• Bruce

Day 2: Las Vegas

I woke up at around 8:30am to some beautiful sunshine from the Cosmopolitan terrace. I planned to work today so it wouldn’t be all fun and games. As great as the Cosmo is, it isn’t the best place to work since they don’t have a proper desk. Since it was so close by, I walked over to the Waldorf Astoria at around 9:30am to check in.

The attendant was very nice and explained the Amex FHR and Hilton Honors Gold benefits which included $60 for Breakfast, a $125 Property Credit from Amex, and an additional $50 Property Credit from Hilton. $235 of credits on a $265 stay? Yes please. Unfortunately, my room wasn’t ready yet and I wouldn’t be able to double dip on the breakfast credit like Wicked Spoon - no big deal, I was more than happy with the rest of the benefits. She said she would text me when my room was ready and would prioritize it as guests checked out. She did offer a discounted upgrade to a suite which was ready immediately, but I politely declined. I walked back to the Cosmo to pick up a small breakfast. At first I wanted to get Eggslut, which I had a year ago at the Cosmo. The line was just as long as I remembered, and I didn’t have that much time to kill. Instead, I got a Croque Madame from District: Donuts, Sliders, Brew - very descriptive name. The Croque was actually sandwiched by a sliced donut (unsweetened). It came out to just under $10 - a perfect use of the Marriott F&B credit. I enjoyed this on the terrace with some coffee that I made from the machine in the Autograph lounge.

By now it was about 10:30am so I had to call in to my morning meeting and get to work. I worked till about 12:30pm and then headed back down to the Wicked Spoon for lunch. The spread was largely the same as yesterday, but I wasn’t complaining because I didn’t get to try everything yet. Another fantastic meal ending with a completely new set of desserts and coffee.

After lunch, I texted the Waldorf and confirmed my room was ready. Check out at the Cosmo was quick and all the credits were applied properly on the first try - a pleasant surprise. I then made the walk over to the 23rd floor Sky Lobby of the Waldorf and picked up my room keys. I got a standard one-category upgrade to a strip view room on the 15th floor. Floors above 23 are condos which are not part of the hotel - but man would it be great to live here. The Waldorf Astoria Las Vegas used to be a Mandarin Oriental hotel, so much of the decor is carried over from the previous owner. Some people have complained about the Waldorf not doing a full renovation since taking over about 2 years ago, but I really like the MO style. MO is one of the highest end hotel brands in the world and back when it owned this hotel, it was often regarded as the best hotel in Las Vegas. My room was quite spacious at over 500 sqft, and had a stunning spa bathroom with a standalone tub.

Despite the fact that this room hasn’t changed since opening in 2009, it was pretty well maintained and didn’t feel dated at all. If you inspect closely, you can see some wear and tear, but for the average guest, it is still quite luxurious and very much worthy of the Waldorf Astoria brand. The best part is a full size business desk with plenty of power options, so I could get back to work.

Tonight, I had a dinner reservation at the Waldorf’s fine dining establishment - Twist by Pierre Gagnaire, the only restaurant by the 3-Michelin Star Chef in America. Since this was a super high end meal, I needed to dress the part. At 6:30pm, I went upstairs to the 23rd floor for my very special dinner.

I was seated near the window with a good amount of privacy, but still looking towards the dining room. The restaurant has views facing the Las Vegas Strip and a very elegant yet cozy ambience. When I arrived, there weren’t that many people yet, but throughout my time I saw the dining room fill up. My waiter introduced himself to me and offered me a choice of bottled, sparkling, or still water. At fancy restaurants, it is customary to charge for water, so I always try to figure out which option sounds free. I assumed bottled and sparkling are always charged, so I went with still. To my dismay, the waiter brought out a nice looking bottle with the words “artisanal water” at the neck. I remember seeing that neck with a $10 price tag around it in my room, as it was the same bottle. Oh well, it was not my first time paying for water and likely won’t be my last.

