Monday, May 13, 2019

Where to Travel: Las Vegas



When I was in my early twenties, my college girls friends and I liiiivved for our rambunctious Vegas trips. We’d spend allllll day turnt up at day pool parties, stumble our way into nightclubs for more good times and then foggily try to recollect the events of the past 24 hours, all while munching on salt-covered carbs in the wee hours of the morning.

Well, now that I’m in my thirties, let’s just say that’s not my typical Vegas experience anymore.

These days, if I’m heading to Sin City, it’s for a pretty vanilla reason: attending a trade show for work. Any indulgent activities that I’d partake in typically include doing what I love to do most anywhere: enjoying a fantastic dinner and cocktail.

My last trip to Vegas earlier this Spring gave me the chance to try quite a few new dining (and cocktail) experiences, thus inspiring this latest post. From decadently over-the-top to nostalgic, breakfast to dinner, I covered a lot of ground in a short amount of time, and it was all worth it.

So whether you find yourself in Vegas for a wild ride on the town, a relaxing spa getaway, or something in between, guess what? We all gotta eat! With that in mind, here are four places to put on your radar whenever you’re looking for your next noteworthy meal.

This list is by no way exhaustive and please feel free to drop your favorite Vegas restaurants in the comments section below — we can never have too many good recommendations!!

Where to Eat that’s reminiscent of LA: Park MGM’s Best Friend


We all love Roy Choi for bringing us the modern day food truck through his Kogi Truck launch. And, we’re smitten with his LA restaurants, including A-Frame, Commissary and Sunny Spot. Now there’s even more to love, as he’s brought his funky fusion of Asian, Mexican and Cali fare to Vegas, all via Best Friend. Located in Park MGM, this action-packed bar/restaurant pays homage to Choi’s childhood growing up in L.A in the ‘90s, in both physical appearance and grub. Inside, the space is playfully colorful, with massive photos of L.A. staples — like palm trees and the DTLA skyline — all enveloped in an elegant, natural color palate. The hanging plants throughout remind me a lot of the vibes in Choi’s Commissary, located in Koreatown’s Line Hotel. Similar to so many of his other establishments, Best Friend artfully blends together multiple cuisines through options like the Asian-inspired Slippery Shrimp and the Mexican popular street snack Elote corn, pictured below. My final musing: the attention to detail is in everything, from the eccentric glassware to the menus and servers’ attire. Come here for an eclectic — and nostalgic — trip down memory lane.

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Even though there’s a Hakkasan in Los Angeles, fate had it that I finally set foot in the Vegas version of this fancy upscale establishment that has locations in eleven cities around the world. The first thing to catch my breath was the decor. It’s absolutely stunning! There are gorgeous ceiling-to-floor partitions with artistic designs outlined into marble. These partitions also create semi-secluded enclaves, providing a nice touch of privacy. Add dimmed lighting and ambient music and a space bathed in black, and you’ve got yourself a seductively swanky hideout! There are several ways to to sample the high end Cantonese cuisine: opt for one of the multiple dinner tasting menus or order items a la carte. I had the crispy duck rolls, pak choi (which is like bok choi and surprisingly delicious) and the Sanpei Chilean seabass, pictured above. Also, the cocktails were quite delicious and varied, like this Whiskey in the Tropics (pictured below) with banana (!) whiskey, guava, lime, mango jasmine syrup and other tropical ingredients. Also, if you spend more than $50 per person (which isn’t that hard to do if you go for one of the tasting menus or pretty much just order a drink, an app and an entrée), you’ll get FREE access to Hakkasan's bustling nightclub, right upstairs. It was a hassle-free experience to enter, as we simply showed our receipt to one of the bouncers who immediately whisked up to the front of the entrance. We were able to skip the very long lines and not worry about having to pay a cover. There are frequent celebrity guest hosts, and the night I went, Lil Jon got the crowd in a delightful frenzy with his DJ skills.

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Wynn’s Jardin boasts a light and airy ambiance, with the option to dine al fresco. Should you choose to be outdoors (which, I highly recommend), you’ll be on a gorgeous enclosed patio, surrounded by shrubbery and overlooking the pristine pool area. For breakfast, Jardin serves up classics — think omelets and Benedicts and pancakes — but they taste just so freakin’ good! My “Grilled Chicken Omelette,” pictured above, with thick chunks of grilled chicken, avocado and Anaheim peppers (sans the Monterrey Jack cheese, which is an option) was sooo tasty and filling. I also loved the sourdough toast, pictured below, and the vegan butter that you can ask for, as it truly tastes like its dairy counterpart! Also, do yourself a favor and order a side of the French fries; yes, they’re worth it. Thick, crispy on the outside, soft on the inside. And while you’re at it, get a cocktail, too. The French Cucumber — with cucumber vodka and cucumber soda, green chartreuse, Chareau aloe Liqueur and lemon — was light and refreshing, the perfect way to sip into Spring. Jardin opens at 7 a.m. for any early risers.

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Where to Eat for a Decadent Dinner: SLS’ Cleo



Cleo, located in the soon-to-be-renamed SLS, serves up delightful Mediterranean cuisine and shows off its culinary prowess, from start to finish. Let’s begin with the appetizers. The Hummus with Tahini is some of the freshest, lightest hummus I’ve ever had, served with piping hot Laffa bread (a type of Middle Eastern flatbread) that comes in a warm brown paper bag. You can’t go wrong with sampling a few of the various meats either — from roasted lamb to chicken tagine, pork belly kababs and more. I’ve tried the Mergeuz sausage, pork belly and chicken kebab, all pictured below, and savored each and every bite. As for sides, the Brussels Sprouts with capers and almonds, tossed in a vinaigrette (pictured above), are rather tasty too. And don’t even think about walking away without dessert; the buttery, flaky Warm Cinnamon Apple Torte with vanilla gelato and a drizzle of apple-cider caramel is surely a decadent splurge (pictured below). This Mediterranean restaurant is definitely worth every penny and calorie, at each and every bite!

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