Just Another Day in Vegas

It’s business as usual in Sin City…Christmas Day, and there’s the mass of tourists and shoppers along the Strip. The only indication that it’s a holiday are some dealers and staff are wearing Santa hats — no sign of Santa himself though, or most anything else associated with Christmas. No songs about reindeers with red noses, dancing snowmen, or silent nights. No trees, lights, presents. Thank goodness — only the cheesy, over-the-top, gambling mecca that we all know and love (to hate). Where else is an obnoxious replica of the Eiffel Tower more appropriate than on Las Vegas Blvd.

According to the cabby who took me to the airport, he was surprised as to the number of people in town this year — I agreed with him. Two years ago, when I went at the same time of year, I remember it being more subdued — not empty, but much less chaotic than normal.

Vegas doesn’t know the time of day or the day of the week, including holidays such as Christmas — it knows only one thing….to keep you entertained. Of course that definition varies depending on who you talk to, but for most, that is gambling.

On the other hand, there is more to Vegas than just throwing money away — there are some fine shows, spas, and dining. I particularly have had good luck with food there recently, actually, a lot more luck especially compared to my attempts at hitting the jackpot.

This year, I ended up staying at the Hardrock — couldn’t pass on the $69/night rate they offered. It was unusual to see an empty pool on Sunday though, which during the summer becomes a giant orgy, full of near naked people partying it up at Rehab — the only casino to open their pool to the public.

I’ve become accustomed to bad food there until recently when I first discovered a great steakhouse called Del Frisco’s, which ranks up there with Mastro’s, Ruth’s Chris, and Morton’s — the latter two being within walking distance of each other.

On this trip, I got more adventurous and tried a Vietnamese Noodle place called Pho Hoa — who would expect to find one in Vegas of all places. The first time I tried going (on Christmas Day), it was packed, so I went to a Japanese restaurant next door called Yokohama Kaigenro instead, which turned out to be a great experience as well. It was very authentic — a place where you’d expect to find in a small remote village outside Tokyo. They had dishes like natto in fried tofu, grilled yellowtail cheek, and more typical entrees like shio ramen with fried rice. The clientele was mostly Japanese, along with the entire staff and cooks.

So I went to Pho Hoa the following day — surprisingly, it was a fairly large place, and it was packed, mostly with Vietnamese customers. I got the beef brisket noodles and fried egg rolls, and was pleasantly surprised — it definitely ranked as one of the better pho I’ve had. Turns out that this was one of several in a chain, the closest one in SoCal being in Westminster, which didn’t surprise me. The rest of the ones in California were located up north in the Bay area and Silicon Valley, along with several more scattered throughout the US, Canada, and overseas as well.

On Christmas day, I decided to take a walk down to the Strip, expecting it to be relatively quiet, but was proven wrong — it looked no different than any other day in Vegas. The streets were jammed packed with tourists and locals, not to mention all of the casinos and stores. The shops at Caesars were packed wall-to-wall with people, and some stores had lines out front for those wanting to go in because it was too full.

I made my way over to Casa Fuente, my usual stop when I’m there, and had a Fuente Anejo #77 (Shark), and a glass of Pisco sour (a Peruvian cocktail). After a couple cigars and drinks, I made my way back to the Hardrock where I deposited some more cash at the casino.

All in all, I had a good time, although I ended up spending more money than I would’ve liked. I flew back home before the massive amounts of people start heading in for the New Year’s celebration — can’t imagine how that is, and don’t think I want to find out though.

Maybe next year…

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