August 14, 2013

The Valley Vegan Does Vegas!

imagesA long long time ago, I was known as The Vegas Vegan.The first post I ever wrote was about a terrible little Italian chain called "Buca di Beppo" and what was one of the most boring dining experiences of my adult life. Notice the lack of an iPhone meant no photos! I'd also been out to eat for the last 6 months saying "I should start a blog..." and this finally sparked it. Turns out, the first paragraph would morph into my tagline for all "The [something] Vegans" that I would be!
I started the blog thinking that no one would ever read a single word I wrote; I wrote for myself. Truly a web-log where I could keep track of the places I'd dined and work on my writing skills. Little did I know, actual humans would read it, and so would the businesses in Vegas! Managers, chefs, owners and even the PR firms would contact me after reading the reviews. I made it a point to send a link to the review every time I wrote something, and it has sure paid off. I had many invitations to try a new restaurant, or something around the corner. I frequented a few restaurants on The Strip, but mostly dined off-Strip.

In 2009, just as I was leaving Vegas for Los Angeles, I received an email from someone over at The Wynn Resorts. An interesting letter detailing how Steve Wynn had gone vegan and was changing the menus in every single restaurant at the hotel to include vegetarian and vegan options. Ambitious and of course daring in a climate where most places pride themselves on over the top portions of prime rib and giant football field length buffets. Would I be interested in coming to The Wynn to taste a few of the new menu items? I have to admit, at the time I just sort of ignored the message because I was in the middle of moving, but made a mental note that at some point in my vegan adventures, I would return to the Wynn to see what the fuss was about.

In-Room Dining
In Room Dining
Finally, we had a chance to stay at the Wynn and sample the vegan offerings for ourselves. I have to admit, outside of Los Angeles, I'm not used to there being so many veg*n options available in one place. At most hotels on the Strip, you have to scan menus carefully and constantly remind your servers that "no dairy" includes butter and no, fish is not a vegetable. It's frustrating and tedious. So the first thing I did was pick up the In-Room Dining menu... Did you see it? The little GREEN tab?! At first, I thought I was hallucinating, but there it was: a whole "vegan" section in the menu!

Breakfast Menu
Breakfast Menu
Look at these fantastic breakfast choices! And that's just the "Breakfast" page, there were 3 more pages: Lunch, Dinner and Snacks & Desserts. Oh yes, all kinds of yummy treats made with Gardein and whole vegetables. Let's face it: dining out isn't exactly the most "healthy" type of dining. It's usually laden with salt and all kinds of fats and sugars to bump up the flavors, but when there are actual options, who cares?

Of course I had the Multigrain Pancakes and a side of "country potatoes". The best part was, when Friand was placing the order, the person on the other end asked specifically if those were the vegan potatoes or the regular. Wow, right? Now that's what I call attention to detail. These were so delicious that I actually forgot to take a photo before I dug in... I did the best I could with what was left on my plate!

Multigrain Vegan Pancakes
Multigrain Pancakes
The pancakes were sweet, nutty, lightly orangy, soft, fluffy and absolutely everything you'd want from a stack of pancakes. There was a side of some sort of berry chutney, which are always too tart for me, and a topping of candied orange peel which were wonderful! The syrup was Vermont maple (now *that's* how you win my New England heart!), and they gave me 2 bottles so I never had to suffer a bite without syrup. The potatoes were outstanding! Basically potato cakes, almost like latkes, with shredded onion, green peppers, thyme and sage. I could easily eat 10 of these things, and don't think I wouldn't! I've really only been able to eat breakfast foods at Hugo's, so this is literally my second vegan restaurant breakfast experience. Don't be fooled by my post entitled "IHOP" and the fact that it's had probably the most hits of any blog entry I've ever written.
Quite frankly, the best part of our entire dining experience at The Wynn happened in our room with the room service menu. Even Friand enjoyed his corned beef hash from the in-room menu more than anything he had at either restaurant downstairs. My pancakes were to die for! I am dreaming of the next time we stay there - I don't want to eat downstairs ever again, I just want to order room service for every meal and be done with it.

