Forget it, Mac … Mozen and Payard have the real deals

Don’t think me ungrateful when I confess to moments when I wish I weren’t such a committed food journalist. In the interests of science, I recently felt compelled to spend $1.49 on the Mac Wrap at McDonald’s. I’d only eat this vile creation again if I were as hungry as Tom Hanks in Cast Away. The fermented sea slug I once slurped out of a Coke bottle in American Samoa had more appeal.

On a tastier note, the Strip is suddenly a hotbed of great deals for foodies. In Caesars Palace, Payard Pâtisserie & Bistro, the province of New York-based super-chef Francois Payard, now offers a three-course prix-fixe lunch for $19. That gets you a choice of goat-cheese onion tart or lobster salad for openers, an amazing salmon en papillote (served steaming in a parchment bag) or some of the best couscous I’ve ever tasted, topped with chicken and merguez, a North African sausage. If that weren’t enough, one of Payard’s fabulous pastries is included, such as the Manjari chocolate tart or his mind-blowing rhubarb Napoleon. Given the charm of the room, quality of the service and excellence of the kitchen, I can say without reservation that this is the best deal on the Strip, if not in the entire city.

Another upscale venue that has been overlooked is Mozen Bistro at the Mandarin Oriental. Through June 30, locals receive 20 percent off their bill, not to mention a selection of complementary newspapers, snappy valet parking and a ride in the cushy, perfumed elevator. I have long been a fan of Mozen’s Royal Tandoori Platter ($38), the peerless, made-to-order sushi and the best club sandwich in town. Chef Shawn Armstrong and his eclectic team run what he calls an “all-day, contemporary Asian-influenced bistro,” but don’t overlook the roast chicken or any of the other American classics. For reservations, call 590-8882.

Finally, at 4 p.m. April 24, Project Dinner Table founder Gina Gavan is hosting a special evening at the University of Nevada Cooperative Extension’s orchard, 4600 Horse Dr. in North Las Vegas. Her mission is to “create meaningful and adventurous experiences around the dinner table by celebrating local artisans, community and philanthropy.” The dinner will feature the cooking of Roy Ellamar, chef de cuisine at Sensi in Bellagio. The chef intends to “keep things simple with fresh products that evoke memories.” The menu isn’t announced in advance, which is part of the adventure, but contributing local purveyors will include Quail Hollow Farm, Colorado River Coffee Roasters of Boulder City and the artisan bread producer Bon Breads. To reserve a spot, call 275-2624, or visit The $150 admission raises funds for Junior Achievement of Southern Nevada.

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