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Miss Irene Goes to Vegas: The Palazzo Restaurants

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Carnevino bar, week one

In an extra special Week in Reviews, S. Irene Virbila takes off to Vegas for what seems like two months of meals (if she really ate everything she mentions) and barely comes up for air. The biggest non-news: Batali's Carnevino, Puck's Cut and Trotter's Restaurant Charlie are 'spensive. The shocker: She actually suggests getting a reservation at Cut in Vegas because its easier than Beverly Hills. We boil it down to the best nuggets. First up: The newcomers at the Palazzo.

"Naturally, the star of the steak menu is that pricey fiorentina for two, which by the time I visited a second time had been reduced to $145 from $160."

"Salt makes too strong an entrance in many dishes."

"Bottom line: As good as the beef is here, I'd rather eat at B&B, Batali's more intimate Italian restaurant in the Venetian next door. It's not cheap, either, but it's got more soul -- and a more consistent kitchen."

"Though the menu is almost identical to the Beverly Hills steakhouse, the look is quite different from the cool white expanses of Richard Meier's design for the original Cut. This one, from the local design firm ABA, is warmer, featuring generous booths, a striped rug underfoot and bulky geometric chandeliers."

"Prices, at least compared to Carnevino's, seem almost moderate, though in the real world, of course, they're vertigo-inducing -- a 3-pound lobster is a mere $110."

"In terms of all-around excellence, Cut outperforms the other steakhouses in town. And with it so difficult to get a reservation at the original in Beverly Hills, here's your chance right here in Vegas."

"Inside it feels as anti-Las Vegas as you can get. The design is very plain, with rumpled pale blue upholstered chairs that are so uncomfortable we asked to sit in a booth, but that wasn't much better. The backs are like ironing boards. And that chef's table, a.k.a. the Kitchen Table Loft? From our vantage point it looked like an office with glaring light as waiters ministered to a group of high rollers at $350 per person minimum."

"?the meal isn't exactly fireworks (and Mr. Trotter is not in-house that night). Alaskan halibut sits on lemon curd so sweet it could go into a pie. Arctic char on crunchy savoy cabbage is uninspired. And the delicate taste of poulard is bludgeoned by a thick chocolate sauce?Service is good, but stiff. There's no real conversation: It's like talking to members of the Charlie Trotter cult. Where's the fun? Where's the indulgence?"

"Oddly, for someone who's known to plaster his name on everything in sight, Table 10's sign doesn't give away the fact that this is the Food Network star's place."

"Lagasse isn't going for fireworks either: The menu is basic and not particularly inspired, and only a few tables are occupied. I know from previous experiences at Lagasse's Las Vegas restaurants, the simpler you order, the better."

"Service is sincere and attentive, but I still can't help the feeling that nothing much is going on here. With so many restaurants and so few meals, this one might merit a skip."
· At the Palazzo Las Vegas, it's no-limit dining [LAT]

CUT Beverly Hills

9500 Wilshire Boulevard, , CA 90212 (310) 275-5200 Visit Website