Dining in Las Vegas
A Couple of Dinners, and a Breakfast in Las Vegas
We headed to Las Vegas for a couple of business meetings for my wife. Fortunately/unfortunately, it was also her birthday, but she had meetings and then a dinner event on that actual day. With this all considered, I made reservations for myself (solo) at Aquaknox, http://venetian.com/AQUAKNOX.aspx and L’Atelier de Jöel Robuchon, http://www.mgmgrand.com/dining/atelier-joel-robuchon-french-restaurant.aspx for the day-after celebration. We also did Todd’s Unique Dining, http://www.toddsunique.com/ and Terra Verde, http://www.greenvalleyranchresort.com...
I’m also adding two restaurants from a week before at Green Valley Ranch.
I will add each restaurant as a reply to this thread, so folk do not have to read down a long list of restaurants, to find what they want.
Todd’s Unique Dining, http://www.toddsunique.com/ 4350 East Sunset Rd, Henderson, NV, 702-259-8633
I’d never heard of Todd’s Unique Dining, but we were headed there for dinner. One of my wife’s peers was hosting a dinner there, and we were attending. I looked at the Web site, and it did not instill a lot of confidence, still our host, his wife and good friends, who would join us, were raving at the food.
We arrived at a strip shopping center, not that far from our lodging. It was nice, though I would never have looked there for a fine-dining restaurant. Boy, was I wrong. OK, the Web site is not the most beautiful restaurant site, that I have seen. The location is not something that screams great food, especially in an area, like Henderson/Las Vegas, NV, where world-class chefs have spots in resorts that befit their Michelin “stars.”
We entered a rather dark and plain dining room and were escorted around the corner to a similar dining area. Obviously, Todd’s had two bays in this center.
Quickly, our server was at our side with menus and the wine list. Even though our host is a sommelier, I ended up with the wine list. I started the table with the Stagecoach Winery’s Black Bart’s Bride Marsanne. Then, I found out that most of the diners did not drink white wine – only reds. OK, one of the wives admitted that she also liked white wine, but that it was not served in her home. To go with the appetizers, I got a few bottles of the Peter Michael ‘05 Las Carrieres Chardonnay. Well, for red-only drinkers, these folk were certainly emptying Todd’s cellar.
I started out with the Dungeness Crab Cake (with remoulade and greens) and my wife chose the Spicy Tuna Tartar (with seaweed salad and sriracha). Both dishes were excellent! The Marsanne went very well with the crab cake and the Chard handled the wife’s tuna, though a PN might have been better. The Peter Michael is so full-bodied, that it will cross over to an extent.
For the second courses, we chose the Watermelon Salad (with lime cayenne, pepitas and feta cheese) and the Heirloom Tomato Salad (with fresh mozzarella and balsamic glaze and basil oil). Still, the whites were working, so long as they lasted. The watermelon salad was spectacular. Note: this is a Todd’s signature dish.
Our sommelier host finally stepped up and ordered the Molly Dooker ‘05 “Carnival of Life” Syrah, and we got on with our mains orders. I chose to test my server, a lovely lady for Mississippi, with my order: I wanted the Grilled Tenderloin, but with the prep for the Kobe Flatiron (green peppercorn sauce and Lyonnaise potato). “No problem,” she quipped. “We can do whatever you want.” Really nice touch! My wife chose the Kobe Short Ribs (with jalapeño mashed potatoes and caramelized onion sauce). This, too, is a Todd’s signature dish.
From the CH wine board, I had heard of the Molly Dooker Syrahs, but had not tasted any. The Carnival of Life was great. Yes, it was big, bold and heavily extracted, but it went perfectly with our mains. A few more bottles were brought to the table. In short order, we had devastated Todd’s wine cellar of all of their Peter Michael Chard and their Molly Dooker Syrah.
It seems that some of the ladies had desserts, but I did not make notes of these. Besides, my handwriting had deteriorated to the point, that I probably could not have read any notes. If there were desserts, I cannot help but believe that they were on par with all of the other dishes.
