Sheer elegance.  These two words bespeak the signature that has become the Mandarin Oriental in whatever city this exquisite establishment lands, but particularly in Las Vegas, Nevada.  Don't stop there, the other end of the Las Vegas strip, which is not so exquisite, has a gem of a Steakhouse not to be missed.

3752 Las Vegas Blvd S Las Vegas, NV 89109
888) 881-9367
As we walked the strip of glitz, glitter and just enough seediness to want to take a shower, we could see the high-rise hotel intentionally missing a casino that is the Mandarin Oriental.  High up are windows with hundreds of twinkling lights that clearly is the pearl in that oyster.   
We entered the first floor lobby to find it, like most of the M.O.’s, surprisingly simple and clear of staff.  The feel is almost a subliminal message of, “if you don’t know where you’re going, you really don’t belong here.”  In our constant search for superlative amongst the ordinary, we are happy to receive this message loud and clear.
We speed in a waiting elevator to the 23rd floor where “small” and “unassuming” have been left behind.  The doors open to a stunning wall of gold that resembles more of a giant Asian handcrafted screen than that of a wall, and portends hidden spectacles to come.   
Crossing a lobby of uninterrupted elegance, we enter into the magical space of Twist, by Pierre Gagnaire.
The handsome and genial Matthias Maier, who hails from Munich, Germany, and has all the savoir-faire of an extremely polished hospitality professional, and then some, immediately greeted us.  
Without delay, he whisked us from reception to our waiting table (and we have to add that we love when a restaurant waits for its patrons, and not the other way around, especially when spending a lot of money).  We highly recommend requesting our table #34, which is elevated and affords a view of the intimate and breathtakingly beautiful space.  From our table, we had wraparound views of the Las Vegas strip that twinkled with its inimitable neon brilliance.   
We could also see into the immaculate kitchen that was working with the precision of a fine tuned Swiss watch.  

High above the madhouse of the Vegas strip below us that sported those way-too-short miniskirts, alcohol-carrying revelers and omnipresent tattoos, a look around Twist revealed an elevated elegant and superbly dressed patronage. 
Hundreds of lights seem to float above the tables like underwater jellyfish drifting in the ocean, creating a magical setting not only at the tables, but also throughout the entire space.  On one side of the restaurant is a wall of glass, behind which is subtly displayed a wine collection of about 800 different labels. 
 The walls of the restaurant itself look like a giant cannonball hit them in several places, leaving a cracked appearance that plays against the finely manicured look (and whimsically, the charger plates at the tables match the walls).  Adam Tihany designed this “broken” look from a Rosenthal vase that Chef Gagnaire loved, as did we.   
 In a world where everything in Vegas is big, the sheer elegance we described at the start of this piece is captured by creating only 18-22 tables at any one time; it’s true dining.
We started with the most comprehensive amuse bouche course we have ever been treated to at a restaurant.  In fact, it was so complicated of a description that let us just say the flavors were beyond delicious and forecasted the rest of the dining experience.   
Three types of warm bread were rushed to the table, and both salted and unsalted butter accompanied it.  If we had paired the amuse bouche and breads with a wine selection, we would have been supremely happy at that point; but oh no, there was a lot more coming our way, and are we happy that it did.
Start with an inspired cocktail that you choose from the ipad delivered to your table.  It’s an inspired way to select a drink that first appeals to your eyes, then to your taste.  The menu is so unique and complex it would be difficult to highlight more than just a few items; suffice it to say, there was nothing on the menu, that we didn't find extraordinary. 
Some of the standout highlights included the starter "Comme Dans Le Sud De La France" ($35) which consist of four appetizer courses, our favorite being the Gorgonzola Ice Cream with fresh goat cheese and assorted fruits; it brought us right back to Ludo's approach at the former Bastide, a very strong compliment. “The Summer in the City” ($38) included three remarkable courses with the stand out being the foie gras custard with summer truffles; we could have made a meal of just that.  Since California took foie gras off the menu last July, coming here for this course is worth every bit of the trip.
As far as the main courses go, Michael could not resist the Texas Mishima Waygu, 8+ ounces of ultra prime marbling, which gave our experiences in Tokyo a run for their money. Scott didn't get enough lobster in our recent Maine restaurant hunt, so he opted for the Sliced Maine Lobster ($58), with apricot puree and traditional bisque.   We could have been satisfied with just the bouillon of organic cauliflower and small lemon gnocchi, but the entire dish was magnificent.
Don't leave without sampling the desserts.  The way to go is Grand Dessert Pierre Gagnaire ($25), which consists of a sampling of six French inspired desserts, (you do get all six).  
Our favorite being the Cherries Jubilee, which one rarely finds anymore, with Kirsch and roasted hazelnuts, including caramel ice cream, yum.  Double yum.
Make sure that you avail yourself of the Men's room, (we can't speak for the Ladies room but it would be hard to imagine it is any less spectacular), as the only facility that compared to this is Fenix in Hong Kong. You feel like you are floating in a sea of black granite and mirrors, with glass walls over the strip; with all the wine and water we were drinking, we saw that sea many times.

