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Here’s some food for thought and here’s what it’s like to eat in eleven restaurants in ten days. Sunday night starts innocently with dinner for two at Shanghai Lilly’s in the Mandalay Bay, the food doesn't equal the décor but the service is superb and the yin and yang fried rice is worth a special trip. Night two found me and my guests at Prime for a heaping shellfish platter of some of the freshest seafood to be found anywhere. Prime also features a New York strip that’s definitely a cut above all other steakhouses--except maybe Delmonico’s--between Shanghai Lilly’s and Prime you’re talking about maybe two of the prettiest restaurants to be found any where.

After these two beauties there’s no where to go but down, and down we go at Renoir. After my third mediocre meal in a row here I conclude that this hot spot is not what it used to be now that Alessandro Stratta is playing the celeb chef globetrotting game. Expect good if not great food now and spotty service. From the Mirage it’s back to the Bellagio for more disappointment. To be blunt, Olives was awful. I’ve never been a fan of Todd English’s “how many flavors can I confuse your palette with” style of cooking---but now the overwrought, ingredient-heavy entrees are now--too often--marginally prepared. That doesn’t stop management from charging first class prices, however. For prices like these---and we’re talking two hundred samolians for two--most would recommend Picasso---but I won’t. Like Olives and Renoir, this place has seen better days. Julian Serrano is a world class chef who is more of a Mediterranean minimalist, but the food has a “been there done that” sense about it and whatever inspiration Serrano took from the paintings has long since faded. A much better bet at the Bellagio is Aqua which right now may be the best restaurant in town.

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Next week and you’ll hear more about it and my Olympian feats of epicurean digestion, on food for thought here on KNPR Nevada Public Radio.

This is John Curtas.

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