I added a cheese-course and had an Offley’s 10 year Tawny Port to go with it. I shared a rather large cheese plate with all of the diners, though my Port with my wife, only. I have several Offley Ports (mostly VP’s and the Boa Vista Single Quintas) in my cellar, but have never had their Tawny. Nice – very nice.
I always consider myself a “student.” I try to learn from every situation and I had learned something really big here. It does not make a whit, what a Web site looks like, or how it works. It also does not matter what the exterior, or interior, of a restaurant looks like. It is all about the chef, the cooks, the servers, and the concepts. Todd’s Unique Dining lives up to its name in all aspects. When we moved to Phoenix, we had to learn that “resort dining,” was not the bad concept, that we had come to believe. Now, I am learning that some aspects of a venue might not tell the full story. Though the wine list is short, it fits the menu well and is carefully thought out. As I have been doing these reviews, I realize that this has been a mini-theme. It speaks volumes for the chefs and sommeliers of these establishments. You do not need a 300 page, leather-bound wine list, to offer your patrons really good wines, that pair perfectly with the kitchen’s efforts.
I have not idea what the total bill was, but I hope that the gratuity was equal to the service, that we received. We’ll be back, on our next Green Valley Ranch visit, as this is a rare little restaurant.
Terra Verde Italian Cuisine - Green Valley Ranch Resort, http://www.greenvalleyranchresort.com...
We were staying at Green Valley Ranch Resort for a series of business meetings. The actual stay was going to be short, and we did not wish to rent an auto to go into Las Vegas, so we planned our dinners around the resort. I had heard of Executive Chef Massimillano Campanari, but cannot recall the exact reference. My wife added that the “Head Chef” is a winner of “Hell’s Kitchen,” with Gordon Ramsey.
My wife, and her board president, had finished their meeting, so we headed to the restaurant. It’s a very bright space, and seems to go on forever. It was nice, but seemed very disjointed – almost like several restaurants in one space.
The wine list was presented, along with the menus. I got a feeling for what my guests would be ordering, and went with an Amarone for the meal and a Montrachet for starters.
We started with the Carpaccio (thinly sliced beef, agrumato oil, arugola, fried capers, parmigiano and sea salt) and the Calamari Fritti (fried calamari served with spicy tomato sauce). Next, we went to our mains: Ossobuco Alla Milanese (slow-braised veal shank served with saffron risotto) and Costoletta Alla “Ghiottona” (herb-crusted veal chop with prosciutto and truffled cheese and braised kale). We added Ai Porcini Risotto (with porcini mushrooms, parmigiano reggiano and parsley) for the table.
Everything was very good, with no complaints from anyone. The Risotto, though an “after thought” was devoured. The service was also very good. The only possible complaint would be the layout of the restaurant, though maybe if I dined there again, it would be more comfortable to me.
Terrace Pointe Café - Wynn Resort
I was looking for a good breakfast, and stopped by the concierge at the Palazzo to inquire. I recalled how I had followed suggestions for breakfast, while at Green Valley Ranch, and ended up with a Las Vegas buffet breakfast, when the Original Pancake House was just a short walk away. I outlined what I wanted – a great, “real” breakfast, and cost was no concern. She started out with the “usual suspects,” but I stopped her. I did not want cheap, mid-America breakfasts. No Denny’s Grand Slam for me. Finally, she began to think about what I was saying. “The Country Club at the Wynn, is what you want. They have the best breakfast in Las Vegas.” Armed with her directions, I headed across the crosswalk to the Wynn. I searched the map, but could not find The Country Club. While looking for the concierge at the Wynn, I happened upon the registration desk and asked about breakfast at the Country Club. I was told that it was an “undiscovered gem” on the property, and given directions. I launched off to find this great place. Soon, I arrived at the Pro Shop, and saw the Country Club, but it looked closed. It was, as they no longer serve breakfast, only lunch and dinner. Why the front desk did not know of this, I can only guess. The lady at the Pro Shop was less than helpful, as it seemed I was bothering her, even though no one else was in the place. After an interrogation, she allowed as how the Terrace Pointe Café, which I had passed on my walk to the Country Club, was my only choice. I trekked back, and stood in line at the Terrace Pointe Café. Finally, it was my turn. I asked for the patio, but was told that the winds would not allow that. OK, so I’m inside. No big deal. The menu was presented and the copywriter must have had a field day, when doing it. Talk about flowery language for some mundane fare! I had the French toast, applewood smoked bacon and scrambled eggs. The service was good, and I was able to get salsa for the eggs, but that was as good as it got. I think that a Grand Slam might have been a better choice. Talk about mundane, pedestrian fare! Oh, did I say that the service was good? While waiting for my coffee, I noticed that several other parties were being seated outside. So much for that wind.
