Lipsmacking Foodie Tours – Savory Bites and Neon Lights
Javiers Fresh Tortilla Chips – Javier’s House Salsa, Roasted Tomato Salsa, Green Tomatillo Salsa, Habanero Salsa
Javier’s Enchiladas de Mariscos – Stuffed with Shrimp and Dungeness Crab sautéed in Butter, Garlic, Onions and Wine with Tomatillo Sauce, Melted Monterey Jack Cheese
Javier’s Chicken Enchiladas with Guajillo Sauce – Stuffed with Chicken and Guajillo Sauce, Melted Monterey Jack Cheese
Javier’s Refried Beans and Mexican Rice
Javier’s “Margarita Pina” – Herradura Reposado Tequila, Agave Nectar, Lime Juice, St. Germain and Fresh Pineapple
Bardot Brasserie French Baguette and Butter
Bardot Brasserie Escargots Bardot – Wild Burgundy Snails, Toasted Hazelnuts, Chartreuse Garlic Butter, Puff Pastry Shells
Bardot Brasserie Duck Wings a l’Orange – Wood Grilled Wings, Blood Orange Glaze, Sauce Maltaise
Bardot Brasserie Chicken French Dip – Gruyere Cheese, Mushroom Bread Pudding, Haricots Verts, Vin Jaune au Jus, Petite Salade
Bardot Brasserie French 75 – Citadelle Gin, Lemon Juice, Prosecco
Estiatorio Milos Griddled Sourdough and My Sister’s Olive Oil
Estiatorio Milos The Greek Salad – Vine Ripe Tomatoes, Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Barrel-Aged Feta
Estiatorio Milos Octopus – Grilled Sushi Quality Mediterranean Octopus
Estiatorio Milos Milos Special – Lightly Fried Zucchini, Eggplant, Tzatziki and Kefalograviera Cheese
Estiatorio Milos “Basil Press” – Mastiha Liqueur, Fresh Lemon Juice, Fresh Basil, Fever-Tree Club Soda
Scarpetta Bread Basket – White Rolls, Focaccia, Stromboli Bread plus Olive Oil, Eggplant Caponata and Mascarpone Butter
Scarpetta Spaghetti – Tomato and Basil
Scarpetta Short Rib Agnolotti – Short Rib, Bone-Marrow, Brown Butter, Horseradish and Toasted Breadcrumbs
Scarpetta Creamy Polenta – Fricassee of Truffled Mushrooms
Scarpetta Duck & Foie Gras Ravioli – Marsala Reduction
Scarpetta “San Remo” – Makers Mark, Carpano Antica, St. Germain, Campari, Orange & Lime (top right and top left)
Wolfgang Puck Cucina Tiramisu – Espresso soaked Chiffon, Mascarpone Mousse, Chocolate Cremoso – Caramel Mousse, Praline Crunch, Pistachio Budino – Whipped Creme Fraiche, Pistachio Biscotti, Zeppole – Fried Italian Doughnut, Caramel Sauce
When Lip Smacking Foodie Tours first launched in Las Vegas one could not help but be skeptical, the constant turnover of Chefs and Front of House hardly ideal for a young business trying to sell DTLV as any sort of ‘culinary destination,’ and yet with time and persistence the concept launched by Donald Contursi has not only outlasted many of its previously featured restaurants but also managed to add to its catalogue of offerings with everything from an intimate Beef Tasting at Carnevino to sizable Corporate Events.
Now entering its third year of existence, the reviews on Yelp! and Tripadvisor almost universally positive with an obvious lean towards visitors or the sort of person who considers the term “foodie” to be a compliment, it was after several meals enjoyed with Mr. Contursi at places both incorporated and independent of his tours that the young man finally caught my attention with one of his newest ideas, the “Savory Bites and Neon Lights” Tour offering just the right balance of food and adventure to intrigue a local who has done a fair bit of dining around town.
Entirely focused on The Cosmopolitan and City Center, those concerned in any way about a walking tour during the scorching Las Vegas summer not to worry as the only part of the $299.00 per person tour to take part outside is a 150-yard stroll from Crystals to Cosmopolitan and back, the Savors of the Strip portion of the tour begins in front of the arched waterfall in front of Aria Resort and Casino, this and many other pieces of art described by a tour guide who also acts as part-time comedian and server throughout the rest of the night.
Taking on five restaurants in approximately 30 to 45-minute increments as the night progresses, those taking a Sunday tour seeing their adventure begin at Javier’s in place of the usually featured Sage, it is with approximately three menu items as well as Bread Service and a Signature Cocktail that each restaurant is presented with a brief description of the concept and Chef/Proprietor, the California-based Mexican restaurant proving to be the least generous of the tour as Tortilla Chips and freshly made salsa join two half-Enchiladas plus Beans fortified with Lard and fluffy Mexican Rice.
