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Apr 25, 2014 07:05 PM

4/19/14 Dining Report - Camille by Manon, Bachi HLK, Forte European Tapas, Popcorn Girl, Andre's

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  1. Camille by Manon -

    Located on Rainbow in a repurposed fast-food parlor complete with drive-thru and far more seating than Patisserie Manon on West Charleston my visit to Camille was largely a result of Bachi HLK’s changed hours and having not been terribly impressed by the original my disappointments carried right over with only two of ten selections proving memorable in the least. Copiously praised for their haphazard macarons, uglier than most albeit far cheaper, suffice it to say that artificial flavors and colors are the rule at Manon and although the caramel and cherry both offered a crisp break into creamy filling the others were frankly gummy and unappealing even for $1.10. Moving on to laminated pastry, a tiny bear claw proved neither French nor interesting with a dearth of filling while a pancaked croissant covered for artificial almond tones with too much chocolate and questionable freshness as it was cool to touch even seconds after staff opened the doors. Taking a cue from a young server for my final selections as they hadn’t yet made anything choux it was in butter pastry that I finally found some reprieve for Camille and although I’m rather certain the apples on my tart came from an HFCS-labeled can the lattice itself was lovely, a trend equaled in the base of the decadent flan with sweet eggy tones punctuated by pockets of cocoa and a ribbon of caramel.

    1. Forte -

      Literally hidden by a gated patio in a strip-mall on Rainbow but featured in numerous publications as well as ‘Diners, Dives, and Drive-Ins” Forte European Tapas had been of interest to me even before moving to Las Vegas and recently opting to open its full menu for lunch a visit was planned – six persons cramming into a small high-top near the front door for a multi-course meal marred by hassled service and uneven culinary techniques throughout. Small in size and kitsch in décor with heavy woods accented by posters, graffiti, and Christmas lights as American pop played overhead it was less than sixty-seconds after the final member of our party arrived that orders were requested and having twice deferred only to be given the first of two strainers of warm bread a somewhat rushed order was placed with a request for items to be appropriately paced – a concept that, along with beverage refills, proved as foreign as the food with the table soon overburdened and serviceware for sharing few and far between. Opting for specials and staples from diverse regions including Spain, Greece, and nations of the former Soviet Union it was with oddly ‘truffled’ store-bought potato chips mixed with dry chorizo that our tasting began and rolling next into the duo of oily Chebureki and overcooked dates propped up by an outstanding sherry reduction it was with good fortune that the meal would soon improve, the tender whole squid restuffed with their tentacles and cooked in ink subtly sweet over aromatic rice. Left precious seconds to digest and discuss a second wave of food soon smothered the table once more and finding far more success than round one both of the breads proved superlative with big flavor and a pleasant degree of grassy funk that I only wish had been present in the tender but flavorless lamb, a ‘special’ by title only and completely forgotten compared to the bombastic mélange of meat, cheese, and vegetal aromatics contained in the clay pot. At this point sated but happy to finish with something sweet, two-parts each of baklava and biscuit cake rounded out the afternoon with the former benefitted not by lemon nor liberally applied simple syrup while the latter proved exquisite; a delicate balance of crunch and cream with mild sweetness harkening tiramisu but dressed up with honey and nuts that were perhaps stolen from the baklava and used here to better effect.

      1 Reply
      1. re: uhockey

        We have enjoyed dinner twice at Forte and returned on a third occasion for the biscuit cake which indeed reminds one of a tiramisu. On our last trip in April we started off by sharing a Mediterranean salad - tomatoes, cukes, olives, peppers, basil, parsley, mint and a drizzle of Spanish olive oil that was very good, but paled in comparison to the shopska salad we enjoyed on our first visit. Our first entree was the Thracin Clay Pot - a Bulgarian specialty of tomatoes, peppers, onion, feta cheese, charcuterie and egg that had been featured on a segment of Diners, Dives, and Drive-Ins. Our second entree was Hungarian Goulash over mashed potatoes which was pure comfort food. To wash down this feast, we ordered small (who knew?) glasses of Zagorka beer that were flat. My wife was unable to restrain herself (again) so we closed out the meal with a biscuit cake.

      2. Popcorn Girl -

        Located steps from my door with a second shop in Henderson Laurie Sabol’s “Popcorn Girl” was one of those places I knew would find my patronage eventually, a visit from family proving a perfect opportunity to stop in for welcoming gifts…and a whole lot of sampling. Tucked away in one of the many nondescript strip-malls along the urban sprawl of West Charleston a visit to Popcorn Girl begins ten-feet from the door with the beckoning smell of butter and on opening the door to cross the threshold the welcome builds in a sea of fresh, smiling faces happy to discuss the store’s artisan style and 100+ choices of house-made popcorn, candy, and fudge. At first a bit overwhelming in variety as bright hues decorate a variety of tins and four different menus it would take mere seconds to identify me as a first timer and handed a menu-map plus an invite to sample “as much as you like” I took full advantage – butter popcorn still warm, salted caramel sticky and sweet, and underwhelming vanilla discarded with recommendations to try the ‘birthday cake’ – a similar base lightly battered and dredged in cake mix. Served in sizes ranging from $2 to designer party baskets well into the hundreds samples of Butterfinger, green apple, and bananas foster would follow and eventually settling on two mini-bags to compliment my guests’ arrival baskets the results were well received; both the marshmallow and graham mixed S’mores and customized Las Vegas mix earning well earned praise for a total tab under $8.