In-Room Dining at the Wynn gets 5 very enthusiastic sprouts!!
3131 Las Vegas Blvd. South
Las Vegas, NV 89109
(702) 770-7000
(888) 320-7123


Botero & Mizumi

Now onto the restaurants. We did manage to make it to Mizumi, the Japanese/Sushi place. To be fair, I did not take any photos or plan on writing a review of this one. I had the Nasu Miso, which is normally one of my favorites, but here did not even make an impression. The Vegan menu is extensive for a sushi place, with the usual veggie rolls and tempuras. Really, nothing to write home about. Friand did write a review on Yelp!.


Chef's Vegetarian Tasting Menu
Botero 2
Vegetarian Menu

Surprisingly, I had a fantastic meal at Botero which is a steak house! This proves my point that a vegan can truly eat anywhere. Seriously. Casa de Carne. And it was a very good meal! Ok, Steve Wynn is vegan and I  suppose he expects to be well fed at every restaurant in his whole establishment, so maybe this wasn't so surprising.

Bread Basket
Bread Basket
Our server arrived and we mentioned that I was vegan. No problem! He directed me right to the vegetarian menu at the back of the menu. I know, sounds like "putting Baby in the corner" kind of treatment, but considering the menu took up two whole pages, I really can't complain! He also pointed out that although the word "vegetarian" is used, it's actually all vegan. Apparently "Vegetarian" is a much gentler word than vegan, but whatever. We'll all live.

cranberry bread
Cranberry Bread
We began our meal with drinks and a bread basket. The server told me that the ciabatta and cranberry breads were both vegan, but the third offering was not. That's fine. I was already not very hungry from a day of travel so I wasn't going to be eating much bread. See that little ball of butter next to the bread basket? That's "vegan" butter! If I had to take a stab, I'd say it was Earth Balance. I was glad for it: it's so rare that any sort of butter is even offered to the vegan, it was a nice compliment to the cranberry bread.

Look at that little beauty.... I was a little sad when she departed...

Spring Onion Curry Soup
As we pondered our meal options, our server then arrived with "tidbits" from the kitchen to welcome us. Wow! Really? That only happens at places where they already know us, never at a new place. But there it was: Spring Onion Curry, in a little sampler cup for me to whet my appetite. It was fantastic - sweet and only a little spicy, it was a very well balanced puree soup. I absolutely could see myself ordering a full cup or even bowl of this and eating every last piece of bread in that basket coated with it (including the cranberry bread!). This is part of the "Starters" section of the menu, so if you're interested in a soup, totally go for it!

Vegetable Arepas
Vegetable Arepas
For my official starter, I ordered the Vegetable Arepas though I admit I didn't really know what and arepa was. Turns out, it's something deeeeee-lishus! There were two on my plate, and I really should have only eaten one. These are so rich, I would recommend sharing or making this your meal along with drinks because WOW was I filled up after eating both. They are rich and unbelievable "cheesy" and light and oily. The corn dough was so convincing in its cheesiness that I had to ask how these things were made. Apparently, this is one chef who has discovered the joy of nutritional yeast and used it in this dough. Great job, chef! Inside were, as you can see, sliced avocado which were perfectly ripe, and a whole pile of roasted veggies dabbed with an oniony veganaise dressing. I instantly regretted eating both (of course I skipped the salad...) because I was full up to here.

