Let me begin with an apology. The photography portion of this post will be brought to you courtesy Daniel’s iPhone. Bless that flashless, grainy, pixelated product.
And I suppose bless me because these were my first attempts at iPhone photography.
Vegas is sweltering. I don’t usually wear shorts because often the hotter the temp is outside, the colder the air conditioning is inside. But knowing I was going to be playing with Siegfried, Roy, and their kitties outside at the Mirage made me reassess my own tradition and go Daisy Duke. Just as provocative with size 11 Asics.
Before we ventured over to the Mirage to witness a possible mauling by lions and tigers and b…dolphins, we stopped at Grand Lux Cafe for lunch at the Venetian. Essentially, the Cheesecake Factory. Reasonably priced lunch fare with a great variety. Everything from salads to soups to sandwiches and breakfast items served all day. I went with the Manhattan Salad which was “a Chopped Salad with Romaine Lettuce, Asparagus, Tomato, White Beans, Fresh Beets, Red Onion, Lentils and Assorted Vegetables all Tossed in Our House Vinaigrette.”
Delicious – packed with variety in flavor and texture. Crisp and bright-tasting with the addition of fresh herbs. And ultra filling.
After that we walked over to Siegfried and Roy’s Secret Garden and Dolphin Habitat at the Mirage. Now, mind you, Daniel and I love animals. If we’re not at a zoo, we’re planning on visiting a zoo, looking at animal videos on YouTube, taking pictures of other people’s dogs, or speaking frankly to critters on sidewalks and in parks. Addressing every creature down to a squirrel with a formal title and a tip of the cap.
I’ll spare you the iPhone photos of dolphins and white tigers. I just don’t have time for National Geographic to see them splattered all over my blog and ask if I’d be available to shoot their next safari. Because once they get a load of the fuzzy pictures of me emulating a lion licking his paw and then cleaning his face, I’m hired.
After an hour or so of cooing at leopards, I considered a swan dive into the dolphin pool. I’d guess the temperature outdoors was something like four billion degrees farenheit? Give or take one degree.
Daniel managed to lure me away from the tank with the promise of frozen yogurt. I had never been to a self-serve froyo place, but after seeing them pop up all over the place lately, I was delighted to find a few on the Strip. We stopped into Yo Fresco for a shared treat. Clockwise from the top left: red velvet cake, chocolate, cheesecake, and dulce de leche.
Toppings are where things get dicey. A squirt of hot fudge, mini M&Ms, cookie dough bites, and cheesecake bites. Nirvana. The flavors of yogurt were very tasty. Not chock full of that artificial flavor that some froyo has, these four were perfectly sweet, but a little melted for my liking. The cheesecake was the best, followed by the dulce de leche- both thick and custard-like. I don’t think you need to be told that cookie dough and cheesecake bites always taste good. But just in case: they do.
We shared this bowl, which I think is a good idea portion-wise and variety-wise.
And before we knew it, it was time to get ready for dinner and Cirque du Soleil “O” at the Bellagio. Since you’re supposed to pick up your tickets from will-call an hour prior to the show, which began at 7:30, we decided eating dinner at the Bellagio was the wisest move. Daniel had heard from many of his poker player friends that The Buffet at the Bellagio is the best on the Strip. Well, that one tied with the one at the Wynn. Both are renowned for a high quality offering of fine fare. I love a top notch buffet. No other place would allow you to sample as many different varieties and flavors.
I was immediately impressed with the spread. The food was well-prepared- everything cooked to a perfect done-ness, not the typical tough cuts of beef, everything swimming in oil, that you so often find at places with such an array. On line were top quality options like Kobe beef, seared duck, beef wellington, crab legs that had already been split open for your ease, lobster ravioli…dozens of mouth-watering items.
I started with a salad. I’d say the fresh vegetable spread rivaled that of Whole Foods. But unlike my favorite grocery store, the Bellagio didn’t make me shove everything inside a cardboard box, weigh it, and charge me what feels like the down payment on a house. Actually, they did do the last part.
