Sticking to the on site restaurants within your hotel does not always make for a wise dining itinerary. Chances are the price point is set for unwitting tourists and the food may not represent the region’s best offerings. I recently joined a blogger group on a sponsored visit to Vegas’ Monte Carlo Hotel resolved to challenge this conventional bit of wisdom. After all, the hotel wasn’t overselling their restaurants as “best on the strip” but simply presented the venues and let you decide. I was impressed by the sheer range of options and tasty surprises…all the way from McDonald’s Happy Meals to top-chef prepared French dishes at Andre’s featuring North America’s largest cognac selection. Here are my favorites:
First and foremost, Diablo’s is party central right on the strip so be prepared for a boisterous ambiance with drink specials changing by the hour. A play list peppered with rock and hip hop pumps through the sound system and it’s only a matter of time before folks at a nearby table burst into an all out sing along. When I was here, it was Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody, falsetto verses included!
It’s no wonder because besides being in Vegas, there’s plenty to celebrate here with over 32 different varieties of tequila, a diverse array of signature drinks, and a full menu of some super tasty entrees. I had the wood grilled half chicken, double garlic sour cream smashed potatoes, asparagus, and ancho chili sauce paired with their Agave Margarita. Chili flecks rim the glass instead of salt giving it just the right kick without worrying about spiking your blood pressure. You simply can’t pass up their warm fresh baked nachos lightly dusted with lime essence. Others at my table raved about the ultra crisp Box of Angry Calamari served with dipping sauces.
As we sat waiting to place our order, all of us couldn’t get over how hushed and relaxing the atmosphere was even though BRAND openly overlooks the flashy gaming floor just steps away. Must be the result of highly planned acoustics. A whimsical twist to the décor wasn’t readily apparent until I looked up…cow patterns subtly dot the ceiling.
Now to the food…we started out with thinly sliced raw pieces of marinated sirloin served alongside a super hot rock. Place a strip on top for just 3 seconds on each side and you get perfectly done morsels…a taste of what was next up…a wood grilled 10 oz NY sirloin all seasoned and seared with just the right amount of fat! And what could be better than pairing this with a glass of their house Merlot. We passed around sides like crisp lightly sautéed green beans, wood grilled asparagus in truffle fondue sauce, and wild mushrooms simmered in white wine, shallots, and fresh herbs. One item on the menu caught our eye…the 120 oz. Ultimate Steak for $250…enough for 6 people but if you can eat it all by yourself in one sitting is absolutely free! Many of us were curious, “Did anybody actually do it?” “Two people,” replied the waiter. “A large college football player and a man as thin as a rail, methodically chewing each piece thoroughly until it was done.” It was hard to imagine since none of us even had room for dessert.
I didn’t eat here but walked past and spur of the moment took a personally escorted tour by General Manager David Borowik. From the entrance up to the cozy dimly lit cigar lounge, this place oozed refined taste and expense account heaven! Once inside, you’re guaranteed to forget that you’re anywhere near a casino never mind Vegas…more like a serene chateau in the hills of France. Upstairs guests can relax in three different private dining rooms. In the main dining room, romantic candlelit tables dressed in white
linen, fine sterling silver, Raynaud Limoges china by Alberto Pinto, and delicate stemware complete the setting.
Here are some standouts that will ensure my return here once I either hit it big or my rich uncle kicks the bucket. Head Chef Andre Rochat personally attends to each dish that leaves the kitchen, their wine cellar boasts more than 1,000 vintages along with an attentive sommelier to assist with the best pairing, their savory chocolate and Grand Marnier soufflé, and the largest cognac collection on the continent with some servings reaching $300 apiece. More like a museum display showcasing cognacs produced throughout the last century, one bottle sticks in my mind, a 1917 vintage distilled in France entirely by women during World War I when all the men were called to duty. The flavor was described as more delicate and flavorful than other years due to the extra attention it received. Now I want a sip of that before it’s lost to antiquity!
photos courtesy of Monte Carlo Hotel and Steve Mirsky