Time for dinner, though, and I had already ordered the Crispy Tofu. Do I ever order Tofu at places? No, not really. Why did I order it? Because if a chef is really adept at flavoring vegan food, this is a bare canvass to see what he's really made of. And what was this guy made of? Much more creative stuff than me when it comes to tofu!

crispy tofuTwo more reasons I couldn't resist ordering this dish was the farro and fava beans. Ask me how many times I cook either one of those items. Zero times. But chef did a fantastic job! In fact, he could have made a "risotto" out of the farro, peas and fava and just tossed in cubes of coated tofu. I said as much to the server, so who knows. For my taste, it was just a tad too much tofu compared to the yumminess beneath it. I can't forget that I was already full from the arepas, but still, it was a lot of tofu for one person! I was only able to eat about half of it, and if there was something more than a mini-bar in the room, I would have taken the rest for the next day (read: midnight snack).

Almond Latte
I cannot forget to mention the fantastic drinks that I had. With dinner, I had the Berry-Politan and Friand had the Blueberry Mojito. I loved my drink, it was soft & delicate, lightly berry martini-esque drink. Friand, on the other hand, said that his mojito was "a charmless, overly sweet concotion that you can only get in Vegas." In otherwords, you should pass on the blueberry mojito.
Berry-Politan and Blueberry Mojito
Berry-Politan and Blueberry Mojito
almond latte
Almond Milk Latte

The best part of the menu is that if we decide to go back to Botero, there's more than enough for me to try something different each time. The vegetarian menu is not listed online, though. There's even a tasting menu, so if your stomach is as big as your eyes, go for it!

I absolutely recommend Botero! You are more than welcome to "call ahead" and alert the staff that you're vegan, but there's really no point here. Or at any place in The Wynn. Just show up and mention to your server that you're vegan and they'll give you the tour of the menu. On that note, I have no second thoughts about recommending the entire Wynn to vegans. Go forth and eat fearlessly at The Wynn!

Botero receives:

To make dining reservations (at any of the restaurants):
(702) 248-3463 or (888) 352-3463

Check out Botero:

And if you needed another reason to patronize The Wynn, check out their LGBT committment!!

September 12, 2011

Weekend in Vegas

It's been 19 months since I last called Las Vegas "home," and it's been a while since I've visited my parents in North Las Vegas. So last weekend, I took a road trip with my son to see them for the weekend. My mother, in all her Vegan Enthusiasm declared that she was taking me to my favorite place for dinner: Paymon's Mediterranean Cafe!

Check out the fresher looking website and menu pages

Let me just say one thing: I have never, in my life, tasted hummus like the creamy goodness they have at Paymon's. I could spend a lifetime trying to perfect my own recipe to imitate theirs, and still never quite achieve it! Because it is so hard for anyone's hummus to compare (store bought, restaurants, homemade) it makes me wonder if the Keebler Elves aren't in the kitchen sprinkling faery dust in the mix.

Baba Ganoush & Mojito!
My first order of business after sitting down was ordering a drink! Not sure that a Cuban Mojito is really the wisest thing to order while eating Greek Food, but boy was it tasty and well deserved after a 5-hour driving day. The mojito was definitely not the best one I've ever tasted, but it was deliciously sweet with just the right balance of mint. I will give it to them, though, that was probably the nicest mint I've had in a mojito in a long time (ever order one to see wilted or browning mint at the bottom of your drink? Yeah...).

My mother, who is Italian, has eggplant running through her veins, so it took very little convincing to get her to order a dish of baba ganoush for an appetizer. It is just as bitter and delicious as I remember it! "Bitter" being used in an affectionate way toward this often misunderstood berry. Without that characteristic tang of eggplant, baba ganoush can be too boring. There's a horrible baba ganoush sold at Whole Foods that uses mayonnaise: it is disgusting and an insult to the real thing. Go to Paymon's if you really want to know what this stuff is supposed to taste like!

Falamus Wrap w/Spicy Athens Fries
On to the entrees! Shockingly, everyone at the table ordered a vegetarian plate! I didn't even notice this until all the meals had been served and my father was happily chomping on his vegetable kabobs! I ordered my usual Falamus Wrap. My only complaint ever about this thing is that it could use twice as much hummus. I never use the dipping sauce they put on the side: used to be tahini, but on this particular night it looked like some sort of spicy mayo or yogurt based sauce. I wasn't going to take any chances. The falafel was cooked to perfection on this night - crispy on the outside, soft on the inside. I am still dreaming about my wrap... I wonder if they would ship to LA?

