Monday, April 23, 2007

Bouchon - Las Vegas


Only in Vegas can a style-over-substance restaurant/night club called Tao -- which uses a Paris Hilton visit as a selling point -- exist under the same roof as one of Thomas Keller's bonafide gems. But that's exactly how it is here. The allure of Sin-City money brings together strange bedfellows.

Although Chef Keller -- the recipient of multiple James Beard awards and Michelin stars -- may have answered the siren call of casino cash, he compromises nothing.

In fact, judging by the location he's chosen for Bouchon, one gets the impression that Keller despises the whole idea of Las Vegas. His restaurant is physically removed (perhaps deliberately) from the cigarette smoke and slot machines of the gaming floor, tucked away in a secret cove atop the Venezia tower.

In keeping with his Napa Valley bistro of the same name, it is in a space that is classic, classy, and completely unpretentious.

There's no shimmering floor-to-ceiling tower of wine, no cascading wall of water -- not even the promise of a good view of the Bellagio fountains. With none of these Vegas-style distractions (or attractions, depending on your point-of-view) it's a place you don't just accidentally amble into on a whim.

To arrive at Bouchon's understated doorway at The Venetian is to be aware of the man's reputation as "America's Best Chef." You're here because you want to be here. You're here because you want to eat his food.

For us, since the restaurant was just a short elevator ride down from our hotel suite -- where we happened to be staying for our get-away weekend from O.C. -- it was a special treat to be able to walk to an elegant meal: a feat I've always envied in New Yorkers since it is impossible to do in Irvine.

Pistachios and a crusty braided loaf of French bread started the meal, closely followed by an order of warm Carrot Soup ($8.50) so smooth, so soothing, and so savory it seemed improbable that it was extracted from the humble root vegetable normally relegated to the crudité platter. A tangy dollop of crème fraîche applied to the top of this sweet elixir heightened an already perfect bowl in a way that crumbled Saltine crackers never could.

A main course of Moules au Safron et à la Moutarde ($26.50), featured mussels farmed by a shellfish aquaculture expert in Maine. Called "bouchots," these specimens are the highly sought after, and appropriately, are very expensive. Harvested young, plucked from their deep-sea water beds at the peak of flavor and most sublime tenderness, they were succulent, sweet, and melted in my mouth like no other mussels I have had before or since.

While lesser mussels need a few seconds of focused mastication, these bivalves were so buttery-soft it could be spread on toast like pâté.

Underneath the gorgeous onyx shells pooled the cooking liquid and run-off from the mussels themselves. I sipped this nectar straight up, first daintily with an empty shell, later on with gusto and a soup spoon. I relished every drop, savoring the pleasant alcohol sting of wine, the heady sweet cloves of boiled garlic, the scent of saffron, and spiciness of Dijon.

An order of the mussels included an oversized cone of fries. And not just ordinary fries from a frozen bag. No, these are the same fries that when Tony Bourdain ate them -- in this very same restaurant in the Las Vegas episode of No Reservations -- he immediately became depressed, seething with mock jealousy. His pride hurt, Bourdain conceded that they were even better than the fries he makes at Les Halles, which he had believed, at least until that moment, were "The Best Fries in The World."

And they were great fries, crisp and addictive. But my amazement lies in the ridiculous portion size. No diner of any girth or appetite could ever polish off this truck-sized heap of potatoes. To ensure that no single fry was wasted, I passed it around the table, asking for assistance, which, not surprisingly, I got.

My friend's Saumon à la Poêle ($27.50) was a brick of salmon steak, perfectly sauteed with a golden crust and a supple core still moist pink. It's served with wilted black cabbage, honey-glazed turnips, and a drizzle of tangerine butter as sauce. I sampled a forkful, and spent the rest of the time eyeing his dish from across the table, waiting for an offer of another bite which never came.

Dessert were round scoops of Apricot and Raspberry Sorbet ($5.50) served with some freshly-baked cinnamon wafers. Tart and tangy like the fruits they came from, the icy-smooth treat was a fitting close and a refreshing palate cleanser to our meal in Vegas's best restaurant that isn't Lotus of Siam.

In a city where money is everything and nothing, where no expense is spared but every dollar counts, there's no place better to spend a few of mine than at Thomas Keller's Bouchon.

Bouchon
(702) 414-6200
3355 Las Vegas Blvd S
Las Vegas, NV 89109

21 Comments:

At 1:05 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for the excellent review...will try Bouchon on our next visit to LV. If you are still in Vegas, do make the time to visit Rosemary's. I would love to read your review on it! That is one of the first restaurants I found on chowhound. We enjoyed it very much, esp. the half price wine nights on Sunday and ladies night on Wednesdays!

