Vegas Diners Use Calculators to Eat at Milos, Bartolotta: Review

Bigeye Tuna
Bigeye tuna at Milos in Las Vegas is priced not by the pound, but at $46 for an eight ounce serving. It's paired with skordalia, an extra virgin olive oil and garlic emulsion. Photographer: Ryan Sutton/Bloomberg

At Milos, in Deutsche Bank’s $3.9 billion Cosmopolitan hotel, you’d better come with a tall stack of chips.

Exotic sea fare like spiny lobster comes to $212 a portion, many entrees are priced by the pound and the flicker of IPhone calculators is much in evidence.

My waiter could not confirm how much an appetizer portion of stone crab would cost. Typically sold by the claw, the shellfish here goes for $75 per pound. New York diners know this gambit well from the inexplicably packed Manhattan flagship of Milos, where two stone crab claws, chilled into bland submission, cost $76 on a recent visit.

Kushi oysters are $4 each, which is not so bad considering there aren’t any oceans in the desert.

Still, not a single waiter at the Las Vegas or Manhattan locations was willing to approximate the price of a course.

Milos’ chief draw is that it imports seriously delicious seafood from around the world: Lavraki (a firm and gelatinous sea bass), emperor fish (cool and buttery) and exotic shellfish (crevettes).

Crawfish on Steroids

Ever munch on a crevette? It looks like crawfish on steroids. They’re cooked rare, like langoustines, but instead of collapsing into ethereal bliss, they poke your taste buds, a mineral tang trailing the sweetness of the meat.

They’re $24 bucks a pop -- that’s a $72 appetizer, which I suppose was a good deal, since the next day they were priced at $89 per pound.

The Vegas outpost offers a near-identical experience to the New York flagship, which is to say servers must be flagged down like taxis and on occasion, items on the menu, printed daily, were not available -- which defeats the point.

How about some langoustines ($65 per pound) and spiny lobster ($85 per pound)?

“I’m sorry, we’re not carrying them today.”

Fine. What can you tell us about the red mullet?

“Excellent fish, it’s pan fried.”

Perfect, we’ll take three.

“I’m sorry, we’re not serving that today either.”

Bartolotta’s Crustacean

Appetizers are served for the table, which explains the $27 price tag on a tomato salad and $24 for a sampler of supermarket quality spreads (hummus, yogurt, etc).

Dover sole ($49 per pound) -- Atlantic flounder with a knighthood -- is everything the sweet, firm fish should be. Skip sinewy bigeye tuna ($46 for eight ounces) and order the red mullet if Milos deigns to serve it. Turned out to cost just $12.25 or so per tiny fish (it’s listed at $49 per pound).

I returned another day to snare a spiny lobster. “We have them tonight! They’re two-and-a-half pounds.”

That’s $212. No thanks.

Instead, I got my fix of the clawless crustacean at Paul Bartolotta’s eponymous eatery at the Wynn Las Vegas; it serves the beast as part of a $175, 12-course “Top Chef” tasting menu.

How does it taste? Not a whole lot different than a Maine lobster, but with a grown-up hint of bitterness.

Bartolotta’s prix-fixe options are efficient opt out clauses for the complicated market menu. But here the fare is priced by the metric system, so bring your conversion charts along.

Imperial Shrimp

Bartolotta covers the Mediterranean. Blue lobster? $22 for 100 grams. Fried imperial red shrimp, the brassy eat-with-your-hands Italian riff on French crevettes, are $25-$35; so are sweet, silky live langoustines, with plenty in stock on a night Milos had none.

At Bartolotta you can devour thumbnail-size soft shell crabs or silver-dollar-size whole squid. Bottarga (dried mullet roe), usually shaved like orange zest, is sliced thick and served over beans drenched in olive oil.

A few gripes: If there are four pastas on a tasting menu (two with tomato-spiked sauces), don’t serve them all at once, lest the diner be overwhelmed. Same with baba au rhum, semi-freddo and nine scoops of gelato, sorbet and granite. Good as they are, it’s all a bit much. Bartolotta sometimes forgets that most eaters aren’t NFL linebackers.

The Bloomberg Questions

Cost: $150-plus meals not uncommon at both.

Sound Level: Boisterous at Milos, quiet at Bartolotta.

Date Place: Milos, because it’s light on carbs.

Inside Tip: Call ahead to both for fish availability.

Special Feature: Milos now offers its overpriced seafood soup for two in Las Vegas.

Will I be back: To Bartolotta.

Estiatorio Milos is at the Cosmopolitan, 3708 Las Vegas Boulevard South. Information: +1-877-551-7772; Rating: * 1/2

Bartolotta is at the Wynn, 3131 Las Vegas Boulevard South. Information: +1-702-770-3305, Rating: **

What the Stars Mean:
****         Incomparable food, service, ambience.
***          First-class of its kind.
**           Good, reliable.
*            Fair.
(No stars)   Poor.

Sound-Level Chart (in decibels):

51 to 55: Church on a weekday. 56 to 60: The vegetable aisle at the Food Emporium. 61 to 65: Keyboards clacking at the office. 66 to 70: My alarm clock when it goes off inches from my ear. 71 to 75: Corner deli at lunchtime. 76 to 80: Back of a taxi with advertisements at full volume. 81 to 85: Loud, crowded subway with announcements.

(Ryan Sutton writes about New York City restaurants for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. The opinions expressed are his own.)

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