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Aria Las Vegas

3730 Las Vegas Blvd. S.

Las Vegas, NV 89109

866-590-3637

website

$40-$75

Daily 11:30a-12am

Mexican

A-

AT A GLANCE

What is it?

An upscale Mexican restaurant that has roots in Southern California giving it an authentic flair.

Where is it?

At Aria Las Vegas on the South Strip.

What kind of food is served?

Mexican fare, from the relatively simply combination platters of enchiladas and tacos all the way up to steak, seafood, and more.

What is the atmosphere like?

On the small side and definitely on the loud side, especially with a bar dominating the space.

How is the service?

Very good throughout the meal.

What are the prices like?

This ain't no Taco Bell - don't be looking for a dollar menu here.

What else do I need to know?

Fantastic margaritas, but very strong so be careful.

What's the bottom line?

If you don't mind paying this much for Mexican food you will have a great meal here.

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FULL REVIEW

This Southern California transplant specializes in the kind of authentic Mexican cuisine that is hard to find outside of the American Southwest (other than in Mexico, naturally). It's not fast food, both in terms of quality and price, which should be exciting for anyone who enjoys the south of the border flavors but doesn't want it wrapped in a shell made of Nacho Cheese Doritos.

The space itself is fairly small, hugging the side of the casino with a big bar dominating a big chunk of it. I found noise to be an issue with loud music, the bar crowd, and the nearby gaming spaces conspiring to require raised voices to be heard across the table. We got used to it - the margaritas probably helped. I did like the Day of the Dead inspired carving in the main dining room, which gives the space a unique feeling.

Oh, those margaritas - fantastic. Hand shaken with noticeably fresh ingredients, these would give my favorites at Tacos & Tequila a run for their deniro.

The menu is huge; almost intimidatingly so. There are more than a dozen different seafood dishes including lobster enchiladas, Mexican prawns, a crab-stuffed quesadilla, scallops in chipotle sauce, and more; grill items that mainly involve various ways of preparing steak (topped with queso fundido or chipotle cream for instance); and combination plates of echiladas, tacos, quesadillas, and more. This is not as easy as the chicken burrito and two soft tacos you get at the drive-thru, but it's totally worth the effort.

We started with the queso fundido appetizer, which is basically a big dish full of cheese loaded up with onions, mushrooms, chiles, and chorizo that is mopped up with fresh tortillas. It was difficult to eat and some of the chiles were beyond spicy but it's a bowl of cheese so how can you not love it?

The big winner in the main dish competition at our table was the Chile Colorado, a thick pork chop served in a sweet tomato sauce with a side of white rice. It was fantastic - juicy and perfectly spicy (not too much, not too little) - and I kind of fell in love with it. Everything at the table was great but by the time I tasted the pork chop everything else was background noise.

It isn't cheap to eat here. The most basic of combination plates is around $20 at dinner and only a couple of bucks cheaper at lunch. From there it goes up quickly with most main courses in the $25-$40 range and a few that go above $50. Throw in one (or two or...) of their fantastic margaritas and you could easily surpass to $75 per person with tax and tip. Like I said, it isn't Taco Bell.

There are lots of Mexican joints in Las Vegas, many of which are more affordable than this one but there are few that focus on the fine-food side of the equation. Splurge a little and you may never want to go back to that drive-thru again.

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