Most people can't wait to start gambling when they get to Vegas. For me, it's all about the gourmet cuisine, entertainment, and spas! In the food world, you know you've made it as a celebrity chef when you open a restaurant in the city that never sleeps, and Mandalay Bay features 13 celebrity chef restaurants under its roof alone. In three short days while staying at THEhotel (soon to be rebranded Delano), I was lucky to have dined like a queen at four of them: STRIP STEAK, Fleur by Hubert Keller, Aureole, and Border Grill.
My first night I headed to STRIP STEAK, Egyptian born Chef Michael Mina's first steakhouse that features all-natural beef, line-caught fish, and seasonal ingredients. I had the most perfectly cooked filet mignon this side of Argentina (tip: order your steak one level warmer than you normally would: like it rare?, order it medium-rare) and sampled a number of a la carte dishes with my dinner companions such as Maine Lobster Fritters (with bacon, shiso, and Meyer lemon crème fraîche) Ahi Tuna and Hamachi Poppers (shown on left with tobiko, sriracha and ponzu sauce), and Heirloom Tomato Salad (with fresh burrata and ember roasted tomato vinaigrette). Pair any steak with a side of Blue Cheese Scalloped Potatoes with Caramelized Onions or a Spinach Soufflé with Parmesan Cream (a la carte sides are big enough for 2-3 people, so share at least a couple of them). STRIP STEAK also sports an impressive Scotch program with bottles as pricey as $19,000! Ask Michael Main, STRIP STEAK's manager for a tasting flight or his recommendation if you're a new Scotch drinker like I am. (See full menu).
After dinner, I headed upstairs to Minus 5 (aptly named for its frosty temperature of -5° Celsius/23° Fahrenheit), donned a faux fur coat and shearling boots, and hunkered down with my ice glass of Skye vodka. You should not miss this fun bar and its unique subzero decor - beyond refreshing after a hot day in the desert!
The next day, French Master Chef Hubert Keller, the man behind Fleur by Hubert Keller, joined our small group for an amazing multi-course tasting of his global menu paired with an impressive selection of champagnes and other bubblies. Eclectic small plates ranged from Ahi Tuna Tacos (with ponzu Chantilly, Serrano and avocado cream), Hiramasa (shown right with sea grapes, piquillo coulis, and smoked soy), to Crispy Duck Confit with a do-it-yourself truffle injection, and Wagyu Hot Dogs (on pretzel bread with homemade sauerkraut and mustard). This fun and inviting environment is casual yet sophisticated with an impressive glassed-in wine mezzanine in which dining is also an option. Fleur was rated Top 25 Restaurant in America by Food & Wine magazine. (See full menu).
Trivia question: did you know that each restaurant within Mandalay Bay used to have its own wine cellar? Now, the over 60 thousand bottle collection is centrally managed and shared by all. Smart!
Next, I had the opportunity to tour the pastry kitchen of Executive Pastry Chef and Master Chocolatier Vincent Pilon. My respect for a pastry chef reached new heights when I learned what is involved in running the pastry and chocolate operation of a casino resort! Willy Wonka has nothing on Chef Pilon! In order to make sure each cupcake that leaves his kitchen is consistently perfect, no matter who is making them, he created a fool-proof decorating technique (and you can do it at home too!). Place cupcakes in rings (available at restaurant supply stores or you can buy piping at Home Depot - Chef Pilon's favorite place to shop! - have them cut, then smooth the edges), then place plastic strips between the cupcakes and the molds (also available at restaurant supply stores). Fill with icing and press down (shown right) to remove air bubbles. Scrape excess icing from top and remove rings and plastic. The result are tower-like iced cupcakes (on left)! You can also scoop icing with a large ice cream scooper: flatten the bottom, freeze and place on top of cupcakes for a rounded effect.
I was sent home with a half dozen of the most beautiful cupcakes I've ever seen!
