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How I lived it up in Vegas without breaking the bank

Amelia Rayno, Star Tribune (Minneapolis) on

Published in Travel News

"I can upgrade you to a better room for an extra $10 a night," the clerk offered. "It's usually $20."

"I'll take it," I told her.

I was in. I had breached the unspoken threshold to Vegas' labyrinth of deal-making and money-saving. Over the course of four nights, I would push the limits of my penny-pinching strategy while still living the lux life -- taking in a headliner show, bouncing around a festival, indulging at the day spa and savoring a bounty of crafted coffee drinks, mouthwatering meals and cosmopolitan cocktails.

The mini upgrade, I'd soon discover, was just the beginning.

The courses, artfully presented on tiny plates, kept coming.

Slivers of milky white tuna, albacore, mackerel and yellowtail, pressed into nigiri sushi and topped with flakes of sea salt, a brush of ponzu sauce or a sprinkle of chives, arrived in a slow march. Other Japanese delicacies -- octopus, scallops with roe and sea urchin -- joined the procession as well.

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The sushi chef making the edible art in front of me passed me a dish holding two buttery pillows of deep red sashimi.

"Only tonight," he said, then added in a hushed tone, of the fish that is increasingly rare because of its dwindling numbers, "Bluefin."

The meal lasted two hours before the finale -- a small bowl of green tea ice cream and mango mochi -- arrived. I felt indulgent.

Then the bill came. For $23.


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