It’s ironic that such a culturally dry place like Las Vegas can be seen as a microcosm of the world – in an hour, you can visit the Eiffel Tower, ride on a Venetian Gondola, pass tourists of every nationality and eat at some of the world’s best restaurants, most of which were founded in NYC. While I like to branch out when I travel, Las Vegas is the type of place that’s so shocking to my system that it leads me to resort to the familiar. So, when I was given the opportunity to dine out during my two nights there for a work conference, I decided to go with two old-time New York City (and Miami) staples: Sushi Samba and Tao.
The big difference between hotel restaurants in Vegas and New York is that in Vegas, there are very few windows. You feel like you’re eating in a dungeon most of the time, and it could be any time of day. Sushi Samba and Tao, both at the Venetian Hotel, were no different. Dark, somewhat depressing, and sterile. The food, however, was better than I remembered it. At Sushi Samba, my friends and I had a reprieve from heavy food with the tuna tataki salad, the mushroom toban yaki, and the neo tokyo roll with big eye tuna. While the mushrooms were doused in butter, the rest was light and refreshing.
The great thing about Tao is the large round tables, the perfect set up for a big group of people. Because we were in a rush to make a concert, I was given the privilege of ordering for the entire table – my favorite thing to do! I selected a few from each section, but the big standouts were the crispy peking duck spring rolls, the pad thai, and the satay of chilean sea bass. But for once in my life, I was less focused on the food because the lychee martini was so delicious.
Vegas hotel restaurants and restaurants on the strip have their routines down to a T. Because everyone’s pumped on adrenaline and hotels want their patrons back at the Black Jack table, there’s no time for slow service or cold food. As much as I wanted to hate the food at these commercial, table turning restaurants, I was actually really pleased. But next time, I’m going to make reservations at the restaurants that aren’t so accessible at home.
Grade: A for both for high quality food and service.
Location: Venetian Hotel