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If you want a quick getaway this December, you can go to Las Vegas and stay at the Vdara* in a suite for less than $95 a night, or a 1 Bedroom Penthouse Suite for less than $277 a night. A $28 resort fee and 12 % tax are not included, but a $50 daily spa credit is included, so no matter how you do the math, this works out to a good deal for a stay at a AAA Four Diamond Resort.

Ahhh I hear you all checking airfares and your mileage as you try to figure out how to get to Las Vegas….how about trying the new Megabus? They have an inaugural fare of $1 each way, yes, you read that correctly ONE DOLLAR between December 12-19 on trips from Los Angeles to Las Vegas or San Francisco! These are the huge climate controlled, WiFi behemoths which have bathrooms, reclining seats, and outlets. The only “hidden fee” is a $.50 (yes, FIFTY CENT) per transaction booking fee.

As in all great deals, these won’t last long, so book them now if you want them!

*Please note that this resort is nonsmoking and there is no gaming, so if you are looking for a casino/hotel, I would suggest another hotel like the Bellagio next door or the Wynn further down the strip.

After my Cosmopolitan adventures in Sin City, I had dinner with some friends who live nearby at Sushi Tower in Summerlin. The big draw here is a specialty roll called the Tommy Lee which is a very suggestive roll built to resemble the infamous rock star’s private parts. Warning: The third picture in this post contains very graphic ADULT Food Porn!

I am always wary of sushi places in strip malls, but always interested when locals go to a place off the beaten path (pun intended) for a specific item.

Along with the usual assortment of sushi and sashimi, they offer teppanaki grills and unusual rolls, so there is something here for everyone. We started with seared albacore topping shaved radishes and sprouts in a “yum yum” sauce; the dish is named the “screaming orgasm”. It was a decent variation of a seared albacore and quite generously portioned.

This is the famous Tommy Lee roll ($17.50), made with tuna slices wrapped around chopped up fried softshell crab, drizzled with a mayonnaise sauce, and adorned with a seaweed garnish. (It was a good 10″ long and 3″ wide for those of you who are wondering about the actual measurements.) As much fun as it was to order and watch people eat, it was tastier than I had imagined. The rich filling made it too much to eat more than a few bites, but this is a nice conversation piece for a party and although some men might not want to take the first bite, everyone will enjoy at least saying they had Tommy Lee.

I wanted to try their regular sushi, so I ordered the Spanish mackerel and it was fabulous, fresh, well cut, and firm.

The next order of a spicy shrimp special with jalapenos & onions, arrived on a huge plate nearly as long as the table. The deep fried shrimp was topped with grilled onions and a few slices of jalapenos, then drizzled with a mayonnaise sauce. This was ok, but I didn’t care for the large onion pieces, nor the mayonnaise dressing on top of the already rich fried shrimp.

This lighter cucumber roll of tuna, yellowtail, crab, salmon & avocado was much more to my taste, with light flavors that were complimentary both to the eyes and palate.

We finished with a Monkey Roll, a combination of BANANAS with tuna. Yes, it sounds absolutely disgusting, and no it was not. The fried banana underneath the tuna gave each bite a crunchy slightly sweet contrast to the savory tuna topping that somehow worked. If you are brave enough to try it, you will probably like it.

So would I go back? Maybe. This is a fun place to go with a group of friends and the food is decent. Would it be my first choice, no, but you could do much worse in many places that are twice as expensive in Las Vegas.

