Two Fantastic Dinners and One Ugly Hotel in Las Vegas

One of the best things about going to a convention in the center of a large city is the meals. And Vegas is one of the best for that, although the experience is still rivaled by the time I visited New Orleans.

Boa Steakhouse

Imagine a darker space with a buzz of noise that still seemed to have a quiet modern feel due to the high ceilings and decorative touches. Between the rounded booths and tables are bare trees reminiscent of driftwood rooted in lighted boxes with glass chips.

This was Boa, a steak house in the Forum Shoppes at Caesar's Palace and Wednesday's dinner location.

I chose the evening's special - Filet Oscar, for my entree. I've had this dish at various restaurants before - it's crab meat on top of filet mignon with a bearnaise sauce served with asparagus. This variation was the best of those that I remember.

The steak was tangy and well-flavored and cooked perfectly. The crab added another complementary taste and the jumbo asparagus spears were just the right amount of done. The accompanying rolls were delicious and didn't really need any butter because they were done enough enough to be crumbly on the outside while still being richly soft on the inside.

I finished up with a sorbet platter, which I especially liked because of the plating. Instead of offering you a choice, they bring out one plate with three ball scoops, each with a different flavor. Each scoop is resting on its own winglike cracker and the whole thing is arranged in a circle with a touch of fruit.

Osteria del Circo

Now think of what you might do if you were told to make a circus themed decor for an elegant restaurant. I probably would have drawn a blank or tried to build on Cirque du Soleil. Instead there were drapes of gold and red, understated triangles and stripes, and other touches that brought to mind an old-time big top.

Off to one side of the table a metal monkey on a ball rolled along wires from time to time and in another direction was a fantastic bronzed mobile, spinning so we could see the three performers, as if they were dropping in from the trapeze.

This was Circo, an Italian restaurant inside the Bellagio. And the very best part of the decor was the large windows directly facing the fountain, so I was able to see portions of the water show multiple times during Thursday's meal.

I misjudged my ordering here. I picked a mushroom soup with marinated lobster as my appetizer. The lobster was great but the soup wasn't creamy or brothy but something kind of gritty in the middle and I didn't finish it. My colleague who ordered the same thought it was quite good, but I guess I didn't quite care for the texture.

I'd like to make one quick detour into the restroom between courses. I opened the door and was awash in blue and green. It was a fantastic use of subtly varying tile that made me feel like I was stepping in a cool pool. A nice touch was that there were rolled cloths for drying your hands instead of paper towels and a basket to toss the used ones into. Plus, when I returned to my table the cloth napkin I'd left on my seat was refolded and on the table in front of me. Classy.

As my entree I had a delicious veal and mushroom ravioli that was just the right balance between the heaviness of pasta and a lighter taste. Bits of mushroom and scraps of veal were mixed in among the green and cream raviolis, all topped with shavings of parmesan cheese.

Tonight's sorbet was raspberry in a very generous helping. It was creamy enough that it was almost ice cream and I polished it off. I was full enough that I needed to make an extra round of the shops after returning to the hotel because there wasn't enough of a walking distance between the two.

Planet Hollywood

Ugly decor.

Okay, I should be generous to other tastes and say the decor of the hotel at the Planet Hollywood casino was very op and modern and just not to my own taste. But I think I'll settle for ugly and dark.

The color combinations were muddy and the patterns more distracting than appealing. For example, when I first got in my room I thought there was a lot of black in it coupled with some light brown. It was only the next day in full sunlight that I could see it was a deep purple and a rich gold. Which still only sort of worked.

There was very little light in the rooms. I was straining to read by the dinky bulb they put in the bedside light, even with the tall lamp elsewhere in the room on as well. Blessedly the desk lamp was bright for when I spent time on the computer, but that was it.

I'm sure it was more luxuriously appointed than the older casinos, but I wouldn't have expected as much of them. When I was in Vegas in 2006 I stayed in the Paris and saw the Venetian and those were beautiful. Part of that is I liked the style, but I've seen good modern too, and this really wasn't it.

One major plus was the large bathroom which came complete with soaking tub and separate shower. My feet really appreciated the tub after walking around conventions all day. Here the wallpaper was lighter, with circles and squares in beige and metallic gold layered over cream. I liked the effect because the squares in gold would show up more or less depending on the angle that you looked at them.

And I need to leave kudos for the concierge. The same gentleman recommended both the Boa and the Circo when we just mentioned we were thinking of steak the one night and Italian the other night and wanted to step away from the hotel for the meal. I was very satisfied.