As intimate as the restaurant itself, there is a gorgeous private dining room with dedicated waitstaff for that special private party you always wanted to have in Las Vegas.
Chef Gagnaire signs his menu with words that deliver the culinary impact of Twist, “Cuisine does not measure itself in terms of tradition or modernity.  One must read in it the tenderness of the chef.”  It’s the tenderness of the entire scene, from atmosphere to service, to cuisine, that makes this a must have when in Las Vegas.

Twist has made it into the elite league of The Dining Duo’s top five restaurants in the United States, sharing company with the likes of Per Se and Le Bernadin in New York City, and Joel Robuchon’s “Jewel Box” in Las Vegas.  Welcome aboard!

Circus Circus Hotel and Casino
2880 Las Vegas Blvd. S.  Las Vegas, NV 89109

We felt like we were on drugs when we left the comfort of our Wynn Hotel car and entered the forty-plus year old Circus Circus Hotel and Casino.  As an Australian friend of ours likes to say, the two hotels are as similar as chalk and cheese.  So is the clientele, but that’s just the Dining Duo being snobby about the low rent Casino. 
That said, chucking, a walk around the place made us wish we were young kids again and that we were staying at this entertaining and fun place.   
With trapeze artists flying through the air, multicolored stuffed animals just a ring toss away from our arms, and other bizarre ubiquitous circus acts abounding, we worked up an appetite of a circus lion.
As if a mirage in a desert of tank tops and short-shorts revealing oodles of cellulite, THE STEAKHOUSE appeared to us like water in the desert.  Gasping for air and a respite from all things Circus Circus, we clamored for the door and club-like entrance, passing a haunting room of curing meats that was glowing red.
We were greeted by the affable General Manager, Ron (who left Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, three decades ago) and has been serving in that capacity for over 27 years.   
The place was jammed with happy patrons; so we took a seat behind the bar and let Pete the bartender (serving thirsty folks for over 22 years) dish up a drink like we were old friends.
If we were Vegas mobsters, we would feel like we had just arrived in gangster heaven; and we say that in a positive way.  Several rooms spill into each other, all covered in hunter green and surrounded by dark wood.   
Green Tiffany-style lamps, animal heads and paintings of wooded fields accent the ruby leather booths.   
We waited for a special corner booth on the upper level (which we highly recommend, ask for table number 9) as it has a bird’s eye—or should we say cow’s eye—view of the restaurant.   
Tables 13 and 14 (each only for two) have a ringside view of the cook in action if you want dinner and “a show.”
Our server, Chae, has worked there for nearly 30 years and is as smooth and professional as the best servers in L.A. or New York City.  In fact, our editorial comment is that Las Vegas has the best waiters in the country; the folks are interested in careers as servers, not as actors or models.  If you’re not good at this profession, you don’t work in the best restaurants of Las Vegas.  Have you noticed a theme at this restaurant located in a city of transient folks?  The people who work here are here for a career, not just a job, and they treat you with just that level of impeccable professionalism.
We decided to start with the king crab legs ($62).  Michael had them cold and Scott had them served warm; both versions were totally fresh, and delicious.  Served with warm butter and sauces, we practically licked our fingers when we were finished.  Even though this is a steak house, clearly they do seafood justice.
We loved the black bean soup, which comes with all the entrees.  It was very flavorful and distinctive, proving it to be one of the better versions that we have experienced in a long, long time.
Scott loved his Waldorf Wedge ($11), blue cheese with vinaigrette dressing that included bacon, apples, pecans, tomatoes and raisins.  This is a must have and a great accompaniment to the meal that follows (although if you don’t come armed with a huge appetite, this generous portion could almost be a meal in and of itself).  Michael adored his bone in Ribeye ($50) which arrived precisely medium rare as he had requested. There is no guesswork at this professional restaurant when it comes to meats and they all arrive exactly as you requested it.   
Scott gushed over the king-sized Lamp Chops ($51), which were seasoned beautifully and oozed with its own juices.  We opted for a side of Fries Our way ($5), fried in duck fat, not the healthiest alternative, but well worth the fat and calories.

The dessert offerings range from chocolate mousse cake, New York-style cheese cake with a fresh strawberry sauce, The Steakhouse's version of Bananas Foster, vanilla bean creme brulee, fresh raspberry chocolate cake made with fresh whipped cream, Key lime parfait, and tuxedo white and dark chocolate covered California strawberries, 
all of which are displayed on a dessert cart brought to your table.  All desserts are only $7, so we sampled most of them and particularly loved the Bananas Foster, which although not done table side, is a delicious way to end your meal.
Feeling completely satiated, we stepped out into kiddie mayhem and tried our luck at a bunch of the games.  We threw the ball into the milk container, and took home a giant stuffed blue dog for Triple.
Don’t miss the entire experience, it’s fabulous.

Appetizingly yours,
Michael and Scott,
The Dining Duo
    Our view of Las Vegas from the always-fabulous Wynn Hotel Suite.  
 We are already planning our return!

Posted by The Dining Duo | 10:45 PM | , , , , , , , , | 0 comments »

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