Special Occasion · Steakhouse · Vegas

Gordon Ramsey’s Pub and Grill – Vegas

Jacuzzi disagreed with my suggestions for our last meal in Vegas. I planned to go to another Strictly Dumpling recommended restaurant or the Oyster Bar at Palace Station. Instead, he wanted to go to Gordon Ramsey’s restaurant – Hell’s Kitchen. I reminded him there is a dress code at Hell’s Kitchen, and he refused to bring a shirt, tie, or jacket on this trip. He countered with Gordon Ramsey’s Pub and Grill and stated his other sister Me Shell had gifted him some money to celebrate in any way he wanted. Fine with me. As I learned through his past commentary, Jacuzzi is not an Offspring fan. So for this post, let’s listen to something that’s more his style – “More Than A Feeling” by Boston.

We both wanted to try the beef Wellington. Jacuzzi ordered the lunch set ($65.99), which included a salad or soup, a petite version of the beef Wellington, and a sticky toffee pudding. I requested the regular size of beef Wellington ($69.99) and a glass of Gordon Ramsey’s Cabernet Sauvignon (Santa Cruz, $22). Our server recommended this wine as it was specially designed to pair with the steak.

Jacuzzi informed me that beef Wellington is challenging to make, as the temperature is critical and there’s no room for error. Worst yet, you can’t tell if the meat is served at its desired medium-rare until you cut it into the pastry when it is too late. I had no idea Jacuzzi was so into beef. He really should visit me in Calgary.

Our server was attentive and brought me a plate if I wanted to try Jacuzzi’s Caesar salad. I did take a bite and enjoyed the liberal amount of powdered and shaved parmesan cheese. Jacuzzi mentioned that Caesar salads are his favourite, and this was a nice portion of food for a starter.

I could tell it was the chef and not a server that brought out our beef Wellington because of his confidence and the swagger in his walk. When he presented our plates, he made direct eye contact, and I could see he was proud of his dish. I would be too, if I could whip up a Wellington like this for the mass crowds in Vegas. That’s some serious talent.

My knife crackled into the thin, golden brown pastry, cutting into soft, ruby-red meat. Jacuzzi declared the steak was cooked to a perfect medium-rare. He commented on the smooth, buttery texture of the beef. Despite the red colouring, the steak itself was nice and warm. I enjoyed the taste of the big flakes of sea salt, as I thought it brought out the flavour of the beef. The mushrooms on the bottom of the pastry gave this dish a unique, earthiness flavour profile. Jacuzzi reminded me to use the red wine demi-glaze with each bite.


The sides were delicious in an understated way. The mashed Yukon gold potatoes were whipped into silky submission. We both loved how the carrots, asparagus and potatoes weren’t drenched in butter or salt so that we could appreciate the natural sweetness and freshness of the vegetables. We both ate as slowly as possible to delay the inevitable, the end of our meal. Jacuzzi and I kept smiling at each other as we ate.

What shocked me about Gordon Ramsey’s Pub was the dessert. Fuck me! The sticky toffee pudding is so mind-blowingly good that it is swear-word worthy. The English toffee pudding tasted like Christmas. The caramel sauce was overwhelmingly delicious – drenching every warm, moist crumb. The vanilla ice cream was cold and satiny, melting into the hot caramel bomb of a cake. This dessert was so good I wanted to cry out in pleasure. The portion was so large that it would have been enough for a meal. I would come back here in a heartbeat. Eating here was the way to end a trip on a high note. Thanks, Me Shell, for taking us out for lunch in Vegas. Hitting the Sauce gives Gordon Ramsey’s chef two phat thumbs up.

Fusion · Japanese · Vegas

Cafe Sanuki – Las Vegas

After our big meal at Lefty’s, Jacuzzi and I decided to walk around to burn up all those extra calories. He stopped by for a coffee at Starbucks and asked me if I wanted anything. I said no. Let’s listen to “You’re Gonna Go Far, Kid” by The Offspring for this post.