Sushi Tower & Steakhouse on Urbanspoon

For my last meal in the Cosmopolitan, I had lunch at Estiatorio Milos. This was the one restaurant in the hotel run by a chef whose cooking I had never tasted before since both Jaleo’s Jose Andreas and Comme Ca’s David Myers have restaurants in Los Angeles. They offer a three course lunch for $20.11 and although several items can be substituted for an additional fee, the menu is quite extensive.
Although my experience with the service in both Jaleo and Comme Ca were exemplary, I could sense the staff here was not exactly a well oiled machine as soon as I walked in and saw no less than 10 people waiting to be taken to their seats, all of whom had made reservations (as I had also). With a hostess staff of three, it should not have taken more than a few minutes to seat everyone. When I was shown to my seat 15 minutes after my reservation time by one of the hostesses, I was thrilled with my seat by the window overlooking the strip. 
Unfortunately as soon as I sat down my pants were soaked. The misters had soaked the seat and I jumped up as soon as I sat down. The hostess apparently did not realize the extent of my statement “I am soaked” until she saw my pants. After apologizing profusely, she seated me inside the patio but with no view of the strip; I had to ask her for extra napkins for my seat so I could sit down without soaking my new seat. She sent the manager over who offered his apologies and he offered to dry clean my pants, but since I had already checked out, I told him that was not possible with my clothes already packed. He took 15% off my bill as an apology which would have been fine IF they had not changed the seat cushion and then seated ANOTHER party at the table with a view. To have at least offered me the table again first would have been a nice gesture.
Thankfully the food was a star here, and the waitstaff and bus staff were also both extremely competent and gracious, so I would definitely recommend this restaurant, but with a caveat to be aware that the hostess staff is not yet proficient at their jobs.
The thick grilled bread was a nice way to start the meal, served with a dipping bowl of wonderful extra virgin olive oil.

I chose to supplement the $20.11 menu with grilled octopus for $10 and was so glad I did when I took a bite of the succulent tender bits. This may be the best grilled octopus I have ever eaten, including all my meals in Greece. This appetizer portion was HUGE and would have easily been a meal in and of itself, but since this was my first meal, I enjoyed the portion and made room for my entree.

Although I won my gamble yesterday at Comme Ca by ordering my steak tartine rare, I lost when I ordered my lamb chop medium rare; it came well done and I had to send it back after I cut into it. They succeeded on their second try with a juicy, flavorful chop and gorgeous garlic mashed potatoes. The steamed asparagus were perfectly done and I could have eaten another plate if I had not eaten the octopus.

Since the fresh fruit was the lightest dessert option, that was my choice for my third course. All the fruit was fresh, ripe, juicy, and sweet; a perfect ending to what began as an uncomfortably wet adventure.

Estiatorio Milos (Cosmopolitan) on Urbanspoon

Having eaten at Comme Ca in West Hollywood, I wanted to try the Comme Ca in Las Vegas version in the Cosmopolitan since the view here literally gives you a bird’s eye view of the Strip. Especially tempting during lunch when they offer a Prix Fixe three course special for $28.

This was the view from my table on the terrace.

Even though it was about 100 degrees at noon, the patio was comfortable with fans that circulated the air in the completely shaded seating area. Like everything else in the hotel, even the ceilings are works of art.

With a nice glass of rose for $8.75 and a view of the Eiffel Tower, I began my lunch with freshly baked bread wrapped in a “French newspaper”.

Only in Las Vegas could you get news for two years in the future…

I started my meal with a Provence Salad, which would have been a meal in itself, but since this was my first meal of the day, I easily finished the crisp greens with hearts of palm, tomatoes, marinated carrots, radishes, and spring greens. The simple vinaigrette salad added a nice zing. I found a few sprigs of cilantro in the greens and wondered if that was intentional or a mistake, but in either case I did not like the additional ingredient.

I chose the steak tartine for my main course and asked for it rare; in Las Vegas asking for anything done rare is a gamble, but I won this time with a truly rare steak, excellent fries, and an arugula and blue cheese salad. The garlic aioli dip for the fries was excellent, but I didn’t need it, nor the the wonderfully thick cut grilled bread underneath the steak. I was already full before dessert arrived.

Once I saw the beautiful presentation of profiteroles with spun sugar on top I had to at least taste each one; the fillings of vanilla, pistachio, and coconut were all equally rich and creamy, and I was sad that I had no room for more than one bite of each flavor.

My server Sabrina was as stunning as the view, with a sixth sense of knowing when to come by with my next course and a generous smile. The trip here from Los Angeles is only one hour, so come here eat French food with a view of the Eiffel Tower, any time you have an hour or two to spare.

Comme Ça (Cosmopolitan) on Urbanspoon

Since I had the bell desk bring up my bag, I decided to order some room service since I still had five hours before my dinner reservation at Jaleo. The shrimp and crab leg appetizer looked too good to pass up, and it seemed filling enough to get me to dinner time.

