Food with a flourish

It doesn’t happen often, but occasionally things work out better than expected.

You fill up your gas tank while winning at a round of slots.

You kill three birds with one stone, not two.

Your wait at the DMV is an hour and 20 minutes – and so is the movie playing in the waiting room.

In this day and age, multi-tasking is essential. Even if it’s finally watching “The Hangover” while waiting to register your car. So when you get to do two things at once – all the better.

Picture yourself ordering a drink and a surprise elaborate tableside spectacle is presented before you. Score. Not only are you watching an entertaining show of swirling, snifting, controlled fire and more, but at the end, you get to drink it.

These above-average dishes serve a dual purpose – they leave you both well fed and entertained.

smoked short ribs at Fleur in Mandalay Bay

smoked Kobe beef short ribs at Fleur in Mandalay Bay

Fleur Kobe short ribs

Recent “Top Chef Masters” winner Hubert Keller is no stranger to unusual presentations. His infamous use of the shower in a college dorm room for cooking has turned into a popular dish at his restaurant, Fleur. The “in-the-shower mac & cheese” is one of guests’ favorites.

However, between the tableside affogatos and housemade Burrata cheese lies a particularly innovative dish. You’ve probably heard of short ribs. You’ve probably heard of Kobe beef short ribs. But have you ever had them smoked to order?

This brilliant (and not often used) technique ensures that the smokiness of your ribs is perfected. A glass dome is placed over the ribs and a small smoker pumps in cherrywood cold smoke. The wood is lit and the smoke from the wood is pumped into the glass dome (and your delicious ribs.)

“It’s not only a beautiful presentation in front of the guest, but then you remove the glass dome and have it smoked to order,” says Keller.

Form meets function in this dish.

Le Framboise at L’Atelier

Le Framboise

Le Framboise at L'Atelier in MGM Grand

Far be it for Joël Robuchon, chef of the century, to be outdone. His Las Vegas restaurants go unparalleled, with his eponymous dining room earning a coveted three Michelin stars, the highest honor for a restaurant. His second restaurant next door, L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon, is a one-Michelin-star restaurant and certainly a force to be reckoned with.

It comes as no surprise that in the latter restaurant there are, well, a few surprises such as “La Framboise.” This fruity dessert comes to the table as a brightly colored sphere and “comes alive” before you. The sphere, made of white chocolate is filled with fresh raspberries, yuzu ice cream and a lemon Mascarpone mousse.

“It’s one of those visually stunning desserts,” explains Emmanuel Cornet, director of restaurants for Joël Robuchon and L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon.

When a warm raspberry coulis is poured over the sphere the vibrant red ball comes alive and blooms like a flower.

There is a trick to how they get the filling inside, but we won’t ruin the surprise.

Spicy tuna cocktail at Marssa in Loews Lake Las Vegas

Spicy tuna cocktail at Marssa in Loews Lake Las Vegas

Spicy tuna cocktail at Marssa

When you travel down the long and winding road through Lake Las Vegas to get to Loews Resort, your vision of Las Vegas has already transformed from bright lights and $5 you-call-its to refined elegance with an air of sophistication and a touch of the good life. Add a mystical appetizer to the menu and we’re talking pure bliss.

Imagine fresh Hawaiian tuna with a kick, marinated in onion and black pepper vinaigrette.

Not bad, right?

Now picture the whole thing above a neon green, Midori-filled fishbowl of dry ice.

When it comes to your table, an impressive display of fog surrounds the dish. Then, when the dish is presented, you find the tuna, served in a martini-shaped glass over brilliant green liquid.

Chef Fuji’s tuna cocktail at Marssa always gets “ooh’s” and “ahh’s” when it comes to the table. The impressive fog and tasty tuna make this dish a real treat.

Absinthe tasting at Sage in Aria.

Absinthe presentation at Sage in Aria

Absinthe presentation at Sage in Aria

As recently as 2007, absinthe wasn’t legal in the United States. Now, it is not only legal, but being served in fine-dining restaurants, incorporated into high-end cocktails and even creating a surge in the glassware industry.

Sage, a restaurant in Aria, features one of the largest displays of absinthe in Vegas and the presentation is equally as impressive. First swirled in a snifter, the absinthe of choice is set ablaze and poured into a glass of orange juice.

While fumes from the flames are trapped in the glass, guests inhale the warm anise aroma through a straw. Then they drink the juice and absinthe mixture. It sounds like a bit of work, but it’s well worth the experience and bragging rights.

Oh, and just because we’re in Vegas, add a little extra over-the-top fun with pop rocks lined along the rim of the glass.

Kani Salad at Shibuya in MGM Grand.

It’s a salad with a side of humor. There is nothing extreme about the Kani salad itself. Fresh chunks of crab, mixed seaweed and ginger vinaigrette. Simple enough.

But when the Kani salad comes to the table, much to most diners’ surprise, they get an unexpected guest. A live beta fish swims beneath the salad in a separate container.

A few things to note about the live fish:

Kani Salad at Shibuya in MGM Grand

Kani Salad at Shibuya in MGM Grand

Don’t try and feed the fish – especially not the crab in the salad. People have tried.

No, you’re not supposed to eat the live fish.

Contrary to popular belief, the fish actually gets taken care of by the kitchen staff.

As for why the restaurant would serve a live fish as part of the presentation for the dish: “We like to do things that are unexpected,” says Executive Chef Stephane Chevet.

And we’re assured, no one expects a fish swimming under their salad. You’ve been warned.

These tableside presentations give you a fun dining experience. You get a meal and the evening’s entertainment in one shot. Plus, if your fellow diners are a drag, you can ask to see that absinthe demonstration again…and again.