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BWE10 Dinner Recommendation: Tender

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Earlier today, I posted a great lunch recommendation at Border Grill, but for dinner I wanted to give you a slightly more upscale location to try out. Tender, which is located at Luxor, is a great option if you’re looking for somewhere sophisticated but can’t afford a five-star $400 tasting menu. They have tons of dinner options in a wide range of prices.

The Food

Tender’s chef was nice enough to send out a variety of appetizer samples for me to try, including shrimp two ways (hot and cold), heirloom tomatoes, and fresh mozzarella. I say this without hesitation: go for the cheese. It was creamy with a mild flavor and I wanted to swim in a pool of it. I’m pretty sure I would have eaten it all had I not had dinner partners who wanted to share.

Oh, something that you wouldn’t normally think about doing – try the bread. I usually try to avoid filling up on bread when I know I’m going to have a great meal, but Rachel, who helped organize the dinner, made me have a slice. I’m picky about bread, simply because my grandmother is the best bread baker in the world (it’s a fact.), but this was pretty darn good. It’s homemade and soft, while still being slightly chewy and having a crunchy crust. Pretty much everything you want bread to be.

Instead of doing a tasting menu like I did at Border Grill for lunch, we ordered dinner. On our waiter’s recommendation, I tried the seafood ensemble, which included Hawaiian blue prawns, Maine sea scallops, and Australian sea bass. We also chosen potato gratin and creamed corn side dishes to share at our table. I definitely recommend going that route – choosing a number of sides for everyone to try instead of each ordering your own. Our waiter recommended these two specific sides, and he wasn’t wrong, especially about the creamed corn.

I expected to love the sea scallops the most, as they’re one of my favorite foods. I wasn’t disappointed. They were perfectly seared and tasted buttery and smooth without being mushy. I have to say, though, the real star for me was the sea bass. The crispy skin was a delicious, and I almost wanted to order more.

Of course, we had to order dessert after seeing their menu. Our waiter recommended the Grandma’s chocolate cake, which was more fudgey chocolate ganache than cake and definitely not what anyone’s grandma makes at home! Our table also got the cookie platter, which was way too big for three people, let alone one person, and included everything from their version of a fig newton to homemade marshmallow.

My pick? Campfire peanut butter s’mores. Yes, you heard me correctly. It was a chocolate brownie on top of a graham cracker, topped with their marshmallows and drizzled with hot fudge. I’m unashamed to say that I ate almost the entire thing, even after being stuffed from dinner. Let’s be honest; I was really still stuffed from lunch before I even got there.

The Atmosphere

Tender has a very upscale lodge feel, especially with their unique chandelier and spun driftwood sculptures. Like I’m finding with most of the hotel restaurants, appearances can be deceiving. They have more than the small lounge and dining rooms you see from the door! If you want to host a larger party, they have dining rooms you can reserve, and they also have a great wine room, which I definitely recommend if you just want to have a few drinks with friends at the end of the night.

Overall, Tender is kind of like its name – a cozy place to eat. Try to get a booth if you eat here – they’re non-traditional wrap-around booths that make it easy to talk with your fellow diners.

The Service

While I already gushed about Rachel at Border Grill, our serving staff at Tender went above and beyond. John gave us fabulous wine recommendations, including a chardonnay that went perfectly with my dinner. Our waiter was Manuel, and not only was he attentive and professional, but he was also extremely personable. He grew up in Las Vegas, so gave us a ton of recommendation of things to see and do while in town. When we left, I kind of felt like I had made a friend, and that’s not the norm when it comes to your restaurant wait staff.

Both John and Manuel were also extremely knowledgeable about the food at Tender. You’ll notice that I mentioned we went with their recommendations often throughout the evening, and you could tell that they weren’t just pushing the specials or more expensive dishes – they were telling us what they love to eat and what they thought we would most love to eat as well.

Overall, Tender is not going to be for everyone. The food is fabulous, but the prices are a bit high for someone on an extreme budget. Remember, though – you get what you pay for. The prices are definitely worth the quality of the meal you’ll have at Tender. If you’re on a budget, consider stopping in just for wine or dessert!

The Specs:

  • Tender is open daily for dinner. Recommendations are recommended, though probably only necessarily on weekends.
  • Sunday – Thursday from 5-10, they have a $39 fixe menu available. Otherwise, you can expect for spend at least $50 for dinner there, assuming you get a drink, entree, and side. Like I said, if you’re on a tight budget, just stop in for dessert.
  • Dress is business casual.

