A Vegas Valentine

While our first day in Las Vegas was dedicated to East Coast (mostly D.C.-based) chefs, our second day, Valentine’s Day, was dedicated to Paris, which is where Kenley proposed almost three years ago. (Read about Day One of our “Eating Our Way Through Vegas” trip here)

And what better way to celebrate Valentine’s Day than by spending it in Paris and Venice? Or at least the faux versions in Las Vegas.

Kenley and I started the day by eating lunch at Mon Ami Gabi in the Paris Las Vegas casino. We had eaten there on our first trip to Vegas last year. The restaurant has the feel of an authentic French bistro, and it has one of the best views of Las Vegas Boulevard. If you sit outside, you also get views of actual blue skies — instead of the painted skies on the ceilings of the casinos. The restaurant is right across the street from the Bellagio, so if you time it right, you can watch the water-fountain show. It starts at 11 a.m. Sundays, at noon on Saturdays, and at 3 p.m. Monday through Friday.

You definitely go to Mon Ami Gabi for the location. The food is French-inspired and good, but not amazing. I’ve ordered the ham and cheese crepes both times I’ve gone, and they are rich and satisfying. But the Valentine’s Day “lobster bisque special” that Kenley ordered was way too salty. I felt like I was gulping in sea water instead of lobster. A table behind us sent it back.

We spotted our first Valentine’s Day Vegas bride outside of the Paris casino.

Our next destination might not be what you have in mind when you think of romance, but no trip to Vegas is complete without a trip to Bill’s Gambling Hall and its Big Elvis show.

Bill’s is the dive bar of Vegas casinos. You can get a plastic pitcher of Miller Lite for less than $10.

Big Elvis has been voted one of the best Elvis impersonators in the country, and he performs Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday at 3 p.m., 5 p.m. and 6 p.m. He has a fascinating story, which you can read more about here in my blog post about last year’s Vegas trip.

On this trip, Big Elvis paid tribute to Whitney Houston — who had been found dead in her bathtub at the Beverly Hilton three days earlier — by singing Dolly Parton’s “I Will Always Love You,” famously covered by Houston.

From Bill’s, we walked up the strip to the Venetian, the “faux Italy” of Vegas. We strolled along the indoor canals, spotted two more brides (including a wedding ceremony on one of the bridges over a canal), ate chocolate-covered strawberries from Godiva, and had Champagne cocktails from the Laguna bar in the adjacent Palazzo hotel and casino.

We decided against riding the gondolas on the inside canals, as the weather wasn’t nice enough for them to operate on the larger canals in front of the casino. Have to save something for the next trip!

(Kenley and I have been to two faux versions of Venice in the past year — one in Vegas and one in Venice, Calif. I think we should start saving for a trip to the real place!)

For dinner, we headed back to the south end of the strip, where we ate at MiX, which is on the 64th floor of THEHotel in the Mandalay Bay casino complex. I chose MiX because its chef, Alain Ducasse, also runs the Jules Verne, the restaurant in the Eiffel Tower (the original tower in Paris, not in the Vegas replica). Kenley and I didn’t get to eat at the Jules Verne when we were in Paris, but Kenley proposed atop the (real) Eiffel Tower — so I thought dinner at Ducasse’s Vegas restaurant was the perfect spot for Valentine’s Day dinner. And it was.

The restaurant is designed to look like a Champagne glass, in a sophisticated and not-too-cheesy way. The lighting is soft, and blown-glass bubbles hang from the ceiling. Ask for a table near the windows, or you can sit outside for an incredible view of the strip and the city. And ladies, if you go, you must make a trip to the restroom, which also has a window with the incredible view.

Our dinner started with bread and peanut butter — as in butter with peanuts, not the kind of peanut butter you have with jelly. It was light, but had lots of peanut flavor. We could have gone home happy at that point. For our entrees, Kenley ordered the cod brandade with lemon, capers, brown butter and croutons. I had the sea bass with fondant celery root and shellfish. Both fish tasted pretty fresh, even though some warn not to order seafood in the middle of the desert. The best part of our meal was the side of MiX macaroni and cheese with ham, which was rich and smoky.

We finished our meal with a complimentary Valentine’s Day dessert of two madeleine cookies served with Nutella-like dipping sauce.

The dinner, the decor and the view are splurge-worthy. In true Vegas style, MiX becomes a lounge later at night, with DJs and a $15 cover. If you don’t want to do dinner, the cover might be worth it for the view.

Day Three of the “Eating Our Way Through Vegas” trip, in which we try burgers and pizza, is coming soon.

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