He returned with a Perrier for me and said this was a long time coming, but it was his apology. Fourteen years ago, I spent a month with my brother in Toronto. On a scorching hot day, I asked him to bring me a Perrier when he returned from his class. He refused because he said he didn’t feel like it. It’s been an ongoing joke between us ever since, and whenever he asks for a favour, I always tell him he should have brought me my damn bubble water. Half an hour later, Jacuzzi ruined this special moment by drinking my sparkling water because he was thirsty and too lazy to line up again for a drink. He even had the nerve to balk at me when I refused to carry his half-drank bottle in my purse. I reminded him that he mocked my bag earlier, stating it was too bulky for travelling.

We left for an early dinner at Cafe Sanuki. Unfortunately, the restaurant was short-staffed and was closed for the next hour and a half. Our Uber driver warned us when he dropped us off that it would be near impossible to get a taxi or Uber in the next two hours due to the BTS concert. Jacuzzi and I decided to grab a beer to kill time. He vetoed the nearby pub, stating it looked too sketchy. Instead, we popped into a family-friendly Vietnamese restaurant. At the stroke of 5:30 p.m., we entered Cafe Sanuki.

I have wanted to hit this restaurant ever since I saw Mikey Chen’s Strictly Dumpling Youtube video. He liked the udon so much that Mikey filmed here twice. Cafe Sanuki makes their fresh-made udon using their Yamato udon noodle making machine. The owner even brings in two udon masters from Japan to ensure the quality is up to par with what you expect.

I ordered the dish Mikey recommended – Seafood in Mentai Cream Udon ($12.90). The mentai cream sauce was surprisingly light, and the fresh sea flavour from the egg roe was subtle. My bowl contained ample amounts of white fish, shrimp and calamari. I enjoyed the taste of lemon, garlic and green onions mingled in the sauce. The noodles were fantastic – so soft, slippery and fat. I’ve eaten udon numerous times in Tokyo, and I prefer Cafe Sanuki’s version.

Jacuzzi ordered the Cheesy Carbonara ($9.50). We had both never eaten anything like this before. The super cheesy sauce created almost a pool-like surrounding around the udon noodles. The sauce was so thick and heavy that you could see the long strands of cheese stretch apart when you pulled the noodles up.

What made this dish unique was the torching of the cheese on the top, combined with the smoky bacon pieces. Jacuzzi said this was so much cheese that one person couldn’t possibly finish a bowl. He exclaimed that you’d only love this dish if you dig a lot of cheese and bacon.

We agreed that the udon at Cafe Sanuki was incredible and worth returning to if we came back to Vegas. Simply Dumpling, you did it again! Hitting the Sauce gives Cafe Sanuki two fat thumbs up.

Hawaiian · Restaurants · Vegas

Lefty J’s Island Favourites – Las Vegas

For our first breakfast in Vegas, I picked a place recommended by Strictly Dumpling. Like most of Mikey Chen’s recommendations that appealed to me, Lefty J’s Restaurant is located off the main strip. Let’s listen to “Gone Away” by Offspring for this post. Jacuzzi complained that Offspring is so 90’s, but hey, that’s the era we grew up in.

Our Uber driver told us to avoid the “bums” around the strip mall. We didn’t see any, but we appreciated his concern for our safety. I told Jacuzzi to make sure he tipped our driver. We arrived when Lefty J’s Island Favourites opened at 10 a.m., but there was still a group from Singapore ahead of us who ordered a huge feast. We ordered what Strictly Dumpling recommended – the Five Meat Platter ($25.99). The owner told us our food would take twenty minutes.

Strictly Dumpling – aka Mikey Chan

While we anxiously waited for our food, Jacuzzi mentioned he appreciated the air con and the fun, vibrant decor. He noticed the artistic touches, like the flags and paintings. These niceties were all fine and dandy, but I was here strictly for the food. So when I saw a picture of Strictly Dumpling on the counter, I knew we were in good hands.

Twenty minutes later, our platter was ready. What a bounty of gluttony! All the meats were so hot that I burned my greedy little fingers eating too quickly. Our BBQ platter included two big scoops of rice sprinkled with furikake and a small container of macaroni salad.

