One of the perks of my new job is that I get to travel. But I quickly learned that traveling for work is entirely different than traveling for pleasure. Nonetheless, my boss has a work-hard-play-hard mentality. So between the long meetings, we get to eat some world-class food and have fun new experiences.
My very first trip to Vegas was nine months ago, and since then I've been back twice. During my first two trips, I was completely overwhelmed by the bigness of the city and didn't do a lot of exploring. But this most recent trip was lengthier, and the hypnotic draw of the Strip’s neon lights weren’t as strong.
Once I made it off the strip, I realized Las Vegas has tons of phenomenal Asian food. Our first stop was the restaurant Pho Lan where I ordered bun cha, a pork belly dish with noodles and herbs. It rocked my world and is hands down my new favorite Vietnamese food. For dinner, we followed the recommendation of a friend “in the know” and headed to the Chinese seafood restaurant, Harbor Palace, where we feasted on lobster, whole steamed fish, fried squid, and array of other dishes. The restaurant wasn't fancy, but the food was delicious, authentic, and plentiful.
In addition to our trips off the strip, we had the classic Vegas experience of dining in a celebrity-chef outpost. Although these restaurants often lack the soul of the chef's flagship, Mario Batali’s steakhouse, Carnevino, was exceptional. We ordered the chef’s tasting menu, which included the most incredible parade of meat I've ever seen. A half dozen waiters wheeled out carts of dry-aged porterhouse, bone-in ribeye, lamb and veal chops, not to mention grilled octopus, scallops, calamari, and prosciutto di parma ‘riserva.’ Every detail of the meal was elegant and thoughtful, from the spreadable lardo that came with the bread to the ticket I was given to collect the leftovers from the hostess. Mario Batali has always been my favorite, and this experience served to cement that status.
I was told that no trip to Vegas would be complete without a visit to In-N-Out Burger. I followed the suggestion of a legion of Yelpers and ordered my burger "animal style." This is the off-the-menu version where the patty is cooked with mustard and topped with grilled onions and special sauce. The food was decent but it was the nostalgia of the place that made it so endearing.
On the last day of the trip we headed out to Dream Racing where I had the unforgettable experience of driving a Ferrari 458 Italia. I didn't understand the appeal of fast cars until I was going 140 miles per hour behind the wheel of a 570 horsepower car. Needless to say, I can now relate to all those gearheads that salivate over this beautiful masterpiece of automotive design.
By the time I got on the plane back to Richmond, I was completely spent. But as I looked down at the Vegas lights from the sky, I was already planning my next trip. I've realized I've only just scratched the surface of what this over-the-top city has to offer.