, ask to try the Bitter Melon with minced pork and 1000 year old egg ($28), a classic Chinese dish with detox health benefits which Americans don’t have the taste for but Michael loved. Another classic taste treat is the Northwest Roll ($30), spicy tuna expertly chosen with salmon sashimi, and, if you ask, their home made Wsasabi.

We’ve been told that the way to judge Thai food is by their Thom Khar soup and chef Jet tested his out on his; it should be on the menu shortly and it was sensational, once again, the perfect blend that he had mentioned to us. Be sure and try the Roti Panang ($12), the velvety curry chicken, which is creamy, and the curry taste is not overwhelming, it is just perfect.

The average check at Wazuzu is about $45 per person and it may be one of the best deals in town and on your way out, cleanse your palate with their Ice Kachang, straight out of Singapore, ($9), shaved ice and red beans with tropical fruit.

Think you've had enough? Stay tuned for next week's encore review of The Encore, with more raves to come.

Appetizingly yours,

The Dining Duo

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