Viva Las Vegan!

LaurenWazuzuTake one look at my face. This is what a vegan looks like when she’s hit the jackpot. And no, I’m not talking about striking it rich in the casino; I’m talking about the culinary jackpot that is the Wynn/Encore Resort in Las Vegas, Nevada… a place I now endearingly call my Little Vegan City. Imagine: a sprawling property, ornately decorated and beautifully kept, with unparalleled service and over 15 dining/beverage options each with a unique vegan menu. In case you didn’t catch that the first time, let me repeat myself. Each has its own unique vegan menu. That means while I was a guest at the Resort for 4 days and 3 nights, I never ate the same thing twice. And I could’ve stayed there another week and still not have sampled all the amazing vegan eats they have to offer.

First, some context. My husband and I wanted to go somewhere to celebrate our 12th anniversary. (Read about our 11th anniversary San Francisco Walking Vegan Food Tour here.) Believe it or not, neither of us had ever really been to Vegas. I mean, he was there on business once and zipped through a casino, lost five bucks on a slot machine just so he could say he had, and left. I once had a layover in the Vegas Airport as a college student and ate a piece of chocolate shaped like a playing card. You catch my drift? Neither of us had ever really done Vegas. So with the kids in the expert care of my parents, Daniel and I were off for a long weekend jaunt to Sin City.

We had done our research beforehand. As non-gamblers, non-clubbers, non-smokers and all-around non-social people who just want to sleep in without a kid peeling back our eyelids at 6 AM asking for pancakes, we sought out the advice of those who had gone before us. We wanted a luxurious escape consisting of sleep, spa treatments, excellent food and maybe a show. Celine Dion need not apply. We almost made the mistake of staying at the Mandarin Oriental (which I’m sure is a fine establishment) and walking up and down the Strip for four days in search of vegan holes-in-the-wall so I could get some nourishment now and then. Originally, I was up for the challenge and was prepared to accept the fact that I would be eating at the Indian joint I’d found on Yelp at least twice a day (also, I’m sure, a fine establishment!). But then a couple of friends chimed in to my Facebook Vegas discussion and informed me that there was simply no other place in Vegas for a vegan besides the Wynn/Encore Resorts. A quick google search revealed that they were spot on.

In March of 2011, Steve Wynn (a recent vegan convert at the time) began an overhaul of his Vegas resorts that extended from a mandatory orientation to the many benefits of veganism for all of his employees — everyone from the concierge to the casino cashier to the janitor — to the announcement that renowned vegan chef Tal Ronnen would be partnering with the award-winning Wynn and Encore chefs to develop all new vegan menus for the restaurants on the property. Tal Ronnen, the man who created Oprah Winfrey’s 21-day vegan cleanse, did not disappoint. His collaboration with the resort chefs has yielded an expansive, extremely inventive and (almost always) superbly delicious vegan landscape across the Wynn properties. As the servers at all the restaurants said to me when I ordered off their vegan menus, “Mr. Wynn orders off these very same menus. Our vegan cuisine is of the highest standards.”

In anticipation of our trip, I scoured all the Wynn/Encore vegan menus I could find online and began to plan our weekend around our food. Is there any other way? ; ) We arrived at the resort on a Wednesday afternoon, settled into our room (we stayed at the Encore Tower Suites) and took a look around. We had a great conversation with our bellhop who said he now eats vegan multiple times a week after watching the video and reading the literature that Mr. Wynn required of all his employees. So cool. I picked up the In-Room Dining Menu and was pleasantly surprised to see a tab marked “VEGAN.” Wow, already such a different experience than any other hotel I’d ever visited!

How cool is that?

How cool is that?

Here’s a look inside the Room Service Menu that I never had the chance to order off of! You’ll see they use a lot of Gardein products at their resort. This is because Gardein is one of Tal Ronnen’s culinary ventures. roomservicemenu2 roomservicemenu3 roomservicemenu4