The presentation was beautiful and like everything else in the hotel, the service was impeccable.

The Shrimp and crab leg were HUGE and a fair value for the price of $17 (but note that by the time you add the taxes, room service & tip it was $31). The tiny Tabasco bottles were so cute I had to open one and empty it into the cocktail sauce which I also doctored with a few squeezes of lemon juice.

I loved Bazaar in Los Angeles, so my first official meal in the Cosmopolitan had to be at Jaleo, Jose Andreas’ Las Vegas tapas restaurant. The vibrant colors and open areas make this a perfect party setting.

The “outdoor” seating has a game table with “saddle” seats, and the bar has a huge mural.

I sat underneath the giant paper mache bull against the far wall.

The table next to me ordered the croquetas de pollo (chicken) for $6.50, which were delivered in a shoe!

My croquetas of Jamon Serrano for $8, served in mini metal shopping cart, were five hearty bites of ham and cheese, made with one of the best hams in the world.

I wanted some vegetable, so I ordered the Escalivada Catalana, made with roasted red peppers, eggplant and sweet onions with Sherry dressing for $7. It was such an easy way to eat my vegetables that I could have eaten four more plates to fulfill my daily requirement.

Jose Andreas’ sense of humor is apparent in the menu, as the first list of tapas are preceded with “You’re here, so start eating” and a selection of toasted slices of rustic bread rubbed with fresh tomatoes, with assorted topping from Serrano ham to anchovies. I chose the Spanish anchovies for $8.50, which were more perfect on the tomato bread than I could have imagined.

I wasn’t sure I still had any room for one more small plate, so I asked my fantastic server Danielle if the gazpacho was very filling. She said it was only 5 ounces and she thought I could handle it, so who was I to argue?

I was thrilled with the gazpacho which is the classic chilled Spanish soup made with tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, bread and sharpened with Sherry vinegar for $7. It arrived like this:

The server then poured the soup into the bowl, and it looked like this:

The gazpacho was by far the best I have ever eaten, including the ones I ate in Madrid!
 the flavors were fresh, vibrant, and clean.

Too bad it all had to come to an end as my stomach said “Basta”! Next trip I will make sure to come back here with more people so we can order the paella which serves 2-4; who wants to join me?

Jaleo by José Andres (Cosmopolitan) on Urbanspoon

There are THREE pools at the Comopolitan, the biggest and most popular one is the Boulevard Pool which literally faces Las Vegas Boulevard. This pool features house music with a moderate amount of families, so you can choose if this “middle of the road pool” is your style. There are plenty of chairs both in and out of the pool; one very nice feature at this pool and the Bamboo Pool is there are chairs IN THE POOL that allow you to lie or sit in 10″ of water along the perimeter of the pool, and of course you also have the option of renting a cabana. There is also a shaded area with two pool tables, a lounge area, and a cafe adjacent to this pool. If you can stand the 100+ degree heat of the summer, you can also play tennis on the tennis court.

The Bamboo Pool was my favorite place to hang outside. It was quiet, with Brazilian, French & instrumental music, had only one child in the pool, and also offered two refreshing “showers” where you could press a button for a “spritz” inside the pool. There was a small cafe/bar area at this pool, and the outdoor massage areas are adjacent to this pool.

The first day I was outside, the winds were so strong I had trouble holding my magazine open, even though there are high clear glass wind breaker walls. The gusts were so strong they blew my coverup away! I told security and went to my room wrapped in a towel. As I was calling the “Beck & Call” button on my room phone to ask if anyone had found it, the woman said, security had just found my coverup and they were on their way to deliver it to my room! I wish my life had a “Beck & Call” button!

I went upstairs to the Day Club/Nightclub Marquee Pool but literally turned around and came back to the Bamboo Pool as my tolerance for loud thumping techo beats was far below my desire to lounge in the very cool club area.

The lobby columns are all four sided screens which feature changing art, one of the most beautiful was this one of flowers and sea creatures. I saw virtual “bookcases”, black & white scrolls, shadowy figures moving behind screens, and colorful mosaics at different times and on different days.

