Pub date August 22, 2006

› paulr@sfbg.com
Dear Las Vegas,
It’s over. I’m sorry. Well, not sorry, actually — more like glad, ecstatic even: a shot of ecstasy with a chaser of relief, let’s say. Not that it was much to begin with, just 48 infernal hours, like a dreadful bout of food poisoning, though your food is surprisingly not bad, considering that you’re, well … you, a great monument of and to fakery, phony Roman forums and bogus Venetian canals, a counterfeit Eiffel Tower and a falsified Greenwich Village, all of it raised in a hostile desert and peopled by an orotund race of buffet hounds who spend their evenings having their skulls pulverized by the howl of dreadful shows.
You still have them lining up for your buffets, these bottomless-pit families fresh from the casinos — for the family that gambles together stays together. (Did I see that on a license plate? I saw so very many license plates, moving so very slowly along the choked Strip under the glaring sun.) I give grudging credit there. And the family that stays together shops together, as we all know, or can infer from the shopping bags hanging in bunches from fleshy limbs, like giant paper fruit. And you’ve installed Daniel Boulud in a basement. But the Todd English place, Olives (in the Bellagio), is quite good and only moderately overpriced, as Vegas overpricing goes. Even the private-label cafés, with their white-bean soups and chicken-tikka wraps, are respectable, except for the coffee.
The coffee! Sacré bleu! O black water! One torrid morning, in desperation, I traversed the phony mountain with the phony waterfall — thumpity-thump music playing all the way, even along the sidewalk — to reach the Starbucks across the street. And was glad to do so.
The killer, for me, was the $2.50 surcharge slapped on a snifter of Rémy Martin VSOP cognac that was already costing $12.50 at some foofy little parasol bar in the Wynn. The fine print explained that the surcharge was for brandy either “neat or on the rocks,” as if there is any other way to have it! I asked the friendly barkeep about it and was told, “This isn’t a cheap place to drink.” No indeed, and not the point. When you offer something on a menu at a price you slyly will not honor, you are a shyster. Your bristling minion basically agreed, not that it matters, over and out.