1. WAZUZU

We unpacked our bags and went off to explore the property and look for our dinner spot. I had chosen Wazuzu for that first night, an informal pan-Asian eatery that doesn’t require reservations. Wazuzu had a trendy yet relaxed feel, and looks right out onto the casino. I could take or leave that aspect as casinos in general do not strike my fancy. But hey, it’s Vegas right? A little over-the-top tackiness is to be expected and even indulged in. That first pic of me with the glowing dragon was taken at Wazuzu. I was so excited to eat my first Vegas vegan meal! WazuzuOutside Take a look at their menu: WazuzuMenu WazuzuMenu2We ordered family-style and landed on the Cucumber & Seaweed Salad, the Shiitake-Nagi Sushi Roll, the Gardein Chick’n Shu Mai and the Vegan Drunken Noodles with Tofu. The Cucumber & Seaweed Salad was just okay. Blander than I prefer. The Shiitake-Nagi was quite good and paralleled any of the best vegan sushi rolls I could order in my hometown of San Francisco. The Gardein Chick’n Shu Mai was immensely flavorful and the wonton skins were cooked to perfection. Daniel has never been a fan of Shu Mai but I always loved it as a kid. This was the first time I’d had Shu Mai since I became a vegan over a decade ago. The Drunken Noodle was the crowning achievement of our meal. Absolutely delicious with the orange pear tomatoes providing a refreshing, unpredictable element to the whole dish!

The Cucumber & Seaweed Salad was mediocre but acceptable.

The Cucumber & Seaweed Salad was mediocre but acceptable.

The Vegan Crunch Roll was vegan sushi at its best.

The Shiitake-Nagi roll was vegan sushi at its best.

Oh Shu Mai, how I've missed you!

Oh Shu Mai, how I’ve missed you!

I definitely went overboard with these Drunken Noodles. So delicious!

I definitely went overboard with these Drunken Noodles. So delicious!

Wazuzu didn’t have any vegan desserts listed on their menu but upon asking, I learned they had a Vegan Brownie A La Mode. There was no question we were going for it. It wasn’t out of this world but it did the trick to balance our palates after our savory meal.

The vegan brownie sundae had a crispy cocoa rice topping...  house-made cocoa krispies!

The vegan brownie sundae had a toasted cocoa rice topping… house-made cocoa krispies!

Overall, our experience at Wazuzu was a fabulous introduction to the vegan cuisine of the Wynn properties. I ate more vegan deliciousness in that one meal than I’d originally expected to eat during our entire 4-day stay in Las Vegas. Our bellies were happy and we were excited to see what else Mr. Wynn’s chefs would cook up for us in the days to come.

We give Wazuzu 4/5 stars.

The prices were reasonable, the atmosphere was inviting and the food was almost perfect. We’re docking them one star because of the lackluster Cucumber & Seaweed Salad and because the service, while suitable, wasn’t stellar. No one went over and above the call of duty to make us feel like honored guests. At the time, we didn’t know to expect that. But after experiencing many of the other restaurants at the Resorts, I realized the service at Wazuzu was slightly below par.

I loved the glasses at Wazuzu so much that I bought one at the gift shop to take home.

I loved the glasses at Wazuzu so much that I bought one at the gift shop to take home.

2. “AMERICAN PLAN” BREAKFAST (Complimentary In-Room Breakfast for Guests of the Encore Tower Suites)

We enjoyed a relaxing night of sleep in our fabulous room in the Encore Tower Suites. This section of the hotel has its own private entrance, private concierge desk and check-in. This may not seem like a big deal at first but let me tell you; it was so nice to go in and out of our residence without having to walk through the casino! Most other resorts don’t give you that option; you have to meander through the maze of bright lights, obnoxious sounds and clouds of cigarette smoke just to get to your room. But at the Encore Tower Suites, you breeze right in and out of your residence peacefully, with a top-notch staff anticipating your every move and always staying one step ahead.

Our room was gorgeous. We got a great deal on the Junior King Suite. While this is the smallest Suite available at the Encore Suites, it’s plenty big with a sizable bathroom that has a shower and tub, a bedroom area that opens up to a living room and a spectacular view of the Strip. I forgot to mention that upon our arrival, there was a miniature cake that read “Happy Anniversary!” along with four chocolate truffles awaiting us in our suite. It didn’t appear to be vegan (I would’ve really been impressed if it had been) but it’s the thought that counts.

A room with a view.

A room with a view.

That first morning we ordered our in-room “American Plan” breakfast, complimentary for guests of the Encore Tower Suites for the duration of your stay. I’m not sure why they named it that. If you ask me, it sounds like the title of the next Channing Tatum espionage movie, but whatever. Sadly, there wasn’t a separate vegan menu and there was only one vegan option. I called to ask if I could order off the regular In-Room Dining Menu but that was a no-go. The “American Plan” is set in stone. That one vegan option was fine for me since I don’t tend to eat much for breakfast every morning anyway. But if breakfast is really your thing, you may want to forgo the complimentary American Plan and either venture out or order off the regular in-room dining menu.