The showcase of the hotel is the Chandelier Bar. In the center of the hotel, it is three floors high, and you can have a drink INSIDE any of the three levels! There is either a stair or glass elevator to the second level of the chandelier which is floor level 1.5, so do NOT take the escalators or you will go right past it.

I loved the lounge areas inside the second and third floors.

This is one part of the second level.

Another thing I loved about the hotel was the unusual and unique touches everywhere, from a common area outside the restaurants that features a pool table, to automatic dispensers.

There were two small “art” dispensers, but on the third Chandelier level there was also this U-Tique.

Some of the items for sale included, flats, an eye mask, eye lashes, and various adult game kits. You definitely can’t say this hotel is not fun!

There are several bars on the main casino floor, one of which is Bond. You can barely see them in this photo, but there are live dancers in the glass “cages” that face the Boulevard. Although I’m sure they will serve you your martini however you would like it, the name of this bar may be based more on the chains that hang in the sitting area…..

Being a casino, of course they have all the table games and slot machines, but being the Cosmopolitan, their slot machines were a bit different than ones in other casinos. You could literally win “Big” on this machine!

There is artwork from fabulous artists all over the hotel; some of which is hidden in the hallways between conference areas or on different levels as you walk from the elevator to the shops or restaurants. One hallway featured chocolate dipped eye glasses and stilettos.

Along the same hallway were two shoe sculptures that nearly touched the ceiling.

I found some nice puppies to hang out with, but they were too big for me to take home!

My latest Las Vegas food finds in the next four posts!

Opening a new hotel in Las Vegas in the middle of a financially uncertain climate is no easy task. Succeeding may seem like a miracle, but miracles happen everyday, especially when you do the hard work it takes to persevere. After a troubled start, with a budget that went $2 billion dollars over the plan, was 2 years late, and was foreclosed, the Cosmopolitan has succeeded in not only drawing the young and hip, but in generating the kind of business and buzz that any hotel would be envious of in any economy. This is now a Marriott property and it looks and feels as if the problem child has blossomed into a potential star.

They are in the middle of the Las Vegas Strip, with half the hotel rooms overlooking the Bellagio Fountains and the other half overlooking the new Aria and Crystals Mall.

Originally this project was to be part condominium and part hotel, but now it is a hotel with suites that feature sub-zero refrigerators and jacuzzi tubs, or hotel rooms with views and the option of outdoor terraces. Even the least expensive City Room is spacious and very comfortable, and if you sign up as a Marriott Rewards member, you can get points for your stay in addition to getting deals on your accommodations.

I got a room with two Queen beds, but they have all sizes up to a multi-level suite that features a terrace with an outdoor jacuzzi!

The bathroom has all the standard five star amenities and has the toilet on one side and the huge rainfall shower on the other. The towels and robes are fabulously plush and cozy.

For those who are here to work or are addicted to their WiFi or computers, this hotel offers FREE WiFi or ethernet, NO resort fees, and a proper workstation. The technology is impressive, from controls which allow you to customize your light settings or your room temperature from your television, to security features that prevent unauthorized access to guest rooms by requiring a room card for any levels above the common ones in the hotel.

The thoughtful and unusual minibar gives you an immediate sense of the style of this Signature property.

There is an in room pod coffee maker (you pay for the coffee).

An emergency “pleasure kit” for $10 which serves up protection from having to run out to a pharmacy in the middle of the night.

A pair of Bushnell binoculars for $45 which will allow you to zoom in on the pool ares or the Strip, or whatever else you want to get a closeup view of without having to venture out of your room.

This was a very cool feature; between the beds and the shower there is a window with a blind, which is adjustable.

Depending on whether you are here on a romantic trip or not, you can raise, lower, or louver the screen that separates the bed and shower area. A very voyeuristic touch!

I got a view of the Aria from my window and think next time I will upgrade to the Bellagio fountain side.

The light switch at the entry has only two buttons, “Hello” and “Goodbye”; you set which lights and brightness you want to greet you from your television.

Tomorrow’s post will have more on the hotel and grounds, and I ate at three of the restaurants in the hotel, so next week is Vegas week!

The same Las Vegas local, Eric, who introduced me to Rumor, also told me that one of his favorite restaurants was Addiction in the hotel. One reason I stayed at Rumor was to have the simple pleasure of having a good restaurant on the property, after all who wants to drive when on vacation?

