Wednesday 31 October 2007

Michael Mina Offers Modernist Cuisine, Classically Elegant Stink-Free Facilities

3600 Las Vegas Blvd. South
Las Vegas, NV USA 89109

Where is it?

The restaurant itself is located behind the Bellagio Conservatory, in between the Dale Chihuly store and the hotel's 24-hour kitchen, the Bellagio Cafe.

Once in the restaurant, head all the way to the rear of the place, rounding the open kitchen and slipping into the rear of the dining room. Keep steering left until you see the back entrance to the kitchen (which at this point is closed). Head that way, but turn right before reaching the kitchen door. Go down that hallway there and you'll find the bathrooms at the end.

What's it like?

This is a classy, high-minded and somewhat stuffy restaurant overlooking the Bellagio pool, with an emphasis on seafood and modernist plate presentation. That means you'll get very fresh seafood concoctions but they are served in a manner that makes the food look more like works of art on the plate than actual food. Some people like that sort of thing (Bobby Flay is a firm believer in putting presentation first, for example), and while I admired the minimalist presentations, I found the dishes themselves to be a bit pedestrian in inspiration and composition and didn't feel the end result was worth the hefty price tag.

I had a tasting menu here, however I think that had I gone for the $80 lobster pot pie, which is what most of the diners were having, I would have been a little happier with the results. Such as it was, I ended up with a five-course meal that was decent (a great caviar starter, for example, and a fine dessert sampler) but not overwhelming (not like the meal I had at Bellagio neighbor Circo), and in a way I felt a bit cheated. Such is the modern spin on nouvelle cuisine, I guess.

The place itself is decorated with a sort of hip elegance. The front dining room is filled with woods, while the back (overlooking the pool) emphasizes white linens, muted lighting and off-white colored walls and floors. The service is a little stuffy as well but it's still prompt and efficient. The prices are exorbitant no matter what you order.

The bathroom, on the other hand, is warm, inviting, modest, classy, clean and unique -- everything you wish the rest of the restaurant would be. It's a long white room that accommodates only one person at a time. The toilet sits at the far end of the place (below an ornately framed mirror), the sink -- a beautiful white unit set in a glass vanity topped with flowers -- sits about halfway down on the left (when facing the back wall). Simple white marble tile lines the floor and walls. Cloth towels. Soft, flowery smelling soap that both moisturizes the skin and gets any fishy odor out. And impeccably clean!

Even better: It don't hold odors. When I went for my visit, I had to stand in line to get in (it only holds one person, remember). The guy ahead of me in line claimed he'd been waiting a long time to get in -- which means the person inside was..... well, you know.

Anyway, that guy came out and the next guy went in, and he proceeded to stay in the bathroom a good 10 minutes. By that point, I was thinking that I would be entering a gas chamber when it came around to my turn. BUT NO! When the next guy left, I eased into the room and was met with no trace of stink, just a flowery perfumed air (and not one that had been singed by air freshener) that reminded me of springtime. That made the experience all the more enjoyable!

Marks out of 10:

10. A glorious place relieve yourself or inhale some stink-free air!

Comments to the Management:

The bathroom's damn near perfect -- it's the rest of the place I'm worried about.

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