When I called the dining staff to order my hot oatmeal for the next morning, I informed them I was vegan and the kind woman on the other end of the line did not even flinch. She quickly explained that the oatmeal is made with water and asked if I’d like some soy milk on the side. She also informed me that their wheat toast was vegan and that she’d make sure I had vegan butter to go with it. Now that’s service! Our American Plan breakfasts arrived right on time, were piping hot (not an easy feat with in-room dining) and were beautifully plated and delicious.

My hot oatmeal was served with fresh berries, golden raisins, brown sugar and vanilla soy milk.

My hot oatmeal was served with fresh berries, golden raisins, brown sugar and vanilla soy milk.

I ordered hot tea for the morning as well. I was happy to see they serve Tea Forte, one of my favorite brands of tea. It was served with more soy milk and a small jar of honey, I suppose for the honey-eating vegans out there.

I ordered hot tea for the morning as well. I was happy to see they serve Tea Forte, one of my favorite brands of tea. It was served with more soy milk and a small jar of honey, I suppose for the honey-eating vegans out there.

VeganAmericanBreakfast3

My whole wheat toast served with jam and vegan butter!

I was fueled up and ready to begin our first full day in Vegas.

We give the American Plan breakfast 2 out of 5 stars.

Everything was delicious and the dining staff were extremely knowledgeable and helpful. But I have trouble accepting the fact that there’s only one vegan option on the American Plan menu. For a resort that makes such a big deal out of giving vegans a culinary experience they’ll never forget, I’m surprised they haven’t expanded this experience to include the complimentary breakfast reserved for their highest paying guests in the Tower Suites.

3. TERRACE POINT CAFE

After luxurious spa treatments (the Encore Spa is hands-down the most beautiful spa I’ve visited to date), we’d worked up a large appetite for a late lunch. We headed to the Terrace Point Cafe, a casual eatery filled with families, young children and guests looking for a bite to eat on their way to or from the pool. With such a relaxed atmosphere, I wasn’t expecting the vegan options to be all that great. I was thinking basic veggie sandwiches, salads and maybe a vegan soup option.  I was wrong; the menu was fairly extensive and I had no problem finding things I wanted to try.

Approaching the Terrace Point Cafe.

Approaching the Terrace Point Cafe

Terrace Point Cafe has a friendly, laid back vibe.

Terrace Point Cafe has a friendly, laid back vibe but it could stand an update of its decor. While comfortable, it feels a bit like a glorified Denny’s.

Fresh off our spa treatments and ready to eat.

Fresh off our spa treatments and ready to eat.

The vegan menu was extensive with a good amount of variety. TerracePointCafeMenu I decided on the Asian Pockets and the Tempeh “Tuna” Salad Sandwich. I’m not a huge fan of tuna salad, vegan or conventional. But I chose this sandwich because of how hard it is to make a tuna sandwich that doesn’t taste like canned cat food. I was putting Mr. Wynn to the test. I asked the server what was used in the sandwich as a mayonnaise substitute and she returned from the kitchen to tell me it was Vegenaise. I love Vegenaise so that was promising! Daniel decided to order vegan for this meal too. He chose the Vegan Pan deMie French Toast.

The presentation of these Asian Pockets was spectacular.

The presentation of these Asian Pockets was spectacular.

I thought these Asian Pockets were delicious. What a neat idea to basically make a Chinese chicken salad (sans the chicken), and stuff it into sweet Inari bean curd skins. The crunch of the cabbage married perfectly with the tender tofu skins and the balance of sweet and savory was flawless. I wanted to order another plate and stuff them into MY Asian pockets. ; )

The Tempeh "Tuna" Salad Sandwich was a huge portion! It came with two sandwich rounds and a side.

The Tempeh “Tuna” Salad Sandwich was a huge portion! It came with two sandwich rounds and a side.

I chose a side of pita chips

I chose a side of pita chips

The tempeh really did taste like tuna, or at least what I remember tuna tasting like. It has been over a decade. The presentation was cute, the portion generous. I think each sandwich could’ve used a little less filling (I ended up scooping some out) but I’d rather there be more than I want instead of feeling like they were skimping.

The French Toast wasn't a huge hit with Daniel but I thought it was pretty good.

The French Toast wasn’t a huge hit with Daniel but I thought it was pretty good.