Oh, my Ford. The fried chicken was marvellous. The batter was crunchy and sweet, encasing some toothsome meat. The kalbi ribs were thick-cut, chewy and fatty, with a nice char. We sat in happy silence, shovelling the food into our mouths. We only talked when I asked Jacuzzi which meat was his favourite. He preferred the fried chicken.

We were also a fan of the chicken teriyaki. You could tell the chicken was marinaded beforehand, then glazed with a sweet, buttery sauce. Jacuzzi liked it so much that he even ate the chicken skin that I removed from my portion.

The katsu cutlet was a large portion, sliced into long, strip-like pieces. The katsu sauce tasted like it was homemade, addicting with its complex, tangy kick. The beef teriyaki looked like it was pounded into a thin layer before being caramelized on the grill. I ate most of the beef as Jacuzzi was getting too full—what a lightweight.

I loved mixing the bites of meat with rice and julienned cabbage, as the crunchy greens helped to cut into the fatty, rich flavours. The side of macaroni was refreshing, slippery, creamy and cold. By the time we polished off the platter, we were both in a food coma.

We chatted with the owner while we waited for our Uber. She’s a sweet woman and reminds me of my Auntie Joyce. She said we should check out Strictly Dumpling’s other recommendation – all-you-can-eat sushi at Umami. But, unfortunately, that will have to be for another trip, as I wanted to check out Strictly Dumpling’s favourite udon restaurant – Cafe Sanuka. In any case, if you are in Vegas, I highly recommend checking out Lefty J’s. Hitting the Sauce gives Lefty J’s two phat thumbs up.

Burgers · Fast Food · Restaurants · Vegas

Bobby’s Burgers – Las Vegas

For our sibling getaway, Jacuzzi picked Las Vegas. I thought this was an odd choice because he refuses to dress up and doesn’t drink alcohol. I won’t gamble, and I hate buffets. The one thing we have in common is our love for food. For this review and the following Vegas posts, I’ll be playing The Offspring, as it was likely the only band Jacuzzi and I would have both listened to when we were teenagers.

I had planned to take Jacuzzi to a seafood joint off the strip the first night. However, we hit a slight snag in our travels and missed our reservation. Since we were famished and wanted to make it to the LA Comedy Club in time, we ordered burgers from Bobby’s Burgers at Caesar’s Palace.

I wasn’t expecting much, but the Bacon Crunch Burger ($14.99) was delicious. Jacuzzi was excited because the center of the patty was cooked to a beautiful pink. The beef was thick and hot, generously wrapped with crunchy bacon slices and potato chips. The cheese and sauce mingled in with the juices of the patty. Jacuzzi said this was a far better burger than Gordon Ramsey Burger.

I preferred his Bacon Crunch over my Palace Classic burger ($13.99) because the latter had too much iceberg lettuce and tomatoes, which chilled and watered down the flavour of the beef. Proportionally, the meat and cheese to produce were off. I would come again but stick to the Bacon Crunch burger.

Jacuzzi enjoyed his dark chocolate milkshake, which he thought tasted like vanilla. I took a sip and it tasted like a Wendy’s chocolate malt, but quadruple the price. He closed his eyes and exclaimed the shake was thick with the right amount of creaminess. I thought it was fine, but nothing special. The whipped cream tasted like it was canned.

The cashier recommended the onion rings over the fries. She said their onion rings were unique, in that the onions were sliced into nice, big pieces. However, the temperature of the rings was lukewarm, and the batter was borderline limp. In addition, I thought the onion rings were under-seasoned. Even the side of the ranch couldn’t save this side.

The important thing was we made it to the comedy club in time. Jacuzzi and I thoroughly enjoyed the performances of all the stand-up comedians. I told him the next day would be better foodwise, as we were checking out Strictly Dumpling’s picks.

Japanese · Restaurants · Seafood · Special Occasion · Vegas

Vegas 2020 – Raku Japanese Charcoal Grill

My friend Ms Biz highly recommended Raku for my birthday dinner. This was my favourite restaurant on our trip. If I could only go to one restaurant in Vegas, Raku would be it for me. For this post, let’s listen to “You Might Think” by The Cars.