Eggplant Pita

My mother ordered the Eggplant Pita, filed with roasted red peppers and feta cheese. My father indulged in the roasted Vegetable Kabob! Although, I was a little shocked that he didn't touch his hummus (could it be that he actually doesn't like hummus? Is that possible??) he did finish every other bite on his plate! Good for me, though, he packed up the hummus and extra pita to take home, so I had a nice high protein breakfast the next morning before hopping in the car for my return trip to LA!

Vegetable Kabobs
My son also ate a vegetarian meal! Although, this isn't out of the ordinary, he really isn't a meat eater anyway. My mother has tried, as have other family members, to convince him to eat meats, but he always resists. I try to explain to everyone that kids eat what they see their parents modeling for them. Has he ever seen me, as his primary caretaker, eating meat? Nope. So although I don't find this unusual, he is starting to feel the social pressure of meat, and is holding his own gracefully. I always love his answer when someone says, "Why don't you eat meat? It's good for you!" His answer: "Who says I have to?"

I make it a point of visiting Paymon's every time I'm in Vegas, but that tends to make it more difficult for me to visit other places that everyone keeps telling me to try! So here's where you come in, Vegas Reader! Please, in the comments, tell me where I should go the next time I visit my parents in Las Vegas. I need variety, obviously, but I also need some inspiration.

Paymon's has 2 locations:
Maryland Parkway
Paymon's Mediterranean Cafe & Hookah Lounge
4147 So. Maryland Parkway
Las Vegas, NV 89119
Phone: (702) 731-6030   Option #1
W. Sahara Ave
Paymon's Mediterranean Cafe & Hookah Lounge
8380 W. Sahara Ave.
Las Vegas, NV 89117
Phone: (702) 804-0293

(Maybe I can convince them to open a store here in Sherman Oaks??)

October 9, 2010

Trick or Treat?

It's Halloween time! And in honor of the most candy-rific holiday of the year, I am deviating from the usual Vegas Vegan format. Instead of a review, I am posting a list of vegan candy. Because, let's face it, vegan parents like to raid their kids' Halloween stash just as much as the next guy. And if you're raising vegan kids, this list should help your shopping list.

This list comes to us thanks to Elaine Vigneault from Vegas Veg. She was also kind enough to provide us with this new website: No Trick Treats You can register your home as a place giving out vegan candy or find vegan distributors in your neck of the woods!


Airheads taffy

Atkins peanut butter bars

Blow Pops

Brach’s Cinnamon Hard Candy

Charms lollipops


Cracker Jack

Cry Babies

Dem Bones




Goldenberg’s Peanut Chews

Jolly Ranchers (lollipops and hard candy)





Mary Janes (regular and peanut butter kisses)

Now and Later


Ring Pop lollipops

Smarties (U.S. Brand)

Sour Patch Kids

Super Bubble

Swedish Fish

Sweet Tarts

Tropical Source mini chocolate bags



Las Vegas Vacation Deals

August 13, 2010


Not wanting to give up on the restaurants at the Bellagio, Friand and I decided that we would give Yellowtail a go. We had passed it that morning on the way through the high end shopping gallery to the coffee bar, and thought the sushi menu looked promising.

As all us vegans know, sushi is probably the easiest, most reliable, and most satisfying of all the vegan options out there. You can order a vegetable roll and never have to utter the word "vegan" to any server, never have to worry about there being a capable & creative chef in the house, just order, eat & enjoy. After the disaster that was "Olives", we were looking forward to a simple, yet elegant meal.

