Noted architect G and his partner, Brent, opted to spend Christmas in Las Vegas this year. “G and I are hardcore foodies so choosing Las Vegas was a natural,” said Brent from his hotel room at the Fairmont Olympic Hotel (411 University Street) in Seattle where the two were holed up Christmas Eve.
The couple decided to try Amtrak’s Cascades train from Vancouver to Seattle and overnight in the city Starbucks made famous before flying to Las Vegas.
“We’d heard good things about the train journey and wanted to give it a go”, G said. “The scenery along the coast south of Bellingham, Washington is truly stunning as the train hugs the Salish Sea coastline all the way down to Seattle”.
The Cascades in fact wanders south from Vancouver, BC and in places sits mere feet from the ocean’s shore. Two trips head south daily and the trip takes 4 hours. A business class reserved seat will cost you US$80/pp and includes a discount voucher for the train’s on-board cafe. You clear US Customs in Vancouver and there is a short stop at the border south of White Rock where US Homeland Security staff board the train to conduct one further inspection.
In Seattle B&G lunched at Fonte Coffee Roaster (5412 6th Ave South) – a micro coffee roaster and wine bar with a decidedly hipster feel and that laid back yet thoroughly professional service Seattle does so well. Dinner was a casual crab-inspired in-room meal that consisted of a crab salad and avocado-crab sandwich with petite fries. Of the meal, Brent commented, “The Fairmont group does dining, and in-room dining, exceptionally well with a diverse in-room menu that is light years beyond your usual selection of burgers and chicken fingers”.
1) marcona almonds, olives and rosemary cashews at Fonte; 2) mac ‘n cheese at Fonte
3) veal and pork sandwich at Fonte; 4) avocado-crab sandwich with fries at Fairmont
5) crab salad at Fairmont
While in Las Vegas the couple are in residence at the 5-star Mandarin Oriental (3752 Las Vegas Blvd South), staying in a lovely city-view suite with a view onto the strip. “The zen qualities of the Mandarin coupled with its unparalleled service and central location make an ideal choice,” said G.
6 & 7) the couple’s room at Mandarin Oriental
8 & 9) the couple’s room at Mandarin Oriental
For their first meal – Christmas dinner – the couple booked seats at the sushi bar at Shibuya (in the MGM Grand) and ordered up master sushi chef Yoshinori Nakazawa’s omakase menu. As Brent said, “I’m always in favour of leaving the food decisions in the hands of a great chef. Choosing any tasting menu makes dinner easier as I don’t have to wander the menu deciding what to choose and am bound to be served something inventive”.
10) Shibuya entrance
11 & 12) Shibuya’s chefs at work at the sushi bar
Their meal on Christmas consisted of:
Kushi Oyster with Apple Momiji and Orange Ponzu
Sashimi, Garlic Ginger and Sichimi Pepper
Tartar, Tobiko and Garlic-Infused Ponzu
Sashimi, Fresh Kizami Wasabi, Wasabi Oil, Tomato, Jalapeno
Chu Toro, Ginger Soy Sauce and Spiced Crunchy Garlic
Kanpachi, Yuzu Juice and Black Truffle Oil
Australian Wagyu Beef, Lemon Tamari Soy, Tarragon Oil and Garlic Chips
Australian Lobster Tail and Day Boat Scallops in Uni Sake Butter Sauce
Braised Kobe-Style Short Rib, Sautéed Foie Gras, Sweet and Spicy Soy
Alaskan King Crab, Tofu, Namake Mushrooms
Sushi Chef’s Choice, Grated Fresh Wasabi Root
Raspberry-Yuzu Calpico Pannacotta, Choco-Lychee Mousse Cake, Mochi Ice Cream
They washed this down with a bottle of Perrier-Jouet champagne. When asked whether the US$460 meal was worth the price Brent said, “Absolutely! The uni sake butter sauce was something I’ll always remember and will definitely try to make at home, and Shibuya’s sushi is certainly the best I’ve had in North America – better than anything in Los Angeles and better than Tojo’s in Vancouver. And remember, it was Tojo who ‘invented’ the ubiquitous sushi rolls we are so familiar with.”
And where else is this culinary couple heading while in Sin City? Well, Bobby Flay’s Mesa Grill; Pierre Gagnaire’s Twist; and Thomas Keller’s Bouchon to name a few.