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Dec 30, 2010 11:44 AM

uhockey reviews Day 2 Las Vegas: MoZen Bistro, Julian Serrano, Twist by Pierre Gagnaire

First of all - thanks to all for the recommendations, Chowhound continues to be the best resource I've yet found to optimize my experiences in the cities I visit. Having enjoyed 24 meals plus a few snacks over the course of 9 days in Las Vegas and Los Angeles the reviews will be slow in coming.

As usual, text will be posted here at Chowhound and full pictures will be available in the blog.

Thanks again, it was a truly memorable trip and hopefully my thoughts will help guide others to similarly great experiences.

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  1. MoZen Bistro - Full text as below, Pictures in Blog.

    While I will fully admit that I could eat breakfast at Bouchon every single day I am in Vegas I am also very fond of trying new places and therefore limit my repeats as much as possible. Having already made reservations at Twist for dinner on my second night in Vegas through a lovely reservationist named Megan Lundwall asked me if I’d heard of MoZen. Informing her that I had indeed heard good things she strongly suggested the Sunday brunch but with my family coming into town Saturday afternoon I deferred and instead opted for Saturday Breakfast…it wasn’t a hard sell for Megan as the menu looked divine for breakfast and brunch both.

    Arriving early at The Mandarin Oriental for my 7am reservation I first had to navigate the space between Crystals/Aria/Mandarin Oriental. While the Claes Oldenburg piece is certainly interesting and well placed, the directions to the Mandarin front door are not. A walk, a 2 foot elevator ride (couldn’t find the stairs,) more stairs, a doorman, and finally an elevator to the 23rd floor eventually found me standing at the hostess podium where I was greeted pleasantly by a pair of young Asian women – one of whom would end up being my server, Kristy.

    Offered a free Newspaper (Times, Journal, or USA Today) I opted for the Times and was led to a comfortable seat near the window. With soft wood tones and plenty of natural light throughout the room and a mild ambient soundtrack playing overhead I’ll note that the restaurant was largely empty with only three other couples dining during my 90 minute breakfast. With that noted, Kristy was an exemplary server and beverages remained full with her checking in on me frequently, asking about where I was from, and making small talk without being invasive at all.

    Browsing the menu I’ll note that the prices at MoZen are not at all cheap – but the quality service, room, sourcing, and preparation are worth the cost. With orders placed my coffee was filled (Illy) and I browsed the provided selection of Staud’s honey and jam while waiting. To start my meal I was offered an amuse from the kitchen – a yuzu infused grapefruit “elixir” that was intensely tart but surprisingly sweet - a great way to awaken the palate, though not particularly a great match for the coffee.

    For my first course (yes, I ordered two breakfasts since I couldn’t decide on one) I opted for the Croque Madame featuring grilled sourdough, Serrano ham, Gruyère cheese, sunny-side up eggs and gratin of Mornay. Served with grilled vegetables and a side of apple wood smoked Kurobuta pork bacon, the Croque was excellent, albeit somewhat small and underfilled compared to that at Comme Ca, Bouchon, Morels, or Fleur. Flawless eggs topping smooth and delicate ham, the sourdough itself was nicely toasted and the cheese/Mornay combination proved a mellow foil to the salty ham – all told a solid Croque, but probably not justifying the $19 price tag.

    With at least my third refill of coffee (I lost track, but at $7 I figured I’d drink to my heart’s content) poured it was only a matter or 15 minutes reading about the Islander’s woeful season before my second dish would arrive – this time Walnut-Banana Bread French Toast. Featuring “thickly sliced warm banana and walnut bread, lightly battered and pan-fried with whipped cream and Vermont maple syrup” this was one of those dishes that tasted every bit as good as it sounded. While I generally prefer my French Toast in the custard style, using a hearty bread like Banana Walnut in this case allowed a crispy caramelized exterior while the bread itself maintained its characteristic pastry-like consistency. Topped with warm and bubbly fresh syrup and creamy whipped butter (no whipped cream as noted on the menu) the taste and texture of dish was closer to dessert than breakfast and the flavors went very nicely with the coffee. A hearty portion at $18 the price was still high, but I’d definitely order this one again on a return visit.
    Finishing the French Toast Kristy asked if the chef could send out one last taste and I agreed without question. While I cannot recall the official name, the item I received was delivered by the chef himself and described as a warm “donut.” Essentially a pate a choux similar to a large gougere but stuffed with warm vanilla custard the pastry itself literally melted in the mouth leaving behind a warm splash of creamy vanilla – while not exactly a donut, if it were a donut it’d be the best I’ve ever had.