I need to learn where real interesting breakfasts are actually being served, as I still have not found them. Though the Wynn was an interesting property, it seems that the people, who work there are really put out, should someone request any info, or seating. The Pro Shop still had a little surprise for me. After breakfast, I went back, to get info about the golf course. I inquired about it. “Five hundred dollars!” was the only response. “Is this a par 72, and what is the length?” “Par 70,” was all I got. “OK, what do I get for $500?” “Golf,” was the reply. “Do you have a brochure?” “No.” “Is there info on the Web site?” “No.” “If I pay you $500, is that with a cart, or do I walk?” “You get a caddy, clubs, shoes and a cart.” Finally, I was getting someplace. “What if I bring my own clubs and shoes?” “Five hundred dollars, plus a tip for your caddy.” “OK, what about the Country Club Restaurant?” “Its really only for special guests, so you will not be allowed.” “Hm-m-m, how does one become a special guest?” “You’ll know, when you are one... “ Well, even though we’re doing a board meeting there in a few months, I have not gotten my secret decoder ring, and will assume that I am not yet a “special guest.” In the meantime, I’ll just dine, and play golf elsewhere. I guess that the Maybach, that picked us up from the airport was not good enough. When I dine at Alex, I hope that they will not realize that I am not one of those “special guests,” like the lady at the Pro Shop did. Heck, they may not even serve us.
re: Bill Hunt
I haven't been impressed with the Terrace Pointe Cafe. My main complaint is that the service has been terrible. Slow and uncaring. Complained to the manager once, who couldn't have cared less. Plus the food is extremely mundane for the high prices.
Try the Verandah at the Four Seasons attached to the Mandalay Bay. Sophisticated setting and very good food. I quite enjoy the eggs benedict although usually I don't enjoy that dish too much. The huevos rancheros (not on the menu) are also supposed to be very good, my husband had them once but I avoided them due to the inclusion of bell peppers which I detest.
Bouchon is also nice for breakfast. I've read here that Tableau at the Wynn has very good breakfasts but I haven't tried it yet.
re: Bill Hunt
I know lots of people recommend Bouchon's for breakfast. I was hoping to stop there during my last trip. However, my first day I ate at Payard's. And my second. And my third. And my fifth. (Room service - very tired - on fourth day.) The continental breakfast is very substantial. Best coffee in town. Greats salmon service - ask waiter to toast your bagel. Fabulous fruit cups - huge, i mean huge berries! And the almond croissant, well, just a long sigh. I wanted to try more off the menu but just got hooked on the Continental. They have interesting things like chocolate waffles with nutella and bananas, and from the looks of the food going by their omelettes and quiches could easily serve two. A hidden gem.
I was in Vegas this past weekend as well and ate at Payard's for breakfast on Saturday monring....OMG everything was so amazing!! We all had the continental breakfast too, which included unlimited bagels & lox, pastries, fruit and homemade granola parfaits. Great coffee, fresh squeezed OJ. I think I ate 4 lbs of lox and was in a sugar coma from all the pastries. I wanted to go back Sunday AM, but fiance was being lazy and didn't want to walk (we stayed at Belliago). I agree this is a hidden gem. Will definitely be back next time in LV.
