August 8, 2008

Rainforest Cafe


That's A LOT of money for what can be a frustrating dining-experience.

Today was kindergarten "graduation" and as a treat, a group of us moms took our graduates out to lunch at the Rainforest Cafe: a grand total of 6 kids (ages 3 to 6 years old), one toddler, one 2-month old baby and 5 adult women = 12 paying diners.

As a vegan, I cringe when I know we are dining at an "American Food" establishment. American food, if anyone cares to try to quantify it into a single category, is nothing more than meat+starch+vegetable. Everyone eats the meat and the starch but skips over the veggies. Since the restaurant-powers-that-be already know this, most places skimp on the vegetable selection. This leaves most veg*heads s@#$ out of luck.

That is...unless you know how to be creative. Check that: confident enough to be creative.

I have learned in the last year that it's not that a chef/cook won't make you a vegetarian meal, it's just that they may not have the time in the kitchen to suddenly create a vegetarian dish when they're more interested in pumping out menu items in a timely fashion. Expecting someone to drop what they're doing to focus on one plate (especially in big restaurants here in Vegas) can be intimidating, but I've come to realize that sometimes the chef/cook likes to be pulled out of the doldrums of repetitive cooking.

I agreed to go to Rainforest Cafe at the MGM Grand because it is actually a very fun place to take kids. The prices are EXPENSIVE for how average the food is. But it is Vegas and if you're going to dine on The Strip, you should expect to overpay for everything.

The last time I was at the Rainforest Cafe, I was a lacto-vegetarian. There is a very good Bruschetta (please, pleEEEEEze pronounce it Broo-sketta) that does contain fresh mozarella. I pondered getting this today, asking politely that no cheese be added to my tomato mixture, but I began to realize that they probably "pre-mix" this and someone would just be standing over my plate picking out the cheese.
Not Acceptable.

So I pulled a new trick I've learned out my hat: building my own new & exciting meal from what's already offered on the menu. Before I go on, let me say there are 2 big reasons why I don't feel funny doing this beside the obvious reason that "The customer is always right":
1) I am an imaginative home cook. If I can think it up, then a "real" chef should be able to pull it off and 2) my husband is training to be a chef and has told me that making something off-menu is actually fun.

Ok then! My friends were amazed as I pulled together a pita (from the quesadillas appetizer) and the Napa Vegetables (which I saw listed as sides to several meat dishes) to create my own scrumptious, possibly qualifying as a gyro, lunch. Everyone was not only jealous of the fresh vegetables ("Oh! Your meal is so colorful!") but the tasty grilled pita bread ("I wish I'd've known, I would have had a pita sandwich too."). Yup, yup, the Vegan totally wins with this meal!

The vegetables that are in this Napa mixture weren't the most exciting or creative, but all together made for a tasty treat: carrots, red cabbage, orange & yellow peppers, cucumbers, raisins & red onion, all splashed with a bit of vinegar. Yum-a-rific!

Points taken for the fact that there are very few choices for vegetarians much less the vegan in the room, but you could remove the meat & cheese from Planet Earth Pasta. Like I've been trying to point out over the course of keeping this particular blog: it's all about creativity, confidence & cooperation.

Our server today was very kind, thoughtful & patient as I quizzed him about the Napa Veggies: Is there any cheese in it? Any dairy at all? Can you please write down no dairy? My biggest fear was that they would somehow sprinkle cheese all over the pita when they grilled it or hide the whole thing under a dollup of sour cream.

Although it's hard to admit that the Rainforest Cafe can be veg*friendly, I am going to give it a favorable rating of:

The price was not the greatest: $9.99 for each kid's meal (granted this did include their drink, but still...) and each adult paying approximately $15 for their plate, a 17% gratuity automatically added in, we split the bill between us all coming to about $40 per family. I didn't bawk at the 17% tip although our service was slow considering we had 6 kids with us & the waiter spilled an entire pint of ice water in my lap, because in the end the kitchen did respect my kooky food request.

Veg*ns don't be afraid to partake in the Rainforest Cafe! Just bring a full wallet.

Rainforest Cafe - MGM Casino & Hotel
3799 Las Vegas Blvd.
Las Vegas, NV 89109
(702) 891-8580