Sunset view from the 51st floor outdoor patio of the Voodoo Lounge in the Rio.
Hello, dear readers. A last minute scheduling change had me on a plane to Las Vegas for a work-related conference. It was my first time out there, and while Vegas has never been high on my list of places to visit, I was curious to see that jeweled city in the desert. We stepped out of the airport into a 100 plus degree furnace blast of dry heat. Vegas was having a heat-wave. (Average May high temps are in the 80s.) I had been in the desert before, but farther north along the edge of Nevada and Utah. This was different. I live in Michigan, land of humid summers (comparatively speaking — there are more humid places out there). I had no understanding what dry heat really felt like until that moment. Wow. Just, well, wow. I didn't mind the heat in the shade, but the sun was brutal. There should be signs posted at the city limits and airports that read, "Welcome to Vegas. Sunglasses required." That is, if you go outside. You could just say in your casino/hotel/mall and never come out. Of course, you'd be missing many of the fun sights up and down The Strip, such as the dancing waters at the Bellagio.
Regretfully, our tight schedule didn't allow us to fully explore the culinary delights of that altered reality that is Vegas, but we did manage to hit a few places. For our first night in Vegas we ate dinner at Diego (see below) and then headed out to the Rio to catch the Penn & Teller show. We got there early, and when we asked if there was an outdoor patio where we could enjoy a drink, the staff person looked at us like we were crazy. It had been, after all, over 100 degrees F that day. But it was evening and cooling off. She directed us to the VooDoo Steak & Lounge, a club/restaurant/bar with both interior seating and an outdoor patio on the 51st floor of the Rio. Before 8pm there's no cover.
At Diego I tried the "Signature Tasting" plate with artistically arranged samples of four dishes. That night's selections included the Veracruz Seafood pot (upper right corner. recommended). Unfortunately, I did not take notes of the others, but I think they were Birria de Res al Horno (upper left), Cochinita Pibil (bottom left), and the Camarones a la Diabla (bottom right). My favorite was the seafood pot. My traveling partner Barb tried the mole poblano, which was also nice. We loved the guacamole, fresh made at your table, but were less than thrilled with the plantain side dish, which we found to be on the dry side.
For our last night, we caught a showing of Cirque du Soleil's gravity defying adventure Ka and then headed to Pearl Chinese Restaurant where we enjoyed an equally delightful (and equally expensive) meal. They serve up mostly Cantonese and Shanghai cuisine, though if you ask for other dishes they will likely tell you that they can make them. I ordered Chrysanthemum tea (my favorite! which for some reason I can't get in restaurants locally any more!), and the pot came to the table with its own small ceramic brazier to keep it warm. The Barbecued Pork, Roasted Duck and Soya Chicken Platte (sic) appetizer was tasty. We picked it as a way to sample a variety of their meat preparations. The Soya Chicken was moist and delicate, and the duck in particular was outstanding. If I could go back there, I would order the Peking Duck because, well, the duck was just that good. I quizzed our waitress and she explained that since they have both a Western and Chinese clientele, they try to accomodate the tastes of both groups. She pointed out which part of the menu listed the Westernized/fusion dishes and which part listed the traditional authentic Chinese dishes. Barb had Wok-Fried Filet of Venison and Asparagus, and the venison was tender. I hardly knew it was venison — my only other experience with venison was as a tough thin steak. I ordered a delightful dish of preserved tofu with pork, and I was truly sad that our hotel room didn't have a refrigerator for me to store the leftovers for breakfast. For those of us used to abundant free rice at Chinese restaurants, take note: Pearl, unbelievably, charges for each bowl of rice.
Now I'm back in Ann Arbor just in time to finish planting my vegetable and herb garden. I'm hoping (fingers crossed) that we've had our last freeze! Sunday is the Taste of Ann Arbor, when you can travel around the world — culinarily speaking — by simply heading to downtown Ann Arbor.
Below: a street view of the front of the Paris hotel and casino