August 28, 2007

There's no place like home

We took a week long trip to visit friends and family in Chicago. We attended a wedding, baptism and White Sox game. We ate all our old favorites: White Castles, Nicky's Gyros and Hot Dogs, Calzone's, Ricobene's, Beggars and Giordano's Pizza, Golden Palace Chinese, Italian beef sandwich, nachos, brats, and polish sausage. Even all the good eats couldn't keep us from missing Las Vegas. We had a good time, but it was apparent that Chicago is no longer home, Vegas is.

Review: Grotto

Two weeks ago we thought we’d try Binion’s Steakhouse for dinner, we had reservations for 8pm.

The restaurant was packed to the gills. There was a line four parties deep to check in with the maître d, but no one was arming the desk. There was party that was waiting to be seated that were completely blitzed, they were falling all over other patrons and were incredibly obnoxious. When they were seated the rest of the diners waiting let out a sigh of relief in unison. Then all kinds of comments were muttered... I hope we won't be seated near them...

Finally, the maître d returned and checked in a few people. Things were less chaotic once the three ring circus was seated. 15 minutes had passed by the time we gave him our name and then we were informed there'd be a wait, and we'd be called when a table was ready. Okay? I thought the point of a reservation was to avoid this... we waited a minute and then decided if the experience had been this much of a fiasco already, we couldn't imagine how the actual meal would go. We told the maître d to remove us from the list. We left and headed over Golden Nugget to try our luck at Vic & Anthony's.

Vic & Anthony’s was far more professional and organized. Unfortunately, it would be a 30 minute wait for a table. We were starved and decided we’d try Golden Nugget’s Italian Restaurant, Grotto, instead.

They were able to sit us right away at a table with a view of the pool. Service was slow to start and unfortunately continued throughout the entire meal. Bread was served with olive oil and spices, it was delicious. Frank enjoyed an Italian house salad for an appetizer, while I snacked on the fresh bread. He ordered the veal parmesan which happened to be the largest portion of veal he’s been served. I chose the bucatini amatriciana. I was pleasantly surprised, it was likely the best pasta I’ve had in restaurant. We shared tiramisu for dessert, there was plenty to share and it was a delightful end to a good meal. Had service been better, it certainly would’ve been a great experience. Total for dinner was $64 before tip.

August 8, 2007

Sweet Escape at the Signature

Our stay at the Signature had been a long time coming, but in the end it was well worth the wait. After a few failed attempts, we made last minute reservation under the Summer Splash promo and booked a junior suite for $169.

Sunday afternoon, we decided we’d try to check in early, we arrived at the entrance on Harmon Ave., where we were politely greeted by security at the gate. He verified our information, returned with a parking pass and directed us to Tower 2. Valet was efficient, as was the bellman who promptly assisted us with our bags. The level of service we received immediately impressed us and we hadn’t even formally registered as guests. Check-in was a breeze, our request for a junior suite with a balcony on a high floor overlooking the strip was honored, we were given keys to room 35-705.

When we arrived at our room, housekeeping was still tidying up. So, we called to the desk to see if we could get another room assigned. A quick second later, we were headed up two floors to 37-705. We met the bellman in the elevator and he followed right behind us. He was courteous, as well. We were pleased by the accommodations and view.

As you enter, the bathroom was to the left

Then there’s a dry bar in the entry and large closet to the right. Across from the closet is a heavenly bed covered in plush linens, the alarm clock beside the bed has an iPod docking station.

Opposite is the kitchen/entertainment area. TV swivels and it’s equipped with a DVD player. Kitchenette has everything you’d need except a dishwasher and oven.

Next is the living (with sleeper sofa) and dining areas, followed by the sliding glass door that leads to the balcony.

That offers these views

After we got situated we set off to find food since we were starved. Lunch offerings at MGM didn’t appeal to us so we headed to Mandalay Bay via Trop to Excalibur to catch the tram. We thought we'd give Burger Bar another try and see about making reservations at Stripsteak for dinner. After an easy jaunt we were told it would be a forty minute wait when we arrived at Burger Bar. No thanks. We opted to dine at Giorgio, next door, instead.

I had the Italian sandwich, Frank chose chicken parmigiana sandwich and we each had a side Caesar salad instead of fries. Service was a bit bizarre as our food arrived before our drinks, but the meal itself was fine. Bill before tip was $36.

Afterwards, we decided to play some ponies at the race book. We won two exacta bets, but neither paid enough to offset other bets made. Next, we toured the casino floor and made our way to restaurant row. No one was manning the host podium at Stripsteak, so Frank used the phone there to make a reservation. The operator transferred him to the desk where we were standing, so Frank answered his own call. We got a good laugh, but no ressie. We figured we'd call later if we decided we wanted to return for dinner.

