Four Days in Vegas: Twelve Meals, Eleven different restaurants reviewed.
Four days in Las Vegas for someone who doesn't like to gamble and doesn't drink alcohol? Darn right, Vegas has something for everyone and for myself from 09/24/08 - 09/27/08 that was the Olympia, the Los Angeles Kings, and quite a few Michelin Stars.
Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner x 4 days equals 12 chances to experience the city's best and only one meal wasn't my choice. I'll use this thread to post the long reviews which will be posted complete with pictures of every item over at http://uhockey.blogspot.com/
09/24 - Payard / Delmonico / Le Cirque Tasting Menu
09/25 - Bouchon (special request Gnocchi for breakfast) / Table 10 / MiX Grand Ducasse Tasting
09/26 - Tableau / Burger Bar / Alex 'VIP upgrade' Prix Fixe
09/27 - Bouchon Brunch / Sensi / Craftsteak Tasting Menu
I will update as I complete reviews.
Can't wait to hear them. Changed my trip for next month so I can see the brillant Elton John perform so I'm starting to make my reservations now and want to see how your trip was before I make all of them.
I'm anxiously awaiting your reviews uhockey. I am quite intrigued to hear about this VIP Prix Fixe at Alex. Looks like you really did it up on this trip. I don't gamble either, but I am a fine wine lover which Vegas is also great for (at a significant cost).
Good luck on the boards. I happen to be studying right now (can't you tell?)
09/24/08 Breakfast at Payard:
Tucked away in the corner of Caesars Palace it is no wonder that many people do not even realize Payard exists, let alone the fact that it serves up some of the most delectable breakfast items in Vegas. Known for his New York Outpost, Payard himself is rarely found at this location (unlike Jean-Philippe over at the Bellagio) but the shop, scene, and food are no less impressive.
Arriving in Vegas around 8am local time after a non-stop flight, I got checked in and made my way to Payard by 10:05 for breakfast. Though the all-you-can-eat continental buffet was still ongoing, I first stopped in the Patisserie to browse chocolate and dessert selections, and to pick up some candies for my mother and aunt. While everything was beautiful and the crepes appeared wonderful, the prices were decidedly even worse than Jean Phillipe and the selection less impressive. After making my purchase I made my way next door for breakfast.
Seating was readily available and the friendly attendant/waitress seated me near a window next to two rather crude foreign businessmen who preceded to discuss their sex lives quite loudly in public. Though the waitress once asked them to keep it down, it did not really help. So much for class.....thankfully they were easy to ignore as I watched the chef perform his craft at the wide open kitchen station in the middle of the restaurant.
Coffee was pretty standard fare and was served quickly and refilled mostly adequately (I was empty for a good 5 minutes between cups 2 and 3) despite there being multiple servers who appeared to be standing around chatting amongst themselves. For breakfast I opted for the Almond Croissant and the Payard Chocolate Waffles with Nutella and Caramelized Bananas.
Served first, the Croissant was heavenly with a buttery crisp crust surrounding a flawlessly fluffy center stuffed (and I mean jam packed) with almond compote. Sweet yet savory, this was and still is the best Croissant I've ever tasted in terms of texture and second best in terms of taste (sorry, the Almond Chocolate Croissant at Bouchon is a revelation.)
My second dish was the Waffles and all I can do is be amazed. Small yet incredibly decadent, the portion was just right.....any more and I'd have been overly full. The waffles were soft and fluffy (unlike the super-crisp chocolate waffles at Norma's NYC) while the Bananas were perfectly sweet and succulent. The Nutella was more than ample, as well. All said, a beautiful and tasty dish that I'd certainly recommend.
My only complaint aside from my co-diners and the coffee would be the fact that everything felt quite rushed....my whole meal lasting a mere 40 minutes and check delivered without asking if there was anything else I wanted. My server only visited the table when delivering an item or to collect the bill and the to-go coffee I was promised was never delivered. All told, fantastic food in a so-so environment with so-so service. High prices, but absolutely worth it, and a breakfast that would be "best of" in many other cities.
09/24/08 Lunch at Delmonico:
Having taken the early flight to Vegas and catching a quick breakfast at Payard, a late lunch at Delmonico was just what the doctor ordered. Not a steak eater, the choice may seem a tad unusual until one realizes that this was now my fourth Emeril restaurant and fourth time I'd be sampling his take on Shrimp and Bread Pudding. To be fair, I find it unfortunate that so many people consider Emeril a "sell-out" because he is on TV....he is still a good cook with some great recipes and one of the few celeb chefs who actually keeps his restaurants open for lunch along with dinner.