    Settling the hefty bill (about the same price as their Sunday brunch after tax and tip) I will note that Mozen was the most expensive solo breakfast I’ve ever attended, but at the same time it really is not out of line with what one would pay at Bouchon or Tableau and the food was just as good while the service was actually superior…and all three are equally tricky to locate. Packing me up a cup of coffee and two extra “donuts” (no charge) to go I thanked Kristy and the woman at the reservations desk for a lovely meal and got lost, again, en route to the lobby. Next time I’m in Vegas I’m heading back to MoZen for the brunch – assuming I can find it. For now I’ll just call it a hidden gem and hope that others discover it for themselves.

    MOzen - Mandarin Oriental Las Vegas
    3752 Las Vegas Blvd S, Las Vegas, NV 89109

    1. Julian Serrano - Full text as below, Pictures in Blog.

      …with a great meal at Sage the night before I’d had a chance to scope out the menu at Julian Serrano, the concept looked to be eclectic tapas with “something for everyone” and as such a great fit for our first group meal of the trip. Largely identifiable as the man who reinvented Vegas fine dining back in 1998 with Picasso at Bellagio, Serrano’s new eponymous restaurant seemed to be the first foray into Tapas for Vegas – odd considering America’s recent fascination with small plates in other major cities.

      Stylish and sleek, the restaurant was clearly Spanish in design with bold colors, hanging bubbles, a Hitchcockian entryway, and a 40+ person bar. A Spanish native with two Beard Awards and a resume stretching from Paris to Zurich to San Francisco, Julian Serrano restaurant would serve a proving ground for Serrano’s (and Chef de Cuisine Jose Picazzo – a Andres protégé) take on modern Spanish food – something not really shown off with Picasso’s contemporary French menu.

      Arriving early for our 12:30 reservation we were quickly sat at a four person hightop attached to the bar. Greeted by our server, Adrian S, a man who would be a source of much annoyance during the meal we declined Sangria and requested water – water that would be filled and remain filled by the ancillary staff quite adequately. What followed was a nearly 20 minute wait to order as Adrian simply seemed to disappear despite the fact that the restaurant’s ~150 seats were only 1/3 full. On his return Adrian took orders adequately, but seemed largely disinterested.

      Sitting and chatting as the ladies had just landed 60 minutes prior to arriving at the restaurant there was a surprisingly long wait before the start of the meal – at least 20 minutes which seemed odd for a tapas place. When the food did begin to arrive, however, we figured out why there was a delay – instead of batching our dozen dishes into waves, they were about to be served all at once. With plate after plate after plate arriving and filling the table I asked Adrian why this was happening and suggested slowing things down to which he responded “this is a tapas restaurant, sir, it is how things are served.” Having already assured himself a lousy tip by this point I explained to him that although I’ve never been to Spain I have been to a multitude of Andres and Garces spots, plus other “tapas” style restaurants and have never seen anything like this. Without apology I watched him amble off to the kitchen where he actually stopped two servers carrying plates (they would have been numbers 8 and 9 on the table at once) and after this service did improve, mildly.

      Without belaboring service issues any longer, the menu at Julian Serrano featured hits and misses like any other menu, but unfortunately none of the hits were “wowing” while two of the misses were far off target. Beginning first with the Pan Machego - toasted bread | fresh garlic tomato sauce | one-year-old manchego cheese, it was perhaps one of the best dishes of the afternoon – the tomato sauce tangy and fresh, the cheese pungent and strong, the bread hot and crisp.

      Dish two, Traditional spanish chicken croquetas | chicken | béchamel would be another solid dish, much like the versions at The Bazaar and Jaleo the chicken was soft and supple, the béchamel creamy and mild. Classic and simple the kitchen executed this dish well, but arriving with all the other plates I did not get a chance to sample until they were already luke-warm, which was a bummer.

      A third classic, Stuffed dates | almond | applewood bacon wrap | spicy piquillo pepper would prove to be one of my favorite dishes of the meal. Sweet and smoky the dates themselves were top notch. Stuffed with an almond that I can only assume had been precooked in pork fat and wrapped in a thick slice of savory bacon before flash frying the flavors all worked as expected. Served with a side of intensely hot pepper sauce most of us stuck to the dates solo while my sister enjoyed the heat.