Remember, "Sushi" refers to the RICE, not the fish. I always laugh when people say, "Vegan sushi? Give me a break!" Yup. Rice is vegan, folks.

We were seated and immediately greeted by our server, who directed my attention to the "Infusion" at the top of the cocktail menu. A delightfully sickeningly sweet martini style sake drink, with pineapple and vanilla flavorings. I'm not a froo-froo drink kind of girl, but this thing made my teeth chatter with sweetness, and let's face it: it prevented me from drinking too fast and too much. I can pound gin martinis like James Bond on shore leave, so this was a good move on my part!

Friand ordered the 7 course Omakase with the sake pairing. Any sushi lover, nee, any refined connoisseur should order this way at a sushi joint. Let the chef decide what the best dishes on the menu are that night, not you! I've rarely seen Friand order anything on his own when we've been out for sushi, he's always been delighted & amazed by the chef's own suggestions. This Omakase did not fail him. 6 different sakes for 6 dinner selections including a salad, sashimi and kobe beef, and one slice of green tea cake with a mocha shooter for dessert, kept the food & drink flowing at our table.

There are actually several items on the menu suitable for veg*ns including edamame, an array of salads, vegetable tempura, vegetable roll, wild mushrooms and eggplant skewers. I was overwhelmed with possibilities!

I began my meal with the vegetable roll. There was nothing out of the ordinary in that roll: cucumber, asparagus, carrot, avocado and pickled daikon, sprinkled with sesame seeds, but the rice had the perfect proportion of vinegar to make all the flavors pop instead of run together. I could not pass up the opportunity to try the eggplant, though. And when it arrived, my mouth was overwhelmed with taste bud ecstasy. Sweet, bitter, juicy and savory, the Japanese eggplant melted in my mouth.

I was thankful that there were a dozen pieces of eggplant on this plate, otherwise I may have freaked out and actually begged for more. It was probably enough for any normal person to be satisfied with this much food (8 vegetable roll slices and a dozen pieces of eggplant), but I was like a bottomless pit! The Omakase still flowing on Friand's side of the table, I needed to keep up. At this point, I was torn between ordering more eggplant or going for another sushi roll. That rice was too good to pass up, so bring me another veggie roll! This time, I had fun overdosing on wasabi and seeing how much I could slather on my sushi before my eyes started watering & flames shot out of the top of my head.

Yellowtail was a delightful and sophisticated way to round out our trip to Vegas this week. We both left a little tipsy, and a whole lot satisfied. I highly recommend making a reservation and brushing up on your chopstick technique. Come hungry!! This is a must visit restaurant at the Bellagio!!

Hours of Operation:
Dinner Daily Monday - Thursday 5:00 p.m. - 10:00 p.m.
Lounge open until 11:00 p.m.
  • Friday - Sunday 5:00 p.m. - 11:00 p.m. Lounge open until Midnight
  • Reservations: Recommended by calling 866.259.7111 or 702.693.7223
  • Location: Located by North Valet right off of Via Bellagio shops.

Las Vegas Vacation Deals

August 12, 2010

Todd English's "OLiVES"

Todd English's "Olives" at the Bellagio... oh dear....where to start....

For all the hype, all the chatter about this place, we were let down immensely. In fact, "let down" is hardly the right way to describe our experience. Even Friand, who had the added advantage of being able to order anything he wanted off the menu, walked away incredibly disappointed.

We decided to dine at Olives because we've heard off Todd English & his wonderful establishment at the Bellagio. And reading the menu, both of us found several items that made it worthwhile to make a reservation. In fact, I saw two items (other than the obvious salad reconfigurations) that looked promising for a vegan: Portabello Flatbread (sans cheese) and Spring Pea Mezzaluna (again, sans cheese).

