Friday, June 22, 2007

Tao and Samba - Or, How I Gained Five Pounds in Vegas

Our view of the giant buddha

As soon as we booked our trip to Vegas, I knew one place where I definitely wanted to make a dinner reservation: Tao. I had been to the one in New York, so I knew what to expect food-wise - but that's not why I wanted to go. I wanted to go to catch some celebrity action! Literally not a week goes by where Tao in Las Vegas is not mentioned in Us Weekly as the backdrop of a celebrity sighting. And while the stars are typically at the adjoining nightclub of the same name, I figured that my odds were good to spy someone at the restaurant as well. Alas, with Paris Hilton in jail, Lindsay in rehab and Britney still trying to figure out her life, all the famous people seemed to be staying home as a gesture of solidarity and support. Until, of course, I read this week's Us Weekly and realized I had near misses with about 10 celebs while in Vegas.


Anyway... despite our reservations, we waited at least 20 minutes, which is what you just need to expect anytime you try to go somewhere "hip." It wouldn't be a hip place if they didn't make you want it really badly! So I had a "Tao-tini" at the bar, which was tasty. I also grabbed a small handful of what I thought was something OTHER than wasabi-encrusted nuts from a bowl in front of me. Lesson learned there - Hot, hot hot!

We were seated on the third level, looking down on two other floors of trendy diners. My husband commented, "This is definitely a girly-place." He was right - it was probably 70% women (and many all-women tables and bachelorette parties) in the restaurant. My theory was that it was because all women read the gossip magazines, see Tao constantly mentioned and then think they're going to see a bunch of celebrities if they go there - just like I had assumed.

Despite the lack of famous faces, we still had a nice meal - edamame, four large sushi rolls and an excellent molten chocolate dessert. If a place has an all-chocolate option on the dessert menu, then I will be a fan - it's about as simple as that.

The next night, we went with a group to Samba, a Brazilian restaurant located in the Mirage. While it was much, much smaller than the typical Brazilian steakhouse, the heart of the experience was still the same. Waiters constantly circle the floor with huge skewers of every type of meat imaginable, and if anyone at your table wants more, you have an indicator at your table that you flip to GREEN and the food will keep coming. Once you think you are going to throw up, you flip the indicator to RED. Every Brazilian steakhouse has some version of this tool - when I was in a "real" Churrascaria in Rio de Janeiro, they had this little sign with a cartoon pig that you kept in front of you - a happy pig with a green background kept the waiters running to your table, a sick-looking pig with a red background earned you some respite. A few guys I was with at that time had a "meat-off" to see who could eat the most... and let's just say that ALL of us got ill watching them stuff themselves for hours with hunks of meat. Nas-tay!

Come to momma!Back to Samba... it didn't have a lot of the traditional aspects you would come to expect if you've been to a few of these types of restaurants. There was no long, winding salad bar. In fact, there wasn't a salad bar at all - a salad bowl was passed amongst the group at the beginning of the meal, and that was it. They also didn't serve any of the little bread roll thingys that I came to love while in Brazil. I don't know what they're called, but they even serve them at McDonald's down there!

OK, I felt dumb so I just googled "Brazil, cheese, bread, poofs" and learned that they are called pao de queijo. Dammit, now I really want some! And Samba didn't have them, so it lost points for that.

But what I did eat there - turkey wrapped in bacon, many kinds of steak, and chicken - was excellent, and everyone else in the group had their fill and was satisfied.

Which way to the gym?

- e

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