VERANDAH CAFE + some cupcake hatin’

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On our list of genres of restaurants we loathe with every fiber of our body, hotel restaurants generally land in third place, right behind “family” restaurants and franchises.

Why do we hate them so? Because, by definition, they have to be all things to all people, and like Moliere says in The Misanthrope: “The friend of all mankind is no friend of mine.”

Admit it: Hotel eating in America sux. We’re not talking about “featured,” dinner-only restaurants in classy joints like the top Vegas hotels or the fancy dancy places in big cities. Those joints came into being partly because of the renaissance brought about by Bradley Ogden in the late ‘8os, when he made the dining room at Campton Place in San Francisco a go-to eatery on every foodie’s itinerary. No, we’re talking about every hotel coffee shop or cafe or bistro/coffee shop/cafe-coffee-i-teria in America that has the same fuccen menu as every other in-house mediocre (or worse) food service operation that is only there to provide fuel to the weary traveler — who neither knows, wants or demands anything but expense-account sustenance that won’t make them ill.

It doesn’t matter if you’re a greasy spoon attached to a Motel 6 or inside a Ritz-Carlton, your menu will have (in various degrees of quality):




A Caesar salad;



A steak or two (a filet and a strip);

Three fish dishes (always including salmon);

A turkey or other club-type sandwich;

A vegetarian “option,” and:

Some kind of roast chicken something or other.

It never fails, and menus are so standardized, you can walk into any (and we mean any) three meal a day hotel restaurant anywhere in America and order without ever looking at a menu. Just say: “I’ll have the club sandwich,” or “Gimme a steak with the pasta with tomato sauce,” and some incarnation of it will be in the kitchen, waiting for you (or one of thousands of saps) to order it. Try it sometime and save yourself the agony and insult of actually reading the bill of fare.

The menu at the Verandah Cafe inside the Four Seasons Hotel inside the Mandalay Bay (whew!) is no different, with two big differences: everything is upscaled and tweaked in such a way that you will forget you are looking a hotel dining room menu, and when taste time comes, you will be impressed.

We’re not going to go overboard with praise here. Blue crab “Louis” was way too cold and compacted — a clear indication of refrigerator-sitting, and the Land and Sea sliders (made with “Kobe” beef and more blue crab) were hardly the best versions we’ve had, but everything was a great deal better than you find in any three meal a day dining room in town — save for MOzen.

When you eat out as much as ELV does, the quality of ingredients is palpable from pretty much the first bite, and here you can just taste that Executive Chef Michael Goodman Chef de Cuisine Clarence Villanueva are getting top shelf groceries, and treating them with respect. You get that from the big chunks of good crab in each of the two versions above, and in the huge, properly cooked mahi mahi fish tacos finished with a nice mango pico de gallo.

This is cliche food, but it is cliche food made tolerable by good chefs who want to make the dishes as well as they can make them…which is all you can ask of hotel coffee shop.

Now, a note on cupcakes (because being served one at Verandah sent us into a tailspin on this loathesome dessert).

ELV and his staff hate cupcakes. We hate the very idea of cupcakes. We think cupcakes have become famous or popular or trendy or whatever they’ve become in the past five years because secretaries love to consume and swoon over them during time-wasting office birthday parties that no one really wants to be at but for the fact they can consume a pasty, overdecorated, over-sugared, childish, gimmicky little cake and pretend they’re ten years old again while they don’t work and swoon and go “goody-goody” over a peanut butter/oreo/licorice/fruit chews/cinnamon special.

Which is an insult to all ten year olds, since the last time we thought cupcakes were cool was when we were about six. And don’t tell ELV you like them ‘cuz they’re “fun.” They’re fun the way playing in a sandbox or eating cheap, Halloween candy is “fun.” You should’ve outgrown these things a long time ago, because they taste like over-sugared shite (all of them) and bring nothing to the party but memories of being six years old.

No serious or semi-serious foodie tolerates even the mention of a cupcake. Take a poll and you’ll find that underpaid office workers generally love them.

The fact that there are TV shows dedicated to making cupcakes is an insult to all that is good and pure and holy in the food world. Miss Cellania should be taken out and shot.

Zeus hath spoken.


In the Four Seasons Hotel

3960 Las Vegas Blvd. South

Las Vegas, NV 89119


9 thoughts on “VERANDAH CAFE + some cupcake hatin’

  1. When it was under Mark LoRusso, Verandah made one of the best overall breakfasts I’d ever had–not just in Vegas, but anywhere. I can only hope his successors haven’t F’ed with it.

    Re cupcakes: Would you agree, it isn’t that the form is necessarily such an awful cake delivery system, but that 99% of executions emphasize cuteness over taste?

  2. John I had 2 wonderful dinners there and an amazing Sunday brunch, their pasta selection was as good as Luciano or Vincenzo’s.
    Killer Veal Milanese cooked to perfection, as well as the NY bone in steak.
    Service was professional.
    had no dessert because like you I prefere a cheese platter or just a nice single malt :)
    Over all (without offending anyone) one the best italian places in town.
    Let u in a little secret….they are flying in a michlin starred Italian chef (in Prague right now on the 17th ) that place will be on the map in a few months.
    Keep the good work up John.

  3. E.C. Gladstone, I thought Mark LoRusso ran Tableau at the Wynn and before that was the Chef at Aqua in the Bellagio. Are you positive he was at the Verandah?

  4. Dear Mr. ELV, I am not an underpaid office worker. I LOOOVVVE cupcakes and here’s why: 1. They are super cute. :) 2. They can be made in a very wide variety of flavors and combinations, the more creative the better. 3. They are like dessert tapas. 4. When made well they are heavenly little bites of dessert and better than eating a whole cake. 5. Portion control. (Try it) 6. I can have my own cake tasting menu 7. When paired with cocktails they are a party waiting to happen. 8. They are really really cute.

    Thanks for listening.

  5. I hope you didn’t watch “Top Chef: Just Desserts” tonight, Mr. Curtas.

    I treat cupcakes like any other food: If it’s good, it’s good, if it’s not, too bad. Frankly, whenever I’m in Chicago, I go out of my way to Molly’s Cupcakes, but then I’m a fan of the Ron & Fez satellite radio show, and Ron has a cupcake named after him. Just showing brand loyalty I guess.

  6. I get it John, I understand the cupcake hating. It is annoying how cute they are and how insanely popular they have become. And I will also agree that most cupcakes taste like crap that I have tried across the states, but when done right, and if you close your eyes so you can forget that your eating a cupcake, it can be just as good as any slice of cake you’ve ever had. I make cupcakes for weddings and friends. But these aren’t like any cupcakes you have ever had. Soft moist chocolate cake with a hint of espresso chocolate mousse and a creamed chocolate glaze. Or the angel food like cake of the coconut lemon cupcakes, that I have literally seen people stuff their mouths with. The Italian mint buttercream atop a dense chocolate cake caused a craze at one wedding. And I bet when I pulled out the spiced fruit and nut cupcakes after a long hike through Zion, you would have swallowed it down faster than you could say blister! You see its not the cupcakes themselves that you hate, it is the cutesie, kitchy, popularity behind them that angers you. I get it, the moment one of my favorite bands becomes popular, I put the CD on sebaticle for at least 6 months. I can’t stand popular things just because they are popular! I move to Vegas in one week and I bet you would have to eat your words if you had one of my cupcakes.
    Thanks for the honesty though,

  7. John Curtas is the biggest asshole is knows nothing about food what a joke. We love the Four Season best place on the strip.

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