Smart Yet Delicious Vegas Dining

Diana Helfand
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Wednesday - November 12, 2008
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MGM Grand Fiamma tomato mozzarella salad

This week we continue on our quest for healthier yet fabulous dining choices in Las Vegas.

The MGM Grand is hard to miss with the 45-foot, 100,000-pound bronze lion statue perched atop a 25-foot pedestal at the front entrance. With more AAA Diamond award-winning restaurants under one roof than any other hotel in the world, MGM Grand offers culinary choices to satisfy any palate.

Seablue, one of Chef Michael Mina’s restaurants, features flavorful and healthful foods of the Mediterranean. Mina is one of the country’s most-celebrated chefs, and this restaurant is definitely worth a splurge.

The menu has an extensive appetizer list of steamed, raw and fried shellfish, and salads prepared to order - a fantastic way to start your meal - and includes greens, fruits and vegetables, cheeses, nuts and croutons, proteins and your choice of dressings. This is virtually a meal in itself and the ingredients are fresh and crisp. The heir-loom tomato salad with Burrata mozzarella and apple-walnut balsamic served with freshly baked naan bread with three toppings is not to be missed!

From the wood-burning grill, choose mouthwatering steaks, free-range chicken, lobster and one of my favorites, the Loup De Mer, which is a mild sea bass presented with skin and tail, and de-boned.

You must try a tagine. Cooked in Moroccan pots in a hearty broth and served tableside, they include choices such as paella, and a succulent almond-crusted Atlantic cod with couscous and artichokes in a lemony broth.


For dessert that doesn’t add to your waistline, it offers very unusual flavors of sorbet that vary with the seasons. All ice creams and sorbets are made in house. Oh, the chocolate macadamia nut torte is to die for, so if you eat salad and a tagine you can go for that and not feel guilty!

Also at the MGM Grand is Fiamma Trattoria and Bar, with modern Italian cuisine served in sleek, sexy surroundings. The restaurant has an award-winning wine list with more than 400 selections from all over the world, and fresh pastas are made daily.

Start with antipasti with choices such as marinated white peaches (marinated in peach schnappes) with white grilled asparagus, or try the char-grilled octopus with artichokes and orange segments topped with roasted peppers. A selection of Italian cheeses is enough for two and served with house-made artisanal breads that come with delicious toppings such as toasted almond and honey pears, blackberry compote and mission figs.

Aspecialty of the house is gnocchi with sautéed lobster, baby Portobello, roasted leeks and black truffle crema. Other house-made pastas include linguini with sautéed prawns, and pappardelle - all delicious, with ample portions.

Mirage Carnegie Deli corned beef sandwich

Fish selections include pan-seared Claire Island organic salmon and grilled whole Mediterranean sea bass. Meat offerings feature Colorado rack of lamb, and grilled Kurobata pork Porterhouse. Top off your entrée with sautéed sugar snap peas, roasted summer corn or Parmigiano crispy potatoes, which are so outstanding you can make a meal of just the vegetables.

Save room for dessert - lighter selections are homemade gelati, root beer float, or refreshing basil-lime or white peach moscato sorbetti. Off the diet - the panna cotta with mascarpone, white balsamic honey, dried mission figs and marcona almonds should not be missed, and you can share to cut calories.

The Mirage Hotel is home to one of my favorite delis, The Carnegie. It’s a stop I never miss when in Las Vegas, and yes, you can eat a meal with healthier choices! Of course the Carnegie is famous for its home-cured pastrami and corned beef, flown in from New York. The original Carnegie Deli has been a landmark in New York since 1937, and the only other outpost is here at the Mirage. Chef Dennis Didio is from my home town of Brooklyn, and you can’t get more authentic than that. He personally oversees the making of the legendary towering sandwiches, which include a full 2 pounds of meat and are stacked 8 inches high! You have got to try these, so make sure you get a good walk in after dinner.


The portions are huge, potato knishes are baked not fried, homemade chicken soup has light fluffy matzo balls. The menu includes a turkey burger - a healthy alternative to beef - grilled chicken breast, shrimp, tuna and chicken salad freshly made, and a wonderful Greek salad. Dinner of roasted chicken with stuffing and potatoes, or chicken in the pot, which includes a giant matzo ball in a rich consommé broth served with fresh vegetable cole slaw, is both invigorating and lip-smacking. A warning: Don’t look at the cakes and pies; you won’t be able to resist a piece of the homemade cheese-cake, but it’s enough for at least three people!

Also at the Mirage, Cravings Buffet is a culinary journey that takes you through an array of dining experiences. The setting is similar to an international bazaar in a street-like setting, and the food stations represent different culinary regions such as Latin, Asian, Italian and Middle Eastern.

The salad is made to order from your selection of dozens of fresh ingredients, and the raw bar features crab legs, shrimp cocktail and oysters, to name a few. Shrimp siu mai, dumplings, steamed mussels, grilled sea bass and steamed cat-fish are all delicious.

Barbecue chicken, grilled vegetables and rosemary chicken with baked potatoes are good lower-fat choices, and the Latin station has chipotle vegetables, which are very tasty, and spiced fruit salad with unique flavors. Middle Eastern couscous with chickpeas, almonds and mint, taboulah and baba ganoush are served with an array of fresh breads. The Italian station has pesto pasta salad, shrimp scampi salad, seared salmon Florentine and a succulent chicken breast piccata with penne pasta.

You don’t have to forgo dessert at this buffet; there is sugar-free cheesecake and apple pie, an assortment of melons and fresh fruit, gelato with toppings, mango mousse in a chocolate cup and apple raisin compote, to name a few good alternatives.

The service is excellent and the prices really reasonable, good for the whole family to enjoy.

(Diana Helfand, author of “Hawaii Light and Healthy” and “The Best of Heart-y Cooking,” has taught nutrition in the Kapiolani Community College culinary arts program.)

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