July 16 & 17, 2012 – 40th Anniversary! – Las Vegas, NV

We arrive in Las Vegas around 2:30 PM on July 16th having left from Bakersfield after breakfast. First mission is to pick up our show tickets at the Mirage. That done, we check into the Mandarin Oriental, a peaceful hotel amid the cacophony of Las Vegas. We have booked a suite as a special anniversary treat.

Bedroom of the city suite at the Mandarin Oriental, Las Vegas

Sitting area

Mini-bar and valet closet (free shoe shines!)

Bathroom

Around 4:30 PM we go up to the bar on the 23rd floor for a celebratory drink. What? The bar doesn’t open until 5 PM? Cannot believe that we have booked a hotel in Las Vegas where you can’t go to the bar until after 5 PM. Somehow we muddle through until 5 PM and return to have a glass of wine, some excellent bar snacks and a great view.

View from the Mandarin Bar
Excellent bar snacks

We are having an earlyish dinner tonight due to having tickets to a show later this evening. When we arrived we booked a table at MOzen Bistro, a pan-Asian restaurant. We start by sharing an order of hamachi sashimi.

Delicious hamachi sashimi

Now I am going to post a lot of food pictures. We each order a bento box. We get to choose six small portioned items for our box. It is hard to decide. All the descriptions sound so good. First is a picture of the bento box and then a picture of each component.

Mary’s bento box

From India, dhahi bhalla – lentil dumpling with yogurt, tamarind chutney and Indian spices. This was really yummy and probably my favorite thing.

From Korea, bulgogi – stir fried marinated beef tips with peppers and scallions. John got this as well.

From Thailand, yam nuea – grilled beef loin, cucumbers, mint, shallots and Thai sweet basil with a chili cilantro dressing

From Korea, hae-mul pa-jeon – Korean pancake with green onion, shrimp and jumbo lump crab

From Southeast Asia, hoisin BBQ baby back ribs – BBQ ribs with pickled Chinese cabbage

From Thailand, thod maan goong – Thai fish cake with lobster sauce, cilantro, chili and mint with pickled cucumber and red onion sauce

Now John’s bento box. There are only pictures of five components since he also got the bulgogi pictured above.

John’s bento box

From Thailand, tom yum goong – shrimp, lemongrass and kafir lime in broth flavored with chili and cilantro. John says this is incredible and is his favorite from the box.

From Japan, Kumamto oyster – oysters with lemongrass Ponzu jelly

From India, galout kebab – smoked minced lamb kebab patties with mint chutney

From Southeast Asia, Singapore chili crab – soft shell crab with chili, tomatoes, garlic and beaten egg

From Japan, tuna tataki – Japanese rice cake drizzled with garlic soy reduction, chili aioli and crisp salad with shitake chips and edamame

Special dessert (we didn’t order this)

I know that this looks like we are eating a ton. But the portions are small and it is so delicious. But enough eating, it is time for the show. We take a cab from the Mandarin Oriental down the street to the Mirage where LOVE by Cirque de Soleil is playing. It is a tribute to the Beatles. The show consists of fabulous costumes, lots of acrobatics and lots of Beatles music. No plot, though. It is all quite entertaining.

LOVE at the Mirage

Although we try to sleep in on the 17th, it being our anniversary, we fail and get up early, have breakfast at the hotel and head out to Hoover Dam before it gets too hot. We are planning on taking the long tour that takes you inside the dam. When we get there, we are informed that the elevators are being repaired and there are no tours. Dam! We decide to take a look at the new bridge built after 9/11 to keep the dam more secure and to keep traffic flowing through the area more smoothly. It is very high and very windy and I am very brave.

John at the bridge

Hold onto your hat, Mary!

We walk part way out on the bridge and take a picture of Hoover dam with Lake Mead behind it. (As I said I was very brave.)

Now what to do? The dam tour was supposed to take a big chunk of our day. Racking our brains, John remembers seeing something about a Leonardo da Vinci exhibit at the Venetian Hotel. Back we go to Las Vegas, negotiating our way to the Venetian garage. We find the exhibition, but our first stop is for lunch at Brasserie Pinot. I do not take pictures of our lunch. (shock!) John has moules and frites and I have a salad Nicoise. John orders his in French, of course, and the waitstaff (who are French) are all ooh, are you French? I play the part of the deaf, mute wife.

The exhibition is interesting with lots of da Vinci’s inventions built life-size. There are also in-depth studies of the Mona Lisa and the Last Supper.

We return to the room and get dressed for our festive dinner. We are having dinner at the hotel’s premier restaurant, Twist, executive chef, Pierre Gagnaire, a Michelin starred French chef.

All dressed up with some place to go

First, though, is another visit to the Mandarin Bar. I am a girl who loves a bar. We have a lovely time having a glass of wine and looking at the view from the other side of the bar.

An early evening apertif

Now it is time for the main event! Girding our loins, or whatever part one needs to gird for a fabulous dining experience, we head to Twist. Our first encounter is a multi-part amuse bouche. Frankly, I don’t remember what this was but I am sure that once John reads this, he’ll let me know.

Amuse bouche at Twist

Hmmm…what to order? I have read on line that one must order the tasting menu. But there’s stuff I don’t want plus a giant dessert that I definitely don’t want. Could we please have a tasting menu wihtout the meat and without the dessert but with the wine pairing? Of course, we can. We are set for a culinary adventure!

First course – Hudson Valley duck foie gras with lime and herbs, boullion gelee, ratatouille, black peppered cantaloupe and watermelon.

The first course is outstanding except for the fact that I have a giant piece of connective tissue in my foie. I mention it to the serving person. This creates quite a stir and the manager comes out and tries to offer some sort of explanation. He is so sorry. It must be the provider. They will get on it right away. (No compensation for their blunder, however.)

Seweed butter cooked dorade withrouille sauce, squid rings and black potato confit

Quite delcious!

From the front – tomato soup with mozzarella ice cream, calamarata pasta, and vitello tonnato

Really, really good although I don’t really remember the vitello tonnato. The tomato soup with mozzarella ice cream is shocking with its temperature changes and the pasta is really yummy. It’s like a tasting menu within a tasting menu!

Grilled langoustine with terre de Sienne spice, olive oil, paste of honey and Meyer lemon, and cucumber with herbs

John is not so happy with this as he finds the terre de Sienne spice overwhelming gritty. He sends it back. Ever since the foie gras incident they have been bending over backward to make us happy. He gets a new plate which is much better. (this was not compensated for either)

So a pretty wonderful meal with a few flaws. We also had the wine pairing with that was spectacular. Would I go there again? Probably not. It was outrageously expensive and I do not expect any missteps in such an expensive meal.

Best meal of our anniversary adventure? Probably the bento box at MOzen. It was inventive, personal and incredibly tasty. Going to Las Vegas? Try MOzen for dinner. Best thing from the whole two days…….?

My exceptional husband of 40 years.

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