Viva Las Vegas: 36 Hours in Sin City

I did something I never thought I would do — willingly go to Las Vegas. For pleasure. In June.  The reason I say willingly is that I’m not at all into gambling, and it is perilously hot in Vegas in June (Triple digits hot!). My best friend Michele and I made the trek to the desert to witness what was rumored to be the final Guns ‘N Roses show, either ever or for quite some time. The concert was so disappointing that the former might be for the best; Axl should hang up his Hot Topic jacket and oversized caballero hat for good. The bright spot in the brief trip was the incredible dining — three amazing and decadent-yet-relatively-affordable meals at highly regarded restaurants: Bouchon, Nobu, and Otto. Please note that I say affordable as each of our meals included multiple courses and glasses — plus a bottle — of wine or sake. Compare this with the $36 (!) we spent on two meager, over-iced Bloody Marys at the casino bar, for some perspective.

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On Our Plate: Restaurant Weeks in Dallas, Tampa Bay, Raleigh + Vegas; Food Shaming + More

orlandoHappenings on and around OpenTable…

* We’re tuning in to the newest season of Top Chef. Find out which restaurants the newest batch of cheftestants hails from.

* Has anyone ever food-shamed you for how you like a particular dish? Shame on them!

* New York City Restaurant Week continues. Three-course $25 lunches and $38 dinners through August 16.

* Pittsburgh Restaurant Week have arrived! Don’t miss steals on meals in the Steel City through August 18.

* Dallas-Fort Worth Restaurant Week continues. Book $25 lunches and $35 or $45 dinners through August 18.

* Costa Mesa Restaurant Week starts tomorrow. Reserve today for up to 40% off on gourmet meals at Costa Mesa’s best eateries, August 16-23.

* Dine Tampa Bay begins tomorrow, too. Enjoy special three-course $25, $35, and $45 dinners through August 30.

* Baltimore County Restaurant Week heats up! Get charmed by $15.13-$30.13 lunches and $15.13-$35.13 dinners through August 25.

* Downtown Cincinnati Restaurant Week is on like Tron. Take advantage of $35 dinners for one or two through August 25.

* Downtown Raleigh Restaurant Week reservations are open. Book now for $20 or $30 three-course dinners, and $10 beer or wine pairings at select locations, August 19-25.

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Trending on OpenTable Restaurant Reviews: Tartare

tartareThe very best steak tartare I ever ate almost had too much of everything — spice, salt, lemon. Almost. And, yet, it was perfection, coming right up to the line without crossing it. Indeed, if you like your beef wriggling and raw, as Gollum would say, and well seasoned, then tartare is the perfect dish for you. Most aficionados understand that it is a dish that can go very, very right — or very, er, not so right. Fortunately, OpenTable diners are encountering absolutely sublime versions of this raw delight. While versions of steak tartare date back to the beginning of the 20th century, my copy of Larousse Gastronomique from 1961 has a recipe for a very contemporary take on tartare. Find out what your fellow eaters are saying about this fresh meat treat. 

Auberge du Pommier, Toronto, Ontario: “The most memorable and tasty meal I have enjoyed in a while…foie gras, frogs’ legs, steak tartare, squab…all were terrific.”

* Belly and Trumpet, Dallas, Texas: “The antelope heart tartare was very good.”

Central 214, Dallas, Texas: “We sampled several appetizers/small plates to start, including steak tartare, melon salad, and scotch egg. But the tartare was perfect; I’d have been happy with an entree sized portion.”

Crush, Seattle, Washington: “All of our courses were delicious and inventive, although I’d say my carrot soup was the best and my husband would say his beef tartare was the best.”

Eleven Madison Park, New York, New York: “Especially liked the tableside take on steak tartare that was made with carrots and the duck.”

Fig & Olive-Melrose Place, West Hollywood, California: “Our favorite dish was the beef tartare, unique with its delicious olives blended with the meat. We both said we’d be back for that dish again.”

Gentleman Farmer, New York, New York: “Every dish we had was a culinary slay. I highly recommend the bison tartare and the filet mignon with foie gras. ”

Gordon Ramsay Steak, Las Vegas, Nevada: “The steak tartare was delicious with a great smoke flavor smoked right under a glass dome at the table.”

Le Patriarche, Quebec, Quebec: “Many aspects of our meal were outstanding, but the trilogy of young buffalo (tartare, carpaccio, and terrine) narrowly beat out the lamb as the best dish of the night.”

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Trending on OpenTable Restaurant Reviews: Lobster Rolls

lobster-roll-samsHave you shaken off the long holiday weekend yet? Neither have I, and it’s thanks, in part, to the delicious lobster rolls I ate. I am literally having a lobster roll letdown, as though every tasty bite wasn’t enough. Feeling it was part of my patriotic duty, I was sure to try both styles — the Connecticut lobster roll, served with melted butter, and the Maine-style lobster roll, which is made with mayonnaise and celery. They’re both, obviously, delicious (Because, hello, sweet lobster meat plus bread!). However, as someone who could eat Duke’s mayo straight out of the jar, it practically pains me to admit that the buttery elegance of the Connecticut-style lobster roll is my favorite. OpenTable diners held their own quests for the very best lobster rolls during their eating adventures recently. Find out which restaurants’ rolls are receiving rave reviews. 

Atlanta Fish Market, Atlanta, Georgia: “Since lobster is in season and one of the specials, we tried the lobster roll. It was fantastic, and I highly recommend it.”

Barking Crab, Boston, Massachusetts: “By far the best lobster roll I’ve had. The ‘naked’ lobster roll is a fresh-cracked lobster dressed with melted butter on a grilled hot dog roll and served with French fries, coleslaw, and a pickle. Perfect. Don’t know that I’ll ever find a better lobster roll than this! So good. Simple and delicious.”

Castle Hill Inn, Newport, Rhode Island: “My girlfriend order the lobster roll, which, I have to say, was huge. It was made with creme fraiche instead of mayo, which she enjoyed, with plenty of lobster.”

Central Park Boathouse, New York, New York: “The lobster roll was perfect. Huge pieces of sweet lobster tossed with a bit of mayo with bits of crunchy celery, lined in a soft bun. Absolutely delicious.”

DANTE, Tremont, Ohio: “Every bite was delicious. Of particular note — the lobster rolls with a creamy buttery sauce.”

The Diving Horse, Avalon, New Jersey: “A new addition to the menu (since I was there last fall) is the lobster roll appetizer, and it is out of this world. Warm roll, packed with lobster, simply outstanding.”

GT Fish and Oyster, Chicago, Illinois: This place is simply amazing – from the amazing mixologists at the bar to the sea-salt caramel and banana dessert – AND the best lobster roll west of Pawtucket. It’s one of the most exciting seafood restaurants I have had the pleasure to visit (and I was born and raised on the shoreline of New England).” Continue Reading