Aquaknox at the Venetian - http://venetian.com/AQUAKNOX.aspx
I arrived at Aquaknox for my 7:30PM reservation and was promptly seated. I informed my hostess, that my wife would likely join me, when her dinner was done, probably in time for dessert and a Port. As fate would have it, I had just ordered my meal, when she walked in. Her dinner was quick and short, and she did not eat much of it, hoping to join me in a timely fashion. The GM escorted her to the table and produced a couple glasses of Bollinger Champagne to toast her birthday, even though she was an unexpected (in this time frame, at least) guest. We were ready to change everything, to accommodate her, and the staff did not miss a beat. I think I was far more flustered by her early arrival. Had I paused over either the menu, or the wine list a few minutes more, the timing would have been excellent. Still, having her there was such a treat for me, that I got over my bad timing.
Aquaknox is a higher-end, mostly seafood, restaurant, located in the “food court,” of the Venetian. The space is bright and charming, in a slightly “hip,” but fashionable way. The tables are well-spaced and the wine cellar is circular, and surrounded by a water-feature, at the front of the restaurant. As we were staying at their sister property, Palazzo, it was close, and I could have all the wine that I wanted, without having to worry about hailing a cab, or trying to walk too far. This was important to me, as I did not expect to have my wife to help share the wines, and did not know what the by-the-glass, and half-bottle selections would be. Luckily, I had started with a bottle of the Olivier Leflive, Puligney Montrachet 1er Cru ‘01 Chard, figuring that I’d nurse it along with my seafood.
I also had started with the Jumbo Lump Crab Cakes (yellow wax bean salad and citrus aïoli), with which a Chablis might have been a better choice of Chard, but I’m a push-over for Montrachets, and figured that it would last for the entire meal, and be OK. The crab cake arrived, just as my wife did. It was actually a single crab cake, disregarding the plural on the menu. However, this was not a problem, as it was large. It was a really a “deconstructed” crab cake, with no filler, whatsoever, just a copious quantity of sweet, succulent crab meat, with a bit of a “binder” sauce. Excellent, and very flavorful, though not exactly what I was expecting.
A suggestion was made that my wife get the sashimi platter, Tuna Tataki & Tartare (with Hijiki Cucumber salad), to supplement the meal (“rubber” event chicken), that she’d had at her meeting. It came at the same time as my main, The Seared Ahi Tuna (Caponata, olive tepenade and a celery herb salad). My tuna was perfect and seared perfectly. I shared some with my wife, and she shared her plate with me. Things were going well. Her platter was a long rectangular plate with three groupings of items: to the right, it appeared to be ahi poke, the middle was a thin slice of sashimi-grade ahi with garnish, and the left was a bit of slaw with what appeared to be a tempura-fried crab claw, or very small lobster claw. I took a bit of each, and she took a piece of my seared ahi. So far, so good. I munched on the three offerings from her plate, that were now in little piles, though not as exquisitely displayed, as on her platter. The little strip of ahi was wonderful, and the “poke” was good,. All of a sudden, I had a mouth-filling warmth. Curious. I assumed that this was th e”poke,” as some preps have a little heat. This was not too much, and it was a smooth, though full warmth. It was not like hitting a Thai pepper, unexpectedly, as it was not concentrated, but even, throughout my mouth. I commented that there was “heat” in the “poke,” but my wife had not even noticed it. Now, I need to point out that my wife is a New Orleans native and always cooks with “heat.” Usually her dishes need a bit of a warning, should our guests be from the Midwest and not prepared for the various seasonings. She’s not into really hot food, though hardly shies away from well-seasoned dishes. She just doesn’t douse her gumbo in Tabasco, like I often do. Same with her red-beans-and-rice. I’ll grab the Chipotle Tabasco for a few dashes, and she will not. Why do I add this? Well, with the next bite from her platter, my wife flushed and gasped for breath. She grabbed for her water, and I offered her mine. The server was at her side with more water. Her eyes watered and her nose ran. She really wasn’t able to communicate what had happened. Heimlich maneuver? Oxygen mask? It was an uncomfortable few moments, until she could actually speak. “HOT! Something is really HOT!” By the time that we had quenched the fire, the GM was at our side. My wife was now able to speak and asked what was so very hot on her dish. I offered the “poke,” but the GM stated that what I thought was a tempura crab claw was actually a little Fresno chili pepper in batter. OK, that was what caused the heat in MY mouth, but it had been pleasant and not too hot at all. However, I had only eaten the tip, and probably not gotten many, if any, seeds. My wife had just eaten the top of the pepper with everything in it, in one bit. Apparently, this was one hot little guy and my wife had just ingested most of its heat. These are similar to Jalapeños, and are usually a little milder. Well, my wife had just eaten the “Terminator” Fresno. She passed on the rest of her tuna, plus my ahi, as well.