As a vegetarian, Daniel is used to French Toast made the conventional way, with eggs and butter. Terrace Point Cafe’s vegan version is soaked in what tasted like vanilla soy milk and banana, and because it contains no egg, is denser than your typical light and fluffy French Toast. It was served with fresh strawberries, vegan butter, pure maple syrup and a generous dusting of powdered sugar.

I also enjoyed a Pomegranate Iced Tea garnished with blueberries.

I also enjoyed a Pomegranate Iced Tea garnished with blueberries.

We give Terrace Point Cafe a rating of 3 out of 5 stars. 

The vegan menu offered lots of great lunch options and the food was straight-forward, no-nonsense fare but with an inventive edge that made the dining experience fun. But with an $18 price tag on my sandwich, the Terrace Point Cafe could’ve used a little more atmosphere and a little more attentiveness from the staff. You expect to pay a lot for food when you’re in Vegas but in my opinion, each dining experience should be memorable, especially when you’re a guest of Mr. Wynn.

4. SW STEAKHOUSE

The entrance to SW Steakhouse from the upper level.

The entrance to SW Steakhouse from the upper concourse

The fine dining options at the Wynn/Encore Resorts are usually open for dinner only. We heard about a free show called The Lake of Dreams that could be viewed from the outdoor patios of two such restaurants. I just had to see what the vegan menu at a steakhouse would be like, so we chose SW Steakhouse (named for Steve Wynn’s initials) as our destination for Thursday dinner.

We fancied up for our 7:30 reservation and were happily seated along the border between the open-air end of the restaurant and the outdoor patio. This meant we felt just enough of the cool air conditioning while also enjoying the warm summer night. We also had a great view of the lake for the show that everyone had only described as “trippy.” They weren’t kidding. An animatronic frog that sings “What a Wonderful World,” statues of people and glowing balls rising out of the water, videos of painted women muttering indecipherably with an electronica beat pulsing in the background. You be the judge. Nevertheless, it was entertaining and oddly enjoyable. A new acid trip starts every half hour and lasts about 2-3 minutes. About 10 of them rotate each night so you never have to see the same thing twice. We saw 6 of them during our time at the restaurant. So utterly Vegas and so hard to look away! ; )

The singing frog of the Lake of Dreams, a free show at the Wynn.

The singing frog of the Lake of Dreams, a free show at the Wynn.

The atmosphere at SW was traditional steakhouse with a glamorous Vegas edge. And the vegan menu was spectacular. Take a look. SWMenu What a treat to dine at a steakhouse and have multiple vegan selections to choose from! I loved that the choices were still a cultural fit for a steakhouse… hearty, with rich, intense flavors. I chose the Heirloom Tomato Salad, the Asparagus and Oyster Mushroom Risotto, and a side of Creamed Spinach. Daniel decided on the Roasted Corn Quinoa Cakes for his entree with a side of their house Steak Fries.

The bread basket had one vegan option (the sourdough mini baguettes) and the server brought out vegan butter straightaway.

The bread basket had one vegan option (the sourdough mini baguettes) and the server brought out vegan butter straightaway.

A beautiful presentation for the Heirloom Tomato Salad.

A beautiful presentation for the Heirloom Tomato Salad.

I enjoyed this salad. The tomatoes were gorgeous and very fresh. The black olive vinaigrette gave the dish just the right amount of saltiness to balance out the natural sweetness of the tomatoes.

My risotto lacked oomph

My risotto lacked oomph

The risotto sounded so promising. I once heard someone say that the quality of a restaurant’s risotto says everything about the quality of the restaurant as a whole. I’m not sure how true that is, but it made me want to order the risotto as a benchmark to determine my overall evaluation of SW Steakhouse. Unfortunately, I wasn’t thrilled. The arborio was tender and cooked well, but the flavor of the dish was lacking. I’m sensitive to salt and usually find things too salty rather than not salty enough. But this risotto was not salty enough. In addition, the character of the asparagus didn’t shine through as it should have. The dish was hearty and served nice and hot as it should be, but again, it didn’t thrill.

All the salt ended up here

All the salt ended up here

When I took a bite of my side of Creamed Spinach, I quickly realized where all the salt had gone. Creamed spinach is traditionally fairly salty but this was too much for me. I give them points for making it with a cashew cream, a vegan favorite. But the brackishness was overbearing and I could only eat a couple of bites. The portion was gargantuan so the dish remained relatively untouched.

Daniel enjoyed his quinoa cakes... fresh and imaginative!

Daniel enjoyed his quinoa cakes… fresh and imaginative!

