Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Lupo by Wolfgang Puck

SP and I flew to Las Vegas the Monday before Thanksgiving. It had been 2.5 years since we were last there - quite a long time! We had a terrific week visiting my parents.

Last February, after we made our flight reservations, my mom called me and excitedly informed me that she had finally figured out what to get SP (and me) for our 2010 birthdays: tickets to a show in Las Vegas. That sounded good to us! The only problem was picking a show. SP loves Blue Man Group, but has seen them many times. We saw a Cirque du Soleil show (Ka) last time we were in LV, plus I've seen Mystere & O. Magic doesn't really excite us. We didn't really want a comedy show. I was leaning towards La Reve at Wynn until I discovered that The Lion King is the show at Mandalay Bay. And it's the full 2.5 hour long show - not a condensed version like the LV Phantom of the Opera show. Since I had never seen The Lion King and SP enjoys it, we decided to see that show.So Tuesday afternoon we set off for the Las Vegas Strip. My parents live about 15 miles north of Las Vegas and Mandalay Bay is at the southern end of the Las Vegas Strip. It took us about an hour because of the traffic. Las Vegas has crazy drivers! Plus, the highways can have 4 or 5 lanes and drivers weave in & out and when you just aren't super familiar with the roads, it can be a little stressful!

We arrived around 4:30 pm and after leaving the car with the valet, we wandered around. Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino is home to a Shark Reef Aquarium. We didn't have time to buy tickets and see it, but outside the aquarium is a cool projection picture (above) that is also connected to a motion sensor so when someone walks past, the 'water' ripples - and if you run past, it really 'churns' the water. We had a bit of fun playing with that!

I couldn't quite figure out the 'theme' at Mandalay Bay. It was vaguely Asian, but then we walked past what I am going to call 'The Boob & Butt Wall.' I don't get it. At all. But it made me laugh. The Lion King started at 7:30 pm, and at 2.5 hours, wouldn't end until 10 pm. We didn't want to eat dinner at 10 pm, so we decided to eat at 5:30 pm. We checked out the restaurants at the casino & resort online and opted to try Lupo by Wolfgang Puck (I've also seen it called Trattoria del Lupo). I had a meal at a Wolfgang Puck restaurant in Niagara Falls, Canada back in 2005 and it was good - what I remember is having the creme brulee trio for dessert (chocolate, vanilla, and butterscotch). I am not usually a fan of butterscotch, so I was very surprised when that ended up being my favorite of the 3.

We were seated right away. It was not crowded - the restaurant had just opened at 5 pm plus that's early for most people to eat dinner out. We were given a choice of eating 'inside' or 'outside' - outside being a table out in the resort area where one could 'people watch.' Normally I really enjoy 'people watching' but we opted for inside because it was quieter and because when we sat 'outside' at Fiamma at the MGM Grand 2 years ago, we were not comfortable with the noise level nor with the people we were watching watching us!Our server was a very friendly young man named Greg. We each ordered a glass of wine. I chose a Napa sauvignon blanc and SP chose a riesling. We sipped our wines and enjoyed the super long bread stick served with a dipping oil and dipping balsamic vinegar. Delicious.

The restaurant is very soothing inside. Lots of chocolate brown colors. Dark but not too dark. A lit candle on each table. It made you slow down, relax, and really enjoy your meal. No sense of being rushed. No sense of being amidst the usual Vegas hustle & bustle.

We were surprised when a server arrived bearing another bread basket! He explained that someone had not placed the bread in the oven when they were supposed to, so the 'real' bread was delayed a bit. It was a delicious soft & chewy & crusty bread served with a garlic & white bean puree and an olive tapenade. Of course I didn't touch the garlic & white bean puree. The olive tapenade was delicious. SP enjoyed the live tapenade more than the puree.

For the first time I can remember, we both chose a daily special. SP chose the Dover Sole.It was served on a tomato sauce with spinach and the fish was rolled up in three bundles. He said it was very, very good and he ate the entire dish. I wish I could be more specific, but whenever I ask him about his meal for the blog, he usually just says 'it was good' or 'it was really good' - not very descriptive!

I chose the Chicken Piccata special.It has been my experience that when we eat out at a restaurant that I, in my mind, consider 'fancier' or maybe 'more expensive' and a bit of a splurge, I can finish my entire entree. Casbah, Eleven, Wild Rosemary (Pittsburgh restaurants). Magnolia, Blossom, Charleston Grill (in Charleston, SC). I always eat the whole meal. But this - this was enormous! We had even skipped ordering an appetizer so that I would be able to eat my entire meal and enjoy a dessert and not have to worry about toting around leftovers (or know and feel bad that my uneaten portion of tasty food was just tossed in the trash - what a waste!).

The chicken piccata was delicious! I ate only one chicken, but it was nestled on top of tasty capellini with a lemony-white wine sauce and capers and sun dried tomato slivers - sooo good. I ended up asking our server to wrap the half I didn't eat. I toted it to the show and then home, and my mom ate it the next day. She said it was fine and tasted delicious.

*Side note: a nice touch at Lupo is that when they remove your plate and wrap your leftover food for you, they keep it in a refrigerator in the kitchen until after you pay and are ready to leave. Then they bring it out.

Lupo also serves pizzas, and I love pizza, but I really didn't want it for my meal. Since the pizzas were listed 'first' on the menu, I asked if they were suitable as an appetizer. Our server told me that they are pretty big and more of a meal size, not appetizer size, even if we split one. So I didn't order a pizza.

Of course I was not going to pass on dessert! I ordered decaf coffee while I debated between tiramisu and zeppole. Tiramisu is one of my favorite desserts and I haven't had a really tasty tiramisu in quite some time. But donuts - they aren't on too many dessert menus in Pittsburgh and the ones I have tried since the ones I ate at Fiamma (where my mini obsession with finding tasty donuts for dessert began) have not been nearly as tasty.

SP tipped the scales in favor of the donuts. He didn't want his own dessert - he just wanted some of mine.The donuts were served with a caramel sauce:And a vanilla glaze:To my surprise, I liked the caramel sauce better than the vanilla glaze. The donuts were lovely. Hot. Soft. Not too thick of a coating/crust. Totally worth it. So good. I'm starting to think Las Vegas is the only place where restaurants serve awesome dessert donuts!

We really enjoyed our meal at Lupo. We can't help but compare it to our meal at Fiamma at the MGM when we saw Ka. The meals at Lupo were tastier (I remember we both were disappointed in our meals at Fiamma; they were good but not great [we had a seafood risotto & roasted chicken]). Our server at Lupo was friendlier. We just felt more comfortable and happier. And the price at Lupo for a meal and 2 glasses of wine at a casino/resort on the Las Vegas Strip was not too bad (it came to $125 with tax & tip).

The Lion King was amazing as well. I found myself mesmerized by the costume design. I swear I squealed like a little kid when the large elephant walked right by our seats, followed by the baby elephant (I really like elephants). SP said this production was better than the production he saw. I'm so glad we chose The Lion King because I missed it when it came to Pittsburgh a few years ago and because we discovered that it will be ending its run in Las Vegas at the end of next year (rumor is it's going to be replaced by a Cirque du Soleil Michael Jackson show).

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