Our server arrived and of course it was time to face the music: "I'm a vegan" and what did we encounter? Lovely faces & sounds of disgust by the server. "Ooooh...." she groaned and gave us the face that says "Danger! Danger!! Vegans not welcome here". We all know it well, and even Friand cringed and squirmed when he saw her reaction. I should have ordered the flatbread, but I figured I would try the Mezzaluna. She told me that the mezzaluna was made with a cheese filled pasta. Fine. Any other server would have suggested that we just substitute the cheese pasta for a "not-cheese" pasta, say like all the other 300 varieties of pasta available at any grocery store in the world. But no. She said she had no idea what the chef could do for me, but she'd ask.

Ok. That's not an uncommon reaction by any server. Let's see what the chef at a high end, high profile place like Olives can whip up for me.

She returned to tell me that the chef could make me spaghettini with tomato sauce. Ooooh!! Can he? Really? That would be fantastically special for an expensive meal out.

Yeah, no thanks. So I asked if there was a way to have vegetables with the pasta instead, and she said sure. Now, if I had been smart, I would have just changed my order to the flatbread... but no. I decided to take my chances with the pasta.

Friand ordered the Alaskan Halibut, and the nicest thing he could say about it was that the risotto was "creamy". Wow. Go Todd English? He was sadly disappointed in his meal and this was a rare meal that was not finished by him. In fact, he picked at his meal in such a way that only a picky eater such as myself can fully appreciate after years of pushing around things I don't like to the edges of my plate. He did a great job at making it appear that he'd eaten more than he actually had, while choking down some clear swill that barely passed as a martini with a chunk of ice.

So this pasta that I was served... yeah, I'm not 8 years old. I don't go out to eat to get spaghetti and tomato sauce, but there I was poking around at this poorly executed spaghetti & sauce. To the credit of the kitchen, they did at least toss in a few broccolini, a few leaves of spinach, some peas, and (one of my favorites) fava beans. But, my trust in the sauce was second only to my trust in the veganistic attributes of frosted pop tarts. I'm not entirely certain, but I think that the server heard "no dairy" but no the "no meat" part of my description of "vegan", and there may have been some meat in this sauce. Needless to say, 5 bites into this meal I discovered what I thought was a questionable lumpy thing in my dish and quickly lost my appetite and quit eating.

The server returned to see that neither one of us had finished our meals with the comment, "I see we're taking a break..." Um, no. Let's call it quitting time, lady, this meal is over. Take our dishes, give us the check, and let us run free through the streets of Vegas.

Todd English's "Olives"... gets an enthusiastic thumb's down from both myself and Friand (who, by the way, was just making yum yum noises at a Denny's commercial while helping me write this). "Olives" gets 2 sprouts, even from Friand, which says a lot regarding your omnivorous friends' possible enjoyment of this restaurant. If you're expecting a gourmet meal, forget it, this isn't the place. But enjoy the people watching, watch the fountains, and if you're lucky you'll be buzzed enough to finish most of your meal.

  • Hours of Operation:
    Lunch and Dinner Daily
    Lunch: 11:00 a.m. - 2:45 p.m.
    Dinner: 5:00 p.m. - 10:30 p.m.
    Bar Open Daily:
    3:00 p.m. - 5:00 p.m.
    Bar menu available 7 days a week
  • Reservations:
    Suggested by calling 866.259.7111 or 702.693.7223
    • Location:
      Within the Via Bellagio shopping promenade.

Las Vegas Vacation Deals

July 9, 2010

"Sensi" at the Bellagio

NEW REVIEW: We can't seem to stop eating at this place! To spread the blog-traffic-wealth around, I have posted the latest review of Sensi at the sister blog: The Valley Vegan Go check it out, leave a comment here and there, and let's get this place recognized by the greater vegan community as a premiere vegan destination in Vegas. I think they deserve it, and I am more than happy to shout their praises from the mountaintops!