My husband declared the Quinoa Cakes a success. Crispy on the outside, moist on the inside, the tang of the tomatoes was particularly refreshing and flavorful. I didn’t get a photo of the steak fries but they were classic and delicious. Served in an upright paper cone (love that), those beauties stayed PIPING hot for — I’m not exaggerating — like, 15 minutes. All I can say is that the deep fryer at SW must be a top notch oilin’ machine!

SWMenu3

You better believe I made that request.

Our server informed us that the vegan dessert selection was a Raspberry Cheesecake. I was immediately sold. When I asked her how it was prepared she gave me a really cute answer: “It’s actually made with… I hope this doesn’t gross you out… a type of seaweed.” I laughed and asked if she meant agar agar. She said yes, smiled, and noticeably relaxed when I told her I love agar agar and it doesn’t gross me out one bit. Hehe, very cute. Let me tell you, this dessert was phenomenal. Made with vegan cream cheese and of course, agar agar, the texture was exemplary, the flavor mouthwatering and the presentation delightful. They even remembered it was our anniversary.

The cheesecake was topped with fresh berries and raspberry sugared lace.

The cheesecake was topped with fresh berries and raspberry sugared lace.

We give SW Steakhouse 3 out of 5 stars.

The Quinoa Cakes and Raspberry Cheesecake made up for my unremarkable Risotto and overly salted Creamed Spinach. The service was incredible with our server even going to the kitchen to write down the ingredient list for the cheesecake I loved so much. The restaurant’s interior made for the ultimate steakhouse experience and the Lake of Dreams was awesomely trippy. With a little more attention given to the seasoning of the dishes, SW Steakhouse could easily become a vegan culinary dream.

5. LA CAVE

Friday morning brought another American Plan breakfast of oatmeal to my door. We then took a long walk around the nearby hotels, stopping at the Venetian to watch the gondolas and treat ourselves to a little sorbet.

This sorbet was as creamy as gelato! We shared two delicious flavors: coconut and passion fruit.

This sorbet was as creamy as gelato! We shared two delicious flavors: coconut and passion fruit.

After 4 hours of walking around on a 104 degree day, it was time to head back to my Little Vegan City for a late lunch. We decided on La Cave, described as a Wine and Food Hideaway.

The entrance to La Cave, known for its wine selection and small plates.

The entrance to La Cave, known for its wine selection and small plates.

This was a charming establishment. As its name suggests, the main room is dark and cavernous like a wine cellar. But the side atrium where we were seated was open with glass walls on two sides and tons of natural light. We sat at a beautifully set rustic farm table and studied our menus.

The vegan selections at La Cave are few but at an eatery known for wine and small bites, it's just enough.

The vegan selections at La Cave are few but at an eatery known for wine and small bites, it’s just enough.

I chose the Vegan Fiery Artichoke Flatbread and the Mushroom Tortellini. Not a wine drinker, I paired my choices with a virgin Cucumber Ginger Cooler.

Utterly delectable flatbread!

Utterly delectable flatbread!

The Flatbread was out of this world. A perfect combination of flavors, every aspect was just right. I gobbled the entire thing and had to fend off my husband as we battled over the last piece.

The tortellini was rustic and hearty and right on brand.

The tortellini was rustic and hearty and right on brand.

I just loved the feel of this whole place. Like I was in a modernized cabin in the woods, with a roaring fire and amazing comfort food cooked over a wood fired stove. La Cave has their brand dialed in and their Mushroom Tortellini with arugula and cashew cream served in a mini iron skillet, blended in perfectly. I was in vegan heaven.

We give La Cave a whopping 5 out of 5 stars.

The atmosphere, the service, the food were all spectacular. I was disappointed we didn’t get a chance to eat there again during our stay. Next time I’m ordering it all!

6. BARTOLOTTA

Friday night was dinner and a show. We made reservations at the fine Italian restaurant Bartolotta before heading to the Wynn Theater to see La Reve (The Dream), a sort of Cirque du Soleil-type show performed entirely in and above a pool of water. It was, well, RAD! And judging from the drool on both our laps by the end, I think our mouths must’ve been wide open for the entire show. All I can say is that the human body is amazing and how cool is it that people push their bodies to do such amazing things simply so we (the ones who are too lazy to get off our rear ends) can be entertained? We highly recommend the show for the next time you’re in Vegas!

Home of La Reve/The Dream. Notice the *ahem* sculpture. Don't ask.

Home of La Reve/The Dream. Notice the *ahem* sculpture. Don’t ask.

