Beauty & Essex

3708 S Las Vegas Blvd. Las Vegas, NV 89109 • (702) 737-0707 • beautyandessexlv.com

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Okay, so it’s not the real deal and merely a fabricated replica of the one in New York, but it is Vegas, which means pretty much everything is a fabricated replica of something else with the exception of sand. So put aside any delusions of authenticity and you will very likely find yourself as pleased as punch (let’s make that rum punch, after all, it is Vegas).

Located in the chic Cosmopolitan Hotel on the third floor (as opposed to Essex St. in Manhattan), you will find a pawnshop by the same name, which doubles as a speakeasy entrance through a nondescript turquoise door to the left of the counter. Upon entering you will find yourself swept into a time vortex landing you smack dab in the roaring twenties, complete with a brocade decor and twin, blond, 6-foot bombshell- flappers who cavort around the restaurant and bar along with a parade of burlesque hotties.

Surprisingly, this isn’t to distract you form the food, because almost everything was excellent. That said, it might be distracting to the servers, because I found the service to be a bit sloppy.

The excellent menu of which I speak is made up of shareable small plates, along with a decent list of cocktails and wine. And while most everything was good, there were a few dishes I would steer around such as the lobster roll, which was the only bad thing of the night, served on a warm bun, but filled with canned or even fake lobster meat. Not cool.

The other two dishes I would skip are not what I would call bad, but they don’t exactly pass mustard for me either. For example much better yellowtail sashimi in ponzu sauce with chili peppers can be found at Blue Ribbon Sushi in the very same hotel or at Sushi Roku down the strip. And the French Onion Soup Dumplings are nowhere near as good as the ones at Stanton Social in NYC, nor are they comparable to some of the other stars of the night.

But enough of the Debbie Downers and on to the stars, like both tartars- the steak and the tomato tartars are so good I don’t know which one I liked better and obviously very different from one another so it’s kind of hard to even compare them even though they are both “tartars.” They are also served differently, the steak is done more like a tartine and the tomato more like an hors d’oeuvres. Both, however, are worth doubling down on.

The bone marrow is also superb and only bested by one other dish for me, the Spicy Lamb Bolognese. Made with penne and some serious Italian game this pasta just might’ve been the best thing of the night- no, the best thing I had all week in Vegas. Not too shabby for twin, amazon, blond, bombshell, flappers. Can you tell they left an impression?

4 teeth

Brasserie

100 E 53rd St. New York, NY 10022 •  (212) 751-4840

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Unfortunately you can’t eat décor, but if you could, this place would be delicious… and it would get a much higher rating. I mean just look at that picture, I don’t just want to eat there, I want to move in! That said, the food isn’t bad, it’s just more of an after thought comparatively. Instead, I recommend Casa Lever just down the street, offering an equally impressive ultra modern dining experience, but with better food and friendlier service.

As for the grub at Brasserie, I have eaten here for all three meal occasions and they are consistently sub-wow. More on par with solid hotel cuisine and that’s sort of how the menu reads, loaded with those hotel staples you know and love, like bagels and lox, eggs benny, a burger, crab cakes, etc… All very French dishes as you might expect from the name “Brasserie.” KIDDING! And this is exactly my point. They try to be too many things to too many people, like a hotel. But a hotel does it out of necessity. Plus, what’s especially bizarre about this menu decision is that they are located in midtown, amidst droves of hotel restaurants, so why in the hell they would serve up a bunch of me too’s is beyond me. Sure, Brasserie also has tons of truly French options as well, from steak frites to onion soup, to a croque madame, but none of them are outstanding either. All as middle of the road as the double line itself.

3 teeth

Vin Sur Vingt

1140 Broadway New York, NY 10001(646) 922-7700vinsur20nyc.com

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Apparently the name means “Wine on Twenty” in French, but considering it’s on Broadway and 26th either the owners are very bad at counting or it’s a play on words that also means “top notch.”

Well, top notch might be a bit of a reach, but Vin is most certainly worth the visit. Cute and cozy in size, it feels like something you might stumble upon on one of Paris’ cobbled backstreets. The waiters are authentically French, without being authentically rude, which is also a nice plus. And as for the menu, it’s very reasonably priced (rare in New York), but it’s also very catered toward smaller bites to be enjoyed along side a glass of wine, so if you’re craving a feast you will be sorely disappointed. The food, however, will not disappoint.

Classics like French onion soup, nicoise salad and tart tatin were all very strong. As good or better than many of its peers in the city.

Another strong dish was the duck tartine with marmalade. So tres bon (very good) it was enough to make Paddington Bear swoon for a nibble.

The only miss were the oysters of all things. One was served chipped, with bits of shell all over the mollusk and another tasted VERY fishy, which is a big no-no in oyster land. Fortunately I didn’t get sick. Won’t being risking it again here, especially when you’ve got L&W Oyster CO. right around the corner serving up dreams on the half-shell. But oysters aside, Vin is still a win.

3 teeth

Aureole

Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino • 3950 S Las Vegas Blvd. Las Vegas, NV 89119(702) 632-7401charliepalmer.com

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About 10 years ago the wife and I ate at the original in New York and while it was good, I still recall that it didn’t live up to the hype. Well, 2000 miles away and 3650 days later, it still doesn’t.

Sure, it has its moments- well, two really. The first being the wine. No, not the gigantic 40 foot wine tower in the center of the restaurant, complete with wine angels soaring into the sky on ropes to fetch your bottle- because in Vegas, why simply just step into a wine cellar to fetch it? But that’s not what I was getting at. We were an extremely large party and the Cabernet they served us was excellent. So kudos for not giving us the crap stuff, which so often happens at large functions.

The other major win was the French Onion Soup. Made with foie gras, truffles and gruyere. I mean, if a restaurant can’t stick the landing with that line up, it might as well close its doors. You want this. Trust me.

The filet mignon with bleu cheese, however was just okay. Slightly over medium rare and a bit salty. Yet, somehow still better than the salmon entrée, which, while cooked perfectly was very lacking in wow.

To finish, Aureole really let things slide on the molten chocolate cake which was far from molten. Basically just chocolate cake. They should hop a flight to LA and eat at Sushi Roku to learn how it’s done.

The other dessert, however, was pretty good for what it was, a piña colada brulee. Which is a nice way of saying pudding. Made with pineapple and shaved, dried coconut. A solid good, but apart from bread pudding, I’m not the biggest pudding guy. Apologies to Bill Cosby.

3 teeth