It was not until our cheese-course, that she could eat anything. I went with some triple-creme cheese, just to coat her mouth and throat. The cheese plate did the trick, along with more water and the Montrachet. The GM came over with a glass of Muscat Sherry to go with the cheese. Now, I have had most Ports, many Madeiras, and a ton of Sherries. I’ve also had Muscat done a hundred different ways, but never a Muscat Sherry. It seems that it’s done in a solera, but instead of Palomino, it uses Muscat. It was similar to a Pedro Ximénez, though a bit lighter and not so sweet. It went well with the cheeses and by then, my wife could actually taste again.
Except for the Fresno Incident, everything went very well. I was able to dine with my wife, albeit with some duress, much more than I had anticipated. The food and the wine were great, plus the service was excellent. We’ll be back, though will watch out for peppers lurking in crab claw costumes. If you order the Tuna Tataki & Tartare , remember that what you see on the left is NOT a crab claw in tempura batter. Nibble on it. Do not just eat the entire top portion, without sampling it first. If you ignore this warning, make sure that your server is handy with a few bottles of water.
L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon
A few weeks back, we had the pleasure of dining at L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon, London, and were so impressed that we made reservations for the Las Vegas version, for an upcoming trip. Like London, it did not disappoint. Review of London: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/522517
In Las Vegas, L’Atelier is located in the MGM Grand Resort & Casino, http://www.mgmgrand.com/dining/atelie... It is in the “food court” area, along with many other high-end restaurants.
The LV version is very similar to the UK restaurant, with an L-shaped bar, surrounding a working kitchen, and several tables. Both the bar and seating areas look larger in LV. Black and red were the themed colors. The ambient lighting was dark, but there was excellent “task lights” everywhere. While the overall mood was dark, the illumination was really very good, where one was dining. I also liked the under counter lighting and the accents. The under-counter purse hooks were a nice touch. I really like spaces that offer ladies a “purse stool,” or similar, to keep their belongings off of the floor. The space was modern, yet was very utilitarian. Form did follow function here. I hate spaces that are too dark to see the presentations. I always wonder what the restauranteur doesn’t want me to see. L’Atelier is a perfect blend of light and dark. It was a bit less elegant, than I would have anticipated, but I warmed to it. I will admit that I am a big fan of elegant “fine-dining,” and really enjoy the full design treatment. The seating at the bar is on stools, that are evenly spaced around the “L..” [from the London review]
When we had arrived, the restaurant was only about ½ full for our 7:30PM seating..The noise level seemed about the same as London. It was there, but totally background, even with the rather hard surfaces everywhere.
We had planned on doing the tasting menu with sommelier’s pairings, but were just not blown away by the offerings, plus both mains were the ones that we’d just had in the UK.
As it was my wife’s birthday, the sommelier offered a flute of Champagne to toast the event. We graciously opted for a glass each of the ‘04 Maison J.L. Colombo, La Violette, Languedoc-Roussillon Viognier. We nursed these, while perusing the “Menu of Small Tasting Portions.”
We worked with our server to get a good sampling of plates and left it to him to put together the order of these. While still sipping the Viognier, we were presented with an Amuse Bouche of a lemon gelatin, with fennel and Chevré. Great with the Viognier. First actual courses were Les Legumes (Mediterranean vegetables layered with buffalo mozzarella) and Le Homard (Maine lobster in a gelée of vegetables topped with a chilled leek soup). These were paired with an ‘05 Domaine J. Mellot La Grand Châtelaine Sancerre and an ‘06 Domaine W. Fèvre Les Champs Royaux Chablis. The Legumes were beautiful to observe, but were not as inspired in the taste, as they were to behold. Even the buffalo mozzarella seemed shallow. The Sancerre did pair well here. The lobster dish was the standout of this round, though I think a bigger, bolder, more full-bodied Chard might have gone better.