I told Beep Beep I didn’t want any alcohol with this dinner because I wanted to focus on the food. I’m becoming my father. Ludwig won’t drink if he’s listening to classical music because he needs his full concentration. For beverages, we ordered Hoji Tea ($2.50).

tofu

To start, we shared the Half Tofu ($4). The consistency of the homemade tofu was like a ultra creamy cheesecake. We were instructed to cut into the tofu and taste it using two types of seasoning.

marcha

The first approach was to dust the green matcha salt over the cold tofu, along with the condiments of bonito flakes, chives and grated ginger. This style accented the fluffy texture and clean taste of the tofu.

tofu soy

The second version was to add Raku’s specially made soy sauce. I preferred this style because the sauce was unique in flavour and I enjoyed the thick consistency of the sauce paired with the ginger.

enoki 1

My favourite bite of the night was the Enoki Mushroom Bacon ($3.50). In fact, I loved it so much, we ordered a second one at the end of our meal. Two things stood out for me. Flavour and texture.

enoki 2

I enjoyed  crunching into this bundle of love. The mushrooms took on all the smoky flavours from charcoal grill. The bacon bound all the mushroom threads together and provided a salty omph.

scallop

The Butter Sauteed Scallop Soy Sauce ($7) was perfectly seared. The exterior of the scallop was hot and crispy. The center of the scallop was cooler in temperature and still silky smooth.

beef

The Kobe Beef Outside Skirt Steak ($8) was served warm. The meat was flavourful and fell apart like a filet of fish. The steak was chewy and juicy.

tendon

The Kobe Beef Tendon ($4) was my second favourite bite of the night. The tendon was soft and sticky. Like the enoki wrapped bacon, the tendon took on the flavour of the charcoal. I’d order this again.

foie gras

The flavour of the Foie Gras ($19) was subtle. For foie gras, I found it was light and clean. I enjoyed this dish but I prefer the heavier, richer, smokier flavours of the tendon and enoki mushroom.

shrimp

For the Crispy Fried Shrimp ($7), I didn’t add any other seasoning or sauce because I preferred the simple, natural taste of the shrimp. I could taste the sweet juice of the whole shrimp.

shrimp 1

This is one restaurant that deserves its hype. I’m already planning another trip to Vegas. I’m eager to return to Raku and based on lovegastrogirl baller recommendations, I want to check out Carbone and the Vegas Golden Knights.

ill

Thank you Beep Beep for treating me to a food and booze fueled trip! You started my birthday week with a bang. Beep Beep!

Raku Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Cheap Eats · Chinese · Restaurants · Vegas

Vegas 2020 – Shang Artisan Noodle House

Strictly Dumpling’s feature of Shang Artisan Noodle inspired me to get off the strip for hand-pulled noodles. I read on Yelp that the line-up begins even before the restaurant opens at 11:00 a.m. When Beep Beep and I arrived at 10:45 a.m., there was only one woman ahead of us. Budger was still in her car when we stepped out of our Uber. Though technically, we were first in line, she trotted up aggressively and cut in front of me. Whatever lady – we are all getting in at the same time.

For this post, let’s listen to “Shake it Up” by The Cars. In fact, for all my birthday posts, I’m only going to be spinning The Cars. Let’s go!

The stools at the counter looked uncomfortable, so we sat at a table facing the kitchen. I asked the noodle artist if I could take a picture of him in action. He didn’t look thrilled with my request. He nodded and I went to work. I was quick and only took three photos and three videos.

