24 April 2014

Sin City sweets

Las Vegas is a place that profits from the sale of pleasure. It is like a 21+-version of Disney World, hawking sex, gambling, drinking, gluttony and other excessively hedonistic behaviors that would get you kicked out of your local religious youth group.

The food in Las Vegas is designed to blow your mind - or at least make you forget that you lost a bunch of money at the tables. After a hedonistic afternoon and a good meal, epicureans might also take pleasure in dessert. Sin City is full of great desserts that fit right in with the background of over-consumption.

Sweets Raku is hidden in a Chinatown strip mall. The only signage is a giant silver spoon on the outside wall. It makes dessert for Raku, the izakaya recommended by every chef, host and random celebrity that visits Las Vegas.

Chef Mitsuo Endo's restaurant offers single desserts and small three course dessert tasting menus. It seats eight to ten people, and the theater that is the composition of each dish is a sight to behold.

Even the menu is edible. After ordering, the sugar-string wrapped menu could be dipped in raspberry sauce and eaten.

The Mt. Fuji roasted chestnut creamcake with chestnut 'grass' and chestnut wafers is nearly too beautiful to eat. The strands of chestnut grass, fed through a pastry tube with multiple holes so that it coats the base like pasta noodles, carry a beautiful roasted essence that lingers on the palate. 

Sweets Raku on Urbanspoon

Haute pastry can be found all over the Strip. Last time I was in town, I stopped at Thomas Keller's Bouchon Bakery in the Venetian. It is great for breakfast baked goods - or sweets any other time of the day.

If you are aiming for big names in pastry, there are few names as famous as Francois Payard. His career in New York City involved stints at Le Bernardin and Restaurant Daniel. His patisserie in Caesar's Palace makes macarons to die for, and the brunch seems to be merely a precursor for an inevitably sweet conclusion.

Jean-Philippe Maury, the pastry chef of the Bellagio, has a patisserie in both Bellagio and Aria. There is a chocolate river in the Bellagio location. 

The playful takes on Snickers was a chocolate mousse with a rich nougat ribbon topped with pink sea salt flecked roasted peanuts. It was rich with a layered flavor.

There are plenty of options available for reasonable prices as well. The hot Vegas sun makes Luv-It Frozen Custard a useful destination to find to cool off. Located just off Las Vegas Boulevard Downtown, the custard shop has four flavors a day. Two are the normal chocolate and vanilla, and the other two rotate daily.

The Western sundae is the signature order. It is topped with hot fudge, caramel, pecans and a cherry. The custard is a slightly richer base to deliver these classic ingredients. A $5.75 sundae is huge - it's easy to share.

Luv It Frozen Custard on Urbanspoon

Ronald's Donuts in Chinatown is a great spot for vegans. Half of the donuts are vegan. The staff pointed out that the top shelf was vegan while the bottom shelf was not. Despite the vegan wrinkle, the shop is full of old timers and kids wasting time, as well as a few police - the hallmarks of a good donut shop in any place in America, vegan or not.

The apple fritter was sweet, soft and studded with cinnamon and sugar. The vegan cream donuts were rich enough that it seems impossible they were made without eggs. The options at Ronald's are pretty middle of the road in terms of adventurousness, but it does score points with the low-key vegan options.

Ronald's Donuts on Urbanspoon

Also on the list of had-to-do-it-because-I-heard-about-it: the cupcake ATM outside Sprinkles Cupcakes at the Linq. The cupcake didn't particularly stand out, but there is a great novelty to watching a camera arm grab a cupcake that you paid for on your credit card, delivered from an opening like a sugar shot. It is ironic to spend  money at an ATM, but I guess you can think of it as a tasty banking fee.

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