5/17/14 Dining Report - Wicked Spoon, Mad Hatter, db Brasserie
db Brasserie - http://endoedibles.com/?p=19366
Having visited every Daniel Boulud property in New York City, from the eponymous 3* dining room and its original 1* Café home to breakfast and brunch at Bistro Moderne and Sud, respectively, it was with great delight that I learned of the chef’s return to Sin City – a new Brasserie helmed by former Marche Bacchus chef David Middleton scheduled for dinner with two friends, a tasting menu presumably pre-arranged by private dining manager Heidi Voskuil. Every bit the bustling space suggested by its name, with close set tables and traditional heavy woods beneath the sexy glow of globed lighting, it was just after 6:30pm on Saturday when our party was seated and starting off with a stunning riff on the Bee’s Knees our menu was confirmed…at least conceptually…though much of what followed was not exactly what was requested and much of it was marred by still-green service. Setting aside small mistakes on sourcing and pronunciation as well as beverages spilled more than once plus an obvious miscommunication from front of house to back about the menu requested it was with a duo of Boulud’s superlative terrines that we began and with the foie gras smooth as silk while the chicken and pork pate upped the ante with an earthy funk one can only hope for this program to expands; a “Bar Boulud” charcuterie program like that in Manhattan’s theater district seemingly a perfect choice on The Strip. Moving next to outsourced bread and salty butter before progressing into the one-two punch of garlicky snails followed by the best scallops I’ve had in recent memory as the restaurant filled to perhaps 80% capacity it was in our fourth course that things got interesting; the lightly seared lamb and its spicy sausage tender and delicious but served as our “main course” when my request had clearly delineated the duck as a ‘must.’ Eventually served the confit after much hemming-and-hawing including the involvement of the Dining Room Manager suffice it to say that the crispy-skinned fowl is absolutely worth visiting (and perhaps fighting) for and finishing the evening with a glut of sweets plus a quintet of award-winning cheeses one can only hope the service will soon keep up with the kitchen…not only does Chef Middleton’s cuisine warrant it, but so does the textbook Gateau Basque.
Mad Hatter - http://endoedibles.com/?p=19461
Located on Grand Canyon Parkway though not particularly easy to spot from the street it was the good word of mouth from a trusted source that led me to Page Pszanowski’s Mad Hatter Cupcakes and putting a made-to-order spin on the tried-and-true trend the results were nearly as smile inducing as the cutesy décor. Small and narrow with a few seats stashed beneath the Wonderland inspired theme a visit to Mad Hatter begins with greetings from the smiling staff and with several cakes, fillings, frostings, and toppings from which to build the options expand by exponentials; each sizable cake dressed while you wait for a mere $3 with discounts for orders of a half-dozen or more. Opting to stick with “Mad About Favorite Flavors” rather than getting too creative it was to a quartet of cakes that my order led and beginning with the most simple of options I was immediately impressed as natural aromatics flooded the palate first from smooth vanilla and then with poignant cinnamon, both beneath soft buttercream and a decorative cookie. Moving next to a duo of favorites it was unfortunately in the carrot cake that the bakers would stumble as a citrus center did nothing for the underspiced cake but with thick cream cheese frosting applied liberally as a saving grace the tasting quickly recovered with rich red velvet, the ample cocoa notes finding a suitable foil in vanilla top notes and a tangy finish all the better alongside a cup of good coffee.
Wicked Spoon - http://endoedibles.com/?p=19408
Having not attended a proper Vegas ‘buffet’ since September of 2007 it was actually an inquiry from a blog-reader regarding my recommendations for an upcoming trip that led me to ‘discover’ The Cosmopolitan’s Wicked Spoon, a brief e-mail to the hotel’s concierge landing me access to the VIP line plus an eye-opening tour of the facilities by the culinary team. Located in the West Tower with ornate chandeliers, ample glass, and plenty of shine it would be easy to say that Wicked Spoon is the ‘nicest’ buffet in which I have dined but with expansive size as well as selection – over 150 items offered at $38 for brunch – it would be equally fair to suggest the immaculately clean space also represents one of The Strip’s biggest “bangs for the buck” as a team of chefs spread across several open kitchens work diligently replenishing each station with ornate small plates at a speed that would put all but the most seasoned short-order cook to shame. Expeditious and friendly in service with purified water on the table and good coffee refilled nearly every time a plate was cleared it was with a focus on variety that I explored the various stations of Wicked Spoon and although not every dish was a success I’d say 85% of the sixty-six items I sampled were at least good while a few far exceeded expectations. Starting sweet then veering savory and subsequently switching back-and-forth as new plates emerged from the kitchen items such as the fresh fruit pastries immediately showed the strength of the pastry department and while chocolate options proved a touch heavy handed the gelato selection was stunning, the ‘white chocolate coffee’ and pistachio both on par with Art of Flavors in terms of texture and nuance. Moving past disappointing Italian and Asian fare aside from swoon-inducing sweet polenta, well accompanied congee, and caramelized pork belly as well as duck it was on to more brunch-oriented offerings that I turned and while both the benedict and slab bacon shined the macaroni and chicken were merely decent – clever titles aside. Largely skipping salads aside from the impressive beets but impressed by fruits, cheese, cereals, and charcuterie it was finally at the three-hour mark that I’d finally filled up and having already once sampled the delightful custard soaked Pullman it was to creativity I turned; two slices of the buttery cinnamon bread buried beneath a mountain of house-whipped Chantilly cream, Maple Syrup, Dates, and Granola far outperforming any ‘designer’ French Toast you’d pay $15 for elsewhere in the city.