Eating Healthier In Las Vegas

Diana Helfand
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Wednesday - November 05, 2008
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The Bellagio Buffet fruit station

One of the most frequently asked questions I get from my readers is how to make healthier food choices when dining out.

Since everything in Las Vegas is larger than life, including the myriad restaurant choices, and I love a challenge, what better challenge than taking on eating healthier in Vegas?

You don’t have to sacrifice taste or enjoyment, so this week and next I will share some of my favorite Las Vegas restaurant picks and choices they offer for memorable, but not waist-expanding, dining out. Since budgets are varied, I’ll feature fine dining as well as buffets and casual eats.

The Bellagio Hotel is synonymous with beauty, romance and elegance. With its Tuscan-inspired architecture, Bellagio stands out - even in Las Vegas. The conservatory and botanical gardens change five times a year with the seasons and Chinese New Year. It’s no wonder the buffet is outstanding and reasonably priced (Dinner price is $27.95, and $35.95 for gourmet weekend buffets).

The selections include offerings from Italy, China and Japan, as well as fresh seafood and traditional American cuisine. It offers cooking stations with meals made to order, so you can get your meal prepared without salt or heavy sauces, if you desire.

One of my favorites, and very low in fat, is the crab legs, which are among the largest I have ever seen and have moist, succulent meat.

Roast Salmon Nine Fine Irishmen

The selection of salads and fresh fruit is huge, and you can make a meal from the sushi station, which has items such as ahi and salmon poke, California roll with crab, and vegetable rolls. Shrimp are large and already peeled, poached green-lip mussels are very tasty and Scottish cold-smoked salmon is delicious.

Other good, healthy choices are grilled swordfish and roasted salmon.

The wide assortment of vegetables includes sweet corn on the cob, sautéed mushrooms, roasted carrots and grilled asparagus.

The rack of lamb is tender and not at all fatty, the venison very tasty and the breast of turkey a good low-fat lean choice.

If you still have room for dessert, it has sugar-free cheesecake and muffins, as well as strawberries dipped in chocolate, and pies and cakes galore.

Our next stop is Nine Fine Irishmen at the New York New York. The Big Apple is known for its excitement, and New York New York encompasses all of that. The hotel’s innovative façade re-creates the Manhattan skyline, and the replicas of the Brooklyn Bridge and Statue of Liberty lend magic to the entrance of the hotel.

Nine Fine Irishmen is an authentic Irish pub built by Irish craftsmen and shipped to Las Vegas. The restaurant features Irish food, drinks and unique Irish entertainment. Nine of Ireland’s most esteemed chefs were selected to provide traditional regional dishes and each has contributed a signature dish.

Luxor Tender Tuna

For starters, try the fantastic poached pear pizza with Cabernet poached pears, roasted tomato, sweet onion, and farmhouse and blue cheeses. The succulent seafood chowder is a meal in itself, loaded with fresh seafood and complemented by an assortment of freshly baked breads. The tomato stack features vine-ripened tomatoes, with goat, Cashel blue and farmhouse cheeses for accent.

Healthier entree choices include braised salmon and horseradishcrusted halibut. Of course, no self-respecting Irish Pub would lack Shepherds Pie and Irish stew. For dessert, the vanilla poached pear with pistachio ice cream and whiskey sauce is a treat, and the caramel apple bake is sinful but great for sharing to keep the calories at bay. Prices are moderate and portions are ample.

One of the most recognizable structures in Las Vegas is the Luxor; the magnificent lobby has one of the world’s largest atriums.

Tender Steak and Seafood restaurant just opened in July 2008, and Executive Chef K.C. Fazel showcases a unique menu utilizing sustainable, small-farm and seasonally procured ingredients.

From the moment you enter the restaurant the hustle and bustle of Las Vegas is left behind. The dining room is elegant and serene, and service impeccable.

The menu has a selection of six types of beef: natural Dutch friesan Brandt, organic grass-fed New Zealand, grass-fed Durham ranch bison, American Kobe wagyu, Japanese Kobe wagyu, and natural dry aged black angus Niman are featured for different cuts. The restaurant cures the meats in house. Specialties also include pork chops, elk chops, lamb chops, osso buco, antelope, venison and short ribs, to name a few.

Choose your own sauce from a selection such as bordelaise, bourbon mustard demi glace, black truffle reduction, and my favorite, the organic mushroom demi glace.

A myriad of fresh seafood is flown in daily from - where else? - Hawaii.

A succulent Treasure Island Steak House steak

Some of the healthier choices are the organic free range jidori chicken with roasted root vegetables, fresh seafood ensemble, and braised Maine lobster, removed from the shell and served in a delicate tarragon-flavored broth. Vegetarians will delight in the extensive array of grains, vegetables such as roasted baby carrots, exquisite with honey and rosemary, and roasted baby beets with cumin and potatoes and seasonal salads. Soups include a delicately spiced, very flavorful American Kobe wagyu chili and an exquisite king crab and lobster stew. The menu is so varied and masterfully created by the chef there is truly something for every palate. This is a dining experience not to be missed and worth the splurge!

The Treasure Island Resort and Casino is famous for The Sirens of TI, which features a highly choreographed clash between tempting sirens and renegade pirates. The hotel’s spa and salon WET captures the rejuvenating and nourishing essence of water through an aquatic design inspired by the colors of the sea.

A dining highlight of the hotel is The Steak House, a casual, elegant restaurant with rustic charm. Prime beef and fresh seafood are served in an inviting room warmly lit by wall sconces and beautiful chandeliers.

The restaurant has lots of healthy yet delectable choices. Appetizers such as garlic-crusted portabella mushroom, and the “Icebox” of fresh crab claws, lobster, oysters and shrimp is a meal in itself with a spectacular table-side presentation.

The grill offers your choice of portions, and some selections include a huge 42-ounce rib eye chop for two with wild onion butter, filet mignon and house dry-aged T-bone. Try the pan-roasted salmon, crusted rainbow trout or an Australian lobster tail from the choice of fresh seafood, and add a few sides such as grilled asparagus, sauté of broccolini in olive oil and garlic, or sautéed wild mushrooms, all of which are mouth watering. A giant baked Idaho potato is enough for two, and you can get the toppings on the side.

The American Kobe flat-iron steak is to die for and melts in your mouth, and one of the house specialties, the butcher-cut Kobe skewer, is memorable both in taste and presentation.

Yes, there is dessert, and it’s worth the indulgence. Triple chocolate cupcake and warm chocolate pot pie with vanilla ice cream are scrumptious, warm apple pie is heavenly, and you can select a dessert sampler of one to three choices and share.

Next week I will explore more great restaurants where eating healthier is a pleasure!

(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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