One can really run the gamut of emotions in Las Vegas. And with an ever expanding scene, you can express those emotions in extremely diverse settings both on and off the strip. My recent visit to Las Vegas added Red Rock, Town Square and City Center to my repertoire.
I am a professed city boy, so I was particularly intrigued with City Center. A “city” setting in the middle of the Las Vegas Strip? I had to explore. And explore I did: the Crystals Shopping Mall, Aria Hotel and Casino and the Mandarin Oriental Hotel. I checked them all out. Very soon, I will give a review of each of these areas and also of the complex as a whole. But for now, I will focus on dining.
Wanting to experience City Center from every angle, I decided that I must have a dining experience there. I will definitely go back to explore all of the different restaurants in the complex (I’ve heard particularly wonderful things about Sage in Aria), but opted for my first endeavor to try Beso. Beso is the restaurant collaboration of Eva Longoria and Chef Todd English. Where better to dine than at the restaurant of one of the Desperate Housewives?
Located in the Crystals shopping complex, Beso takes full advantage of its location with floor to ceiling windows that overlook the entrance to the Aria Hotel and the entire City Center complex. This total immersion into the cityscape works quite nicely and compliments the decor. I would describe the decor of Beso as “modern luxury”. Half circle banquettes line the windows and the outer walls of the restaurant with a sea of detached tables in between. Walls, floors and tables in dark lush woods work harmoniously with crystal chandeliers that drip light from the ceiling like a rain shower of light, glistening and trickling above the diners. The chandeliers are made from the Swarovski Crystal curtain that was featured at the 2009 Academy Awards. The lighting is suitably dark to make the atmosphere both relaxing and romantic. Pulsing club music played in the background and I scrutinized the music, thinking that it was perhaps a bit too frenetic. I finally decided that it was actually a good match for the overall feel of the restaurant.
I truly believe that atmosphere is an integral part of the dining experience and Beso has created an atmosphere that is very, as they put it, luxuriously hip. Yes, atmosphere is important to me, but the cuisine needs to live up to the atmosphere as well. I am happy to say that Beso delivers on both counts. Beautifully presented, each dish we had was prepared and seasoned perfectly. First course for my companion was the Shellfish Tower, consisting of Maine lobster, jumbo shrimp, oysters, little neck clams. P.EI. mussels and ceviche. It was accompanied by sauces in which to dip the seafood, from cocktail sauce, sangria mignonette and horseradish to grainy mustard aioli and fresh lemons and limes. Originally from New England, my companion is a giant shellfish lover and he gave two thumbs up to the Shellfish Tower. I started our meal with the Beso Beso salad, a salad of bibb lettuce with a champagne vinaigrette and halves of yellow and red pear tomatoes. The simplicity of the freshness of the lettuce and the light and flavorful vinaigrette made this a perfect starter for me.
Now on to the main course. My companion had the Filet Mignon, ordered Medium Rare but on the rare side. Upon cutting into the filet, it proved to be a bit too rare and was sent back for a few more minutes on the grill. But that is exactly why it had been ordered on the rare side, because you can always cook it more, but if it is too done, you are out of luck. Upon its return, the filet was cooked to my companion’s tastes perfectly. He also complimented the tenderness and flavor of the filet. Mdivani, the vegetarian, opted for a plate of their sides: grilled asparagus, wild mushrooms and sauteed green beans. I also ordered a side of their Herb Beso Fries. The vegetables and mushrooms were all perfectly prepared and seasoned. I thoroughly enjoyed this vegetable platter and the Beso Fries were excellent. In fact, they were a little too good and I ended up fighting over them with my companion :) Beso has a great wine list and a lovely bottle of merlot accompanied the meal quite nicely.
I was stuffed by this point, considering I had indulged in a late afternoon chardonnay and appetizer break at the Bellagio a few hours earlier. However, I had to try at least one of their deserts. On a waiters recommendation, we tried the Cinnamon Sugar Dusted Churros with chantilly cream and caramel sauce. These are NOT the churros that you find at Disneyland at all. They were slightly crispy on the outside and remarkably light and airy on the inside with just the right amount of cinnamon sugar dusting them. The caramel sauce for dipping was very flavorful without being overly sweet. None of the churros stayed on the plate for very long.
I don’t always have the best of service in restaurants (I seem to wear my invisibility cloak when dining out). At Beso, the service lived up to the atmosphere and decor. The waiters were extremely friendly and attentive as were the support staff and made sure that our every need was taken care of.
As mentioned earlier, Beso is owned by Eva Longoria, but there is nothing desperate about this place and I would highly recommend giving it a try.