        1. Andre's -

          Located next to Yusho in the renovated Monte Carlo Andre’s had long resided on my Vegas “to do” list and with the new Spring menu launch coinciding with Easter Traditions I finally opted to pay homage to Chef Rochat’s celebrated dining room for a refined experience far too uncommon in this city of modern glitz and glamour. Referred to by some a ‘stodgy’ with fine porcelain, silver, and lush fabrics to accompany formal service plus a cigar and cognac lounge my experience at Andre’s began a few days prior with an E-mail to Ms. Jana Lane Southard requesting a copy of the menu plus a supplemental classic to the chef’s tasting and with both requests granted to the tune of a small surcharge the dinner that followed was a true fete of three plus hours of near-perfect food and drink. Noting up front that beverages were not requested, but instead comped to the tune of me leaving more inebriated than I’d prefer, it was to a glass of brisk bubbly that I was welcomed and proceeding next to the almost-too-rich-for-one “Marti Foie” with a quartet of accoutrements my palate was soon warmed with a gamy croquette serving notice of bold flavors to come. Moving past mundane bread and frankly disappointing chilled butter it was with my upcharged request of demi-portion of Rochat’s classic Thermidor that my tasting began and served in a high-arched bowl the only thing more impressive than the portion was the prep as the butter-poached crustacean proved snappy-sweet amidst a sea of cognac custard studded with tender vegetables and light aromatics. Opting next for a caramelized seared steak of grade-A foie gras over savory fruitcake tinged with verjus and paired with Tokaji it was only course three that proved anything less than perfection as a slight over-sear dulled a freshly shucked scallop amidst flavors plucked from Robuchon, a small gaff not repeated in the plump sweetbreads or duet of duck – both amongst the most memorable preparations I’ve found in the state of Nevada. Transitioning to cheese, an area where I think Andre’s could certainly expand its selection, before an impressive palate cleanse it was at long last that a dessert long anticipated arrived; a tall and proud soufflé with a tableside finish proving whimsy and perfection can indeed coexist as cocoa, cream, and cinnamon melded seamlessly into an ethereal pudding. Rounding out the night with brandied cherries, chocolate, and a swig of cognac before settling the tab with a hefty tip it was with nothing but smiles that I exited Andre’s; my only regret being that I’d waited so long to do so.

          12 Replies
          1. re: uhockey

            Thanks for the very detailed report of Andre's. I've been interested in reading a report of this restaurant for a while. Other than the sweetbreads, I would have ordered everything you selected. The Marti Foie sounds wonderful.

            1. re: ellenost

              This was like reading Faulkner. I will call it, As I Lay Dining.

              1. re: brentk

                I'll take this as a good thing....

                1. re: uhockey

                  He won the Nobel prize, didn't he.

            2. re: uhockey

              Mike.....was waiting for you to review this amazing venue. No one can believe that the Monte Carlo houses one of the top 10 restaurants in this 10 for DINING, and not just eating. Others may be trendier; but none are finer. Congrats

              1. re: VegasGourmet

                Both Eater and the restaurant picked up the review and published it - well deserved praise. IMO, I'd put it in the LV top 5 for FINE dining.

                1. re: uhockey

                  Would you rank Andre's higher/lower/equal to Le Cirque? BTW, have you been to Le Cirque since your move to LV? Interested to know what you think of the current chef.

                  I would imagine that Twist, Savoy, Robuchon, along with Andre's, are in your top 5; what's your fifth pick for top 5 fine dining restaurants?

                  1. re: ellenost

                    Twist, Robuchon, Savoy, and Andre's + Le Cirque are on even footing.

                    I have not been to Le Cirque since I moved here, but Circo uses the same kitchen and I found their execution impeccable - particularly as I ordered items off the Cirque menu.

                    1. re: uhockey

                      Thanks. Still trying to figure out my dining plans.

                      1. re: ellenost

                        Travelzoo currently has an offer for a 3-course meal at Andre's.


                        1. re: ellenost

                          Knowing that we both have been big fans of Le Cirque in the past, curious to know where you had dinner last time in LV? We're going in a few weeks and trying to decide where to go.

                          1. re: josephnl

                            I switched my trip to LV from the usual spring until November, so I haven't gone yet. My plans so far are: Le Cirque, Twist, Guy Savoy, and while I was planning to go to Yusho, I'm now thinking about Gordon Ramsay Steak instead.