We were ready to relax so we made our way back to the Signature. Along the way we glanced over Seablue’s menu and decided on dinner there, so we made a reservation for 8:30 on the spot. We returned to the room and drew a bath. After a delightful soak, we lounged around in bed and flipped through the channels on TV.

Frank wanted to play poker so he called the room and added his name to the list. We also called housekeeping to request turndown service. About twenty minutes later, we headed down to MGM’s casino. I wandered the casino floor playing misc. slots and had no luck. Meanwhile Frank couldn’t catch any good cards playing poker. So, he moved on to blackjack. I met up with him there, since I considered playing, as well. But the Asian dealer of death cleaned him out in no time, so I didn’t want to lend myself to the same beating.

We sauntered through the casino eventually making our way to Seablue. The restaurant was far less crowded than we expected, midway thru our meal we had our entire section to ourselves, which we appreciated. After reviewing the menu we settled on chilled prawns to start, and Frank also selected a Caesar salad. The prawns were so fresh and delicious we ordered more. Frank enjoyed his salad, as well. Flatbread with a trio of tapenades was also served. We were careful not to spoil our appetite before our entrees arrived. I selected the kurabota pork chop and Frank went with the bone-in NY strip steak. Both were prepared to perfection and served alongside a medley of veggies. The meal was outstanding, Frank insisted that he would order more prawns, if nothing on the dessert menu grabbed him. However, tiramisu was an option too hard to resist. It, too, was excellent. Our total before tip was $170. Superb food and service escalates Seablue to one of our top three restaurant experiences in Las Vegas.

After dinner we stopped at the arcade. We played a game of air hockey. Frank won as usual. Then we moved on to racing video games which I'm much better at. Frank beat me in the first race, but I took him in the rematch. Always fun to bring out the inner-child every now and then.

We were entitled to two drinks at the Signature lobby, so we planned to stop on our way back to the room. However, we got wrapped up in our conversation and forgot about the detour. Upon our arrival to the room, we saw that we had not received turn down service as requested. Frank placed a call to housekeeping, they offered their apologies and said they’d be right up. We took the opportunity to have drinks at the lounge. Frank ordered a double shot of Patron Silver, wanting to use up our full credit I ordered the same. Little did we know, our bar tab came to $48. Craziness. There was a blitzed group at the bar that were quite obnoxious so we hurriedly finished our drinks and returned to the room. Housekeeping was still there, so we waited on the balcony while they finished up.

After they left we got comfortable and lounged on the balcony enjoying the beautiful evening.

Later, we retired to bed and slept like babies. I awoke refreshed and decided to soak in the tub one last time. After showering, I brewed a pot of coffee for Frank and prepared a cup of hot tea for myself. Frank showered, while I read a magazine on the balcony. He ordered breakfast from the in-suite dining menu. Banana nut French toast for me and an swiss, cheddar, provolone omelet for him. About thirty minutes later, the door bell rang, our breakfast had arrived it looked and smelled fabulous. Too bad my picture doesn’t do it justice. We dug in, the meal was well-prepared and everything was excellent. Breakfast was just shy of $40 before tip, worth every penny, too.

Sadly our time at the Signature was winding down. It was time to pack and check-out. Frank called the belldesk and had valet bring the car around. Wonderful not having to wait. We settled up our bill at the front desk and we were on our way. Back to the real world…

The only problems we encountered were with housekeeping, every other aspect of our stay exceeded our expectations. We will gladly return to the Signature in the future

Review: Canter's Deli

Last week, I met Frank for lunch at Canter's Deli inside Treasure Island. Frank ordered for me, so our sandwiches we served by the time I arrived. I had turkey & swiss on wheat. Frank had corned beef Rueben. The meats were very good, juicy and tender. The corned beef was really lean, too. Frank still likes the Rueben better at Carnegie Deli, but Canter's is a good alternative.

Megabeat hit!

Yesterday morning at 9:49am the Megabeat Jackpot hit at Bally's for a record high payout of $186,336. The winning hand received $37,267 and the losing hand received $55,900. Active players in participating Poker Rooms were awarded $4,658. Nice, huh?

August 7, 2007

A taste of the highrise lifestyle

Shortly after three o'clock, on July 27, we arrived at Platinum's valet. The bellman unloaded the car while we checked in. Got everything squared away and we were told that the property is smoke-free, if we were to smoke in the room we'd be charged a $250 cleaning fee. We were issued keys to suite 1514, we met up with the bellman and made our way to our room.