Rules

Beep Beep and I ordered Hot Tea ($1.95) and glasses of water. For food, I ordered everything Strictly Dumpling ate in his video – spicy wonton, beef noodle soup and dan dan noodles.

noodle making

I could taste the liberal amount of white pepper sprinkled on the top of the House-made Wonton with Spicy Soy Sauce ($5.99). I can always tell when green onions have been prepped too early – there is no oniony flavor left. Shang’s scallions were fragrant and noticeably pungent.

tea

I like the wonton’s long ribbon-like tail. Each bite felt dainty in my mouth. I added black vinegar and chili sauce for more zip. Most of the flavour of the wonton came from the sweet soy sauce. The sauce was more sweet than spicy.

won ton

The Shàng Beef Noodle Soup ($9.95) was our favourite dish. This beef noodle soup is the quintessential hangover cure. The broth was nourishing and full of beef goodness. I drank this elixir down to the last drop. Beep Beep felt like the soup was giving her a big warm hug.

silky noodle

Our bowl contained several generous chunks of braised beef brisket. The layer of fat on some of the pieces was a little much, but it was easy enough to remove. The beef itself was tender and richly flavoured.

oup

The knife shaven noodles were chewy and retained its firm texture up to the last slurp. The noodles took on the flavour of the broth too. We were so full from sharing this bowl, we barely made a dent in the dan dan noodles.

nood pull beef soup

Beep Beep found the Dan-Dan Noodle ($8.95) too spicy. I thought the sauce was too mild. I wish I didn’t pick the knife shaved noodles because the taste of minced pork, preserved vegetables and spicy soy sauce didn’t come through to the noodles. Perhaps the knife shaved noodles are too thick for the sauce?

beef

I think if I picked a thinner noodle, the sauce wouldn’t be overpowered by the ratio of noodle to sauce. When I tried the noodles cold a few hours later, the flavour was greatly improved. However, when I microwaved the noodles at midnight, the noodles turn to mush.

dan dan

When I return to Vegas, I would most definitely return for the beef noodle soup. The broth alone was worth getting off the strip. The beef bowl was cheap, filling, delicious and most importantly, the quality was there. I’m not a big fan of Chinese noodle soups, but Shàng beef noodle soup is exceptional.

dan dan nood pul

Service was speedy and attentive. An employee informed me that Shang Artisan is opening up another location! Yay! That’s good news for us noodle lovers. Hitting the Sauce gives Shang Artisan Noodle two fat thumbs up.

Shang Artisan Noodle Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Curry · Restaurants · Thai · Vegas

Vegas 2020 – Lotus of Siam

Mai told me about Popslots, a free online gambling game. I figured out pretty quick which casino and game produces the most points. So, for my 40th birthday, I took Beep Beep to Vegas to use up all my freebies. For this post, let’s listen to “Good Times Roll” by The Cars.

My points provided me with a complimentary room (+ $50 resort fee), one room at a 25% discount (+$99 + $50 resort fee) and a $50 credit for the Dueling Pianos in New York New York Hotel and Casino. I picked the Vdara Hotel and Spa but I could have stayed at the Aria, the Bellagio and a handful of other resorts. Vdara is a nonsmoking hotel with no casino. Note that you can only book these rooms Monday to Thursday. That’s fine with me because Vegas is too crazy on the weekends.

Screen Shot 2020-01-20 at 1.39.35 PM

Due to the extreme cold weather, our flights were delayed three times. I nursed a couple of Caesars at the Belgium Beer Cafe and when my plane was delayed a third time, I ordered a calamari and Greek salad combo from OPA!. The guy ahead of me ordered just the calamari and he received a heaping plate. I received mostly salad and a stingy portion of calamari. I was fuming until I realized OPA! was actually doing me a favour in the long run.

caesar

When I met Beep Beep at her terminal, she pulled out confetti from her purse and tossed it high above my head. She crowned my head with a tiara, decorated my neck with beads, and outfitted my dress with a birthday sash. Beep Beep wasn’t quite done. She whipped out a mini bottle of wine and two plastic cups onto a nearby table. She apologized for the poor quality of wine but said that’s all she could get on the plane.

happy

After we toasted to my old age, I ordered an Uber. Uber is cheaper than hailing a taxi. From the airport to the hotel, the trip cost me only $14 dollars. Our trips to Chinatown and Fremont Street averaged around ten dollars.