On first impression, Delmonico seems rather boring in design. A front bar/lounge and a back dining room with mostly whites and woods - Elegant but "home-y" would be the best way to describe it, yet slightly odd with the single spotlights peering down on each table. Arriving around 1:45 I was toward the end of lunch hour, but was seated immediately at a four top in the front.
The menu and bread were delivered swiftly, yet despite my knowing exactly what I wanted it took 15 minutes before the waiter returned for my order. Creamy BBQ Shrimp with Fresh Baked Rosemary Biscuit, please.
Order placed, I was given "bread" and "butter" from a side serving table....the bread was cool and dry while the butter was a block of ice....poor form.
Unchecked upon until the arrival of my shrimp around 2:30pm, I sat and listened to the table behind me and took some pictures. Thankfully, when my meal did arrive, the Chef's cooking once again spoke volumes. 7 huge shrimp, 3 small rosemary biscuits, and a sauce that can only be described as a mixture of honey, hickory, and cream with a slight bit of spice....it was lovely. With all the shrimp finished and significant sauce left over, I requested more bread and this time was
thankfully brought two piping hot rolls glistening with butter. While these were delicious and used for mopping up the sauce, it does not excuse the awful first bread service.
With my main gone a different waiter appeared and asked if I'd like dessert. Darn right I said, having sampled 3 of Emeril's Bread Puddings in the past (one of them twice....we actually went back to Emeril's of Orlando for Bread Pudding after the version at Emeril's Tchoup Chop disappointed....not that I'm obsessed with bread pudding or anything.) On the menu at Delmonico? Banana Bread Pudding w/ Oreo Ice Cream.
Served in a tiny pot, the moist and liquidy Banana Bread was fantastic, yet so hot that it had turned the ice cream into a melting puddle before it even arrived. The icecream itself was pretty standard fare and didn't really compliment nor detract from the pudding. Having had Banana Bread Pudding twice in the past, this was the worst of the three and nowhere near as good as the Sweet Potato Bread Pudding at Emeril's Fish House or the Bourbon Cinnamon version at Citywalk Orlando. As many have noted before, Vegas seems to have a thing for runny bread pudding, yet the three best I've tried in Vegas have all been the more dry version.
All told, the shrimp was truly standout while all other aspects of the meal were pretty average....and the cold bread....poor poor from. From what I've heard the steaks here are delicious and I'd certainy return to sample other menu items, but given the vast number of Vegas choices (and two better Emeril restaurants, IMO) I doubt I'll be back.
09/24/08 Dinner at Le Cirque
Arriving in Vegas earlier in the day, I'd been awake for nearly 20 hours when I stepped into the Bellagio for my 7:30 reservation. Tired but excited I walked in and mentioned I had a reservation for one to which the beautiful attendant stated "Ah yes, Dr. U, we've been expecting you." At this point I was handed off to a team of fantastic servers who showed me to my window-side 4-top and the extravagance began. I'll get my complaints out of the way early....there was a spot on the tablecloth approximately the size of match-head...no more complaints. Perfect service, flawless timing, full descriptions, elaborate presentations, the gorgeous interior and fountain show outdoors....and a customized tasting menu as follows:
Amuse Bouche: Komomoto Oyster w/ American Caviar - I'm not an oyster guy, nor a Caviar guy, but the presentation was gorgeous and the flavors far more subdued than past tastes. While I cannot say I'll ever appreciate these two items as much as other haute-cuisine, I can definitely say I'll look forward to my next unexpected encounter.
Bread Basket: Pretzel, Walnut Olive, French Baguette w/ salted and unsalted butter. The Baguette was crunchy and perfect for soaking up sauces, the pretzel crispy and salty outside and buttery soft inside, and the olive walnut simply sublime. Better Pretzel than Mastros or Yankee Stadium, Better olive than Gramercy Tavern. Runner up to Spago for best basket all time. Better yet - After the first three courses I'd eaten one piece of each and went to grab another piece of Baguette for sauces when the waiter whisked it away and replaced it with a piping hot fresh basket stating "it isn't as good when it cools."
Course One: Lobster Salad w/ avocado, frisee, hericot vert, black truffle - A Le Cirque classic and for very good reason. Beautifully poached lobster over a puree of avocado and hericot verts, a layer or frisse, and a drizzle of black truffle dressing topped with a shaved black truffle. Delicious as it was decadent, a beautiful way to start. (note: the truffle was fresh and quite good, but certainly more for effect than taste....like plastic surgery on a super model....it was already great, but here is that extra unnecessary touch.)
Course two: Sauteed Foie Gras w/ microgreens, petite chestnuts, white peach, blackberry, cranberry - Sublime. Fatty and flawless inside, just slightly crisp outside. Served warm and sweet with a brilliant contrast against the tart berries, crispy peach, and crunchy nuts with the microgreens added for texture. While not quite as innovative as the version at EMP, better in flavor.