Next, we were presented with La Langoustine (crispy langoustine fritter with basil pesto) and Les Sardines (sardines on a toasted baguette with tomato spread and cauliflower). These were paired with an ‘05 F. Haas Delle Venezie Pinot Grigio, Kris and the Colombo Viognier. While the shrimp fritter was good, and the PG went well with it, the sardines were the highlight of this round and the Viognier was an excellent accompaniment to them.
Round three found us with La Crevette (tiger prawn a la plancha with mango chutney) and Le Foie Gras (seared duck foie gras with cherries and fresh almonds). The wines were an ‘06 Nigl Grüner Veltliner, Kremser Freiheit and an ‘01 Dr Parcé Mas Blanc Collioure-Les Piloums Banyuls. The tiger prawn was very similar to what my wife had gotten (scallop substitute) in London, but the presentation was not on par. It was good, but not quite the work of culinary art, as the same dish in the UK. Still, it was very good and the GV paired very well. The foie gras was excellent and paired with the Banyuls, was sublime. Normally I choose a Sauternes, a Muscat, a TBA Riesling, or similar with foie gras, but will now try more Banyuls with these, especially seared and even more so with any cherry notes.
To end, we had the L’amadaï (Japanese amadaï filet with baby calamari and artichoke) and Le Burger (Beef and foie gras burgers with lightly caramelized bell peppers). One can never get too much foie gras, unless they have a physical coming up. The wines shifted gears here to ‘05 Domaine H. Perrot-Minot Morey-Saint-Denis 1er Cru La Riotte and an ‘03 Château Haut-Mazeris Canon-Fronsac Bdx. Well, the amadï was pulled by the sous-chef, so there was a pause. This was a very new dish and the prep had not turned out well. When the dish was delivered, it was lovely with a nice block of fish, some calamari pieces and some baby artichoke slices. Unfortunately, everything was done in an oil – not sure what the oil was, but it tasted of canola. Also, unfortunately, the taste of the oil was about all that there was. Even though the calamari pieces were the tentacles, which my wife prefers to the caps, there really was no taste but that of the oil. Now, do not get me wrong. The oil did not taste bad, but all there was, was the taste of it. Maybe it was walnut, or even truffle, but only the light oil-taste came through. We commented on this dish, and suggested that the recipe be re-worked. The “burgers” were only some better. These were tiny “sliders” with Kobe beef patty, foie gras and a caramelized bell pepper – easy for two to share. Could have been that we were quite a ways into the meal, and possibly I HAD reached my foie gras limit, but these did nothing for me. They were not bad, but just seemed to be lacking the inspiration of most of the other dishes, especially mine. The Bdx. did fine with the burgers, but actually seemed to be better by itself. I’d like to try these again, as they are a “signature” dish and I couldn’t find enough to like about them. It was more of a “huh?” moment.
We ended with the Les Fromages (a selection of imported cheese), which we split, about 30-70% and added a glass of the Dow ‘85 Vintage Port. Seems to be a theme at Joël Robuchon restaurants and I cannot complain. I enjoy Dow, and the ‘85 was a universally declared vintage (almost every house did an ‘85 VP). While it never lived up to its press (the ‘85 Vintage), it was still a very good year. I’m still sitting on a bunch of Taylor-Fladgate ‘85s, and am glad that my wife likes her VP young, and that we drank most of the ‘85s some years back, as I do not think it will ever equal the hype. Stuff like this happens all of the time, especially if one reads the wine press.
Seems that there were some chocolate truffles brought over, but I do not recall even tasting one. I do not know if maybe my wife decided that since I had done the 70% of the cheese, she should do 100% of the chocolate truffles?