Screen Shot 2020-01-20 at 2.16.27 PM

Our suite looked like hotel’s website picture. The bathroom was large with a big soaker tub. The room itself was spotless and spacious. The only thing I’ll complain about is the couch was sagging in the middle. I’d stay here again.

drink

We stopped by Vice Versa Lounge for a Gin and Tonic ($16). The drink itself was boozy and full of botanicals like juniper berries, cucumber, and a freshly peeled lemon rind. The complimentary dill popcorn and Asian crackers were fresh and a nice snack to munch on while we sipped our drinks.

wine sweet

For dinner, I made reservations at Lotus of Siam. I wanted to try Lotus because of the reviews by Anthony Bourdain and Munchies Guide to Las Vegas. Make sure you call ahead for a table. At 5:30 p.m. on a Wednesday, all the tables were reserved.

thai

I ordered one Northern dish – Beef Khoi Soi – as well as the Garlic Prawns ($30). For the khoi soi, I ordered mild heat because Beep Beep doesn’t have a spice tolerance. Our server recommended a riesling ($13) to pair with our dishes, which I found too sweet.

shrimp

We received about eight prawns – each  butterflied and supersized. The batter crackled despite its sticky, sweet garlicky coating. The fried shells tasted like shrimp chips. The prawns and sauce went well with the steamed rice. I found this dish memorable and comparable to Chef Lam Pham’s Salted Duck Egg Yolk Tempura Prawns ($14 Canadian) at his restaurant Pure Kitchen Bar in Calgary. Except Pham uses a different sauce – a mouth-watering combination of tobiko, fresh scallions, kewpie mayo and nori.

beef

For the Khao Soi ($12.95), I chose beef. I read the Fried Duck ($30) was the most popular protein for khao soi, but I thought it would be too fattening. The beef was tender, the sauce sweet and creamy from coconut milk. The noodles were pleasantly al dente and took on the full flavour of the curry.

bill

I know it is tacky to look at the bill when someone else is paying for it, so I doubled down and snapped a picture. Beep Beep gets me – she knows I do it for the blog. I always keep the bill so I can itemize the food.

convo

On Instagram, comments were added about the employee health cost ($2.07)  that was tacked on the bill. I didn’t care because the service was good and I’m aware that servers in the United States make next to nothing, thus relying on tips. One follower noted that in Nevada, minimum wage is $2.13. That is criminal.

drinks

We left to catch the Comedy Cellar ($34) at the Rio Hotel. Beep Beep and I decided to throw away twenty dollars on the slot machines. She told me to put a dollar bill on the machine so a server would come by and get us a drink. I put two bills on my machine and a dollar on her machine. Our server came by and took our drink order. He asked us if we would also like bottled water. Yes, I said, we would. Thank you for reminding us to to hydrate. I put another dollar on Beep Beep’s machine. Our server come by several more times to ask us if we wanted drinks even though we moved around the casino.

panda

At one point, I was up $160 dollars! I should have stopped because before I knew it, I lost it all. I put another twenty bucks into the slots and I saw it disappear within minutes. Why do I do this? House always wins! I know this! Dejected, we got up and dropped by the washroom before our comedy show.

Screen Shot 2020-01-20 at 3.04.22 PM

In the washroom, I told Beep Beep not to wait for me because I wanted to freshen up (i.e. redo my makeup). The two millenials standing next to Beep Beep – FOMO and DBD – loudly exclaim that’s why they love women, because we were all so considerate. They turned to the cleaner to thank her for all her hard work and said without her, the washroom would be dirty. FOMO and DBD droned on and though they were trying to be appreciative, I thought it was condescending.

omedy cellar

The Comedy Cellar put on a hilarious show. FOMO and DBD from the washroom sat at the very front of the stage. They pissed off one comedian for talking, texting, and taking a picture, despite being warned prior to the show. After getting brutally called out for their millenial behaviour, the dynamic duo was escorted out of the club.

I’m glad I told Beep Beep to not get the front row seats. Everyone sitting the front got roasted by the comedians. We enjoyed ourselves so much, I regret not catching another show at Jimmy Kimmel’s Comedy Club. Thanks Beep Beep for drinks, dinner, the comedy show and all your effort into making my first night in Vegas a fun one.

Lotus of Siam Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato