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Las Vegas ’11 – Part 1

Whew. Just got back from a much needed and deserved vacation in Las Vegas and San Francisco, and wow, was it a BLAST!

I’ll share my trip with you folks in multiple parts, as there’s so much to cover over the past two weeks we were out there on the west coast.

As you see by the first photo, let me start with the first leg of our flight and trip to Las Vegas — mahalo to Hawaiian Airlines and their brand new fleet of Airbus A330-200 jets — which I  must say are beautifully designed and built aircraft both inside and out. And talk about SMOOOOOOTH SAILIN’. Those two huge turbofan engines were “hum-numb” quiet, vibration-wise. While air turbulence throughout was minimal as could be throughout our night-time flight (admittedly expected during cooler atmospheric conditions in night fight). Feels like a great wing (airfoil) design from a passenger standpoint.

As equipped with most newer model commercial aircraft, Hawaiian’s A330’s feature personal touchscreen LCD displays mounted on the backs of each seat, including coach (ugh) where we were seated. This display gives you full-time access to a real-time GPS tracker of your flight as it makes progress….

This display changes intermittently to also show vital flight information including air speed, ground speed, altitude, outside temperature, time and distance into and remaining of flight, as well as local times of departure location and arrival location…

This display also offers “in-seat entertainment“, including music, TV and pay-per-view new-release movies, which those movies cost $6.99 each, where you pay using credit card swipe located under each unit. Notice there’s also a handy-dandy USB port so can keep your smart phone or other electronic devices charged while in flight. Note, you’re required to put your smartphone in “airplane mode”, which disables all telecommunications functions on your device.

As for complimentary food and beverages in coach on Hawaiian to Vegas, that included several rounds of Juice, Tea, Coffee, Water, as well as a Turkey & Swiss on Sweet Bread Roll sandwich…

Doesn’t that look ono?!!! lol

In a thick English accent speaking to the flight attendant, “Pardon me madame, in all the least of pretension, I do declare this is coach. However, do kindly pass me the Grey Poupon.” lol…

Actually, Hawaiian Air’s coach-class Turkey & Swiss sammy — while not great — wasn’t that bad, considering this is the day and age where you’re lucky to get a complimentary bag of peanuts in coach. Note to Chef Chai, I’d suggest the flight attendants at least “nuke” these sandwiches before serving to heat them up and soften the sweet bread roll, as that was kinda’ stiff, and some heat would have surely made the sweet bread roll more supple, as well as melt the cheese, making what I’d rate as is 1 SPAM Musubi to at least 2, possibly 3.

If there’s really only one complaint I have, is with these new Airbus aircraft’s coach seats, which at least personally I thought the seat bottoms were too thinly padded, feeling like my poor okole (butt) was sitting/suffering on bare plywood. Primarily because of that, I couldn’t sleep during the 5½-hour long flight.

Other than that, service by the flight attendants was top notch, being very attentive, courteous, and of course, full of aloha spirit.

(Hours later into a total 5½ hour direct flight from HNL to LAS) Ooh, there’s the “strip”!…

Not surprisingly, parked to the left of us early in the morning at Las Vegas’ McCarran International Airport was one of Vacations Hawaii’s Omni chartered aircraft…

After a relatively smooth “red eye” flight to Las Vegas, walking out the heated McCarran Airport terminal, we were immediately greeted with a quite nippy 50ºF outside temperature. Which of course seems practically FREEZING to us Hawaii folks more acclimated to weather no colder than in the 70’s. Yet thankfully, other than the average 50ºF temperature, the weather in Vegas remained clear, blue, sunny skies and very calm (hardly any wind) throughout our 4-day stay.

We stayed at the Excalibur Hotel & Casino on the “strip”, which is located adjacent to the MGM Grand, Tropicana, Luxor and New York New York

On our first night out on the town, after my girlfriend blew her first hundred (or at least that what she tells me! lol) in the casinos, we had no clue where to eat, not even bothering to research online beforehand, essentially playing it by ear as we walked through HUMUNGOUS hotel-upon-hotel along the most happening part of Las Vegas Strip.

Feet sore and bones ‘n muscles stiff from the chilly 50º night time weather after walking some distance, we ended up having dinner in the spur of the moment at The Henry, a casual yet elegant restaurant on the ground floor of the Cosmopolitan Hotel & Casino.

We kept it fairly light, as we had lots more walking down the strip to do, starting things off by sharing a Maryland Blue Crab Cake, along with their house dinner bread….

The Henry’s Maryland Blue Crab Cake: Baked lump crab with old bay petit salad, pommery dressing. $13

How is the Crab Cake? AMAZING. Pretty much as good as whole lump crab cakes get. Perfectly seasoned and pan-fried on both sides to GBD perfection. While inside, it’s rich, creamy ‘n crabby good

The Henry’s Maryland Blue Crab Cake

While the petit micro greens salad and pommery dressing added a wonderful contrast of acidity and texture to the creamy, dreamy crab cake. Yum! 5 SPAM Musubi. We’re off to a good start eatin’ up in Vegas! YES!

For the entree, my girlfriend kept it simple ‘n light, going with a Caesar Chicken Salad…

The Henry’s Caesar with grilled chicken: crisp romaine, focaccia croutons, parmesan creamy garlic dressing. $15

This may LOOK like your run-of-the-mill Caesar, however, the dressing tasted like this was done tableside using all the requisite scratch ingredients, laboriously beaten from  in steps in a wooden bowl. What was also noticeable was how crisp and fresh the romaine tasted, which we think is attributed to the cold weather, as the salads we had throughout our entire vacation in Vegas and San Fran’ during this visit had this snappy-crisp freshness to it that really stood out.

For my entree, I was VERY tempted to try “The Henry Burger”, which is topped with caramelized onions & mushrooms, sharp cheddar, on a soft potato roll. However, since I knew we were going to a steakhouse the next night, decided to stick with fish on this visit. Therefore, sticking with one of my all-time comfort food faves, I chose none other than their Fish ‘n Chips…

The Henry’s Fish ‘N’ Chips: tempura fried ling cod crispy french fries & housemade tartar sauce. $18.

How’s The Henry Fish ‘n Chips? Ex. Cel. Lent! The thick-cut fillets of Ling Cod were super, SUPER moist and had a characterstic white fish meat flavor profile to it, not being “frozen-dead” and lacking flavor at all, even it had been previously frozen (which I’m sure it was).

While I wouldn’t say the batter reminded of anything remotely derived from Japanese tempura, it did have good internal body, as well as a great blend of lightness and crunch factor goin’ on, and also seasoned perfectly. Tartar sauce had enough pickles and acidity going on, and of course the lemon wedge brought it all home.Oh, and the thick-cut fries (chips) were deep-fried and seasoned to perfection as well. Did I also mention how HUGE the portion of this Fish ‘n Chips PLATTER is? Seriously enough to make a threesome of a meal.

Summing it all up with this simple yet flavor-packed dinner, we give The Henry in the Cosmopolitan Hotel & Casino 4 SPAM Musubi. Great start!

Paris Hotel & Casino and Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino, view from the lobby entrance of the Bellagio

In part 2 of this Vegas & San Fran’ 11 travelogue series, coverage of our dinner buffet at the Luxor, a pictorial walk through the famous Bellagio garden adorned in Halloween festivities, and a stop by In-N-Out Burger in a strip mall not far away off Las Vegas strip, as well as perhaps a few more Vegas fun stuff!


9 thoughts on “Las Vegas ’11 – Part 1

  • November 13, 2011 at 7:00 am

    I thank Hawaiian for having that ham sandwich. It is quite good as you note. And yes it is a bit too bready with the roll being too hard. But it is a good sandwich neverthe less..
    What Hawaiian needs to get rid of is the dreaded breakfast burrito.
    I know plenty folks who do takeout at the Nimitz Zippy’s. Pick up a bento for the flight.
    Not all Zippy’s are equal and Nimitz seems to be the best, so this is a good alternative.

  • November 13, 2011 at 11:29 am

    Pomai, I remember long time ago I rode a very cheap flight to San Francisco which now can’t remember name of it. Food just turkey sandwich and one soft drink that it. No movie or music and cramp seating 4 hours of suffering and people on plane going crazy with nothing to do and no more food also. Good thing I brought snack to eat but people eyes at me like pack of hungry dogs!

    I should gotting an L&L meal box for the flight but never again I now go business class on a better airline.

  • November 14, 2011 at 7:15 pm

    Thank you for the nice review of Hawaiian Airlines, my employer. I am a flight attendant with them, and while I do agree about the sandwich being nuked, believe me, I’ve personally tried to heat it and it gets rock hard way too fast for us to get it to the passengers still warm.
    Your trip looks amazing so far, can’t wait for the next chapter…

  • November 14, 2011 at 7:22 pm

    Pomai, as a former kama’aina living in the Northwest, I had the obligatory giggle at your description of 50-degree weather being cold and attributing the nice, crisp lettuce to the cool weather. (Laughing WIT’ you, not AT you!) Believe me, I have had brown wilted lettuce during the coldest of winters. I think a lot of it has to do with restaurant quality control and their food distribution chain.

    Glad you’re blogging again – I’ve missed drooling at your food photos and reading your ono-licious prose! :)

  • November 15, 2011 at 4:56 pm

    Pomai-san… great reviews! Was in the “9th Island” last month enjoying a little ‘parole’ – ahem, vacation – from Kwajalein. Vegas is where the ohana is at, and I got a little chilly in the evenings.

    To add to geishagirl’s comment, the inflight ovens do dry up buns and bread real quick if not carefully watched, and the F/As are usually pretty busy setting up the rest of the meal service. (I used to work for an inflight caterer as a cook years ago.)

    [airplane geekery on] Depending on the winds, Hawaiian usually takes off and lands on McCarran’s northeast/southwest runway complex (1L/19R and 1R/19L) since it’s closest to Terminal 2. Almost everyone else departing for or arriving from the rest of the mainland uses the east-west runways (7L/25R and 7R/25L). 7R/25L is one of the longest runways in the world, about 14,000 feet long; 747s fully loaded on very hot days struggle to get off the ground.

    The new Terminal 3 will open up sometime next year; some airlines currently on Concourse D will move there. [airplane geekery off]

  • November 15, 2011 at 5:33 pm

    Hawaiian also serves the best wine inflight – La Crema Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir – $16 for a 375ml (2 glasses… err, plastic cups)!

  • November 16, 2011 at 7:19 am

    I enjoy those ham sandwiches on HA but I have to use a lot of mayo on them. Love the made-from-scratch Caesar Salad dressing, nothing like it!

  • November 16, 2011 at 3:50 pm

    When I flew from HNL to LAS on Hawaiian back in March, I bought the sushi roll/salad plate from the inflight meal selection (about $12) both ways. Beeg bambucha… actually wider than the bulkhead seat pullout table! Onolicious sushi!

    Now if Hawaiian could start flying an island-hopper service to compete with Unitednental…

  • November 17, 2011 at 1:17 pm

    Pomai-san… just to give you an idea of distance: it’s one mile between Tropicana Avenue (we Vegas locals just call it ‘Trop’) and Flamingo Road. Those ginormous resort casino/hotel buildings throw off the sense of scale and distance.


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