Thursday, August 2, 2012

Viva Las Vegan!

Ahhh Vegas...a land of indulgence and debauchery, where you can forget about reality for a while and lose yourself in a world of entertainment, gambling, eating, shopping, and not have a care in the world.

Until you get the Visa bill.

But let's not bring ourselves down with silly things like the unpleasant reality of financial responsibilities. Rather, let us lose ourselves in a world where vegan fine dining is quickly emerging among the steak and lobster and (nasty) foie gras typically found in the multitude of classy Vegas restaurants.


This year, as we did the year before, we went to Vegas to celebrate my bff's birthday.

It was an extra special trip for her because it was also her babymoon :) Yes indeed, bff Jr. will be making his appearance this December :) Superduper exciting!!

I've been to Vegas a few times, and one of my favourite restaurants is Sensi at Bellagio. The space is very calming, almost spa-like, with beautiful blues and beiges and browns and water features and a glass kitchen in the centre of the restaurant so you can see your food being prepared.

Sadly, in recent years we had stopped eating there because of the nasty Sonoma foie gras on their menu. Last year when our friends ate there they left this helpful suggestion on their receipt...

Given that foie gras sale and production was banned in California on July 1, 2012, I was hopeful that the Sonoma foie gras would be off the Sensi menu this year.

And indeed it was!

I was thrilled, especially since I had heard amazing things about a vegan risotto that was not on the menu, and I was eager to try it. So we made a reso and met the bff and her husband/babydaddy J for a delicious evening of Sensi awesomeness.

Appies to start the evening off...I think yes.

Heirloom tomato melon salad and arugula beet salad (easily veganized)

Light, tasty. Pretty perfect appies, in my opinion, though Rob the Husband was a little bored. 

His boredom was short-lived, however, upon being presented with his sweet corn risotto entree:

This was pretty dang spectacular, and I have no idea why they don't feature it on their regular menu. The sweet corn really makes this risotto something special, lending a fantastic contrasting texture to the typical creaminess of the risotto. Why is this not on the regular menu??? Insanity.

As per our waiter's suggestion, I ordered the Diver Scallops with Asian vegetables and Jasmine rice, except they replaced the scallops with tofu. Meaning, they actually cut the tofu into the shape of scallops and seared it like they would sear scallops. Awesome :)

My tofu looks like scallops :) I love that :) :) :) And I'm a huge fan of Asian veggies and curry any day of the week, especially when there are mushrooms involved, so yah, this dish was absolutely perfect. I love seeing creativity and care go into specialty dishes, and I love when a chef treats a dietary request as an opportunity to get creative in the kitchen, not as an inconvenience.

Seriously great dinner. And you know what goes great with a seriously great dinner? Seriously great dessert.

Now, normally, I don't get too enthused about desserts from non-vegetarian restaurants, since I always end up with the default sorbet. Which is still delicious, don't get me wrong. But because it's literally the ONLY dessert that most restaurants have to offer in the tittymilk-free department, it's just not that exciting.

Unless it's served in an ice sculpture.

Hells yes.

Sensi delivered. Amazing, creative food. Wonderful service. And a badass ice bowl to make a normally ho-hum sorbet dessert something memorable (the coconut sorbet on the bottom left, by the way, was remarkable).

And how better to distract people from their car payment, I mean, dinner bill, than with a light-up receipt pad.

And of course, we had to express our joy at seeing the diseased livers of tortured, force fed ducks and geese off the menu.

My printing looks like that of a 12 year old.

And to let the world know how awesome Sensi was for removing the livers of tortured, force fed ducks and geese from the menu, I tweeted my joy.

And Bellagio responded!

Yes, I got really excited when Bellagio tweeted back at me :) Cuz I'm a fangirl like that.

After seeing Cirque Du Soleil's Elvis show (holy crap what a great time...stacking 4 guys vertically one on top of the other...CRAZY) we ended up gambling back at Bellagio, and since it's Vegas, if you're hungry at 1am, you eat, so we ate.

And even though the latte art on J's tittymilk latte was pretty lame...

...I was actually impressed with the food we were able to order at that hour.

Mushroom tacos and a portobello sandwich? Works for me.

The next day, because my favourite food in the universe is Ethiopian food, and Ethiopian food always has lots of vegan options, we journeyed off the strip in search of an Ethiopian place, and ended up at Mercato.

The equivalent of a samosa stuffed with lentils

The thing about Ethiopian food is that it doesn't look particularly appetizing (I've had friends compare it to vomit at various stages of the digestive process), but it tastes amazing. The spices and flavours are bold, and you can't beat the variety you get in one sitting. My favourite is always anything cabbage (2:00 above).

This meal, which also included a HUGE tomato salad in which we barely made a dent, two of those lentil samosa things, and a Coke (I know...I'm going to hell) cost just under $20. In Vegas. $20. That's like the cost of a cocktail on the strip. Apparently we risked our lives venturing out there, as our cab driver warned us that this wasn't the safest area of town, but it was worth it. A carcass-free meal for $20. How can you go wrong?

