Mon Ami Gabi – Paris, Las Vegas NV

Food Adventures, Las Vegas

While wandering the Strip, one can’t help but notice the towering Tour Eiffel, a 1:2 scale replica of the iconic Parisian monument. And ever-bustling with throngs of diners, there’s that one restaurant situated right in the front of the hotel, with an excellent view of the fountain show at the Bellagio across the street. That one restaurant, one we’ve walked past and thought “We should go there someday” many a time, is Mon Ami Gabi. Self-described simply as a classic French bistro, Mon Ami Gabi turned out to be an excellent brunch spot that’s totally worth the hype (though perhaps, not the consistently long wait for patio seating).

What's a classic French bistro without a fresh baked baguette?

What’s a classic French bistro without a fresh baked baguette?

We were open to seating options so we were seated right away. (I overheard that a patio table would be at least a 30 minute wait, and it was not a particularly busy day in Vegas!) We lucked into a table in the enclosed sunroom; with the chilly weather outside that day, I think we got a great spot! Be warned – the main indoor dining room did seem a bit dark for daytime dining, though I’m sure it would be romantic for dinner or supper.

Chicken Liver Mousse Pate

Chicken Liver Mousse Pate

We wanted to try so many of the tempting dishes on the menu but restrained ourselves to a few selections to share. First, the chicken liver mousse. We Californians miss our foie, so we were excited to indulge in its rich decadence. The burgundy red wine mustard added a great acidic punch to cut through the fat, though the buttery brioche would have none of that! The pate was firm yet spread easily over the toast… La belle vie!

Closeup on the Toast and Pickles

Closeup on the Toast and Pickles

We love charcuterie and found this to be a wonderful way to start our morning!

Oysters du Jour

Oysters du Jour

A well-timed respite from the fattiness of our first starter, a half-dozen of the day’s shucked oysters arrived just as we popped the last bites of brioche into our mouths. I forgot to ask where the oysters were from, but they were a great balance of sweet and briny… not particularly special but certainly fresh and enjoyable.

Mussels Mariniere

Mussels Mariniere

Martin and I have been on a mussel kick lately. After exploring the vast selection at Meet in Paris and making our own marinere style at home, we still could not turn down the opportunity for more. These mussels were quite sizable and, though the menu description listed white wine and herbs, were drenched in a good amount of butter. But if you ask me, it’s not French without butter!

Frites

Frites

We shared the full order, adding frites to make it our favorite moules frites. Their signature hand-cut fries were thin and wide, a shape that yielded an awesomely unique texture. The middle was almost chewy, and the edges were golden and crispy. I really enjoyed them! (I can only imagine how delicious they would be as part of the house specialty steak frites.)

Seafood, butter, wine... it's the good life.

Seafood, butter, wine… it’s the good life.

So this may not necessarily be hangover food quite like Earl of Sandwich, but if you’re looking for a brunch hot spot with satisfying food, an excellent view, and a taste of the leisurely French lifestyle, come sample the offerings of Chef Terry Lynch at Mon Ami Gabi. The menu looked impressive and we’ve only just begun to scratch the surface (escargots, duck confit, and tartines also caught my eye). Á votre santé!

———————

Check out Mon Ami Gabi: monamigabi.com

Paris Resort & Casino
3655 Las Vegas Blvd S
Las Vegas, NV 89109

See their Yelp reviews here!

Advertisements

Happy Hour: Coast – Santa Monica, CA

Food Adventures, Los Angeles

Drive west far enough on any of the streets in Santa Monica and before long you’ll find the beach. Cass and I were scoping out some beachfront locations and decided to stop in at Coast for happy hour which runs from 4pm-7pm, Monday through Thursday at the bar. Located in the beautiful Shutters on the Beach hotel, immediately adjacent to Casa Del Mar, Coast offers ocean views, fresh seafood, and great mixed drinks. Bonus: the happy hour menu features special pricing on appetizers as well as house wines and select cocktails.

Coast - The Open Kitchen

Coast – The Open Kitchen

Cass and I like to plan ahead, so when the bartender asked us what we would like from the happy hour menu, we said “One of everything!” Really. I’ve always wanted to do that. In fact, for the fish tacos and oysters, we had to order two. The bartender chuckled as she entered our order in the POS.