I wanted to thank you again for your wonderful article featuring Sensi! Since that time we have had several requests for the now famed “vegan risotto” and this week we officially made it a menu item. I thought I would let you know how much we appreciate your kind words and take your input seriously. Many vegetarian and vegan guests have another wonderful option thanks to you and I believe in giving credit where it is due. I hope the next time you are in town you will come and enjoy the dish so we may be sure we are making it as well as you remember.

We sincerely appreciate your patronage.

Jason Reiplinger

General Manager


It has been months since I moved from Vegas to LA, but the simple fact is that while my parents still live in Las Vegas, I will continue to visit Las Vegas on a regular basis. Therefore, I will maintain this blog for those times I eat an extraordinary meal in Vegas!! And this week... this was a visit to remember!!

Friand and I spent a wonderful week at The Bellagio. We went into this visit with expectations of eating elsewhere, but once we settled into the hyper-decadent fantasy world that is the Bellagio, we found ourselves loathe to leave. So we checked out the dining options the best way we knew how: walking through the casino and reading the posted menus. We were not thrilled with the options (Noodles, Jasmine, Le Cirque, Yellowtail, Olives) .... I know, I know! Most people would DIE for these places, but we just felt kind of "meh".

Being the chocolate fiend that I am, I told Friand that I wanted to show him (*cough*me*cough*) the

chocolate fountain at Jean-Phillipe. We stood at the chocolate fountain devising plans for breaking into the glass & lying under the pouring chocolate... marveled at the pastries and gorgeous chocolate creations in the cases. We left Jean-Phillipe & wondered what was beyond the bend in the hall. Any shopping? Any more restaurants? We have all the time in the world, let's go find out!!

And what did we find? This stone and water and glass creation that is Sensi. We were instantly drawn in by the design of the place, read the menu posted at the door & decided on the spot we would go in. There was one vegetarian item on the menu (Vegetable Pad Thai) but this place looked so fancy that I wasn't going to be afraid to ask for something special or off menu. This was a place I *knew* would deliver!

But... it was only 4:30pm. The restaurant didn't open until 5! So we left our name at the front desk & took a seat at the bar for appetizers & martinis. Again, only one vegetarian item on the bar menu, but that was fine with me! Vegetable Samosas! I wasn't entirely certain about the condiments it would come with, but I quickly learned (or rather was reminded) that "Raita" is a yogurt based sauce. The three samosas were accompanied by a mango chutney, raita, and a tomato puree that was out of this world! Friand took one for the team by eating the samosa that sat in the raita. The potato samosas were everything I love about Indian food: a balance of opposing forces: spicy/sweet, crunchy/soft, hot/cooling. They were little pillows from heaven!

At 5pm, we were seated in the dining room. One of the most breathtaking features of Sensi is the glassed in kitchen at the center of the dining room. Sleek & metallic, clean & functional, this kitchen is filled with staff that never looks hurried or hectic, who wipe up the counters at every opportunity, and who interact with each other in what appears friendly banter. I often joke that food tastes better when it's made with love, and this is true. Everyone in the kitchen zoo appears to enjoy their job and put their energy into creating artwork, and it is clear as day in the food that makes its way to the table.

Our server, Michael, took our order, and I informed him that I was vegan and of course asked if the Pad Thai was truly vegan. He said no, but that the chef would modify the dish to be sure that it was absolutely vegan for me. Of course I appreciated this assurance by Michael that my meal would be vegan. When my pad thai arrived it was a beautiful version of pad thai! Crushed peanuts, barely cooked mung bean sprouts, carrots, golden tofu, and a delicate and wonderfully salty sauce that hooked me at first bite. Being the bottomless pit that I surprisingly am, I ate every last bite of this dish. I thanked Michael profusely for his help, and we left the restaurant swearing that we would return the following evening.

This became our routine this week: drinks at 4:00 at the bar, dinner at 5:00 in the dining room. And of course everyone got to know us! One of the bartenders is from Ithaca, NY (where I went to Ithaca College) so we had a fun little conversation about our home towns in Western NY, made us wonderfully dry gin martinis and again served me samosas, this time, without the raita. Again, we moved to the dining room...

