Disappointing dinner at Bouchon in Vegas, Delicious trip to Okada at the Wynn
Flew into Vegas from New York for the weekend, eagerly anticipating my trip to Thomas Keller's Bouchon at the Venetian. Don't go if you're expecting a true Thomas Keller experience. You will be sorely disappointed. But if you want something a notch up from TGIFridays, then Bouchon at the Venetian is the way to go.
It started out promisingly, with a flight of oysters at the bar while waiting for a table. Absolutely delicious selection.
Then we sat down, and eagerly eyeing the grilled sardine "special" on the board, started to plan the meal. Sadly, we were informed by our waiter that EVERYTHING on the "specials" menu was sold out. Oh, the disappointment. According to our waiter, this happens every night at around 8 or 8:30....which makes me think perhaps the kitchen should plan a bit better....
Ended up sharing the salmon rillette to start, and mussels for my main. My dining companion had the steak frites. The salmon rillette was delicious - a mix of smoked and fresh salmon, on toasts, served in a charming little jar. Then came our main course: my mussels were overcooked, and some to the point of being inedible...the broth was so-so, but I had actually had the same dish at Bouchon-Yountville and this could not compare in terms of flavor or complexity.
My friend's steak-frite was "as tough as a shoe." I concurred. It was one of those meals that caused me pain when the bill came, because it simply wasn't worth it.
For those who think Thomas Keller can do no wrong, try Bouchon in Vegas for a rude awakening. A huge disappointment.
On to Okada at the Wynn. Sat down at the sushi bar (there are 4 different dining areas) after a short 20 minute wait. Had an excellent sake recomendation while waiting. The sushi was fresh, incredibly high quality, and absolutely delicious, thanks to our disco-dancing sushi chef...We started with the oh toro - very good - then salmon with lemon and salt - perfection - and hamachi - also perfection, though much more delicate in flavor. The seared sea scallops were also very good. My friend had the pork short ribs as well, and loved them so much he ordered a second round, along with a fried rice ball. The bill was very reasonable. Highly recommend it.
The NYT just recently did a piece on this exact subject and how the recent trend is to sign celebrity chef to lucrative deals to get their name on the outside of the restaurant. Thomas Keller WAS one of the chefs mentioned (along with a multitude of other: Mario Batali, Bobby Flay, Emeril Lagasse, Jean Georges, just to name a few). There is NO question he had a hand in the formation of the restaurant but as far as his involvement, it is minimal. If I remember correctly, he is contractually obligated to spend a minimal amount of days at the restaurant, something in the neighborhood of a week.
Sorry to hear your dinner at Bouchon was disappointing. We've had great meals there although we did also experience specials disappearing one night when we arrived for dinner around 9:30 pm. However, this did not ruin our dinner at all - we just picked from the main menu and had a great dinner anyway. Actually, I had the steak frite that evening and it melted in my mouth. Quite a different experience from yours.
I do agree that they should be planning better if the specials are running out constantly. It is disappointing. At the very least, I wish they had erased the meal from the board so that we would not have gotten our hopes up for something they could not provide.
BTW, Thomas Keller does not really have anything to do with the restaurant other than in name only. At least that was always my understanding of it. I don't think he's ever set foot in the door other than maybe at the beginning to check things out. So, we never went there with the assumption that we were getting a Keller experience. We just thought we would be getting a good french bistro meal - which we have indeed received many times over.