Course three: Crispy Sweet Breads w/ Fig and grape marmalade, veal reduction, butter basil foam, asparagus/heirloom tomato/mushroom salad - A substitution for the seasonal risotto and absolutely worth the decision. A single sweetbread panflashed and crisp served beneath an airy butter and basil foam over a flavorful salad the dish was further enhanced by the addition of two smears of fig jelly that provided a sweet component to the already incredibly savory dish. The veal reduction was poured in a small ring around the dish tableside and was my first experience with what the sous-chef could really do...until dishes four and five.
Course four: Paupiette of Sea Bass with Pinot Noir sauce, crispy potato skin, microgreens and shredded savoy cabbage - Another Le Cirque classic and another winner in every way. Perfectly poached bass with a crispy paper-thin skin served over a crispy salad and covered with a sauce that can only be described as heavenly. Sweet and winelike yet bold and buttery, refined yet complex....more bread, please.
Course five: Organic chicken w/ Foie gras macaroni, truffle, asparagus, tomato compote - My second substitution as I don't favor beef and a second wonderful choice. Clean and tasty chicken with thin shavings of black tuffle beneath the crispy skin served over a layer of long handmade macaroni and a transcendent sauce of mushroom puree and foie gras. Wonderfully crisp asparagus and a beautifully complex grilled tomato compote lent additional flavors to the dish, as well.
Palate Cleanser: Tequila Sorbet with gold leaf, dragon fruit, dinosaur plum, coconut milk, and edible bowl - More pineapple than tequila, this sorbet was divine and a mere sign of things to come. The fruit compote was delectable and the coconut milk wonderful for offsetting the citrus. I'd like to say I knew the bowl was edible, but initially when I broke it I was worried....I think this was expected as my server then stepped in to suggest I "try a bite." The gold leaf....we'll chalk that up to extravagance, it had no flavor.
Coffee: Not as thick as the house coffee at Bouchon and not as robust as other french restaurants, according to my server this was a rare Jamaican bean but according to my palate it was merely sweet and bold without trying to hard. The refills were more than adequate and considering the length of the day, the caffeine was welcomed.
Dessert Fantasy: With common sense getting the better of me I actually excused myself from the table prior to dessert and went for a short walk in the Bellagio garden to help digest. Good idea, because the word fantasy was appropriate as I was brought not one, but two full portions. Really, is there ever "too much of a good thing?"
Dessert number one - Chocolate Souffle with creme anglais, vanilla bean icecream: No cutting the top off here, instead pushing a conical sphere of icecream into the center and watching the molten chocolate from beneath erupt over top - impressive....and delicious. Light and airy, perfect and fluffy, slight hints of chicory. Everything a souffle should be, yet so large that it went unfinished...or perhaps that was because option two was even better.
Dessert number two - Ice bowl with cherry ice, yuzu cream, strawberry sorbet, marinaded cherries: Appearing as a white cloud with pink flecks on presentation and suddenly erupting into swirl of colors with the addition of the sorbet, another unique presentation and even better flavor. Flawless and smooth lemon cream over a bed of cherries, perfectly tart sorbet...a contrast of warm and cold, crispy and creamy, tart and mellow...one of the best desserts to ever grace my tongue.
Petit Fours - Lemon Meringue, Cherry Marshmallow, Strawberry Tart, Macaroon, Banana Cream puff, chocolate pretzel: As though the gluttony of the meal was not enough 6 petit fores finally arrived with all being beautiful, well constructed, and tasty, but the tart and cream puff simply fantastic.
Finally, completely full, the check arrived along with a leather and gold jewelry box containing two truffles which were consumed the following afternoon. The first a cocoa dusted dark chocolate and the second a creamy vanilla with coconut flakes. Both, again, were wonderful.
All told, the meal was unlike anything I'd previously experienced. Wonderful food, stellar ambiance, and the service lacking in no department. In a city like no other, a city that has something for almost anyone, its hard to get lost in the shuffle....to get overlooked in the big picture. With the recent influx of Savoy, Robuchon, Stratta, and others I think Le Cirque has become overlooked. From the moment I first contacted them for a complete menu to the moment I walked out the door I can honestly say Le Cirque was perfection.
Great reviews uhockey!
You have gotten me very intrigued by Le Cirque. I am guilty of overlooking it. I've really never given it a serious thought until I read your review. I'm interested to see how you think it compares to Alex.
What was the price of your experience there? The Bellagio website is very vague with only a partial menu with no prices. Perhaps that is part of the problem. I often find myself perusing menus online (instead of studying) and often end up going to places where I am excited by the menu. I would have trouble getting excited about Le Cirque based solely on the menu on the Bellagio site.