I went for the 4 course tasting menu for $140. There is a 6 course option for $205, but since I “only” had a $175 credit (and had to take into account tax and tip), I went with the lighter option. The 4 courses can be very misleading as there are numerous plates with each course and little extras scattered throughout the meal, making it feel more like a 10 course meal. Since I booked through OpenTable, I was offered a complimentary glass of Champagne.

First came the amuse bouche, which consisted of 5 different elements - these weren’t part of the 4 courses so I don’t quite remember their names. The main plate had 3 small morsels of very intricate and detailed bites. From left to right, the first was a cucumber stuffed with something and topped with caviar. The second was a puff pastry with Gruyere cheese inside. The third was a small tart with apples. On the tree trunk plate was a chip topped with an eggplant aioli. Lastly was a jelly in what I recall was a champagne foam. As ridiculous as all of these things sound, every single element was really delicious. The most memorable of the bunch was the foam, which also had this saffron-like oil that was so refreshing and tasty.

Next came the bread course, which was a mini French baguette and a charcoal apricot bread. This was accompanied by both classic sea salt butter and a citrus infused butter. It was nice having both a sweet and savory bread option to start the meal. The bread was also piping hot and the butter was very spreadable.

Finally the first course came, which was langoustine done in 4 ways - Mousse, Grilled, Tartare, and Seared. All 4 were delicious, but the tartare with the seaweed jelly had a really nice and unique flavor. The grilled one also had a fantastic smokiness to it.

The second course was a soup dish that was finished table-side. This is a signature dish of Pierre Gagnaire called Zezette. It had three gnocchi made from beet, pumpkin, and spinach, as well as a fried cod cake in the middle. The zezette “soup” was absolutely amazing and probably my favourite item out of the meal. That green broth packed so much flavor and complimented the textures of the other elements beautifully.

Before I got the main course, I had a palate cleanser made with some combination of cucumber sorbet with lime and tequila foam, topped with a sprinkle of cayenne pepper. Again, as strange as that sounds, it was very refreshing and tasty.

The main course was a filet of venison with brussels sprouts and a red cabbage marmalade, finished with a jus table-side. It was paired with a pear gratin with smoked pork belly and celeriac, as well as Grand Veneur ice cream. The venison was cooked perfectly and the flavors were great, not that unlike a beef dish. The gratin was fantastic, both light from the pear and rich from the celeriac purée. The standout element was the ice cream, which was made from a sauce that typically goes on the venison dish. It was my first time having savory ice cream and it paired really nicely with the meat.

Finally, we reached the dessert course, which had 3 dishes. The first was a very light cheesecake mousse coated in white chocolate, topped with a decorative pasta stick representing a candle for the restaurant’s 10th anniversary. The second was a refreshing pineapple ice slush with mozzarella and mint. The third was a rich hazelnut ice cream with a caramel sauce. I was pleasantly surprised by the mozzarella ice slush dish, a combination that I didn’t think would work.

After dessert, the chef sent out a couple more “thank you” bites. This was a truffle hazelnut mousse and a dark chocolate cherry ganache.

After getting the bill, they brought out a little snack box of house made caramels and chocolate coated round wafers that I could take home.

All in all, this was probably the best meal I’ve ever had. It was certainly the most expensive at $185 (including tax, tip, and the $10 water), but after the $175 of credits, probably the best value meal I’ve gotten for $10. The service was impeccable - the server was polite but also friendly and making conversation in a comfortable and not intrusive way. There were additional servers, pouring water for me from my own bottle on the table, and brushing away the crumbs after every course. When I took the spoon out of the zezette and placed it on the table cloth, it left a green stain (oops), so the server set another cloth on top of it to cover it up. Now is this actually worth the high cost if I didn’t have the credits? It depends. The flavors and combinations I had were things I’ve never tasted before. I definitely wouldn’t have gone if I paid cash, but it is an experience that is far beyond your typical dinner. Not a bad option at all if you wanted to splurge for a special occasion.