      Having already noted her fancy for spice, Stuffed piquillo peppers | goat cheese | mushrooms would be another choice of my sister’s. While she enjoyed the dish, I personally found the peppers to be quite muted and the cheese overwhelming. Had I not done a double take, I’d have never guessed mushrooms were included in the filling, either. I will note, like the croquetas, this dish was already becoming chilly by the time I had a chance to taste.

      Amongst the others arriving early to the party, Salmon with truffle | truffle béchamel | portabello mushroom did not work for me at all. Not generally a fan of salmon I will say the fish itself was quite good, albeit overcooked and a little dry. Where the dish failed, unfortunately was in pairing such a thick and heavy sauce with an already meaty and flavorful fish. While I understand that in order to convey the mushroom/truffle essence on salmon it would have to be potent, I personally would have just opted for a less dense fish – instead this just ended up tasting like a slightly fishy cream of mushroom soup.

      Plate six was Mediterranean stew in deconstruction | prawns | bronzinni | sofrito, the first of the more “modern” tapas. Familiar with European seabass I think the cut we received was a bit close to the tail and the fish’s generally sweet taste was much brinier than expected. With the prawn slightly overcooked and rubbery the seafood on the plate was fortunately brought up a notch by puréed sweet potato and “sofrito” of garlic, olive oil, tomato, and onion. Taking bites of everything mixed did indeed harken to a seafood stew, but not an exceptional one in any way.

      The final plate in the first (self limited) wave was the best “modern” tapas of the meal - tuna-raspberry skewer | ahi tuna | “molecular” raspberry | wasabi | sesame seed. At $14 the portion/price ratio was poor, but the flavors and quality more than made up for it. With the “molecular” aspect a similar texture to a gelee, the sweetness of the raspberry was nicely tempered by the heat of the wasabi while the pan seared tuna coated in sesame seeds lent heft and crunch to the dish. At the same time visually appealing, texturally intriguing, and tasty this was the sort of dish I had expected when walking into Julian Serrano, though I’d have personally preferred sashimi style from the fish.

      Clearly able to detect my annoyance, Adrian stopped by frequently after my complaint to see how things were going – he also asked whether we were ready for more food once we’d finished a few plates. Agreeable the second wave would feature all five dishes arriving at once…a much more manageable number for 4 people and limited table space. The first dish, Octopus | cachelo potatoes | spanish paprika would be a straightforward preparation similar to what I experienced at Amada earlier this year, but superior is size, preparation, and taste. Flawless in texture I’d not be surprised if the Octopus had received Sous Vide treatment prior to a pan finish, but aside from the excessive olive oil (undoubtedly at least 1/4 cup returned to the kitchen) everything of the dish was textbook…and really, the wasted oil is on the kitchen…had they given me bread I’d have soaked it all up as it was very high quality.

      The second dish, Wild mushroom soup | shiitake | crimini | oyster | foie gras cream would prove to be another excellent classic dish spruced up with modern technique. Similar to my favorite mushroom soup of all time (Canoe’s creamless Mushroom soup) but topped off with foam featuring the unctuous sapor of foie gras. Taken on its own the soup itself was hearty, earthy, and minimally sweet – the cream simply added a whole extra layer of flavor. This, along with the subsequent dish would prove my favorite of the meal.

      Overlooked by myself but ordered by my mother, Creamy risotto | wild mushroom | manchego cheese | natural jus was the steal of the menu at a mere $10. With a base of flawless rice cooked in mushroom broth the dish found heft in the addition of creamy mushroom broth (quite similar in flavor to that on the salmon) while slices of fibrous mushroom added textural variety. Topped with a slice of slowly melting year-old manchego that added its characteristic aged salinity the entirety of the dish was flawless – I was especially thankful to receive this in the second wave of dishes as I imagine it would not have been as successful in the cooled state.

      Where the tuna skewers succeeded, Lobster-pineapple skewer | lobster tail | “molecular” pineapple | sesame oil failed. Whether it was the small portions of overcooked lobster or the over sweetened and disconcertingly fibrous pineapple gelee I cannot be certain, but the dish was simply unbalanced and any nuance that may have been intended was lost in the sweetness. As the final fish dish of the night I’ll simply say that aside from the octopus the kitchen at Serrano really needs to pay attention to the textures coming out of the kitchen as nearly every fish was overcooked.

