Let’s start off by saying Paul Bartolotta is a James Beard winner that, of course, sets the stage for a meal of paramount importance. His goal is to transport the guest to a restaurant in Italy. He met his goal, and took home a gold medal.

Although the inside of the restaurant is of a beautifully articulated Mediterranean décor, it’s all about the outside dining here. Waltzing down a twirling staircase, then exiting to the outdoors, it’s difficult not to audibly gasp. A series of olive and white-stripped cabanas surround a small lagoon dotted with mirrored globes; just the Vegas touch to remind you of where you are. As if you’re in a cavern, you’re surrounded by a copse of trees and dazzled by the intimate setting as if the creation was waiting just for your arrival. Book way ahead for these much sought-after cabanas.

With all the fish flown in daily from Italy, we had an eating orgy by tasting twenty-two varieties of local Italian fish that were all micro chipped to insure absolute freshness and that none were older than 36 hours (in fact many are live in the restaurant).

There are so many sensational choices offered by Chef Paul that we will just highlight a few but suffice it to say, one can not go wrong with anything on the menu. Our favorites included the Ravioli di Ricotta con Caciotta Toscana ($15), which is sheep’s milk ravioli that literally melts in your mouth, with a Marsala wine glaze.

We also loved the Spaghetti con Ragu di Crostacei, ($20), which is a classic dish but then adds a load of lobster, shrimp and crab (that could not be any fresher), finished in a white wine sauce.

Each and every fish we tasted was delicious and fresh. We kept hoping to eliminate some of the 22 choices we tasted, but we must confess that any selection you make will be an outstanding one. We recommend reaching out of your comfort zone and tasting something that you just won’t find in America; we did, and it was like taking an exotic vacation to a far-flung fishing village. As authentically Italian as Chef B himself, we can’t wait to come back for some more scrumptious meals at this inviting and triumphant restaurant.

Wazuzu Revizzited
We couldn’t come back to the encore without revisiting Chef Jet Tila at Wazuzu (see our past review); try his Special Sushi platter ($60), and now his extraordinary Tom Kai Gar Soup ($12) is on the menu at our request and I’m sure many others have asked for it be added. Wazuzu is one of the best casual dining experiences in Las Vegas and is not be overlooked, especially if you’re having a yen for pan-Asian delights. Speaking of, Chef Jet is pretty delightful himself, so ask to meet him and tell him the Dining Duo sent you.

The Country Club
It’s really not about food here, it’s all about the exquisite setting. It’s hard to believe that you’re in Las Vegas when you take a seat on the balcony overlooking a giant waterfall and rolling hills of verdant golf links. With nothing but big sky beyond, we didn’t much study what were eating, but instead took in the delightful afternoon in nature, something completely missing from the hectic strip. It was like having a meal at our own private country club.

That said, I had a mango smoothie that was fresh and delicious and we suggest you try the open faced French Dip ($22), an updated recipe of a classic dish. They also have a great selection of burgers and our favorite was Smoked Chipolte Burger with guacamole and Ortega peppers which was spicy but won’t leave you hungry ($22).

Work it Off or Rub it Off

The Spa and Gym at the Encore are beyond beyond. We raved about the Spa the last time we were here, and it held up to our recollections the second time (for your convenience, see the sidebar for that story). We had no intention of exercising any of our muscles, but had we, the gym was large and complete with everything you could ever desire. We headed for the wet areas to soak and steam our bodies. This time, we decided to get couples massage in the tranquil—if not hypnotic—couples room. The amble from the men’s area down the walkway of Moroccan and Asian inspired treatment rooms immediately put us in a space that we wish we could bottle and take home with us. Once in the elegantly appointed room, complete with electric massage beds and a private wet area, we floated off to massage slumber with thoughts of sugar plum fairies dancing in our stomachs.

Now Shake Your Booty at the Pools

If you’re going to live like a Rock Star, you have to relax like one. There’s two choices: Cabanas at the Encore which are high energy pumping music and skin galore; or Cabanas at the Wynn, which wreak of elegance and exhibit a quietude exampled by fluttering sheers in the wind. Either one you choose is like having your own little house by the pool.

The first few days, we suggest booking Cabana #20 at the Encore because the energy will spur you on for more late nights, more shows, more gambling, more food, and much, much more people watching. We think this is the best cabana because it’s upstairs and thus removed from the steady thumping of the ubiquitous music, but close enough to the stairs and bathrooms to make it a perfect lookout point for the young flesh that’s pressing in the pool. It also gets sun almost all day because of its location relative to the high-rise buildings, with plenty of shade inside. Better than most hotel rooms, the cabana comes equipped with everything, including sofa, lounges, mini-bar, drinks, sound system, flat screen, telephone, towels and fantastic service, including that of Lui, who waited on our every need. If you forget to put sunscreen on, try the Lobster Roll and blend.

Once you’ve overdone it in L.V. with too much of everything, book Cabana #203 at the Wynn. Beyond elegant and evoking thoughts of Cannes or St. Tropez (sans attitude or throngs of people), these airy and incredibly spacious cabanas are so dreamy you won’t want to close your eyes and drift off into your own dreams. #203 has three openings and is therefore very breezy, not to mention you can see all aspects of the many pools from which you can choose to dip your ever-growing hiney. There’s even a private pool for just the few cabanas at this location. Complete with all the goodies that the Encore has, this locale exudes a sense of calm that evokes a hush over those enjoying around you; great for hangovers and such. Ask for Denise, the most fun and coolest “pool girl” you’ll meet in Vegas. She’ll follow your cue: if you want peace and quiet, she’ll accommodate you with gentle but attentive service, and if you want some high-energy fun, she’s right there in it. Try the Oreo’s with ice cream for a yummy snack.

The Dining Duo hasn’t figured out how to get the cabanas into our suitcases, so we’ll have to come back. Book ahead or you’ll probably find us in the two we suggested.

It sure seems like the Dining Duo has fallen in love with the Encore and the Wynn, and that's because we have! We've been all over Las Vegas and these two hotels simply offer it all. We almost never had to leave since there was everything we wanted here and more. It's been nice to hear the feedback from our readers on the first two parts of this story; so many of you have followed our advice and experienced the same level of satisfaction as we have. We're certain we'll be hearing a lot more from the rest of you. Until then, we'll be poolside in one of our favorite cabanas, taking in the scene, and planning our next meal.

Appetizingly yours,

The Dining Duo

Posted by The Dining Duo | 7:28 PM | , , , , , , , , , , , | 0 comments »

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