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Monday, April 6, 2009

Review: LAVO Restaurant in Las Vegas

As you might remember from my recent review of the Venetian, I was lucky enough to get away for a girls’ weekend to Vegas this year. The trip was only 48 hours, but we managed to eat our way through several fabulous restaurants, see two shows and walk the strip.

In case you’re going to Vegas (without kids), here’s a restaurant to consider.

What: LAVO at the Palazzo Hotel. It just opened late last year, and is a sister restaurant to the wildly popular Tao.

Food/Chef: Mediterranean (mostly Greek and Italian) – chef Ludovic “Ludo” Lefebvre who came to LAVO from Los Angeles, where he won Mobil Travel Guide Five Star awards at both L’Orangerie and Bastide.

Interior: A beautiful design, going with the bath house theme (Lavo means ‘to bathe or cleanse’ in Latin). Decorated with Moroccan tables, a curved bar and some stunning chandeliers.

Seating: 180 in the main dining area, 100 on the hookah patio (a first for Vegas) and 20 in a private dining room.
View: I was hoping for some celebrity sightings because I keep reading in People Mag about all the celebs who eat here. Through the windows, we could see blasts of fire through at the Sirens of TI (Treasure Island) show across the street. In spite of the website picture, we couldn’t see any of the scantily clad sirens, though the LAVO hostess’ dress barely covered her tush.
Atmosphere: with the DJ spinning records and the acoustics, it was loud inside and difficult to have an intimate conversation.
Hits: The steak with fois gras and mushroom duxelle (a truffle wine reduction) was divine. I say this as someone who eats very little red meat and feels bad for the geese. The meat melted in my mouth and even one of my companions (a vegetarian) couldn’t help herself from picking at the sauce and mushrooms. My companions loved the sea bass marinated in a soy/miso glaze, served with sliced fennel and fried lemons. The plate was licked clean.

The desserts were also fabulous, especially the poached pear, served with honeycomb, panna cotta topped with arugula and olive oil. Yes, that’s one dessert. The other was the chocolate LAVO obsession, a chocolate cake with molten middle, with a vanilla (and lavender or citrus?) gelato and raspberry sauce. It also had a blob of pistachio sauce which looked like…puke. Admittedly it tasted fine, but I was the only one who would try it. Last, don’t skip the coffees. Our hands-down favorite was a shot-glass size Turkish coffee flavored with condensed milk and cardamom syrup. Yummy.
Misses: The cocktails were not spectacular. The white wine sangria was fine, as was the pink pomegranate lemonade. One companion had the house specialty drink in a martini glass – she liked it. The sweet potato fries were greasy, and not in a good way.

Décor: you can’t talk about a Vegas restaurant without mentioning the décor. It’s a beautiful restaurant with a bathhouse theme. I was dying to see the nightclub upstairs, but it hadn’t yet opened for the night. They wouldn’t let me in for a peek (even me! the journalist holding a press card!) to check it out while empty. Sigh. I had been entranced by pictures of the hall leading from the staircase to the nightclub, a glass and wood bridge flanked by basins pouring out water.
Cost: Our meal for three, including three cocktails, three appetizers, two entrees, three coffees and two desserts: around $220.

Bathroom: I can’t finish without mentioning the bathroom. Bathroom attendants are a pet peeve of mine, because it makes me feel self-conscious. Plus I don’t want to tip someone for handing me a towel. That said, many clubs do have bathroom attendants (at least that’s what I remember from my pre-kids clubbing days). The best part of the bathroom are the stone vessel sinks, that go from waist level almost down to the floor. The water pours out from the ceiling, activated by your foot pump. I felt like an idiot because I couldn’t figure out how it worked and the attendant had to show me. She then pumped soap into my hands, making me feel like a three year old. We definitely needed the towels, because the water poured down from 8 or so feet up, into the basin, splashing on my clothes as well as the mirror behind the sink. I’m sure the attendant is very busy wiping things up in there. I guess she would have earned her tip but we only had a $20 bill.
Bathroom Verdict: beautiful, unique bathroom design, but not functional.

1 comment:

  1. Actually the noise level is intense.
    Unless you are willing to pay 5 star prices on the Strip, you are going to find restaurants like this one, chocked full of 20-somethings.
    Hence if you are a patron, and older than 33, you might not find Lavo pleasing at all.
    The food is good..No problem there.
    What is a pet peeve of mine is the propensity for all Vegas restaurants to have their female greeters in the front be no older than 22, no heavier than 105lbs, poured into a short dress, and wearing 4-5 inch heels. While the females may be 'eye candy' to some, they generally are clueless, dim bulbs, with not the slightest idea of what decent dining should entail. Virtually all these girls must have interned at McDonalds or Wendy's before working in the big leagues, This of course is the fault of the employers, who also have no class.
    Lavo is a stepdown version of the insane asylum, Tao..Seems that those young folks who didn't want to wait on the dreaded Tao line for 1-2 hours, went over to Lavo.
    Bottom line: You will like or dislike Lavo depending how old you are..It's just OK, not memorable.