      The final plate would present from the “Platos Grandes” section - Chicken breast | pollo | sous vide finished a la plancha | sautéed potatoes | spanish pork chorizo. An ample half chicken perfectly succulent on the inside and crispy on the exterior the bird had clearly been brined in rosemary, parsley, and garlic. Sitting atop a pile of peppers, tomatoes, potatoes, and spicy chorizo and alongside a “mashed potato” clearly made using an ISI whipper the dish was a fine chicken presentation, but aside from the potatoes nothing revolutionary, just very well done.

      Having already waltzed by Jean Phillipe earlier we originally considered forgoing dessert and heading to the Patisserie, but a look at the menu obligated a round of desserts largely because my sister was so intrigued by Eggnog Flan |spiced stout foam |vanilla tulipa. As someone who fancies neither eggnog nor beer I fully anticipated disliking this dish but the one small bite I tasted was actually well balanced and sweeter than I’d expected. Everyone else at the table raved the dish and it was certainly attractive, just not my cup of tea…or beer…or eggnog.

      For my dessert I selected Leche frita|fried citrus milk|dulce de leche|vanilla ice cream. At $8 I will note that the portion size for this item was quite small, but the flavor was excellent. Almost like a deep fried flan or custard the citrus was mild and married perfectly with the dulce de leche. The ice cream was tasty – but yes, Vanilla. Personally I’d have liked to see a more unique ice cream with this dish, something more conducive to a “tres leches” feel.

      For my mother the choice was Crema catalane |Spanish crème brulee|ginger thyme ice cream. It was a good crème brulee – no more, no less while the ice cream was excellent and evidence that the kichen is more than capable of generating more intriguing options than vanilla.

      The final dessert, and the best in my opinion, was Bunuelos|Spanish doughnuts|butterscotch caramel. Slightly larger and more airy than the doughnut holes the night before at Sage the texture of the doughnuts was spot on. Paired with a hefty butterscotch caramel that harkened to a similar dip at Michael Mina’s Bourbon Steak in Detroit this simple dessert was once again evidence that the Serrano kitchen works best when it doesn’t try to reinvent the wheel.

      Tax and moderate tip included the total cost of the meal turned out to be ~$55/person – not a bad deal considering the fact that we ordered four dishes per person and did not pick based on price. With that said, when a chef like Serrano attaches his name to something there is an expectation that follows and that expectation was not met. Overcooked fishes, muddled flavor profiles, and service gaffs (especially the sort where the server tells the diner he/she is wrong) have no place in such restaurants and considering the superstar competition that just arrived in town with two restaurants at The Cosmopolitan these are the sorts of mistakes that could send diners looking for better.

      Julian Serrano (Aria
      )3730 Las Vegas Blvd S, Las Vegas, NV 89109

      2 Replies
      1. re: uhockey

        Thanks for the great review, uhockey! Although I am sorry your experience at Julian Serrano was less than stellar. I was going back and forth between this place and Jaleo for my upcoming trip - looks like it will be Jaleo. Twist is also on my list for consideration - can't wait to read your review.

        Take care, Mary

        1. re: rp1760

          Hi Mary,

          Twist review SHOULD be done today, depending.

          I know many have had a good experience at Serrano, but it just did nothing for me. Jaleo in DC was marred by service issues at first, but once the food started arriving it worked out better. It is still my least favorite Andres property. We ate at China Poblano while in Vegas and I really liked that - probably my third favorite Andres spot outside Zaytinya and Bazaar.

      2. Twist by Pierre Gagnaire - Full text as below, Pictures in Blog.

        Picasso came first from Serrano – the French masters came later; Robuchon, Savoy, Ducasse, and finally Gagnaire. Say what you will about Vegas, but without an overseas flight it is the only place (save for L’Atelier and Adour NYC) that you can sample the recipes of these masters. While some may not value the Michelin Stars of America as they do overseas, there is no doubt that the Las Vegas culinary landscape is star studded (both in names and by Michelin.) Having already experienced the rest of the best in Vegas, a visit to Twist was an absolute must – and it just so happened that Gagnaire would be on in town training new kitchen staff and working on the late fall/early winter along with chef de cuisine Pascal Sanchez during my visit.

