A trip to Las Vegas is an opportunity to sample the city’s world-class restaurants. But with so many acclaimed eateries to choose from, how do you decide where to make a reservation?
Don Contursi, founder of Lip Smacking Foodie Tours, came up with a solution to this problem. Why not give people the opportunity to experience the best dishes from several restaurants in one evening? “I was thinking, to have the ultimate meal in Las Vegas, why not just go to the best places and get whatever they’re famous for, whatever makes them really stand-out and unique?”
With this idea, Contursi developed his VIP food experiences so people could visit several award-winning Las Vegas restaurants. Guests walk to the restaurants, which are all in close proximity to each other.
On his premier tour, Savors of the Strip, guests visit some of the Las Vegas Strip’s newest and most talked-about restaurants. Recently, guests enjoyed dishes at BARDOT Brasserie, Sage, Estiatorio Milos, Zuma and Cucina by Wolfgang Puck.
Duck wings a l’orange at BARDOT Brasserie — Photo courtesy of Terrisa Meeks
After being seated immediately at BARDOT, the group had just a moment to look at the menu before the family-style plates of escargots Bardot, duck wings a l’orange and chicken French dip arrived.
Executive Chef Joshua Smith says he picks the selections to give people a taste of the restaurant’s top dishes. “We wanted to showcase the ‘best of’ menu items, so we selected our most popular dishes and signature offerings to give diners an authentic BARDOT experience.”
The escargot was prepared in a puff pastry, and the Chartreuse garlic butter imparted a fennel-like note. The duck wings’ sauce gave the dish a complex depth of flavor. The chicken French dip, a filling and mild dish made with tender roasted chicken, gruyere cheese, haricots verts and mushroom bread pudding, was new to everyone at the table.
Veal sweetbreads, foie gras brulee and heirloom beet salad at Sage — Photo courtesy of Terrisa Meeks
After BARDOT, the group walked to Sage. Here, the menu held some surprises: Roasted heirloom beet salad, roasted veal sweetbreads and foie gras brulee.
The roasted heirloom beet salad had a strong, earthy flavor, which was popular with the group. The veal sweetbreads were served with bacon and polenta, and the table was split on this dish, with about half the diners enthusiastically enjoying it. Likewise for the foie gras brulee, an incredibly rich and sweet dish served with toasted brioche.
Sage’s Executive Chef Chris Heisinger selects two classic dishes from the restaurant’s menu for the tour, then adds in something seasonal. “Generally, the foie gras brulee is a hit,” he says. “We do, however, get a lot of positive feedback on our carrot salad dish in its many variations.”
Milos Special, a zucchini dish, at Estiatorio Milos — Photo courtesy of Terrisa Meeks
The next stop was at Estiatorio Milos, known for their fresh seafood, which is flown in regularly from places like Greece, Spain and Portugal.
Here, the group dove into a Greek salad, grilled octopus and the Milos Special, a stack of thinly sliced fried zucchini with eggplant tzatziki and Greek cheese. The Greek salad, made with vine-ripened tomatoes bursting with flavor, inspired second helpings. The grilled octopus was tender with a perfect char, and it went quickly, as did the crispy zucchini.
Shauna Lederman, Estiatorio Milos’ director of sales and special events, says the three dishes were chosen because they’re considered “classic” items. “All three items receive rave reviews. Guests love the fact that they are able to try items they’re unfamiliar with in a completely approachable setting.”
Sliced yellowtail at Zuma — Photo courtesy of Terrisa Meeks
With everyone starting to feel quite full, the group set off to Zuma, a modern Japanese restaurant.
Shishito pepper, sliced yellowtail, sushi and rib eye were served, all plated beautifully. The delicately sliced yellowtail had a lovely, firm texture and clean flavor. The peppers were slightly charred and provided a nice complement to the fish and beef.
The sushi was a Chirashi maki with salmon, tuna, sea bass, yellowtail and avocado yuzukosho mayonnaise. The tender rib eye was cooked perfectly to a medium rare and cut into bite-sized cubes. All were a hit with the table.
Zuma’s general manager, Jason Archuleta, says the rib eye is usually the most popular item. “We choose items that are signature items of all Zumas from around the world, as well as some that are very popular in Las Vegas.”
Cucina by Wolfgang Puck
Honey panna cotta, cremoso, tiramisu and zeppole at Cucina by Wolfgang Puck — Photo courtesy of Terrisa Meeks
At the final stop, Cucina by Wolfgang Puck, dessert was the star. Each guest received a plate of four treats: honey panna cotta, tiramisu, zeppole and cremoso.
The decadent creamy honey panna cotta had a silken texture and was the lightest of the desserts. The cremoso, a candy bar-like creation of praline crunch, caramel sponge cake, caramel mousse and chocolate hazelnut crunch, was a chocoholic’s dream. The zeppole, an Italian donut drizzled served with caramel sauce, was an easy one or two bites of sweetness.
The tiramisu is unique to Cucina, as Pastry Chef Angela Ippolito explains. “It’s not a traditional tiramisu with ladyfingers. We do it with two layers of espresso-soaked chocolate chiffon cake and then two layers of mascarpone cream. It’s a modern version of it.” Richly flavored, this is a dessert that almost requires coffee.
After dessert was over, people talked about the evening’s culinary adventures briefly before heading out.
As for Contursi, he was pleased to have introduced another group to the food scene in Las Vegas. “Some people don’t realize Vegas is a food mecca,” he says. “We’re trying to put that on the map.”