We were in love at first sight. In short, the Platinum surpassed our expectations at every level from accomodations to staff. After we tipped the bellman we ran around the room checking out all the bells and whistles. We've stayed in a ton of hotels over the years and our Platinum experience takes top rank. I even enjoyed it more than the Salon Suite at Wynn and the Cariocas Suite at the Rio.

Kitchen with full-size appliances

Living area w/sleeper sofa





We had dinner reservations at Lawry's for 5:30, but we were starved so we head over a bit early. Luckily they were able to sit us right away. Dinner was great as always. I really wanted a hot fudge sundae, but decided against it because I failed to save room. Frank ordered it anyway, we shared about half of it. We were too stuffed to finish, but it was mighty tasty. CC Brown's Hot Fudge is possibly the best I've ever tasted.

During dinner, Frank's friends from Phoenix, Matt and Shane, called saying that they were at the Platinum. There was some sort of miscommunication, Frank didn't think they were coming until Saturday. We reserved Friday for us, but I didn't mind and Frank didn't want to put them out. So, we told them we'd meet them when we finished dinner. But we first made a stop at Gold Coast to stock up on beer and Patron. When we got back to the hotel they were there waiting for us. This was the first time they've met face to face. They've been playing Counterstrike together for a couple years now and Shane has known Frank even longer, because they used to play another game together 6 or 7 years ago. Anyhow, they brought along all their pc gear and got set up in the room. While I enjoyed the views from the balcony. A storm rolled and I was psyched. Not often do I catch lightning show, especially with an unobstructed view.

Eventually the guys came out and joined me on the balcony. We shot the shit, did a couple shots, and then decided we wanted to pack up some beers and head to the pool to take advantage of the strip views. No dice, pool was closed. They closed it early because of the high winds and lightning. Oh well, back to the room. More drinking and bullshitting transpired. Another round of shots caused Matt to derail; he ended up falling asleep while hugging the toilet. Frank and Shane moved him to the sofa and I gave him a water and the garbage.

Shortly after, I decided to switch to water to keep from derailment myself. I chilled for a bit, then decided I would take a bath. Shane and Frank went to Ellis Island to grab a bite and do some gambling. After a heavenly soak, I hopped into bed.

I wanted to get up to catch the sunrise, but I slept through it. Had a lazy morning watching TV, enjoyed the view from the bedroom since it was quite toasty on the patio. Later, we headed to the condo and grabbed some Jersey Mike's for lunch. Matt and Shane met up with us at our place. Frank went back to the Platinum with the them for their guys night.

While I waited for Amy and Nicky to arrive. We hit Old Navy, Babies R Us, DSW, and Kohl's. And then had dinner at Carrabba's. Never tried it before, but we thought it was good. I had Chicken stuffed with fontina and prosciutto in a lemon butter sauce and Amy had chicken marinated in olive oil and herbs. We went back to my place, talked for a couple hours and then Nicky was beat so they headed home. It was nice to have a girls night.

Meanwhile, the guys went to American Shooters gun range. Afterwards, another guy from the server came into town from CA. They met for ribs at Ellis Island for dinner, gambled a bit, played Counterstrike and hit the strip club. They ordered room service $70 for 4 hamburgers, ouch. Later, went to bed when the sun came up.

I returned to the Platinum around 9am. Made coffee for the guys and lounged in bed with Frank. Then read the paper and enjoyed the view while they packed their stuff up. We arranged for late check out so we could leave leisurely. They headed off to lunch and then back to the gun range and onto Sahara to play poker. Meanwhile, I headed home.

There is no doubt I'd like to stay at the Platinum again. Rates were $189/night for Friday and Saturday. Can't beat that, it's really the way to go on the weekend. A regular room on the strip on the weekend can easily run that much or more.

Walking away winners at TI

Two weeks ago, Frank decided to play in the poker tourney at Treasure Island. He made it to the final table so I met him over there when I got off work. When I arrived the game ended and he was collecting his winnings for placing 4th.

He decided to stop and check our comp balance at the player's club. To our surprise we had enough to earn two comps at the buffet ($43 value). Score, that makes for an easy decision on dinner. We walked around the casino to build up our hunger. I checked out menus at all the restaurants. I definitely want to check out Canter's Deli and Isla in the near future. We killed some time in the race book betting on horses. Frank kept picking the winner to place. He was so close on every race. Lost $20, there. Then, we headed to the buffet. Great as always, doesn't have a huge selection, but we enjoy the cheese, italian sandwiches, made to order salads and pastas. Plus, the desserts are always a highlight.