Blackberry Bramble

Blackberry Bramble – $14

To celebrate it being Thursday, I ordered a Blackberry Bramble – Hendricks gin, lemon juice, agave, blackberries. I had spotted it when I first glanced at the menu and knew I had to try it. Full of muddled blackberries and a generous pour of refreshing cucumber gin, this drink was perfect for enjoying the beautiful summer day.

Oyster Bar Chalkboard

Oyster Bar Chalkboard

The far end of the bar features a glass display housing a mountain of ice and fresh oysters. That day’s varieties were Misty Point, Malpeque, and Kumiai – a respectable selection for August. (Though I recently learned that the mnemonic of eating oysters only in months that end in -er is actually an outdated myth.)

Oyster of the Day - $2 each

Oyster of the Day – $2 each

We ordered two of the Oyster of the Day (Misty Point, I believe). Shucked to order and nested on a bed of crushed ice, the oysters were served with a spicy cocktail sauce and a vinegary tart mignonette. Not too sweet and not too briny, these oysters were a great way to whet our appetite for the fried goodies to come.

Fried Calamari with Tartar Sauce - $6

Fried Calamari with Tartar Sauce – $6

The fried calamari were crispy with a light coating of batter and a tangy house-made tartar sauce. These were good but not particularly special, and personally I prefer my calamari with a bright marinara sauce rather than a creamy tartar.

Fish Tacos - $2 each

Fish Tacos – $2 each

Grilled fish tacos (by far my favorite over the deep-fried kind) on a house-made corn tortilla and topped with pico de gallo, guacamole, sour cream, and shredded lettuce. The epitome of California beach cuisine, these fish tacos made us feel right at home.

Meatball Sliders with Provolone - $6

Meatball Sliders with Provolone – $6

These sliders were Cass’ favorite dish of the night – a pair of little round buns sandwiching savory, moist meatballs completely enrobed in melted, stringy provolone cheese, layered with a thick dill pickle slice. Taking the first bite was a bit of a challenge (it’s so tall!) but it’s well worth the effort to get a bit of everything in each bite.

Coast Ceviche with Warm Tortilla Chips - $5

Coast Ceviche with Warm Tortilla Chips – $5

This was my favorite dish of the evening. With hearty, sizable chunks of  white fish marinated in lime juice with diced tomato, brunoise of shallots, and plenty of cilantro, the ceviche was the perfect light and refreshing summer dish. The warmed tortilla chips, in both regular and blue corn, added a colorful contrast.

Corn Meal Crusted Rock Shrimp - $6

Corn Meal Crusted Rock Shrimp – $6

Both of us agree that our second favorite of the night was the corn meal crusted rock shrimp. Nuggets of fresh, sweet shrimp coated in a thin crispy layer of corn meal (and fried, of course), these were too easy to just pop in your mouth and devour them all!

The Dessert Display

The Dessert Display

We were debating whether we should order more food when we recalled the cake display we saw right when we walked into the restaurant (genius, we thought!). It was hard for us to decide, so we asked the guy behind the counter to please bring us a slice of his favorite…

Old Fashioned Six Layer Chocolate Cake - $10 a slice

Old Fashioned Six Layer Chocolate Cake – $10 a slice

…the Old Fashioned Six Layer Chocolate Cake from SusieCakes in Brentwood. An impressive monstrosity of super moist semisweet chocolate cake, thick and velvety ganache, and a thin layer of sugary frosting, this dessert was exactly what we needed to finish our meal. Surprisingly, it was not too sweet despite being so decadent and satisfying.

Saltwater Taffy

Saltwater Taffy

The offerings on the happy hour menu here are Coast are perfect for sharing with a friend. We were glad to have had the opportunity to try all of the delicious appetizers and by the time we polished off the last bite of cake, we were stuffed, though not too full for just one more little treat — a colorful piece of saltwater taffy! If you live or work in the Santa Monica area, definitely mosey on by to Shutters on the Beach and enjoy sunshine and HH here at Coast.

———————

Check out Coast: shuttersonthebeach.com

1 Pico Blvd
Santa Monica, CA 90405

See their Yelp reviews here!