        Having done my homework I had mixed expectations going into Twist as I’d heard some diners say Gagnaire’s eclectic French fusion was not the most accessible or easily understood – that it often bordered on illogical and intentionally focused on nontraditional textures, tastes, and pairings. Cited as an influence to some of the best chefs currently making progressive cuisine both in the United States and overseas, a restaurateur since 1981, and achieving Three Michelin Stars as far back as 1992 with seven highly regarded restaurants prior to Twist, however, I was willing to trust my instincts.

        Arranging my reservation through the same Megan Lundwall who suggested my excellent breakfast at MoZen I inquired (much like I did at Sage) whether a tailored tasting menu could be arranged and like all things in Vegas, customer service is of utmost importance. For $250 I was arranged an 8 course tasting borrowing both from the current Gagnaire’s Spirit menu and the a la carte menu. Having seen where the space was located earlier in the day I managed to overcome the difficulties of navigating the signage of The Mandarin Oriental, as well, and arrived approximately 10 minutes early for my 7:00 PM reservation.

        First taking a right off the elevator to check out the amazing views from the Sky Bar and then taking the left turn down the long hallway of low lighting, sleek woods, metal, flowers, and glass I found myself quickly at the hostess stand where I was greeted and led to my window seat by a young woman in a stunning dress. Browsing the room I was struck first by the open kitchen in back and the “cracked eggshell” mural on the wall to match the chargers on the table. With the room subtly adorned and largely shades of grey, the floor to ceiling windows afforded an amazing view of the city while the floated bubbles and aerial wine bar dominated the other half of the room. Clearly a stylistic choice by the staff at Twist, my primary server, “Evesque” and the all male service staff was equally well dressed as the hostess.

        Welcomed by my server, a man with a thick French accent who admitted later that this was the third Gagnaire restaurant on his resume, my choice of menu was confirmed and moments later the hostess would stop by to ask if I’d like a copy of Gagnaire’s “Reflections on Culinary Artistry” to browse while I dined. Agreeing to the offer and settling in for what would be 3 hours of dining I must note that while the restaurant was approximately 3/4 full and a light francophone soundtrack played above, it felt very quiet and refined throughout while service was nothing less than professional, cordial, and exemplary.

        Ordering a cocktail to start things off I was told it would take a moment to prepare and without further ado, literally, Twist kicked into full gear with a flurry of canapés and amuses bouche. Arriving all at once and described in rapid succession I’m sure I missed some details in my notes, but the flavors included a Carrot Gelee with Chantilly Cream, Shaved Pickled Carrots, Caramelized Peanut/ a Tartlette with toasted pancake, goat cheese, and crystallized curry/ a Gingerbread crusted Guinness gelee cube/ a Lemongrass and ginger sable with toasted caramelized pecan/ a Medley of Haricot Verts, Ginger, Cuttlefish, Sesame Seed, Roasted Red Pepper, Mandarin Vinaigrette/ and a Pastry Puff Stick with sake and whisky Chantilly. Six separate tastes and flavors I was instructed to “take your time, savor the variety” and I did. With all components clearly French leaning with Asian influences there was seemingly no end to the textures, flavors, and temperatures of the selections and while only half (the Tartlette, Medley, and Pastry Puff) truly stuck out the flavor profile clearly opened the palate to any and all possibilities – appropriate since that is exactly what would come as the night progressed.

        Arriving after the canapés would be the night’s bread selection and my cocktail. Starting first with the bread, served with salted and unsalted options of Isigny Normandy AOC butter the nights options would be rather timid compared to the rest of Gagnaire/Sanchez’s cuisine but well prepared and with excellent crust and crumb. Featuring a crusty 9 grain chapeau sourdough, white traditional baguette, and wheat molassess with raisin and walnut I (as usual) found myself eating way too much bread – particularly the raisin walnut.

        For my cocktail the choice was entitled Lychee Smash. At $18 the drink was shaken and poured tableside, consisting of TY KU liqueur, house lychee liqueur, pear puree, simple syrup, fresh lemon juice, and mint leaves. With the mint only providing a cool lingering finish I honestly think this is the best cocktail I’ve ever had. Totally unfamiliar with TY KU until this visit the website describes it as “soft citrus, fresh melon with the balance of teas and botanicals added to the subtle structure of premium Asian spirits. The delicately blended taste finishes with a hint of ginger” and while I cannot say I detected all those nuances, the overall flavor of the drink was indeed that of a sweet citrus tea with pleasant notes of mint and pear.