Given a chance to check out the nation’s largest chainsaw sculpture and a tree of top-shelf Tequilas plus a Margarita made with Pineapple and Herradura Reposado before departing, the private dining room typically reserved for Ballers and Movie Stars also a nice touch, stop two features what many including myself consider to be the nation’s finest Brasserie just one story above the Aria’s gaming environs, Michael Mina’s Bardot Brasserie featuring local-Chef Josh Smith serving up two Puff-Pastry Escargot per person along with a pair of Duck Wings and Orange Sauce before finishing up with the bar-menu only Chicken French Dip that remains a hidden secret worth seeking out in Sin City.
Focusing much of the discussion at Bardot on the beautiful bar, the French 75 offered as part of the Tour’s $60 supplemental Cocktail package a highlight for three of the five guests imbibing that night, it was after a bit more education about the Art Collection at Aria as well as Crystals that the tour arrived at the Cosmopolitan’s dining concourse, Montreal-based Estiatorio Milos experienced for pennies on the dollar compared to their typical menu pricing with a traditional Tomato Salad offered for the timid, while those more adventurous dined on tender grilled Octopus plus Las Vegas’ premier Eggplant dish alongside the refreshing Basil Press.
To this point doing a fine job of sating appetites without overwhelming, even those choosing to indulge in the warm Baguette and Butter at Bardot or charred Sourdough and family-secret Olive Oil at Milos, savories conclude by way of Celebrity Chef Scott Conant’s Scarpetta within eye-shot the previous restaurant, the majority of the group quick to fade as three signature pastas including one stuffed with Foie Gras were served up alongside two big bowls of Mushroom Polenta plus a basket featuring Focaccia begging to be topped with Mascarpone Butter and Eggplant Caponata plus slices the restaurant’s irresistible Stromboli.
Rounding out the Food Tour with something sweet, the recently rebranded Cucina by Wolfgang Puck at Crystals preceded by a lengthy visit to RetroSpecs at The Cosmopolitan where the eccentric owner spent time showing off frames previously worn by everyone from Johnny Depp to Ozzy and Gandhi, those familiar with Las Vegas dining will be thrilled to know that all four of Kamel Guechida’s Desserts continue to set a high standard indicative of why Puck lured him away from Joel Robuchon in the first place, the creamy Pistachio Budino and Tiramisu almost as light as a cloud both particularly welcomed after a long night of eating and education.
Not done quite yet, the clock now nearing 9:00pm as a pair of visitors from British Columbia who’d only signed up to dine departed for their hotel, it was following the guide that the rest of the group was led to the underground parking area at Aria, a black tour bus featuring the name Maverick Helicopter Tours soon to arrive and deliver the remaining members plus others guests to the airfield adjacent McCarran Airport, a Champagne Toast found waiting as each guest is discreetly weighed and given a number that the well-trained pilots will soon call out.
At this point only a bit worried that any sudden movement may adversely affect those who’d eaten and drank too much, the pilot calm, funny and in communication with Air Traffic Control at all times, it was with a gentle lurch that the Helicopter containing six adults from as far away as Trinidad lifted skyward, a fifteen minute flight narrated by a recorded voice taking people all the way from Mandalay Bay to The Stratosphere before looping back, the ride as smooth as silk with everyone landing in a broad smile, the pilot even taking a little time to stick around after and take some pictures in addition to the promotional photo available at an extra charge inside the terminal.
FIVE STARS: Not only a fun experience for tourists looking to taste the local dining scene without a full meal’s investment, but also great cross-brand promotion for Mr. Contursi, the Restaurants and Maverick Helicopter Tours, Savory Bites and Neon Lights by Lipsmacking Foodie Tours more than justifies the cost of admission even for skeptics, the blend of good Food, art and adventure offering something new for even those who think they may have already seen everything relevant that the Strip has to sell.
RECOMMENDED: Aside from perhaps the Salsa being considered a ‘course’ at Javier’s there is not a disappointing bite on the tour, kudos to Donald for creating a menu that allows more timid diners to be a little bit adventurous while those who’ve tasted Octopus or Foie Gras hundreds of times will also be happy with the portions and quality presented.
TIP: As detailed above, the tour cost is $299 per person, weight restrictions of 300lbs per ‘ticket’ applied to the helicopter portion of the evening, while those simply looking to dine are invited to depart after dessert at a discounted cost of $199.
WHAT THE STARS MEAN: 5 World Class, 4 Excellent, 3 Good, 2 Fair, 1 Poor.