Long Awaited Dinner at Rao’s

For some reason, every time I’ve walked past Rao’s at Caesars Palace, I’ve had a strong desire to eat dinner there.  I don’t know why.  It’s tucked away in a corner behind slot machines, away from the noise of the main casino floor and across from Payard (my friend Michelle’s favorite brunch spot).  The facade looks like it’s outdoors with a patio for diners out front.  Reservations are generally required and it’s on the more expensive side of the restaurants we’ve been to.  The Husband happened to go a few weeks ago when I was out of town and as expected, I was a bit disappointed that I missed out.  Luckily, though, friends were in town this week and they made reservations in anticipation that we might like to join them.  I was excited!

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When we walked into the restaurant, we checked in with the hostess and I noted the warm wood paneling throughout.

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A little bit farther into the restaurant was a large bar which took up an entire center room, with rooms off the sides with tables for dining.  What I found was funny, though, was that none of the drinks for the diners in our dining room had their drinks come from this bar – they all appeared to come out of a kitchen.

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We were seated at a round table at the entrance to our dining room, immediately in the doorway.  It ended up being an odd location to be seated.  We were directly in the flow of traffic of all of the staff coming to/from the kitchen into our dining room and the one next to us.  Even tucked into our seats, our friends could feel the staff whisking by every few seconds, which greatly took away from the ambiance of the restaurant.

While we perused the menu, we were served water, offered to take drink orders (we needed a moment), the sommelier stopped by, we met our waitress, and we had our water glasses refilled.  At that point, we counted 5 individuals who had served us and we hadn’t even ordered yet! We were brought rolls, made our orders (both food and wine), and enjoyed catching up.

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The Husband grabbed the giant cracker and displayed it’s size for a photo op :-)

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Three of us planned to get wine and with glasses ranging from $14 to $18, we considered getting a bottle. However, after perusing the bottle menu, the prices were steep enough that we settled on our glasses.   The Husband had a glass of pinot noir and I had the chardonnay.  They were both fine glasses – not bad, but not memorable – and in our opinion, not worth the price.

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I debated for a LONG time on what to order (as is usual at an Italian restaurant) so when our waitress took our order, I narrowed it down to about three and asked for her recommendation.  She suggested the Fiocchetti al burro, salvia e amarena which was Begger purse raviolis stuffed with pear & ricotta cheese in butter, sage, and dried cranberries.  Oh my goodness! Our waitress gave an amazing recommendation! This was out of this world! The pear and ricotta went together so nicely.  The butter and sage gave enough flavor but didn’t overpower the pear and ricotta and the dried cranberries just added a touch of sweetness.  It was excellent (and the Husband agreed)!

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The Husband ordered the Gnocchi alla Bolgonese which wasn’t actually on the menu itself (although it’s on the online menu) but was a special (you could order any sauce with gnocchi as you’d like).  It HAD been on the menu when he was there a few weeks earlier but they were out of it so he was glad to be able to order it this time.  It was a good size portion and left enough for lunch leftovers for him the next day.  The gnocchi were pillowy and the bolognese was flavorful.

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As mentioned earlier, there were a lot of people serving us.  When they brought the dishes to the table, they didn’t come plated – they were in warming dishes and then were plated at the table.

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After the wine, bread, and entree, we weren’t interested in dessert.  While the food was very good and good sizes (I saw the salads go by and they were more entree size than appetizer – and they looked delish!), we were generally unimpressed with the experienced itself.  We assume that the multiple staff providing service was meant to make us feel pampered or something, but it really just made it all feel rushed and impersonal.  Perhaps if we had been placed at a different table, and not in the cross-section of server traffic, we might have a different opinion.  However, the restaurant was also quite loud which soured the experience.  I will note that the Husband had a different experience when he was there a few weeks ago, but between the two visits, he doesn’t plan on going back.  While the food was excellent, the whole experience didn’t meet the quality expected for the price paid.  Oh well.  At least we enjoyed our dinners!





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