Michael was our server yet again and was pleasant in his welcoming of us back. This time, though, he was confident in telling me he would speak to the chef about making me something other than pad thai if I wanted. Of course I *wanted*! I am not at all afraid of allowing a chef to do what they do best: create food art. If the chef is willing & creative enough to take the time to make me something off menu, I will ALWAYS be open to trying it! Michael returned to tell me that the chef would modify an already existing scallop dish to be vegan. Yes please!!!

What arrived was a gorgeous representation of this chef's abilities: perfectly stir fried tofu & vegetables (shiitake mushrooms, snow peas, green & white asparagus, lemon grass, green onio

n, tofu, jasmine rice) in a sweet & salty sauce that did not intrude on the natural flavors of the veggies. But tonight... we were ready for dessert!! I ordered the sorbet. You're given the choice of 3 flavors, so I paired the raspberry, blood orange and coconut. I should have just ordered 3 scoops of coconut -- it was the creamiest, most insane coconut sorbet I've ever had. In fact, it was so creamy, it may as well have been coconut milk ice cream!! It was almost as if someone was asked to make a dessert to explain to a blind person what coconut was and this is what appeared.... I could write an epic poem about this coconut sorbet... that's how good it was.

Thursday evening, our third visit to Sensi, began the same as always: at the bar with martinis and samosas. This time, we barely had to order, our bartender knew what we wanted as soon as we walked in the door. Of course, we were happy to sit there & suck down food & drinks! At 5pm, our cue to eat, we were greeted by Michael who showed us to a seat next to the glassed in kitchen. We were then informed that the chef had our entire meal planned for us! Friand was at least given the chance to order his main course, but otherwise we were given appetizers predetermined by the chef!

For my appetizer, I was sent a delicious asian noodle salad presented in an iced water

droplet. Sounds cool, doesn't it?! It was!! Cold noodles with a light sesame and soy coating, tofu, lemon grass and green onion, in a size that only angered my hunger. I love love love when an appetizer truly excites my stomach for the rest of the meal rather than filling me up. A perfect portion to be sure.

But my meal.... oh my meal.... This was love in a dish. Completely off menu, I was presented with risotto - chanterelle mushrooms, more lemon grass, fava beans, English peas, saffron, and the mack daddy of all mushrooms: morrel.

Three words:

This may be the best risotto I have ever had in my life. Hear that? IN-MY-LIFE!!! I tried very very hard to not suck this risotto in as fast as I could. I had to learn to savor each bite, it was difficult, but I found a way to do it.

After our main courses were finished, the waiter asked if we were going to have dessert - because the chef, again, had something in mind for us.

Well bring it on, I say!! And out came two fantastic desserts! I'm not sure if what Friand was served was on the menu, but he was given a beautiful presentation of fresh tapioca, a mango lassi "shooter" and a scoop of that unreal coconut sorbet. And me? Fresh berries, with a strawberry reduction sauce, and the chef's choice of lemon & mango sorbets. And don't forget the edible flowers!! I'm not a girl who just likes to receive flowers, I like to EAT the flowers!!! nom nom nom

If you have been to the Bellagio and not discovered Sensi yet, it is a must eat place! Understated & elegant, the food is beautifully presented, but comes with such craft & skill anyone can appreciate the talent behind that glass cage!

Sensi gets 5 Sprouts, but really, it should be in a category of its own!

Thank you to everyone who made our 3 trips to Sensi memorable! We will (I repeat: WILL) return to Sensi on our next visit to Vegas. And you will (I repeat: WILL) go there when on The Strip!

Suggested by calling 866.259.7111 or 702.693.7223

Within the Via Bellagio shopping promenade.

  • Executive Chef:
    Martin Heierling
  • Cuisine:
    Simply prepared Italian, Asian, Grilled and Seafood classic

January 30, 2010