Serendipity 3 vs. BLT Burger
I am still snuffly. Mike is snuffly. The world is snuffly, but Winter Break is coming, so all must be right with the world, yes? Some days I don't even think the dark thoughts... like, how unreasonable would it be to hire a sub for just my sixth period? Paid out of pocket? A hundred bucks a week may be, no joke, cheaper than a psychiatrist.

Speaking of throwing money away, it's time to discuss our recent visits to two trendy eateries, Serendipity 3 and BLT Burger.

As a DINKish household (dualish income, no kids) in a cheapish land for good grub, we probably eat out more than the average bears.

...Oh, wait. Hasty Googling says that the average American eats out four times per week and spends 40% of the food budget on meals outside of the home. Never mind. We hardly ever eat out, I guess. Maybe that's why we could justify trying Serendipity 3 and BLT Burger. Ah.

Serendipity 3 came on the radar for the following reasons: that movie, the many food shows that mention their $1000 sundae, and an approachable-looking venue out in front of Caesars Palace, next to the Strip. (Bill, if you're still out there, please note that I have finally learned to write Caesars without an apostrophe and without flinching.)

Mike Looks Over the Serendipity 3 Menu

Nearby, immature photo-taking opportunities abound. (Mike had no idea why I was asking him to move his hand just so.)

Mike is Supportive of Local Architecture

In fact, the fountains in front of Caesars are a favourite photo spot. When students show me their quincinera (sp) albums, the pre-game shots are almost always taken here. Look, more memories in the making:

Quinceanera Court by Caesars Palace Fountains

Across the way is a Brahma shrine.

Brahma Shrine - Incense Burning

And in the bushes are many sweet little birds.

Bird in Lovable RCA Pose

So, there was plenty to keep us busy while we waited for 30 minutes to be seated. Some people were getting Serendipity's signature "Frrrozen Hot Chocolate" from a window, but we looked forward to enjoying those inside as part of the full dining experience.

Yeah...

Problem #1 happened when I ordered the grilled cheese. It's a four-cheese, triple-stacked sandwich that comes with tomato soup, which makes sense, because who wants to eat just cheese and bread? Especially at $15.50 for said sandwich, plus tax, plus tip?

Apparently that person is me, because even though the menu clearly stated that all sandwiches come with chips, ALL sandwiches, the waitress made me choose between the soup and chips.

I went with the chips because I thought the crunch would make a nice contrast to all the gooey cheese.

Serendipity 3 - Triple-Decker Grilled Cheese with Potato Chips Instead of Soup Because S3 Kind of Sucks

And it did, but after the first four bites, I was drowning in sameness. Which is why I think the chefs knew what they were doing when they decided to offer a bit of tomato soup as well. So, it was good, but not $19 (after tax, after tip) good. Not at all. Not even $9 good.

Why didn't I argue? Fight the system?

Aside from not wanting to make a negative experience over what might be the right information in a very poorly worded menu, I already knew from when Mike tried to order that it was pointless to argue. Our waitress was impatient with him from the start, not letting him finish his question before simply telling him to order XYZ. Then he would patiently try to explain that he didn't want XYZ, though he understood why she might initially think he did, but could he possibly get this other item with one substitution, and BLAH BLAH BLAH SHE CUT HIM OFF AGAIN.

I think we did about five rounds of this - I am not kidding - before he gave up and got some kind of burger that was not what he wanted. I understand about demanding customers and people who ask for crazy substitutions, but I swear that Mike was not that guy. He just wanted to know if he could get a specific burger with the black-peppered bacon (I think it was, as opposed to regular bacon), but not the black-pepper burger itself. If she had ever let him finish his sentence, I think she might have understood this quite quickly and been able to move on to whatever her more important business was.

Or maybe not. It's hard to make people give a shit about their jobs.

We still tried to keep a good attitude despite her. And despite her disinterest in refilling our soft drinks. And despite the concert-levels of pop music pumping through the place.

Serendipity 3 - Mike with Cheeseburger + Bacon

The food, as you can see, was beautifully presented. Like I said, it was very nicely prepared, too.

But, this is a town full of good food. And excellent service. And amazing atmospheres. Serendipity 3? Pretty on the plate, but not so much anywhere else:

Serendipity 3 - Smaller Than I Imagined

Yes, that's the whole restaurant. Not shown is the patio dining, which is lovely, like a sidewalk cafe along the Strip, but that's for people who get food from the take-out window. (Our wicked waitress is the one in the green - it was Halloween.) If you are eating inside the restaurant proper, you are in basically in a big room with candy stripes and, let me emphasize this again, unnecessarily loud music.

