Vegas Uncork’d Grand Tasting
Caesar’s Palace: Garden of the Gods
3570 S Las Vegas Blvd
Las Vegas, NV 89109
Dining date: 5/9/14
This weekend marked the eighth annual Vegas Uncork’d wine and food event. Spanning 31 events over 4 days, it continues to be one of the largest of its kind in the nation. I’ve mentioned it before, but Las Vegas is an ideal city for such a festival. Event spaces and hotel rooms are plentiful, and the city’s hunger for “celebrity chef” restaurants has created such a conglomeration of high-profile chefs in one city. They may never actually cook in their kitchen, but they’re well-represented during Uncork’d week.
The Grand Tasting is the singular event that allows the most variety of food, wine and chef access for one ticket of admission ($225). Over 50 restaurants were represented with many more vintners and spirits. It’s truly a sight to behold. This would be my fourth year attending the Grand Tasting (also see 2012 and 2013 posts).
Ornately decorated booths are set up throughout the Caesar’s Palace pool area and attendees are able to roam from station to station to sample whatever they want.
Chase Sapphire cardholders (me being one of them) had the opportunity to purchase tickets that granted admission to an exclusive lounge with Nobu Matsuhisa serving salmon belly with miso, caviar and gold flakes.
Below is a sampling of the offerings (it’s impossible to see/try everything!).
Julian Serrano gazpacho
Shibuya wagyu beef tartare, sesame wasabi, crispy taro
Joel Robuchon salmon tartare with potatoes gaufrette and caviar; beef cheeks braised with eggplant in red miso and ginger sauce, mashed potatoes; light lemon mousseline with strawberry and basil gelee
Fleur grilled octopus, patatas bravas, spanish pepper aioli
Heritage Steak braised brisket, kale, dates, whole grain mustard
Guy Savoy artichoke and black truffle soup, toasted mushroom brioche with black truffle butter
Vintner Grill black pepper gruyere profiteroles, house smoked duck, goat cheese, fig jam
Andrea’s yellowtail sashimi, soba spaetzle, sea urchin; wagyu beef tongue, smoked ponzu, crispy garlic
Guy Fieri’s Vegas Kitchen and Bar chili and cornbread
Carlo’s Bakery vanilla cake; red velvet cake; carrot cake; mini napoleons
Buddy V’s Ristorante burrata and prosciutto caprese; grandma’s home style meatballs
B&B pulled pork sliders with slaw
Lavo semolina cavatelli with sausage bolognese
Joe’s scallop & crispy pork belly; new york strip oscar
Sushi Roku tuna tartare, yuzu guacamole, truffle
Spago hibachi grilled steak, cucumber daikon kimchi
The Palm sliced prime filet on crostini with horseradish
Gordon Ramsay BurGR mangalitsa pork burger, english sharp cheddar, apple butter, arugula; sticky toffee pudding push pops, salted peanut ice cream
Gordon Ramsay Steak hamachi crudo, uni, smoked salmon roe, black garlic puree
Gordon Ramsay Pub & Grill steamed clams with chorizo, caramelized fennel, saffron broth; triple chocolate trifle
Beijing Noodle No. 9 hand pulled noodles with fish broth
Payard Patisserie assorted macarons
Old Homestead Steakhouse grilled new york strip loin; kusshi oysters
Mr. Chow chicken satay
Mesa Grill blue corn taco with smoked shrimp, mango habanero hot sauce
Hakkasan crispy prawn dumpling with plum sauce
Craftsteak 24 hour braised short ribs, yukon gold potato puree
Bar Masa bluefin tuna hand roll, kanpachi jalapeno hand roll
Raku assorted yakitori
Sweets Raku assorted japanese roll cakes
Kerry’s Gourmet Burgers “cronut” kobe sliders
Drinks were just as plentiful as food with wineries and spirits dominating the liquids. There were a number of handcrafted cocktail and beer setups, however.
japanese cucumber melon punch
As expected, there were a lot of good bites. However, a few did manage to stand out. Joel Robuchon basically put out a really nice three course meal with the salmon tartare with caviar and crispy potato cone, followed by a luscious beef cheek with his signature mashed potatoes, and a cool, well-balanced, lemon mousseline with sweet strawberries and a bright basil gelee. New steakhouse Echo & Rig served up a few different items including slices of lamb porterhouse. They were exceedingly juicy, tender and with a nice char. Off-strip favorite Raku was another favorite – the outside skirt steak skewers were juicy and delicious, while newcomer Sweets Raku had moist and fluffy Japanese roll cakes. Payard’s macarons were another highlight – the coffee macaron was great and the black truffle ones a treat; Michael Mina’s Pub 1842 served up foie gras macarons that were equally as decadent.
As the Grand Tasting has grown in popularity, it seems like it has outgrown its Garden of the Gods venue especially where some of the most high-trafficked booths are. I noticed swarms around Giada De Laurentiis and Gordon Ramsay with people itching to say a word and have a picture taken with their favorite chef (smaller but noticeable crowds were found around Mina, Vongerichten, Hubert Keller, Robuchon, Savoy and others). It’s definitely far from a dealbreaker though, and lines for food/drink items were generally pretty short (so important…and something I don’t often see at large events such as this one). Guaranteed to be one of the memorable dining evenings of my year and I’m already anticipating next year’s.
Note: Two of the nine tickets in our party were hosted.