You can view more information about the restaurant, along with their menus, on Luxor’s Tender page.

Big thanks to Ashli and Rachel for coordinating this meal!

BWE10 Lunch Recommendation: Border Grill

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Vegas is a town full of great food, but Border Grill will be tough to beat. Located in Mandalay Bay, which makes it super convenient for BlogWorld Expo attendees, there’s more to this Mexican restaurant than meets the eye. I dare you to find a better strip restaurant for casual dining.

Oh, and if you’re too lazy busy to read this review, skip to the end and watch the video instead!

Executive chef Michael Minor is someone I wish I could hire to feed me every night. Mexican food is too commonly associated with Taco Bell, and his offerings are anything but. If it wouldn’t have been a sin to keep him out of the kitchen, I could have listened to him all day, talking about learning authentic secrets to great food while on vacation in the Yucatán. It’s pretty apparent that Chef Mike loves food and spares no expense at putting out the very best.

Border Grill was nice enough to do a little tasting menu for me, so I got to sample a lot of amazing food from Chef Mike’s kitchen. My three must-haves?

  • Guacamole
  • Baja Ceviche
  • Pork Tacos
  • Fruit Sorbet

Ok, yeah, that’s four. In trying to choose just three, I found that I couldn’t.

Start with the chips and guacamole. If you’re anything like us, I bet you can’t stop nibbling, even when the rest of your meal comes.

I love ceviche, And not only was the plate pretty (see the above-right picture), but it was delicious. In fact, I fully intend to go back and have it again before I leave Las Vegas. Some ceviches are really fishy (in a bad way), but at Border Grill, it tastes cool and refreshing – perfect for a hot day. The avocado adds a smooth texture to your mouth, perfectly contrasting the bed of crunchy homemade totillas.

And how can you not love a really well done taco? At border grill, the tacos are overflowing to the point where you almost have to eat them with a fork, and my favorite, by far, was the pork. If you check out the video below, I mention Chef Mike’s slow-roasted pork at least twice. I want to have that pork’s babies. If pork isn’t your thing, though, all of the tacos I tried were outstanding. Who would have thought you can get tasty, fresh fish tacos or spicy shrimp tacos in the middle of the dessert?

Seriously, save room for dessert. I’m usually not hungry enough for a huge dessert after lunch, despite my love for chocolate cake. I got to try their homemade sorbet sampler instead – and wow. It was a great way to finish the meal, and much to my surprise, there were frozen pieces of real fruit within the creamy sorbet, which burst in your mouth when you bite them. By this point in the meal, you’ll likely feel like you want to explode from eating so much, but it is totally worth the pain.

Also, please, please, PLEASE try the flavored lemonades, either alone or as part of a mixed drink. Yum. They’re sweet, but not syrupy like some flavored drinks.

The wait staff? Amazing, though I’ve yet to come across a poor waitress or waiter in Las Vegas. Mine for lunch was Rachel, and if she’s working, do yourself a favor and request her. I understand that we might have gotten a little special treatment because they knew I was going to write a review, but Rachel clearly knew what she was talking about with every dish – that’s not something you can just quickly learn for the sake of a reviewer. I also took notice that the staff was really attentive of all the guests in our area, making sure to keep the water glass full and checking on diners regularly (but not so often that it gets annoying).

The biggest downside to this restaurant, as I see it, is that it’s easy to miss as you walk by. The restaurant looks tiny from the outside, and kind of…well…typical, nothing special. Inside, that is clearly not the case. Beyond requesting Rachel, do yourself another favor and walk downstairs for seating – you’ll eat right by the river and waterfall. The balcony is also a great option, since the view of Mandalay Bay is gorgeous. Don’t judge this restaurant book by its cover.

The Specs:

  • Mandalay Bay’s Border Grill is open for both lunch and dinner, and they also have to-go options for bloggers on the move. They have a bar, a dining room, a balcony, and an outdoor eating space available for guests.
  • It’s great for the blogger who wants to experience the best of Vegas food, but who is also on a budget. You can get an amazing lunch there for under $25 and dinner for well under $50.

Check out this video for more food porn, videos at the restaurant, and more:

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hiviOKv8ir8[/youtube]

Big thanks to Ashli Kimenker from Kirvin Doak Communications for joining me for lunch and making this review possible!

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