August 8, 2012

Grand time was had by all

Posted in Between Us column, Dining, Travel, Women at 5:00 pm by dinaheng

Everything in Las Vegas is big — big neon signs on the Strip, big tour buses, big casinos. But when you’ve got a big family in search of a reasonably-priced dinner, the options aren’t so plentiful

For the budget-minded, there’s always McDonald’s or Subway-type fare, where you can get a meal for under $10. If you’re willing to pay a little more, most casino buffets offer unlimited portions for $15 and up, with the quality of the fare commensurate with the price. But if you’re not going to eat everything in sight, and are discerning about what you put in your mouth, there is another alternative.

Several family members and I recently gathered in the Entertainment Capital of the World for a weekend break, and after a day of losing money to the city’s one-armed bandits, five of us headed to The Venetian Resort, Hotel and Casino for dinner.

Tucked in the back of the casino is the original Grand Lux Cafe, a spin-off of The Cheesecake Factory that offers a similarly massive menu, large portions, and reasonable prices. For five women who enjoy eating “family style,” it was the perfect choice.

We started with two appetizers — Grand Fried Calamari ($12.95) and Creamy Spinach and Cheese Dip ($10.95). The portions were so large, we couldn’t finish them as a group, so one of my sisters decided to finish it as her entrée.

As a group, we ordered a Grilled Salmon with Mashed Potatoes and Asparagus ($19.95),  the Deluxe Drive-In Burger and French Fries ($9.95), a Grilled Ahi Tuna Burger ($14.95), Small House Green Salad ($6.95), Crispy Fish and Chips ($16.50), and a side of Asparagus ($6.50).

The asparagus was so popular, we almost cleaned the plate. Rarely is asparagus so perfectly steamed and not overly salted. The fish was flaky inside a light batter, and the fries got a thumbs up from the table. The ahi tuna burger came rare and the hamburger came medium rare, as ordered. The salmon disappeared without complaint. It isn’t often that a casual upscale restaurant delivers so consistently across its offerings.

To design the Grand Lux Cafe concept, David Overton, founder of The Cheesecake Factory restaurants, traveled through Europe, taking in French Bistros, Italian trattorias and Viennese cafes. While flavors from around the world are offered on the Cafe’s enormous menu, the selections have a decidedly American bent.

The look of Venice, however, is clearly seen in the restaurant’s elaborate murals, rich fabrics and hand-blown glass fixtures, designed to be reminiscent of a Venetian carnival.

“I love the coffered ceilings,” said my sister Wendy, the only one of us who has actually been to Venice. “The intricate details, glass, and colors really reflect the essence of Venice.”

Even though we were stuffed, we couldn’t leave without sampling dessert, so ordered the Fresh Strawberry Shortcake ($7.95) and the Deep Dark Fudge Cake ($7.50). Between the five of us, there wasn’t a crumb left.

For a grand meal in a sumptuous setting, the Grand Lux Cafe in Las Vegas isn’t just big.  It’s the best.

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