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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Wednesday, Nov. 26, 2014

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In Travel & Visitors Guide Commentary

Once you get past the shining neon lights of Las Vegas, its true character begins to emerge. (PHOTO: Eron Laber of Front Room Photography )

In Travel & Visitors Guide Commentary

The newly renovated rooms of the MGM are good value and excellent location. (PHOTO: Eron Laber of Front Room Photography )

In Travel & Visitors Guide Commentary

Ri Ra in Mandalay Bay feels so authentic ... (PHOTO: Eron Laber of Front Room Photography )

In Travel & Visitors Guide Commentary

... and it's a great place to grab a pint. (PHOTO: Eron Laber of Front Room Photography )

In Travel & Visitors Guide Commentary

Speaking of beer, go way off-strip to Aces and Ales, and you'll find a bunch on tap. (PHOTO: Eron Laber of Front Room Photography )

In Travel & Visitors Guide Commentary

Tryst at The Wynn is a sight to behold. (PHOTO: Eron Laber of Front Room Photography )

In Travel & Visitors Guide Commentary

The new RPM at Tropicana has a more mellow but still upbeat vibe. (PHOTO: Eron Laber of Front Room Photography )

In Travel & Visitors Guide Commentary

China Poblano is a Chinese-Mexican fusion. (PHOTO: Eron Laber of Front Room Photography )

In Travel & Visitors Guide Commentary

Whichever cuisine you choose, it's gonna be a winner ... (PHOTO: Eron Laber of Front Room Photography )

In Travel & Visitors Guide Commentary

We opted for Mexican brunch. (PHOTO: Eron Laber of Front Room Photography )

In Travel & Visitors Guide Commentary

Milwaukee porn star Victoria Rae Black at the AVN Expo. (PHOTO: Eron Laber of Front Room Photography )

In Travel & Visitors Guide Commentary

Signing autographs was a big part of her job on Saturday. (PHOTO: Eron Laber of Front Room Photography )

In Travel & Visitors Guide Commentary

Rice & Company served up solid Chinese food at the Luxor. (PHOTO: Eron Laber of Front Room Photography )

In Travel & Visitors Guide Commentary

But the Peruvian-Japanese fusion of SUSHISAMBA was out of this world. (PHOTO: Eron Laber of Front Room Photography )

In Travel & Visitors Guide Commentary

This is the sashimi you'll be dreaming of after you leave Las Vegas. (PHOTO: Eron Laber of Front Room Photography )

In Travel & Visitors Guide Commentary

Speaking of Asian themes, Las Vegas goes all out for the Chinese New Year. (PHOTO: Eron Laber of Front Room Photography )

In Travel & Visitors Guide Commentary

And craft cocktails at Japonais set a nice base ... (PHOTO: Eron Laber of Front Room Photography )

In Travel & Visitors Guide Commentary

... for the club scene at the new 1 OAK at The Mirage. (PHOTO: Eron Laber of Front Room Photography )

In Travel & Visitors Guide Commentary

Boozy shakes and big burgers at Holstein's at Cosmopolitan. (PHOTO: Eron Laber of Front Room Photography )

In Travel & Visitors Guide Commentary

And delicious Italian food at wine at D.O.C.G. (PHOTO: Eron Laber of Front Room Photography )

Las Vegas fusion


(page 2)


Bellies full, it was time to get way off Strip, to Aces and Ales for the winter beer festival. We really liked this place, which, without any tourists, reminded us of the kind of bar we'd visit in Milwaukee. The 20 rotating winter beers didn't hurt to take the edge off, either, and we probably stayed a bit longer than planned. But it's hard to slide off that bar stool when the taps include hard-to-find gems like Unibroue Maudite or Lagunitas Fusion. And the knowledgeable bartender, a real Shakespeare of Beer, will steer you toward the best selections based on your tastes.

By now, our energy was starting to fade a bit, but we returned to The Strip to visit Tryst nightclub at The Wynn. Easily the most beautiful club I've ever seen in person, it was just starting to get going at midnight, as the DJ was spinning in front of an open-air waterfall. Our group was a little old to truly enjoy the scene, but we could certainly appreciate it. We wrapped up our evening across from our hotel at the new RPM club at Tropicana. Smaller than Tryst and with an older crowd, I found the sound system even better and I enjoyed the more low-key vibe.