The entrance to Bartolotta

The entrance to Bartolotta

Bartolotta was the perfect spot for a romantic date night. Its Old World feel was classic without being stuffy. We were led down the elegant, winding staircase to a quiet table downstairs that felt almost private. Our servers were attentive, extremely friendly, and accommodating of our schedule since they knew we had a show to catch. bartolottamenuI started with the Minestrone di Verdure and chose the Rigatoni con Melanzane as my main course. A basket of warm bread arrived at our table and our server didn’t hesitate to bring me my vegan butter. I didn’t even need to ask!

Daniel's regular butter and my vegan butter, having a moment.

Daniel’s regular butter and my vegan butter, having a moment.

Almost perfect minestrone

An almost perfect minestrone

My soup was delicately prepared with a variety of vegetables that all tasted insanely fresh. I could taste the brussel sprouts, spinach, carrots, peas. What a feast for my tastebuds! My one complaint is that it was topped with too much olive oil. This flavorful soup just didn’t need it and the oil threatened to drown out the freshness of the vegetables.

These eggplant fries were delicious but just not the right fit for the rigatoni.

These eggplant fries were delicious but just not the right fit for the rigatoni.

My pasta was cooked perfectly but the sauce was nothing special. The eggplant fries were prepared nicely as well, but I didn’t think they worked well in this context. It made the texture of the dish too dry overall. I would’ve preferred lightly sauteed eggplant for both the color it would lend to the dish as well as the moisture.

Finally, we ordered the vegan dessert selection that I couldn’t pronounce and it was simply phenomenal. A chocolate coconut mousse with a flaky pistachio mille feuille (French puff pastry) and sour cherries. The best part of the night!

Aw, they remembered!

We give Bartolotta a rating of 4 out of 5 stars.

Their stellar service and atmosphere and scrumptious food could only be improved with a little more thoughtfulness given to menu design and preparation.

7. WYNN BUFFET

What’s Vegas without stuffing yourself at a buffet? I always dismissed this cultural phenomenon, assuming it would be a major waste of funds for a vegan like me. I assumed if I ever went to Vegas with a bunch of friends, I’d see them off to their buffet and go in search of that Indian place everyone Yelps about. But Mr. Wynn did not overlook his signature buffet when he gave his resort the vegan facelift. For this I am immensely grateful.

We hit up the legendary Wynn Buffet as our final meal before heading to the airport to catch our flight home. Like most Vegas buffets, the line to get in was simply ridiculous. We finally conceded and paid the extra $15/person to jump into the VIP line which cut the wait from 50 minutes to a digestible 15. Imagine our delight when we arrived at the front of the line and learned from the cashier that as guests of the Encore Tower Suites, our admission to the buffet was complimentary (usually $18-40/person depending on what day/time you go) and our VIP fees were waived. Woot!

Now, let me tell you. I ate far beyond my capacity for you, my loyal One Happy Table readers. I wouldn’t dream of writing this blog post without having sampled each and every vegan offering at the buffet. I know, I know, I’m a true champion. Taking one for the team. : )

The dining room at the Buffet is brightly and whimsically decorated.

The dining room at the Buffet is brightly and whimsically decorated.

Game faces on. Let's do this.

Game faces on. Let’s do this.

We were seated in the side dining area which wasn’t as naturally lit, but was closer to the food. Come to think of it, I don’t know if that last thing is a pro or a con. A server came right away to take our drink order. I ordered orange juice and was happy to taste that it was fresh squeezed. Daniel and I gave each other the nod as if we were preparing to enter battle. I untucked my shirt, unbuttoned the top button of my jeans, stared that aisle down and courageously trudged forward.

I started with Asian like a good Chinese girl.

I started with Asian like a good Chinese girl.

The vegetable sushi was as good as you'd expect buffet sushi to be.

The vegetable sushi was as good as you’d expect buffet sushi to be.

There was only one veggie sushi option, a sort of mini futomaki roll. While it wasn’t stellar, it was acceptable and I was especially impressed that the wasabi still had a heck of a lot of kick. That’s not easy to come by in a buffet when the ball of wasabi is the size of a soccer ball and has presumably been sitting out for the better part of the day. But props to the Wynn, this wasabi was still kickin’!

Seaweed Salad and Edamame

Seaweed Salad and Edamame

The edamame was fine but the seaweed salad wasn’t as chilled as I prefer and again, like the one at Wazuzu that first night, wasn’t seasoned enough. Maybe the chefs are trying to appeal to a larger audience, many of whom aren’t used to such foods? It could be described as having a subtle flavor but to me, it just tasted bland.