In all, it was a great evening. The setting, like London, is very nice. It’s a bit more “edgy,” than many fine-dining spots, but well-though-out. The service in LV possibly exceeded that in London, and London was great. Other than the one fish dish going back, they were otherwise 100% from kitchen to counter. Some of the dishes were not quite clicking, especially the amadaï, but were still good, if not great. The sommelier, Harley Carbery, was excellent, as was our main server, Josh. If you go, do not hesitate to put yourself in Harley’s competent hands, with regards to wines. Yes, he pulled extensively from the b-t-g selections, but did not hesitate to dig deeper, when required. It also shows that the b-t-g selections are well suited for the fare. Serious consideration went into that list to marry with such an extensive menu.
One thing struck me as odd, or interesting. Both London and LV are very similar, with LV maybe being, or appearing larger. We were seated in the exact same seats (more comfortable stools in LV), though wife and I changed places. In London, the couple to our right consisted of a chef from one of the other Joël Robuchon restaurants in the building, and every kitchen worker and server came over to say hello to him, and to his date. Well, in LV, the couple to our immediate right were a chef from another Joël Robuchon restaurant, and his date! Same thing happened – every person behind the counter stopped by to say hi. Curious how life works sometimes.
In conclusion: would I go back? Yes! Was it expensive? Yes! Was it a good value? Yes! Probably next trip, we’ll do Restaurant Alex, Guy Savoy and the other Joël Robuchon restaurant next door, just to try these all together. Final thoughts: work on the amadaï. It is not yet ready for prime-time, especially considering all of the other great dishes. Keep that Banyuls handy for the foie gras!
re: Bill Hunt
I bought into the early press on the '85s. They were good in their youth - pretty much across the board. Luckily, I have a wife, who likes her VP's in their youth, and we have consumed many of these. As time has gone by, I began to realize that none was going to be great. They were very good, but just did not reach their potential, according to the various writers.
While I do not think they will fade away, I think that most are near their peak, and the peak is below that of the '48, the '55, the '63, the '70 and the '77. Pretty good company, and maybe a poor step-sister, but many writers touted it as the "Port of the Century." Still, it's a good Port and should command some respect. Having a couple of '85s, in a row, is always a plus for me.
re: Bill Hunt
Thanks for the great review Bill.
It sounds like you had a wonderful wine pairing experience. That is something that lacked on our night at L'Atelier. I tend to seek out tasting menus with wine pairings. Much of my knowledge of pairings and many of my favorite wines (now in my cellar) I gained from tasting menus with wine pairings. I was looking forward to this aspect at L'Atelier but did not seem to get it. They did not have set wine pairings with the tasting menu and when we asked stated they did not offer them. We were basically on our own to pair wines with some of the real esoteric dishes they serve on the tasting menu. I am an "intermediate" when it comes to pairing and my choices paled in comparison to what a good sommelier could have provided.
My question for you is how did you manage to get those pairings? Was it by your own expertise and experience or did someone pair them for you? This is a fundamental issue I had with L'Atelier and unless I know it will be different next time, I can't see going back.
I've had similar experiences around the globe. While I love to do food/wine pairings, there are many nights that I want to just sti back, relax and enjoy. This is especially true, if I do not know a particular kitchen. In this case, we had just done the UK branch, but still, I wanted someone, who was intimate with THIS kitchen to do the "heavy lifting."
In our case, we told our server, Josh, what we wanted. Since we did not go with the full "tasting menu," I was a bit worried. Still, Harley, the sommelier, came over, introduced himself, listened to order, and began working.
Similar has happened elsewhere. I tell the server that we want the tasting menu, and the sommelier's pairings, and get the "we don't do that," comment. I'll start the table with a bottle from the list, just as the sommelier appears, eager to do a pairing. I do not understand what this problem is, but it seems all too common. Were I the sommelier, I'd make sure the staff knew that I was ready to do whatever the diner wished, with regards to food and wine. I feel your pain.
My suggestion would be to tell your server that you wish to speak to Harley Carbery, regarding wine pairings for your meal. I know that he'd love to work with you on the pairings, whether you do the official tasting menu, or a modified small-plate version.