The number of fine restaurants in Las Vegas has risen dramatically in the 20+ years that I've been coming to the city. I remember most of the "better" restaurants were the old style steakhouse, supper clubs that were sprinkled throughout the city. In fact, I think there were only two "five star" restaurants in the city when I first went there in the mid-80's. Today, not only is Las Vegas one of the world's foremost places for gambling and entertainment, it's quickly turning into one of the centers for outstanding food.
And for a number of years, you would find a handful of hotels/casinos that had fine dining in them. Most of the restaurants consisted of coffee shops and buffets. But in recent years, a number of hotels have established a number of fine dining restaurants - usually off-shoots of upscale restaurants from Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York and Chicago.
With that said, we have a number of great places to choose from when we eat in Las Vegas. We made a pact last year that we'd try different places to eat. And I was made the "scout" to try and find these places.
I was told by a couple people that they had wonderful meals at Francesco's in the Treasure Island hotel/casino. Francesco's is an elegant, old-world style upscale Northern Italian restaurant just inside the main entrance of the Treasure Island. I understood that the wine list was pretty extensive and the dining experience was very good. When I proposed that to the group for dinner that evening, they were all in the affirmative.
Six of us sat at our table just after 7 p.m. The restaurant was half full, which made one of my colleagues remark, "I don't know if that's a good thing or a bad thing. These places are usually packed during CES."
Our waiter brought us our menus and took our drink orders. My colleague, Ian, is very well versed in Italian wines so he picked out a 2003 Rosso di Montalcino - La Cudata, a very flavorful red wine. We also ordered up some drinks to tie us over for the time being.
We started out with a series of appetizers - calamari, garlic and chili shrimp, and seared ahi tuna with a green olive sauce. All of them were completely remarkable. Excellent taste sensations all around. We were buzzing with anticipation for our meals.
I ordered the Lobster/Fettuccine special they had that evening. One of my colleagues ordered the Osso Bucco with an asparagus/risotto on the side. One of my colleagues got a bowl of the Cioppino - the fisherman's soup; another got the bone in chicken breast broiled with herbs and spices. Another one got the flat iron steak with with rosemary herb potatoes and my other colleague got the Cavatelli with broccoli and chicken.
We all ordered salads - our choice of the house Caesar salad, or the Caprese salad, like I ordered. The Caprese salad was very good. The tomatoes were fresh and flavorful, as was the basil and buffalo mozzarella. The wine was great, the homemade bread they had on the table was great, the service was great. This was shaping up to be an exquisite dining experience.
Then the bottom fell out when they brought our food. My lobster was overcooked and tough. The pasta was darn near inedible it was so overcooked. The Osso Bucco was OK, but the risotto was also overcooked. The chicken was dried out and the life was cooked out of it. The flat iron steak was tough. The Cavatelli was OK, but the broccoli was limp and the chicken was overcooked.
Only Todd, with the Cioppino, was happy with his meal. In fact, when I announced that I couldn't eat the lobster, he asked if he could have it to put into his soup. I gave him some chunks and he dropped them in and moved them around. When he took a bite of one, he got this look on his face and pulled the chunk out of his mouth. He said, "My God, that's HORRIBLE!!"
Our waiter came around to ask how everything was and Ian said, "You know, everything we had up to now was fabulous. The bread is fabulous, the wine is fabulous, the appetizers and salads were fabulous. But this? This is shit!"
The waiter was sort of taken aback by Ian's forward statement, but he asked everyone at the table if they were happy with their meals. Everyone, except for Todd who was slamming his Cioppino back, gave answers of "so-so" to "disappointing".
So, in a gesture of apology, the waiter soon brought out a small plate of six different desserts. Now, these were very, very small portions. We thought at first that it was the sample plate that they normally bring out to show customers to order from. But then it became very apparent that wasn't the case. We just laughed and thought it was the most bizarre showing of "trying to make things right" we'd ever seen.
It was an expensive dinner for us - over $800 bucks with the wine, food, drinks and tip. I have to say I was deeply disappointed and somewhat embarrassed that I picked this place based on recommendations I'd received from people I trusted. I knew that I'd have to bounce back with a good choice of the next place we were going to eat at the following night. If not, I wouldn't be able to pick restaurants in Vegas again.