Jook and Sauteed Vegetables

Congee and Sauteed Vegetables

I piled up my next plate with rice and sauteed veggies. The flavor of the vegetables was good and garlicky but it tasted as if the sauce had been thickened with flour or corn starch. That gave it a sort of powdery consistency that wasn’t so great.

Congee closeup

Congee closeup

I topped my congee with every vegan topping available: scallions, cilantro, crispy shallots and pickled cucumber. I asked the kitchen staff to be sure that the congee was prepared without the use of animal stock. I was assured it was made with only water, rice and salt. It was delicious and one of my favorite items at the buffet.

Next, I needed something sweet and headed back to pile my plate with some cute little fruit salads I’d seen earlier.

Refreshing and inventive!

Refreshing and inventive!

What you see here is Coconut Tapioca topped with toasted coconut and dried cranberries, Grapefruit and Orange Salad with Mint, and Tequila-Spiked Watermelon. All were quite tasty. I even went back for a second Coconut Tapioca. At this point I was feeling a little ill but the show must go on, right? I ignored the heightened warnings my brain was sending to my body and headed back in.

Yay! A tofu option!

Yay! A tofu option!

I got in line for a tofu scramble. My body wasn’t requesting it but I was particularly curious to see how the Omelet Station guy would prepare my tofu in the midst of all the eggs, cheese, bacon and ham being tossed about. When it was my turn to order, I didn’t mention the word vegan. I just asked for a tofu scramble with spinach, tomatoes, mushrooms and onions. Without hesitation, the Omelet Guy picked up the pan, took it to the sink behind him and rinsed it under steaming hot water. He then wiped it dry and ladled oil onto it instead of the butter he was using for everyone else. Well played, sir.

Then the guy behind me steps up and orders an omelet with the works… ham, bacon, everything. My eyes were missile locked to the Omelet Guy’s spatula as he worked in the ingredients. I was sure I’d see him use that same spatula for my scramble. But I am happy to report that it never graced my pan. Omelet Guy remained faithful and only tossed my scramble in its pan with an expert flick of the wrist. Needless to say, I was impressed. I think I’m going to start calling Omelet Guy, Tofu Guy.

I enjoyed my tofu scramble with some Spanish riceand black bean corn salsa.

I enjoyed my tofu scramble with some Spanish rice and black bean corn salsa.

I was on a roll. After enjoying my unadulterated scramble, I was off to the Pancake Station to meet, I dunno, Vegan Pancake Guy? I was happy to see Blue Corn Pancakes listed as an alternative to Buttermilk Pancakes. But after asking, I learned that the Blue Corn Pancakes were not in fact vegan. A major disappointment. Sadly, there are no vegan griddle selections or vegan baked breakfast items to be found at the Wynn Buffet. In my opinion, this is the biggest drawback. And so off I went to the dessert section. I ate every vegan dessert item there was. My body was in full surrender mode at this point.

This Passion Fruit Tapioca was delicious and slid down the chute nice and easy.

This Passion Fruit Tapioca was delicious and slid down the chute nice and easy.

I'd forgotten how difficult it is to eat a candy apple! I would've preferred a vegan caramel apple but it was still a fun treat.

I’d forgotten how difficult it is to eat a candy apple! I would’ve preferred a vegan caramel apple but it was still a fun treat.

Stewed peaches for the peach cobbler. The cobbler part was not vegan so I ate the peaches on their own. Like I said, I was determined to eat each and every vegan thing in the joint.

Stewed peaches for the peach cobbler. The cobbler part was not vegan so I ate the peaches on their own. Like I said, I was determined to eat each and every vegan thing in that joint.

Blood orange sorbet with toasted coconut and sliced almonds and a classic chocolate chip cookie.

Blood orange sorbet with toasted coconut and sliced almonds and a classic chocolate chip cookie.

All of the desserts were enjoyable and the blood orange sorbet was an especially refreshing way to end my buffet binge.

We give the Wynn Buffet 4 out of 5 stars.

I was impressed by how many vegan offerings there were. As far as Vegas buffets go, I don’t think a vegan could get more for her money anywhere else. It’s easy to let your eyes grow bigger than your tummy but honestly, there is more vegan food to be had here than you could ever want to (or should) eat. Now mind you, we got in for free. But even if I had a bunch of friends heading here for dinner and I was faced with having to pay close to $40 for this meal, I would still do it. Thing is, you’ll pay at least that much to eat anywhere else and the buffet experience is just a whole lot of fun.

