Beatles LOVE show still shines in Vegas, plus more great food options


LAS VEGAS – I remember it as if it was yesterday. I’m a huge Beatles fan, and it was my first time seeing a Cirque du Soleil show and my first time in Las Vegas. I was given tickets to see LOVE at The Mirage when I came here in 2010 (I think). And I was curious.

I didn’t leave curious. I left with a grin on my face that could’ve lit up the Strip. I was gobsmacked by the flying artists and the dancing and the performers and the staging and the musical montages of Beatles tunes.

So I was curious about how I’d feel on my return engagement the other day. It wasn’t as good as the first time; I don’t think it coud’ve been. But I was still blown away by the details – the little rainboots, the snippets of rehearsal, the wink-wink nods to various album covers and such. (For example, I hadn’t thought until the show the other day about how the white/cream-coloured Volkswagen Beetle that goes across the stage a couple times is the style as the Bug on the cover of Abbey Road).

Anyway, it was a huge treat. My sister-in-law loved it. My wife was completely over the moon about the experience, having seen Cirque performers before but not with the emotional heft and musical power of The Beatles behind them.

I won’t spoil the show by saying too much more, but I particularly loved Revolution, Help, Drive My Car, Something and the finale….

I think John’s songs play out best in the show, which isn’t surprising given the visual imagery of his songs and his love of clever word play. I’m a tad surprised they don’t make more of Yellow Submarine or Penny Lane, but perhaps that would be too obvious in a group known for more subtlety. Either way, it’s still a show that’s smashingly entertaining. I wouldn’t hesitate to go again. And again. And again.

I’m told Vegas food wasn’t so special 20 years ago. I can’t vouch for the days of the all-day buffets. But I can certainly say that Las Vegas is as good a food city as anyplace in the U.S.

Time after time on this trip, we had memorable and even stunning meals. Celebrity chefs are everywhere in Vegas, with Gordon Ramsay pubs and such. (No Susur Lee yet, but give it time.) And the food is exquisite.

I reported early on PRIME and Holstein’s. I also had one of the best Italian meals of my life at Fiamma Trattoria at the MGM Grand.

It’s a beautiful spot with lovely, soft lights and a fabulous wood wall with a cool ribbon design. The wait staff is exceptional and helpful. But the food is even better.

I tasted a wonderful fresh Caprese Salad with Bufala Mozzarella and a nice Ceasar Salad prior to dinner, as well as a crazy good, creamy risotto with short rib. My short rib ravioli with truffles was one of the top pasta dishes I’ve ever had, and the gnocchi with lobster was as tasty as it was beautiful. I really didn’t feel like dessert but they insisted I try a nice apple tart and a wonderful ricotta cheese cake that was fluffy and light and absolutely marvellous.

At Five50, located at the lovely Aria hotel, I had a terrific pizza with truffle salami, béchamel, parmesan, fresh thyme and shaved truffles. The pepperoni with sweet red peppers was “spot on,” according to my sister in law, Tricia. I also had a lovely arugula and fennel salad with lemon, olive oil and manchego cheese and some local, craft beers.

There’s a bright, lively atmosphere and what look like upside down copper kettles as light fixtures in part of the room. The servings are huge, so be forewarned. I didn’t try it, owing to a desire to fit into my clothes and all, but they had a crazy milkshake on the menu with cinnamon ice cream, whipped cream and Snickerdoodles candy.

Speaking of not fitting into my clothes, I also got to try the legendary Bacchanal Buffet for breakfast at Ceasar’s Palace. In a word, it’s extraordinary. They had regular bacon, turkey bacon and pepper bacon (yum), not to mention a half dozen types of sausage, fresh seafood of all kinds (huge crab legs), Fruit, red velvet and regular pancakes, an omelet station, spicy and regular potatoes, home-made donuts and luscious pastries and an Asian section with Dim Sum and other offerings (nice bbq pork buns and har gow).

It’s a crazy spot where you can go absolutely nuts. I showed a moderate amount of restraint, but I also took advantage of the free mimosas with a brunch purchase.

I also checked out the remodeled patio at Nine Fine Irishmen, a lively Irish pub at New York, New York that has inside seating as well as a great sidewalk café. Apparently they spent about $3 million refurbishing the place and fixing up the area outside the restaurant, just south of the mock Brooklyn Bridge. It’s a great area for walking and admiring the beautiful people going by. Not to mention the other folks like me. They have a good beer selection and make a fine blackened mahi mahi sandwich, too.

Finally, I settled in for a great dinner on Saturday night at Tender, a plush steakhouse located inside the Luxor resort/hotel. It’s a real old-time steak place like Barberian’s in Toronto, with deep banquettes big enough to hold four NFL players, orange-red lighting and big comfortable chairs. The wait staff seems very old-school; quiet and respectful and just right.

Their Caesar Salad was easily the best of three I tried on the trip (somebody has to do it). They also make a terrific salmon dish and have a huge cheese selection. They do all kinds of steaks; grass-fed from New Zealand and grain fed from the U.S. and filet mignon and strips and rib-eyes. It’s a crazy-good selection.

I was persuaded to try the sample of game meats and was floored by it. I liked the venison with huckleberries, and the roasted, sliced wild boar was tender and flavourful. But the star of the 3-item show was the antelope served Ossu Bucco style; rich and meaty and not at all gamey. One of the best meat dishes I’ve had anywhere on the planet.

They put a strong emphasis on sustainable foods, I was told, and they even make their own bottled water.


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