        Beginning the menu proper, my first course would consist of Mushroom Broth Zezette with Chicken Chiffonade, Vegetable Gnocchi/Kombawa Cod Cake/Bloody Mary Sorbet, Ratatouille Bavaroise. Presented in three separate plates with the soup poured tableside I think this dish truly exemplified what Gagnaire’s cuisine is all about – taking seemingly unrelated items and putting them together into something that just “works.” With the centerpiece featuring melt-in-the-mouth gnocchi of potato, lentil, and spinach atop thin strips of chicken, the green broth was hefty with Mushroom, chervil, tarragon and hints of maple and soy. Presented simply, the steaming hot cod cake coated with panko crumbs was crispy on the exterior, creamy and sweet inside, and paired nicely with the soup. Bringing everything together, the mousse of zucchini, eggplant, red bell pepper, red onion served atop an icy bloody Mary sorbet proved both palate refresher and taste enhancer, especially when taken as a bite with the cod.

        The second course of the evening would be one from the Spirit menu and as such slightly less complicated than the a la carte options. Titled Duck Foie Gras with Fig Terrine, Dry Apricots, Speck/Eggplant, Rhubarb, Toasted Ginger Cake/Red Beet Syrup, Chanterelles, Pickles this intoxicating dish would arrive on a single plate along with a side of warm toasted bread. With the terrine composed of an admixture of fruits and liver plus a top layer of house-cured Speck the flavor was largely that of the liver with lively notes of sweet and salty playing games with the palate but never overwhelming. With the gingerbread leaf piercing the terrine adding an autumnal tone and crunch the terrine was outstanding. In front of the terrine on one side would be pickled chanterelle mushrooms – delectable and proving an ample foil to the terrine, while to the other side lied a moussline of rhubarb and eggplant that had a somewhat earthy flavor that really did not add much to the dish for me. Intensely sweet, the beet syrup proved tasty both with the mushrooms and the terrine.

        The third dish on the tasting would be Gagnaire’s signature – the Langoustine 5-ways. A dish served at each of his restaurants but always with a different preparation the menu description of the Twist Autumnal offering was Langoustine – Sauteed, Terre de Sienna Spice, Yuzu Risotto/Grilled, Linzer Sable, Jambon de Paris, Ricotta, Pata Negra/Mousseline, Sorrel, Nantaise Beurre Blanc/Gelee, Barberry, Gourd Puree/Tartar, Fino Sherry Seasoned, Iced Tarragon, Tapioca. Instructed to consume this course from right to left progressing clockwise, the first plate featured a Langoustine sautéed and topped with yellow curry and esplette pepper resting in a yuzu citrus risotto while the second progressed towards a smoky Grilled Langoustine with ginger and cinnamon accented Iberico atop, French Jambon beneath, and ricotta forming the anchor beneath an almond cookie at the base. With the heat and citrus from the first plate nicely accenting the supple shellfish they additionally acted to open the taste buds to the creaminess of the savory follow up where even two types of pork couldn’t overwhelm the snappy sweetness of the langoustine.

        Following the first two dishes, the third and fourth flavors would progress from warm to cold and featured a Steamed Mousse accented with sorrel, chives, and beurre blanc followed by a Gelee with lobster “dust” (coral,) and marmalade of squash respectively. While neither had the texture of langoustine, both maintained the very essence of the sea and proved a great textural variation from the previous and following selections. The final taste, a raw tartare of langoustine prepared ceviche style with olive oil and sherry, then topped with tapioca, candied soy and surrounded with tarragon ice would prove to be my favorite of the group as the crustacean literally melted in the mouth at a similar pace to the tarragon ice and the soy/tapioca lent a balancing texture and sweetness to the herbs.

        My fourth (or was it twelfth?) course of the evening was Duck vs. Pigeon with Duck Foie Gras Terrine and Pigeon Fillet, Fig Puree, Red Beet Syrup/Shaved Foie Gras, Mesclun Salad, Champagne, Nuoc Mam Sauce/Salted Almond Ice Cream, Purple Cabbage, Celery. Served in three separate bowls the primary plate contained a Foie gras terrine bound with fig marmalade sitting atop a half of a roasted beet and topped with sliced roasted pigeon breast. Tasted separately the beet was quite sweet and the terrine a lovely blend of fig and the sapor of duck liver. The best flavor of the center plate would come from the pigeon breast, however – cooked rare and doused in pigeon jus and red beet syrup the bird was lovely. To the side of the plate was a small red cabbage gelee – superfluous, but tasty.