Unbutton your pants before reading the rest. It’s for the best.
Here are the plates I put together from the delicious dishes I was treated to. I probably had a few bites of nearly everything offered in that enormous buffet line. Which, in the end, is a really large meal, but so worthwhile. I do feel badly for any waste, though. It’s just so hard to not want to sample each and every item.
Plate 1: Beef wellington, roasted ostrich, mussels in a tomato-saffron broth, wine-glazed mushrooms, quail, butter seared Chilean sea bass, baked macaroni and cheese, veal osso buco, lobster ravioli in a basil cream sauce, and grilled asparagus. Best bites: Ostrich is wildly flavorful and succulent. Beef wellington is unforgettable. It’s the most tender beef with sausage stuffing wrapped in bacon and enclosed in puff pastry. You heard that right. Quail tastes quite a bit like the dark meat of roasted chicken- very full-flavored and tender. The macaroni and cheese was nothing to write home about, but the lobster ravioli was delicious- a sweet ricotta filling with chunks of fresh lobster meat. The cream sauce was light and fragrant.
Plate 2: a sliver of shrimp, fresh mozzarella, and pesto pizza, spinach salad with scallop ceviche, calamari salad, pesto mashed potatoes, and kobe beef sirloin. The ceviche tasted fresh, citrusy, and bright. The calamari was perfectly done in a light and sweet vinaigrette- not chewy or elastic in any way. The pesto mashed potatoes were dynamite. I’d like to put them in a thermos and slurp them like a smoothie ’til the sun comes up. At which point I’ll have blocked most of my major arteries.
And then there was the kobe beef. Oh dear. Listen, I know it takes a lot of work to massage the cows and feed them a beer a day, but please, cattlemen, pretty please do so and send some on ice to my apartment in Seattle. The beef melted in my mouth like butter, and left a savory aftertaste that I didn’t want to go away. Impossible because dessert was moments away.
Since I had just about spit in the faces of the hungry with my fine dining shenanigans, Daniel and I shared the desserts. It’s very hard for buffets to successfully master savory and sweet. Very, very hard. Rarely does a place do both well, but I think the Bellagio did a fine job at balancing the deliciousness on both ends of the flavor spectrum.
We have: a triple chocolate mousse torte (the one with the raspberry on top), key lime tartlet, tiramisu, and a white chocolate macadamia nut pie. The best: the chocolate torte and the key lime tartlet. Both were rich and luscious.
We ended the meal with a glass of cappuccino mousse. Spot on with the mocha-espresso flavor but not the right consistency. Less fluffy than it should have been to be considered a true “mousse.”
And then, it was time for “O.” It was wonderful. Amazing acrobatics, swimming, gymnastics, contortion, dance, and feats of movement. All set to a beautiful and purposeful rhythm. Here is how the show is described:
“Cirque du Soleil weaves an aquatic tapestry of artistry, surrealism and theatrical romance in the timeless production, “O”. Inspired by the concept of infinity and the elegance of water’s pure form, “O” pays tribute to the beauty of the theatre – from the simplest street performance to the most lavish of operas – where anything is possible and where the drama of life plays itself out before our very eyes. World-class acrobats, synchronized swimmers, divers and characters perform in, on, and above water to create a breathtaking experience.” (source)
The show was a fantasy ride. Full of whimsy and fun. But I must admit: I didn’t quite like it as much as the other Cirque show I saw in Vegas last summer- “The Beatles: Love.” This performance had more of that “death defying stunts” feel, a lot more suspenseful I suppose, but “Love” just felt more entrancing. I imagine the music really drives the enchantment.
It’s funny, though. I get so nervous and anxious watching the performers as they dive from outrageous elevations, fly through the air, and contort themselves into shapes I’ve only seen in a bag of Rold Gold. I become my mother when I was sixteen. The way she must have felt when I told her I was going to a party at the top of Noon Hill with five friends- glad for me to experience new things, but about to wet her pants in fear for my life.
…And after a few more hours splashing in the Vegas nightlife, here is where it all ended.
Thankfully not on the sidewalk.