Vic Vegas (yes, his real name) is the talented chef behind the menu that spans breakfast, lunch, and dinner for this boutique hotel. Vic is known to locals and tourists alike from his Food Network appearances, but those who are lucky enough to taste his meals will remember him with their taste buds.

He does Country Fried Tenderloin Breakfast Sliders ($9), which are 2 Sliders With Fried Egg, Melted American Cheese and Potato Pancake on a Mini Toasted Roll with Country Gravy. Anyone who wants a hearty comforting breakfast with a nod towards Southern sensibilities MUST order this for breakfast; I think the guy who ordered this wanted to drink the gravy! The chef gave me a preview of his new menu which will feature several sliders as bar bites and lunch choices, so if you are a slider fan, this is the place to feed your addiction.

I ordered the “Do the Right Thing” egg white scramble ($9) with Spinach, Roasted Red Peppers, Sun-Dried Tomatoes, Green Onion, and Havarti Cheese. It was amazing to taste an egg white scramble that I actually wanted to finish because it had so much flavor. I even loved the potatoes with a perfectly crusted exterior and tender center.

The Meaty Scramble ($10) of Sausage, Bacon, Diced Pork Loin Chop, Cheddar Cheese, Green Onion and Country Gravy is for anyone who loves meat and potatoes. This was so good by itself that the guy who ordered this didn’t even touch the country gravy.

For those who want something lighter for breakfast, there are things like steel cut oatmeal (bruleed with vanilla cream) or seasonal berries with rum yogurt (there is decadence everywhere in Las Vegas, so why not rum in your breakfast yogurt?). Choose your sin. Speaking of sins, this is the bar with Brian, the best bartender in this boutique hotel. I say he is the best because not only did he remember me from my first visit three months ago, but he remembered my drink!

It was Brian who introduced me to Vic Vegas, and giving a foodie a meeting with the chef who made this inspired five spiced tuna with crunchy sirancha is like giving a kid a bike for Christmas. Vic even told me the secret method he used to make the crunchy sirancha and all I will say is that if I told you he might kill me 🙂

My favorite appetizer was the Coconut Shrimp, made with Jumbo Coconut and Cashew Encrusted Prawns Served with Green Onion Potato Puree and a Sweet Thai Chili Sauce. One bite and I had to close my eyes in ecstasy; the jumbo shrimp were delicately cooked and the sauces were a revelation.

I loved the coconut shrimp so much that I ordered them a second time, but got a different (not as good) version with smaller shrimp and a sweeter sauce on a night when Vic was not in the kitchen. I know that having the chef in house everyday is impossible, but the dishes should not be so different (or subpar) that a diner who loves Vic Vegas’ cooking would not want to return without confirming his presence in the kitchen.

Because there were so few guests in the hotel, Vic served up some of his signature dishes to the three guys who had been at the hotel all week, like this Karmal Pork ($32) with a Center Cut Kurobuta Japanese Pork Chop, Caramel Whisky Butter Glaze, Roasted Shallots and Garlic Potato Puree. The potato puree was carb heaven and he added two sticks of his Four Cheese Mac ($6) made with Smoked Gouda, Cheddar, American and Parmesan and deep fried into sticks as a very decadent side.

The Filet_e-Oh ($36) Petite Fillet Mignon Served on a House Garlic Potato Topped with Crispy Potatoes and Port Syrup Drizzle, also served with the decadent Four Cheese Mac. The meat was cooked exactly as ordered and nothing was left on this plate after everyone tried a bite.

Needless to say, no one had room for dessert, and everyone was glad to be staying in the hotel so we could walk to our rooms and start dreaming of our next addictive meal with Chef Vic.

Some addictions are good.

Many things that are cool and fun are secrets to tourists and well guarded by those in the know. When a Las Vegas local introduced me to Rumor at the end of July, I felt as if I was meeting a gorgeous man; I was speechless when I saw this beautiful purple, chrome, and cream property.

This is a small (for Las Vegas) boutique hotel with 150 suites across the street from the Hard Rock Hotel which offers a chic, personalized experience for those who want their vacations void of screaming kids and clanging slot machines. For those with small dogs, they even allow pets to stay with you on the property, with some restrictions and fees.