Doubling Down

In my experiences, Vegas isn't a place for sleeping, so even with a 5 a.m. bedtime, we had to hustle to make a noon lunch reservation at China Poblano at the Cosmopolitan. Having spent time at just about every property on the strip, the relatively new Cosmopolitan has become my favorite, and restaurants like China Poblano, a Chinese-Mexican fusion by superstar, James Beard award-winning chef José Andrés, reinforce this. In fact, Cosmo is probably the one place in the world that has more James Beard award-winning chefs under its roof than the actual James Beard award ceremony. Given our rabid hunger at this point, we opted for the Mexican brunch side of the menu, and it was delicious. Service was a bit slow, and dishes came out irregularly, but the food was top-notch, and fueled us for our next, otherworldly activity.

Around 1 p.m., we checked in at the Adult Video News Expo. Ron Jeremy stood next to us, looking exactly how we imagined, and said to his entourage, "Let's make some money," as he headed in to sign autographs. Between Jeremy and the guy dressed like the sea captain, we opted to follow the Hedgehog into the trade show.

There was no in-person nudity on the expo floor, but porn filled every screen behind every booth. Starlets signed autographs for excitable fans, who shoved their cell phone cameras in their faces and, well, some other places too. Some booths offered incredibly high-tech adult toys or 3-D porn; much to our dismay, there were no swag bags.

And as for Paul's nipple-zap? Turns out it was a local photography studio, specializing in erotic photos mostly for couples visiting Las Vegas. Like we said, Vegas means different things to different folks, and any fantasy allowed by law can probably come true here.

In a quiet corner, we caught up with Milwaukee porn star Victoria Rae Black, who we featured on OnMilwaukee.com last year.

"This is my second AVN," said Black, in full makeup, standing in front of 8x10 glossy nude photos suitable for signing. "I went last year, but it was when I was brand new. I just came to meet people. This year I have fans. My duties here are to look hot, to be the porn star that I am, to sign autographs."

Is it all overwhelming for the girl from Milwaukee? "This is very familiar to me, this is my life," said Black, who said she expects to be out of the industry by the end of the year unless she signs a contract with a larger porn company. "When I'm in Milwaukee, I feel less familiar there than I do here."

We stayed as long as our consciences would allow, but after about two hours it was time to leave. On the way home, we stopped at one of the two Las Vegas outlet malls, which are very little like outlet stores in Wisconsin. Just like Vegas has the highest-end shopping, even their outlet stores are exclusive, but with better prices. Worth a trip if you need a little diversion.

If anything, I just needed to rally and get a little fresh air, since I already knew Saturday would be night of two dinners (hey, we skipped breakfast). The first dinner was at Rice & Company at Luxor, and consisted of solidly executed Chinese favorites; I ordered a succulent Mongolian beef, and we enjoyed a delicious salt-and-pepper calimari. A little surreal to absorb this in the middle of a gigantic pyramid topped with a high-powered light that's visible from space, but isn't that what Vegas is all about?

The second dinner, however, was one I may never forget. On the recommendation of a friend, we hit SUSHISAMBA at the Venetian Palazzo and put ourselves in the server's capable hands. You might not expect a fusion of Japanese and Peruvian cuisine with a pinch of Brazilian atmosphere to be a great combination, but the sushi and sashimi we sampled were a close second only to Bellagio's Yellowtail, and because of its unique flavors, it might've been even better.

Amazingly fresh sushi paired with spicy and sweet Peruvian sauces made for a memorable and tasty treat. I'm still tasting the sashimi tiradito plate, consisting of Yellowtail jalapeño and lemongrass; Kanpachi yuzu, sea salt and black truffle oil; tuna with granny smith apple, serrano and lime; and salmon with orange and mustard miso. The vibe is upbeat and fun, with samba music in the background making it a great dinner to start getting wound up for a fun night out. With a location in Chicago, I already can't wait to return.

Our bellies fuller than a slot machine full of quarters, we walked to Mirage, where we grabbed a craft cocktail at Japonais, which is adjacent to STACK, a hip steakhouse that is another of my absolute favorite Vegas restaurants. If you like innovative but potent libations, you'll like Japonais. Be sure to order one of the cocktails garnished with an edible flower, if only for the sake of being able to scarf down an orchid. For us, it provided just enough energy to step inside 1 OAK, one of Vegas' newest and hottest clubs.

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Talkbacks

El Vez | Feb. 3, 2012 at 10:30 p.m. (report)

You're kidding, right? This sounds like my dream vacation. Did someone say "jealous?"

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jakkalope | Feb. 2, 2012 at 12:06 a.m. (report)

the strip is a pile of trash outside of the casinos. Still fun for me though

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ButterBurger | Feb. 1, 2012 at 8:50 p.m. (report)

I wish I were there now. Won some money at Cosmo on my last trip. It's my favorite too!

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beefsupreme | Feb. 1, 2012 at 10:16 a.m. (report)

vegas looks like a pile of trash to me.

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