The Visa was only relieved temporarily, as later that evening we returned to the strip for dinner at Encore. Any Wynn/Encore restaurant is a given for us, considering the incredible vegan menus they feature since Steve Wynn's vegan conversion. 

Sadly, most of the restaurants at Wynn and Encore still serve foie gras, and as much as I would love to support the vegan incentive at these establishments, the nasty foie gras on the menu overshadows the phenomenal vegan options, and I can't dine there in good conscience. 

Happily, there are a few that do not serve foie gras (or at least didn't have it on the menu when we were there), and among them is the gorgeous, classy Sinatra

Here at Sinatra they have a beautiful vegan menu, and a seriously beautiful vegan Caesar Salad. 

Considering how they stack the leaves you could play Jenga with this thing (I am totally dating myself with that reference). But I ate it before any Jenga playing commenced, as the creamy, fragrant dressing was irresistable.  I could have ordered two more of these and called it a night, but then I would have missed out on my Gardein Marsala with forest mushrooms and potato gnocchi.

This was soooo creamy and rich and ridiculously caloric I'm sure, and Wow, was it ever impressive. Gardein never fails to amaze me, and when it's prepared by an executive chef, magic happens. That right there is love on a plate.

Anybody who thinks they could never give up meat needs to try this dish, because you get the best of everything on that plate...incredible, satisfying food with no hormones, no suffering, no death, and no artery-clogging cholesterol. Still a lot of fat, I'm sure, with that decaent marsala sauce, so this would never be a daily indulgence, but at $33 a plate, that's a good thing.

I also got to sample Rob's heirloom tomato soup and agnolotti with asparagus sauce.

Those orange droplets in the soup are basil oil. Seriously stunning soup. The agnolotti was delicious too, but way too small for Rob in terms of portion size. He could have eaten at least twice that, and he was finished before I was even halfway through my entree. We often joke about what we affectionately call "Voila!" portions at fancy shmancy restaurants, but in this case, even though the dish was very rich and carb-laden, it was definitely too small. Either that or Rob was just especially hungry that evening. Usually I'm able to polish off more food than him. 

The benefit of Rob's small entree was that he ordered his own dessert. Usually he just has some of mine cuz we're both too full to order two, but this time it was dessert double duty. 

My frutti di bosco with coconut sorbet came with the cutest candy spring. It would actually spring when you pushed down and released it. I was ridiculously entertained.

And of course I helped myself to Rob's chocolate plate of awesomeness.

Oh look. Vegan desserts that aren't just sorbet. What a concept. Take note restaurants of the universe! Not just for the sake of people with an aversion to the idea of consuming tittymilk, but maybe for like the 60 percent of people with lactose intolerance. And that's a conservative number.

But I digress.

Thumbs up Sinatra for an absolutely stunning carcass-free dinner in the land of indulgence.

And stepping out onto the adorable butterflies on the floor at Encore was pretty sweet too. Such a gorgeous hotel.

We came back to this end of the strip the next day for brunch, to Tableau at Wynn.

My pineapple juice looks so classy with a pineapple juice colored rose beside it.

Blueberry pancakes? Yes please.

Tofu benedict with potato hash? Yes please.

Yet another successful excursion to a Wynn restaurant thanks to their awesome vegan menu.

And no trip to Vegas would be complete without a visit to Wolfgang Puck, who I love not only because his food is yum but especially because he refuses to serve foie gras at any of his restaurants. We have made it a point to try all six of his Vegas restaurants, and with the bff's official b-day dinner at Cut this time around, we now only have two to go.

Cut, you say? Vegans eating at a steak house? Egad! What are we thinking? Granted, when the server brought out the cuts of raw beef for J to select his steak from I was more than a little turned off, but I was still looking forward to a decent meal. 

Butter lettuce with avocado and champagne-herb vinaigrette (they just left out the bleu cheese). It was a good appie, and like the Sinatra Caesar salad, I loved the way it was assembled. 

Unlike Sinatra and Sensi, Cut didn't really have anything to offer in terms of a vegan entree. The best they could do was put together a medley of side dishes, which was still very tasty. 

Clockwise from top left: honey glazed root veggies (honey's a grey area for me), roasted potatoes, wild field mushrooms with Japanese shishito peppers, and a bunch of beans and peas. It was good. The mushrooms were actually very, very good. Everything was tasty, and even though it wasn't really an entree, and considering we were eating in a steak house, I enjoyed it and was grateful for it.

Dessert...surprise surprise.

Still, it was a Wolfgang, I didn't have to worry about foie gras on the menu, and the ambience was very cool...super modern and industrial. A swell way to end our Vegas excursion and a swell place to celebrate the bff's b-day.

All in all, Vegas was an awesome time.

Stellar eats. Stellar gambling.

Stellar Stella McCartney store.

Stellar new Stella McCartney Falabella purse :)

Yahhh :)

But she deserves a blog post all her own.