Giovanni’s Fish Market – Morro Bay, CA

Central Coast, Food Adventures

Oh, Morro Bay — this sleepy beach-side town in the Central Coast is one of our favorite weekend getaways. Though we often catch a fancy seafood feast at The Galley to celebrate a special occasion, we decided to keep it simple this time with a stop at Giovanni’s Fish Market and Galley. With a large menu filled with long lists of fried seafood (anything from halibut to calamari), raw and BBQ’d oysters topped with various sauces (including sriracha lime butter!), fish tacos, burgers, quesadillas, and chowder, Giovanni’s has something for everyone.

Giovanni's Fish Market and Galley

Giovanni’s Fish Market and Galley

After our first visit to Giovanni’s a few months ago, we knew to check around online for specials. After checking in on my Yelp! app, I was greeted with a pop-up that announced a free cup of clam chowder with any $10 purchase. Sweet! Creamy New England style clam chowder, chock full of clams and potato cubes and sprinkled with parsley and a dash of Old Bay, this soup is simply perfect on a cool breezy day. And to add to the small-town charm, it’s worth noting that Giovanni’s clam chowder won the Morro Bay annual chowder cook-off three years in a row!

New England Clam Chowder

New England Clam Chowder

Another item that was just as good as we remembered the first time — the garlic fries. Crispy, fried-to-order pommes frites topped with shredded parmesan, garlicky oil, and chopped parsley. Always served hot and fresh, these fries make for an excellent snack while enjoying the salty sea breeze. They are also a great accompaniment for strips of fried cod or halibut to create a more interesting order of fish & chips.

Garlic Fries

Garlic Fries

Fried food aside, a major part of Giovanni’s menu features oysters, served up raw on the half shell or barbecued and topped with one of an assortment of sauces. They source many of their oysters from Grassy Bar, a local family business with an oyster bed in neighboring Cayucos. I really enjoyed these Grassy Bars; their flavor was a great balance between briny and creamy. Delicious on their own or with a twist of lemon and a dab of Giovanni’s spicy cocktail sauce.

Grassy Bar Oysters on the Half Shell

Grassy Bar Oysters on the Half Shell

Like the sauce? Apparently you can purchase it in the market, along with smoked fish, salmon “candy,” and shark jerky.

Enjoy the view of Morro Rock

Enjoy the view of Morro Rock

The consistently long lines outside the ordering window here at Giovanni’s attests to their popularity and, after trying their food for ourselves, we think it’s well-deserved. Enjoy your meal in the patio area which offers an gorgeous view of Morro Bay’s iconic rock formation, or pack up your order to-go and walk or drive down to the beach surrounding the rock itself. Just be prepared to fight off hoards of persistent seagulls. They’re fearless. But if you survive them, at least you can explore the nearby tide pools!

The otter says, "Relax."

The otter says, “Relax.” I think I’ll call him Frankie.

Or take the first option. After a leisurely meal on the adjoining patio, go on a stroll through the town, take a deep breath, and just relax. Morro Bay is a wonderful place to escape the hustle and bustle of city life, and while you’re here, be sure to join the queue at Giovanni’s and try a few items off their extensive menu. Just be sure to order your own cup of chowder… you probably won’t want to share.

———————

Check out Giovanni’s Fish Market & Galley: giovannisfishmarket.com

1001 Front St
Morro Bay, CA 93442

See their Yelp reviews here!

 

Bacchanal Buffet – Las Vegas, NV

Food Adventures, Las Vegas

Las Vegas really has something for everyone. This is especially true at the Bacchanal Buffet in Caesar’s Palace, which recently underwent a $17 million renovation to its 25,000 square foot dining area. Featuring over 500 dishes prepared daily, some of which are made to order, this buffet is the hottest and newest in town.

Rainbow of macarons!

Rainbow of macarons!

It was literally and figuratively difficult to digest that two hour eating marathon, but as they say, pictures say a thousand words. If we missed any descriptions or details, let us know in the comments and we can try to fill you in!

Based on what we could see from the main dining room, there was an extensive seafood section (both hot and cold) and Mexican food with an impressive variety of freshly prepared salsa. Prioritizing, we decided to visit the seafood section first.