Dinner that evening was spent at Charlie Palmer's Aureole, an elegant setting that features a four-story wine tower complete with a beautiful black cat-suited "wine climber" who scales the wall to grab each bottle ordered. Our six-course avant-garde tasting menu included dishes such as Pot au Feu "Royale" Beef Consommé Gelee with Shaved Foie Gras and Australian Winter Truffle (shown above), a Three Cheese Ravioli and Smoked Salmon with Baby Artichoke Barigole and Lemon Thyme Foam, Colossal Shrimp Thermador (shown right with forbidden rice cake and sweet chili sauce), and an Ellensburg Farms Duo of Lamb Rib Eye & Shoulder (with crisp vadouvan-spiced sausage, tzatziki, charred eggplant bulgur wheat salata, and jingle bell pepper marmalade). Joining us that evening was Master Sommelier Emmanuel Kemiji from Miura Vineyards who paired two of the courses with his own amazing reds, a Grenache and a Syrah.
Later that evening we rocked out at the amazing Morea Beach with Colbie Callait and Gavin McGraw, part of Mandalay Bay's Beach concert series. Standing (or swimming!) in the water just below the stage as the waves cool you is just about the best way to enjoy a concert! This is definitely a shorts and flip flops venue. We then headed to dance the night away at the House of Blues' exclusive club The Foundation Room perched on top of Mandalay Bay. Here you can enjoy the stunning landscape of the Strip while sipping cocktails in an exotic setting. No massive crowds here, which was quite nice!
The next afternoon, after floating the Lazy River (fun for kids and adults!) we enjoyed a small-plates brunch at the pool side Border Grill, the modern Mexican brain child of the Food Network's "Two Hot Tamales" Mary Sue Milliken and Susan Feniger. (Tip: each day they will Tweet a delicious surprise dish, so be sure to check in on Twitter @BorderGrill). I especially loved the Crispy Potato Rajas Taco (shown above with roasted potatoes and chiles, Mexican cheeses, guacamole, and chipotle sauce), Peruvian Shrimp and Grits (with aji pancha chile marinated shrimp, roasted poblano chiles, and creamy Parmesan grits), and the Yucatan Eggs Benedict (Manchego cheese biscuit, Yucatan roasted pork, slow cooked egg, hollandaise sauce, and pickled onions). See their full menus, brunch available only on Sat. & Sun.).
Indeed, it was an amazing weekend! Stay tuned for more detailed articles on each menu, as well cachaca tasting, and fabulous spa treatments!
Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino is a unique destination resort set on 120 lush acres on the Las Vegas Strip. The resort offers three distinct hotel experiences: Mandalay Bay, a AAA Four Diamond award-winning hotel, with 3,211 luxurious rooms and suites reflecting a modern tropical ambiance; THEhotel, a stand-alone, AAA Four Diamond all-suite hotel featuring 1,117 sophisticated suites; and Four Seasons Hotel, a AAA Five Diamond hotel-within-a-hotel, offering 424 rooms and suites. Mandalay Bay boasts an 11-acre tropical pool paradise, featuring real sand, a wave pool and the only climate-controlled, poolside gaming in the city. Other property highlights include world-class entertainment at the 12,000-seat Mandalay Bay Events Center, award-winning dining by celebrity chefs and restaurateurs, Shark Reef Aquarium and the 1.7-million-square-foot Mandalay Bay Convention Center. Mandalay Bay’s offerings also include BATHHOUSE Spa, House of Blues Concert Hall and restaurant, and The Shoppes at Mandalay Place, a collection of unique boutiques and restaurants. In 2013, Mandalay Bay will become home to a resident Cirque du Soleil production based on the music and choreography of the King of Pop, Michael Jackson. Mandalay Bay is a wholly owned subsidiary of MGM Resorts International™ (NYSE: MGM). For more information and reservations, visit mandalaybay.com or call toll free at (877) 632-7800 or find us on Facebook and Twitter.
Editorial Disclosure: Foodista.com's travel expenses were generously hosted by Mandalay Bay.