Binge City Vegas

Whether you’re looking for fun, inexpensive bites or Master Chef-like spreads, you’ll never be starved for off-kilter food experiences in Sin City.  
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Las Vegas’s electric energy can be attributed to its neon-lit restaurants and casinos, spill-over party music, and a pervasive aroma of global cuisine. Photo By: Philip Bird LRPS CPAGB/Shutterstock

Penny-wise, Belly-wise

Start your quest with a tipsy toast at the Strip’s many daiquiri bars such as Breeze or Fat Tuesday, serving spiked slushies in lab-styled glassware. Their most fun treat is also their cheapest—$3/Rs210 vodka jello shots in syringes.

Exploring at daytime, keep an eye out for architecture flanking the road—Excalibur Tram designed like a castle,dancing fountains rising upto 25 storeys at the Bellagio Hotel and Casino,the intricately sculpted Paris Las Vegas hotel, complete with Eiffel Tower and Arc de Triomphe replicas and more. When Caesars Palace arrives with its Roman sculptures and columns, look across the road for a cluster of food (and shopping) places, aka Bally’s Grand Bazaar Shops.

Between treats-to-go and treats-to-leisurely-relish at little restaurants, pubs and Tiki bars, you’ll find a tempting variety of global cuisine under $10-15 (Rs700-1050). There’s $1-$3 (Rs 70-210) dessert like churros and baklava, as sumptuous as sinful, decadent deep-fried Oreos, spongey-creamy Twinkies, and the cinnamon-kissed Mexican horchata ice cream. Or you could go straight for the savouries—Mexican puff pastries called pinwheels, hummus, and popcorn in at least 30-40 flavour. Think cheddar jalapeno, peppered bacon, dill pickle, buffalo blue cheese, blue coconut and even French toast. Smack your lips, wipe your chin and move on to the $5-6 (Rs 350-415) dole whip, $6 pizza by-the-slice, $8 (Rs 560) nachos or the fried Greek delicacy loukoumades+one beverage for the same.That’s not to forget the $11 (Rs 770) falafels or Mediterranean beef/lamb sandwiches, washed down with Bloody Mary and $6 Mimosas or if you so prefer, $7 (Rs 490) craft beer. Ramen-Ya, dubbed a four-time Michelin recommended, surprises with its bento boxes and piping hot ramen bowls at just $9 (Rs 630).

Lip Smacking Foodie Tours

Binge City Vegas

At the Las Vegas Strip, the decadent fried Greek delicacy of loukoumades comes for a mere $8/Rs560, with a beverage on the side. Photo By: Philippos Philippou/Shutterstock

…That’s literally the name of this on-foot excursion founded by server-turned-food entrepreneur Donald Contursi. Downtown or on the Strip, you get to devour three to four signature dishes at up to four of Vegas’ acclaimed diners. Your itinerary remains unrevealed till you meet your guide. Mine is Whitney, who doesn’t directly dive into food, instead sharing insights on local artwork like Maya Lin’s riveting metallic expression of Colorado River, en route celebrity chef Michael Mina’s French wonder Bardot Brassiere at Aria Resort and Casino. The bar here, we’re told, has the city’s largest collection of chartreuse, a rare liqueur made by 18th century French monks, acquired from auctions. The warm-beet, goat cheese and arugula salad with cassis (blackcurrant-based liqueur) vinaigrette is juicy and comforting. The highlight, however, is a French snail delicacy, escargot, flavoured with herby chartreuse. For drinks there is French 75, a champagne cocktail with a sparkling aftertaste.

A vibrant contrast to Mina’s classic Bardot awaits me at Julian Serrano Tapas, another famous fixture at the Aria. No queues, the tour ensures you wait in none. There are salads, croquets, grilled asparagus, but nothing says Spanish like a pan of paella. So I shovel in a heady mix of seasonal greens and saffron-cooked rice.Mine’s the popular vegan option, but there are meatier variants for hardcore carnivores. Like a city verging on overpopulation, the tummy heaves and groans, but there are two more places to go. So the 10-minute walk from Aria to The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas for our next stop, Estiatorio Milos, is a welcome break. On your way to Milos, The Chandelier—a three-storey casino-cum-bar housed literally in a chandelier—is unmissable. Bejewelled with more than 2 million crystal beads, the bar is an architectural delight.At Milos, it may all seem simple, the grilled octopus; the Greek salad of vine ripe tomatoes, with extra virgin olive oil and barrel-aged feta; or the Milo’s Special, lightly fried zucchini and eggplant with Tzatziki and Kefalograviera cheese. But with the freshest ingredients from the world over flown in daily, the taste is unforgettable.

My next stop is at Wolfgang Puck’s Italian restaurant Cucina, at Crystals Mall.Honey panna cotta with orange marmalade and shortbread; tiramisu of espresso-soaked ladyfingers and mascarpone mousse; crisp shells of citrus Cannoli hiding a creamy delight of sweet ricotta and brandy raisins; and torta caprese, a lush, flourless dark chocolate cake with candied pistachios. How’s that for a sweet ending?

A Dark Aftertaste

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The emphasis at Estiatorio Milos is on fresh ingredients flown in from across the world, and simple, hearty recipes. Photo Courtesy:Estiatorio Milos Las Vegas

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Blackout’s experimental dine-in-the-dark set up pushes patrons to explore eating as an act of sensory excess. Photo Courtesy: BLACKOUT Dining in the Dark

At Valley View Boulevard, six kilometres/20 minutes from the Strip by car, I commit to a novel experience with Blackout Dining in the Dark. The experimental eatery looks odd,like a wooden box, and its neon green signage gives you the creeps. You feel like you’re about to walk into a scary movie. At the waiting area, the interiors as well as the staff sport black and white. Anything that flashes light, including your phones, goes in the locker. Your fates, erm, sorry plates, lie behind a black curtain. Blind fold? No need. Inside, it’s a real blackout. I can’t see my own hand. Servers here wear night-vision goggles. Use your hands to locate the plate, cutlery and glass. A clanging fall of a fork isn’t uncommon, it’s all part of the thrill.

The meal comes with a pre-fixed four or six course option, but the menu is a mystery. For every new course, you’re asked to feel the tableware, shaped in fun ways; the dishes too are textured and laid out with panache. As you touch and feel, like your hosts suggest, you realise the presentation has been customised to please your hands. It’s more funny than embarrassing when someone ends up poking a finger into their food or staining their hands. Inhibitions gone, strangers blabber, giggle, and open up without a care. Over an hour later, when you’re escorted out, the light feels alien.An altered perception is your prized aftertaste.

  • Pooja Bhula is a crazy journo, a guiltless foodie and loves trees the way people love their pets. She lives for the outdoors but also plots her escapes through books. She's always brimming with ideas and stories to tell.

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