        Joining the party in two separate bowls would be a Mesclun salad tossed tableside with champagne, vinegar, molasses, and fish sauce then adourned with Foie Gras utilizing a truffle shaver. Excellent and refreshing on its own, the salad proved an excellent balance to the terrine and pigeon as well as the second small plate featuring an intense salted almond ice cream topped with a gingerbread cracker and resting on a bed of sweetened but slightly bitter celery and cabbage.

        Plate five found me sated but with plenty of stomach capacity remaining. From the spirit menu this time I would receive Roasted Filet of Deer perfumed with Dry Orange/Yellow Carrot Veloute, Grilled Cumin Seeds/Purple Potato Gnocchi, Sautéed Chestnuts, Crispy Bacon/Orange Marmalade, Mascarpone Cream. Another three plate delivery, this dish would prove to be my favorite of the evening with the flawless medium rare venison accented with citrus resting atop cabbage that had been deep fried in panko crumbs and a puree of carrot, cumin. Surrounding the deer was a sauce of game jus tinged with black and white pepper.

        Served in the supporting plates would be Peruvian purple potato gnocchis – flawless and supple, melting in the mouth – in a broth of leek reduction, butter sautéed chestnuts, and crisp bacon. Instructed to consume the gnocchi along with the deer first and to then finish with the spoon, my final taste of this dish, obviously intended to be a palate cleanser in preparation for the next would be an intense orange and mascarpone cream topped with a dot of horseradish and crisp Brussels sprout leaf.
        My final savory of the evening would be the dish I’d looked forward to the most and the two plate presentation did not disappoint. While not quite as impressive as the deer, Californian Muscovy Duck Oven Roasted, Cumin, Cinnamon, Silver Thyme/Bitter Chocolate Sauce, Dry Grapes, Banyuls Gelee/Red Cabbage Marmalade, Duck Confit was superb and only a notch below the Sage presentation for best I’ve had outside of New Orleans. With a small bowl containing fatty and supple confit over soft and sweet red cabbage as support, the central plate contained a large full breast of nearly rare duck with medium-crisp skin. While the duck itself was tasty featuring flavors of cumin and thyme as its top notes, the combination of chopped Daikon Radish and Raisin along with boozy chocolate beneath the breast was superb, albeit perhaps a bit overwhelming the fowl. While crispier skin and a bit less flavor from the sauce could have made the dish slightly better, I will note that the duck was one of the leanest I’ve ever experienced.

        Moving on to dessert and feeling quite full I ordered coffee – an ornate setup to be certain and featuring Illy dark roast. While I like Illy I have to say I was surprised Gagnaire would feature something so…pedestrian. Interestingly the French Press at Twist (which was refilled at no extra charge) was less than the same breakfast coffee at MoZen. Opting to skip the signature “Grand Dessert Tasting” in favor of two a la carte selections, the two dishes arrived at once and when including their supporting plates the number of dishes on the table was once gain five.

        Starting first with the plate to the left (largely because the other was so hot it was steaming) my first dessert at Twist would be Babba Babo with syrup soaked Baba, Vanilla Gelee, Golden Raisins, Red Pepper Confit/Orange Cream Cocktail. Two separate plates, the centerpiece was clearly the baba however it was not at all rum soaked but rather stuffed with vanilla cream and soaked in simple syrup spiked with champagne. Resting in a broth of candied raisins and red pepper the dish was anything but traditional but delectable – and a reading of Gagnaire’s book seems to indicate it is amongst his favorite desserts to experiment with. Accompanying the Baba would be a martini glass loaded with orange sorbet, crème Fraiche ice cream, and – of course – rum…an adult creamsicle they should strongly consider for the cocktail menu.