Maybe that waitress was a one-off, right? I'd say that, but then there was a shift change. (Before anyone starts, being at the end of your shift is no excuse for bad customer service. Believe me, that's what I repeat to myself every day before facing sixth period.) Our second waitress was better with the drinks, and not unfriendly, but they must all be auditioning for that new Calvin Klein scent, Indifference.

I don't expect or even want the suspenders-popping flair-bustin' TGIF waitstaff experience, but when in the hospitality business, I think being hospitable is a given.

Serendipity 3 - Mike's Review

Mike's face sums up my review. We ended up foregoing the frozen hot choc on the grounds that we just wanted out of the loud, sad place. I hear it's amazing, though, and maybe we'll try it next summer. From the take-out window.

A month later, this past Saturday in fact, we went to BLT Burger at the Mirage.

I didn't bring a camera; some days it's just not in me. Sorry. I did take some cell phone pics, but they are terrible, and sharing them would involve getting off the sofa to grab my phone. Pft. As if!

BLT Burger is located where the Siegfried and Roy tigers used to lounge behind the glass wall, near the opening. I already made my peace with that, so I had no prejudices and was ready for a great meal.

We had a booth right next to the walkway in and out of the casino, which was not bad, just like the loud music wasn't so loud that we had to keep asking each other what they said. (Take note, Serendipity 3.) Our waitress was terse but amiable, so no problems there.

We had a big splash out for this occasion. (Thanksgiving holidays will be our excuse.) "Nut job" milkshakes (hazelnut ice cream, Nutella, slivered almonds), spicy chicken wings appetizer for Mike, fried dill pickles for me, Tex-Mex burger for Mike, Falafel burger for me (to which I added Swiss cheese and mushrooms, and 86'd the avocado). Here's the Las Vegas menu.

Things started out great. The milkshakes were, as Mike the not-so-into-milkshakes person put it, "the best I ever had in my life." BLT Burger needs a take-out window just for these lovely concoctions.

Mike liked his first two wings, but the flavour was cloying/samey/overwhelming thereafter. Also, he tasted a lot of lemon, which made him wonder if he didn't get the tangy wings by mistake.

I really liked the fried dill pickles, and at $5, they are a great value. I expected something greasy and flat (like I've had in other places), but these were terrific airy puffs with a sharp tang of dill in the middle. You get a decently sized basket of them, so visions of to-go boxes immediately danced before my eyes.

Then the burgers came.

Here's the positive: they had nice texture.

Here's the negative: they had no flavour.

Ignoring that my patty was burnt on the outside, there was just no taste. The mushroom I added was a small, flavourless slice. The Swiss I added was an amount so negligible I could've scraped it off with my thumbnail in a couple of swipes. All together it was so dry, and I ended up eating a third of it. I didn't want to take it home to see if it got better.

So, there went the to-go box for the dill pickles, as that was my meal. (Unfortunately, even they got hard to keep loving after, say, four or five, and my cranky gallbladder doesn't need to be tested further.)

BLT Burger must have a dairy-hatin' chef, because the "onion sour cream" on Mike's Tex-Mex, if it was there, was lost in the chili slop on the burger. The bland chili on the bland burger. Two very different burgers at our table, two identical experiences.

So it was back into the wing basket for Mike, with frownie faces. The waitress asked if I was done with my (2/3 still on the plate) burger. I was surprised that she didn't ask if there was a problem or, as waitstaff always seem to do, if everything was okay, but she didn't. Although I was ready with a careful response that would have made it clear that I knew she wasn't to blame for what they made in the kitchen, I chose not to volunteer this. I didn't know what I wanted BLT Burger to do to make it right (they only have the one vegetarian burger), and the "vibe" in this fashionable burger joint didn't encourage me to fuss.

(But if BLT Burger ever sees this post and is moved to compensate us for two lousy main dishes, I promise I will give them credit where it's due.)

So, if you had to make a choice between Serendipity 3 and BLT Burger (which would be a weird choice, but let's not be sidetracked with realistic probablities), which should you choose?

That's really tough. I will never eat at Serendipity 3 again. The good food is not worth the high prices, bad service, and obnoxious atmosphere. I definitely would go to BLT Burger again, but only for milkshakes and snacks, absolutely not for a proper meal.

Verdict? Go out for Indian. (But not at Namaste - review to follow... later.)

01 December 2009 |



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