Cocktail Shrimp

Cocktail Shrimp

Giant shrimp, conveniently peeled down to the tails, piled over ice. The shrimp were sweet, tender, and plentiful. Don’t miss the sauce bar next to it – there’s plenty of tartar sauce, cocktail sauce, and drawn butter to be had.

Green Mussels

Green Mussels

These steamed cuties propped up in ice were a unique find in a cold bar. The mussels were a bit chewy and probably would have been better hot.

Speaking of hot…

Seafood Guys

Seafood Guys

Just behind the counter of mollusks and crustaceans on ice, these friendly fellows loaded steamed crab legs into large pots of boiling water to reheat. Occasionally one will leave his post to shuck fresh oysters for patrons wandering by.

Mmm snow crab legs

Mmm snow crab legs

Plenty of cold crab legs lay over beds of ice, but if you prefer them hot, just hand an empty plate to one of those friendly guys and grab yourself a nice pile of legs. We took a break from exploring to enjoy our first few plates of noms.

Enjoying the crab legs at the table

Enjoying the crab legs at the table

The glass panes in the newly renovated dining area let in beautiful sunlight. What a beautiful way to spend a summer evening in the desert!

Centerpiece

Centerpiece

Even the centerpieces at the table looked stunning. The head-to-toe renovation, and even little touches like the table decor, truly made this whole experience beautiful.

And now for more food…

Crawfish and paella

Crawfish and paella

Next to the cold seafood bar was a selection of  hot seafood dishes like cajun-style crawfish, paella, sauteed fish, and more.

Oysters and Shooters

Oysters and Shooters

At the very end of the cold bar, fresh oysters are shucked to order. Some are served raw on the half shell (my favorite!) and others are destined to become part of these delicious oyster shooters (pictured above, top right). Basically like a non-alcoholic mix of tomato juice, cocktail sauce, and tabasco, the shooter had a great kick immediately soothed by the silky oyster. Another great addition to the cold bar was the ceviche (pictured above, top left). With lots of lime and chopped peppers, the fish was tender and deliciously tart.

Prime Rib

Prime Rib

While I moved on to more plates of hot crab legs, Martin went to check out the terrestrial offerings. He came back with this succulent, inch-thick slice of rare prime rib. The generous slice would fit right in at Lawry’s, although it did look a bit lonely without the jus, yorkshire pudding, and mashed potatoes.

Roasted Goods

Roasted Goods

Alongside the prime rib were roasted kielbasa, double-chops of lamb, and rotisserie chicken. Yum! Also on this side of the buffet were pizzas, pastas, and Southern-style barbecue complete with brisket and ribs.

Dim Sum

Dim Sum

Around the corner and past the cheese, charcuterie, and honey bar lies a taste of the East. Stir-fried Chinese dishes, dim sum style dumplings, glistening nigiri sushi, barbecued charsiu pork and Peking duck, and even soups.

Chinese Goodies

Chinese Goodies

Martin brought back a dim sum variety of xiao long bao (soup dumplings), egg rolls, fried gyoza, and sticky rice wrapped in lotus leaf. (If you look in the background, there’s a peek of a little salmon nigiri.)

Tonkotsu Ramen

Tonkotsu Ramen

I wove my way to the noodle soups and gleefully ordered a bowl of tonkotsu ramen. The chashu was fatty and the bowl was full of menma (bamboo), so that was awesome. Unfortunately the broth was a bit grainy, so I ended up setting this aside and heading to the desserts.

Artsy slider and macarons

Artsy slider and macarons

Our friend set up an artsy plate of a single slider and some colorful burger-like macarons. We just had to snap a quick photo before proceeding to…

Candy (for decoration only)

Candy (for decoration only)

The dessert section is amazing. Like a grownup version of frolicking through Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory.

Display Case

Display Case

Nearly all of the desserts come served on either a colorful square plate or in cute shot glasses.

Red Velvet Cake

Red Velvet Cake

Even the cakes come nearly bite-sized. The red velvet cake was moist although the frosting was a bit too sweet.

More sweets

More sweets

One of our other friends grabbed the Oreo dome and marveled at the surprise inside (hint: the mini Oreo garnish isn’t the only Oreo in town…)

Shot Glass Desserts

Shot Glass Desserts

The chef’s special, the taro panna cotta, and blueberry cheesecake. It was hard to resist grabbing one of everything!