        The second dessert, after cooling a bit, would prove the better of the two and amongst the most memorable desserts in a trip that included some absolutely incredible desserts. Amaretto Almond Souffle with Roasted Plums, Rhubarb Fondue, Licorice Chocolate Praline/Cassis Eclate with Orange Sherbet, Muscovado Tuile featured at its center a deep bowl with a somewhat (intentionally) fallen soufflé. Beneath the buttery and boozy pastry would be an amalgam of plum, rhubarb, and crunchy nuts more licorice than chocolate. With the bitterness of the licorice actually acting to nicely offset the sweetness of the rest of the dish this was perhaps the first dessert I’ve had where the licorice didn’t act to unbalance the rest of the dish. Accompanying the soufflé would be two satellites, the first a simple caramel topped with orange mousse and the second an amaretto spiked pastry cream sitting atop Cassis Marmalade with a dollop of Orange Sherbet and a sugary tuile. With shared ingredients between each of the plates I really liked what Twist did with this dish – each component memorable on its own, but the whole greater than the sum of its parts.

        With my second French Press filled I next received the bill along with five mignardises – Chocolate barrel with pastry cream and Whisky Caramel, Goat Cheese and Pistachio covered Cherry, White Almond Paste with black currant gelee, plus Strawberry and Lychee sugar straws. With the straws something like a solid pixie stick and the barrels a bit too boozy for my tongue I reall enjoyed the cherries and the almond paste/gelee was simply beautiful in taste and texture.

        Settling the bill and bidding farewell to my server I returned my reading material (if selling me this book was their goal I’ll have them know Amazon recently received an order) and before making my way to the elevator I received a signed copy of my tailored menu from Sanchez and Gagnaire both, a nice gesture and printed on sparkling wax paper – the nicest menu I’ve received outside the unique rubberized version at L2o. Looking back on my meal I can only sit and smile – while I know the experience isn’t for everyone, Twist is honestly the first restaurant I’d return to on my next trip to Vegas and when I go to France there is no doubt I’ll be visiting Pierre Gagnaire’s home base. Call it Avant Garde, call it unconventional, call it confusing – I’ll call it delicious and I’ll call it the most interesting restaurant in Las Vegas today.

        Twist by Pierre Gagnaire - Mandarin Oriental Las Vegas
        3752 Las Vegas Blvd S, Las Vegas, NV 89109

        10 Replies
        1. re: uhockey

          Wow. Wow, wow wow. I'm so there. Thanks for yet another astounding review. I can't wait for Vegas 2012! -Mary

          1. re: uhockey

            great reviews, I wanted to try michael mina but I may change that to Twist based on your review. Also, is there a way to search by restaurant name on your blog?

            1. re: thatdarnblake

              I'd assume you just type it in the search area. Never really tried. All are spelled right and sorted by city if you click on tags though.

              I've not been to MM, but I've been to other Mina properties. He is a good chef, but Twist is far ahead of him in terms of experimentation.


              1. re: uhockey

                uhockey,: big fan, love your blog. So you really dug Twist. All the other mentions of it on many of the pages (I just started really researching LV today, so I haven't scoured all of them) all give Twist a "meh" or "pass" review. Compared to Alinea and Lautrec (Nemacolin Woodlands Resport in PA) both when Chef Dave was there and after he left (Chef Kristin), how would you place Twist in that particular mix? Curious, and as always, appreciative of your thoughts.

                1. re: Galaxy Girl

                  I have fans? Wow.

                  My review is a tad colored by the fact that Gagnaire was in the kitchen that night working on the menu update with the whole team - as such I imagine everyone from front of the house to back was on their very best behavior and he was likely overseeing everything coming from the kitchen - and it was all quite perfect.

                  For food it was not quite on par with Alinea, or the Keller establishments - probably not even on par with L2o when Gras was there. The service was also not as refined. What Gagnaire gives you, however, is something remarkable and different - it is jazz while Alinea or Per Se is a carefully arranged symphony.

                  Lautrec is a very nice space with very good food, but it is leagues below the ones above.

                  Thanks for reading.


                  1. re: uhockey

                    Cool, thanks for the additional info, this helps in the decision making process. On a side note, do you have any plans to head out to Oakmont, PA to visit notion (Dave Racicot)?

                    1. re: Galaxy Girl

                      It definitely interests me, as does Salt of the Earth in Pittsburgh. It is only ~4 hour drive so it will depend on what travel looks like during the summer.


                      1. re: uhockey

                        Yeah, it's about 4 hrs from DC as well, and we pass by when we drive out to Chicago with the dogs. But we can't stop....cuz we have the dogs! Anyways, looking forward to trying it as well. Take care!

                    2. re: uhockey

                      "I have fans?"

                      You do now! I have never seen your reviews before but they are very well done!