Since this property is mainly being used right now for special events until they are completely up and running, they ran an internet special to fill the hotel. I signed up as a fan on their facebook page to keep informed about special offers and I got two nights for the price of one during an internet promotion. I paid $120 for two nights in a jacuzzi tub suite, and yes that price was for BOTH nights.

Both the valet parking and front desk check-in was easy and fast because during my stay I was one of only 15 occupied suites. I loved the purple M&M’s on the registration counter (they were strange looking but tasted great), making every detail purple was a nice touch. This is definitely the place for people who love purple and not for anyone who hates that color. They have an unusual policy at check in; guests must sign an agreement not to bring in outside food or drinks and when I said I had bottled water with me, they said, that was fine as long as it wasn’t a case of drinks. It made me wonder if this policy was to prevent Spring breakers from making the suites into quasi dorm rooms.

Since there are only two stories I was given a choice of lower or upper, I chose lower, which included a small patio sitting area as opposed to a balcony for upper units. The soundproofing is not the best, so I heard techno music most of the night (from the pool area) and my neighbor coming and going; if you are a light sleeper, you should bring ear plugs.

Rooms with the jacuzzi bathtubs all have King sized beds.

Rooms with two double beds have a larger living room area.

It is nice to having a sitting area in a hotel room (making all the rooms here suites).

The larger rooms also have a small table and two chairs in addition to the couch.

The jacuzzi tub suite includes a rubber duck! When I tried the jets, they didn’t work and when I told them during room check, they told me the parts had not arrived yet. That should have been communicated to me when I booked or at the very least when I checked in, but since the hotel is still new, hopefully the parts will be installed by the time you book your stay.

All rooms also have a large shower and a VERY high sink. Whoever designed this bathroom must have been very tall; I literally had to tip toe to wash my face since the basin was not set on a lower counter to accommodate the bowl.

The outdoor areas have beautiful spaces around the pool like these showers.

The daybeds which surround the pools are FREE, and they also have private cabanas. The lounge chairs all have convenient side tables for drinks and or food (the bartender will serve you lunch and drinks out by the pool).

There is a nice outdoor seating area with tables around the pool, but there is also this lounge which looks like the perfect place to share with someone special.

The small size and the easy going friendly attitude of everyone from the valet to the security guard makes this a very personal experience, a far cry from the strip hotels with thousands of rooms and hundreds of personnel.

When I checked out my bill was nearly double what my confirmation email stated, and after some calculating and sleuthing, the front desk person figured out that my internet promotion had not been applied and that the resort fee had risen since my reservation. All was rectified with a smile and an apology in about 5 minutes, and that is one of the reasons I will definitely be back. A good hotel is not one which does not make a mistake, a good hotel is one where mistakes are rectified quickly and with a pleasant attitude.

Good rumors are the best kind and this is a good Rumor.

Every time I go to Las Vegas, I always eat at the Capital Grille, and even though there is now one open in Los Angeles, it had become a tradition for me to stop at this one for at least one meal. If nothing else it is a place where I am assured of great service, a view of the Strip, and excellent food. So I had a Dry Aged Sirloin Salad with Roquefort Vinaigrette, made with dry aged sirloin, marinated with olive oil, fresh thyme, shallot and parsley and garnished with a roasted tomato, bell pepper and cippolini onion relish $23.

I ordered it rare and it came exactly as I wanted it, cold and red in the center with a perfect sear on the outside. Another reason I love this restaurant is that they understand what rare means and cook it that way when I order it. For anyone who loves Roquefort, the dressing on their salad is a perfect blend of musky blue cheese with a tangy vinaigrette. This is smart way to have your salad and meat in one dish of complimentary flavors. The only disappointment I had was that they have changed their wine menu, which now carries more South American and Australian wines, but no more French wines. Sadly the Belle Gosse Pinot I ordered from Sonoma ($15) was no where near as complex in subtle flavors as the Margaux I drank last time I was here.

After finishing the entire entree salad, I was too full for dessert, but I had room for a double decaf espresso. It was a perfect finish to a fantastic trip.
The Capital Grille on Urbanspoon




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