Gelato and mochi

Gelato and mochi

The pastry chefs here even make their own gelato and sorbets. Also available at the frozen goods section are mochi ice cream like the ones made by Mikawaya here in LA.

Cake Pops

Cake Pops

Perhaps one of the cutest bite-sized desserts are cake pops. The pink ones above are strawberry cheesecake while the conical ones are triple chocolate.

Dessert Variety

Dessert Variety

Perhaps the most interesting was the taro panna cotta. The flavor profile almost exactly replicated halo-halo. The chef’s special turned out to be a spongy raspberry shortcake in a custardy creme anglaise. Yum! Lastly, the shot glass dessert on the right was the tiramisu. Chocolate mousse layered with espresso dipped lady fingers and topped with a mascarpone creme. So good. The macarons had a crispy shell that shatters when you look at it, and the ganache fillings added a great flavor.

Dessert Variety #2

Dessert Variety #2

Sitting next to the cake pops are these cute crispy chocolate cones filled with a chocolate mousse. A fun and cute little treat! In the background, you could see I also went back for seconds  of the tiramisu. And who could miss those chocolate covered strawberries?

Chocolate covered strawberries dipped in pop rocks

Chocolate covered strawberries dipped in pop rocks

The grande finale – chocolate covered strawberries dipped in Pop Rocks. That’s right, my friends. Pop Rocks! Take a big bite out of these juicy sweet berries and the sprinkles immediately fizzle on your tongue. These are incredibly fun to eat and wonderfully delicious. We made sure everyone at the table got to experience it!

A brief look back..

A brief look back…

After indulging our gluttony for about two hours, we finally stood up and with our belly full of noms and our faces lit up with smiles, we walked out of the Bacchanal Buffet knowing we would definitely recommend it to anyone visiting and looking for the all-you-can-eat experience. The price is comparable to other higher-end buffets (here’s looking at you, Wynn) and the variety of and quality of the dishes (especially the desserts) is fantastic. Come hungry.

———————

Check out Bacchanal Buffet: caesarspalace.com

Caesars Palace
3570 Las Vegas Blvd South
Las Vegas, NV 89109

See their Yelp reviews here!

For weekend dinner, $50 per person. Bacchanal is available with the 24-hour Buffet of Buffets Pass with a $15 supplemental fee.

Island Creek Oyster Bar – Boston, MA

Boston, Food Adventures
View from the bar.

View from the bar.

We love raw oysters on the half shell. In LA, we typically have oysters from British Columbia, Washington state, even locally in Northern and Central California. We were especially excited to try some East Coast oysters and what better place to go than Island Creek Oyster Bar? During this quick stop we tried 6 varieties – 5 farm and 1 wild. This swanky oyster bar served its own Island Creek variety of oysters, farmed just south of Boston at Duxbury Bay along with several other New England varieties and other areas.

Can you spot the wild variety?

Can you spot the wild variety?

Starting from the right of the lemon: Island Creek (Duxbury, MA), Rocky Nook (Kingston, MA), Ichabod Flat (Plymouth, MA), Big Rock (E Dennis, MA), WellFleet (WellFleet, MA), Wild Belon (Harpswell, ME).

The Island Creek variety was definitely the creamiest and sweetest of the 6. As we went around the tray clockwise, each variety was more briny and became increasingly more complex than the last. The Wild Belon was a slap in the face, standing completely out from the rest with its powerful mineral notes throughout. Luckily we finished with the Wild Belon which blew out our taste buds for the next 15 minutes. It’s quite the experience but not for the faint of oyster.

The Menu

The Raw Bar Menu

We enjoyed or brief hour or so at Island Creek Oyster Bar and could see ourselves frequenting this gem more often if we were Bostonians. If you’re dropping by Boston for a weekend or two, consider stopping by Island Creek Oyster Bar and try some of their local catches – you won’t be disappointed.

———————

Check out Island Creek Oyster Bar: www.islandcreekoysterbar.com

500 Commonwealth Ave
Boston, MA 02215

See their Yelp reviews here!