Bye bye buffet

Bye bye buffet

SOME FINAL THOUGHTS

The Royal Treatment: I really do have a special place in my heart for my Little Vegan City now. I never thought I’d say this but I can’t wait to visit Vegas again. I’ll stay at the Encore Suites, get a spa treatment, see a show that makes me drool over the magnificent capabilities of the human body and eat and eat and eat to my little vegan heart’s content. Everyone at the Wynn/Encore Resorts is versed in the way of veganism and not a single one bats an eye at your request for vegan butter for your bread or soy milk for your tea. You are never made to feel like a second class citizen for ordering off the vegan menus. Instead, I’d venture to say you’re treated even better than the typical guest! Almost every server made sure to ask me if I knew Mr. Wynn is a vegan. They seemed proud of the accommodations they make for vegans and are continuously challenging themselves to raise the bar on the vegan experience at their resort. They find their efforts gratifying and you can sense that immediately and throughout your stay.

Blog Name-Dropping: Mentioning I’m a vegan food blogger didn’t hurt either. On my last day there I asked the concierge at the Encore Tower Suites for any additional material she could give me for this post. By the end of the day I had a packet filled with two press releases announcing Tal Ronnen’s collaboration with the Wynn/Encore chefs, print-outs of the vegan menus for all of the restaurants on the property and personal contact information for the Public Relations Manager/Media Contact. Pretty rad.

My Work Isn’t Over: There is so much more food to eat. We never made it to more than half the restaurants on the Wynn/Encore properties! Take a look:

There's Zoo Zoo Crackers, an informal deli with quick comfort food-styled eats.

There’s ZooZa Crackers, an informal deli with quick comfort food-styled eats.

There's Wing Lei for high-end Chinese cuisine.

There’s Wing Lei for high-end Chinese cuisine.

There's The Cafe for a traditional coffee house experience.

The Cafe offers a traditional coffee house experience.

Tableau offers a twist on coast to coast American favorites.

Tableau serves up a twist on coast to coast American favorites.

The Society Cafe serves up comfort food in a trendy but relaxed setting.

The Society Cafe dishes up comfort food in a trendy but relaxed setting.

Sinatra serves up classic Italian. Frank is featured on the walls and through the speakers of course.

Sinatra serves up classic Italian. Frank is featured on the walls and through the speakers of course.

Red 8 is a pan-Asian bistro serving up cuisine from Thailand, India, Singapore, China, Vietnam and Korea.

Red 8 is a pan-Asian bistro serving up cuisine from Thailand, India, Singapore, China, Vietnam and Korea.

Mizumi is the only purely Japanese restaurant on the property.

Mizumi is the only purely Japanese restaurant on the property.

Lakeside is a seafood restaurant that like SW Steakhouse, overlooks the Lake of Dreams. Their vegan clam chowder is on my list for next time!

Lakeside is a seafood restaurant that like SW Steakhouse, overlooks the Lake of Dreams. Their vegan clam chowder is on my list for next time!

The Country Club restaurant overlooks the Wynn golf course and has a steakhouse-inspired menu.

The Country Club restaurant overlooks the Wynn golf course and has a steakhouse-inspired menu.

Botero is a Seafood and Steakhouse restaurant. I can't wait to try their vegan Pasta & "Clams" with konbu broth, quinoa and broccoli rabe. Not to mention their cinnamon churros!

Botero is a Seafood and Steakhouse restaurant. I can’t wait to try their vegan Pasta & “Clams” with konbu broth, quinoa and broccoli rabe. Not to mention their cinnamon churros!

See what I mean? So many restaurants, each with its own unique vegan menu! And I haven’t even listed them all here. For a sampling of some of the vegan menus, a few of which I haven’t featured here on this post, click here.

All in all, we had an amazing time in Vegas. For two non-gamblers, we found plenty to do… and eat. For us, food is what makes a trip memorable. Sometimes I can barely remember any details about a trip we’ve taken but you can bet I’ll remember what we ate. If you’re like me, then the Wynn/Encore Resorts has got to be on your list of travel destinations. Given that they’re only a couple of years into this process of veganization, they’re off to a great start and I’m sure will only continue to improve as the years go by.

Now, if you’ll excuse me. I need to look into flights to Vegas. My Little Vegan City is calling my name.

EncoreEsplanade

Happy eating and Viiiiiiivaaaaaa Las Vegan!

xoxo, Lauren