 
At 3:27 AM, Anonymous mina said...

Thanks for the great details, I ate at Bouchon last year, scallops for dinner, and the lightest most decadent waffles for breakfast, it was excellent!

 
At 8:00 AM, Anonymous Marvin said...

Bouchon has always been on my list of places to try in Vegas, but I've yet to have the pleasure of eating there. I agree with you on L.O.S. though, it is so far, the best meal I've had in Vegas. Did you eat there too on this trip?

 
At 9:24 AM, Blogger Wandering Chopsticks said...

So fancy! Those prices aren't that bad at all. Well, still out of my budget for now but when you think some overpriced chain restaurants charge that much anyway. I'm more of a Vegas for the cheap buffets (indulging in Bellagio's only).

 
At 9:38 AM, Blogger Lawrence said...

I'm so happy that you finally ate at Bouchon LV. I took my girlfriend there for a wonderful meal about 6 months ago when we were in town.

I was too inspired to try the fries from Tony Bourdain's No Reservations and he wasn't exaggerating. Amazing how something so ordinary such as french fries could be so refreshingly recieved by my palate.

I had the Steak Frite, my girl the Poulet Roti. They both were excellent. We finished off with the Creme Glacee/Sourbet de Fruits and it was the absolute perfect ending to a wonderful experience. The service was impeccable, it didn't feel like the servers were just playing the role, they were very knowledgable and freindly, especially with their wine recommendations.

I too enjoyed how it wasn't pretentious, it almost felt like a restaurant you'd see in Paris, especially with the lighting and the simple wooden bar area.

I cannot wait to return to Vegas so that I can dine there again.

Wandering chopsticks: The prices aren't that bad at all in actuality. I felt like it was a bargain compared to the other "hot" establishments in the city. For the price for 2 at Bellagio's buffet I'm sure you could pull off a nice fine dining experience at Bouchon....that is if you don't get any wine :-)

 
At 2:52 PM, Blogger nhbilly said...

Geesh the fries must be that gooooood ;-)

 
At 6:37 PM, Blogger Kevin said...

That food looks so good; I envy you for being able to have such a magnificent feast. While you were at the Venetian, did you ever get the chance to see Phantom? It's an amzing prodduction, and I don't even like musicals.

 
At 10:37 PM, Blogger Eddie Lin said...

Brilliant review. You stepped up on this one.

 
At 8:48 AM, Blogger elmomonster said...

Anon,

Actually this visit was about two weeks ago, so I'm already back in OC. Will have to keep Rosemary's in mind the next time! Thanks!

Mina,

Hadn't realized they do breakfast! Wow! That would've been a treat: to come down the elevator and have breakfast at Bouchon.

Marvin,

Oh you bet we were at L.O.S. That was our first stop on this two night trip. We only did one trip there this time, but usually it's two, or three!

WC,

It's pretty reasonable for a restaurant of this caliber actually. If this were France (as I'm sure you'd know), food like this is an everyday occurence in bistros, like burgers and fries in diners.

Lawrence,

Thanks for posting about your own Bouchon experience! This post is long overdue, and is actually my second time there. The first was about exactly one year ago, but the food pictures then came out horribly. I was just impressed then as I was this time. And I am sure when I go next year, it'll be just the same.

nhbilly,

One of the best french fries I've ever eaten! Of course, I didn't say Belgian Fries. That's another beast entirely.

Kevin,

Didn't catch Phantom, but we did see Le Reve, which was alright. Phantom would've been a great show to see. I saw them building the theater last year, and it looked spectacular!

Eddie,

Thanks dude! That's a great compliment that you think so.

 
At 10:25 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Link didn't work. Just google Bouchon and frozen fries.

 
At 1:28 PM, Blogger elmomonster said...

Anon,

I deleted your comment with the link since it wasn't working and also causing formatting problems (damn Blogger template).

Here's what you wrote:

Anonymous said...
There are a lot of reports that they use frozen fries:
CLICK HERE FOR THE ARTICLE


Thanks for this Anon! Quite an eye opener! I'm surprised, but I don't know if I can say I'm disappointed, because they were still really, really great french fries (the best I've had so far), and at no time did they tell me it wasn't from frozen. I just made that assumption, because, c'mon...it's Thomas Keller!

 
At 4:34 PM, Blogger Kathy said...

Hey Elmo!
I loved this review! I went to Bouchon for breakfast when it first opened - oh man, the french toast bread pudding...currant scones...it was all so good, and much more afforable than his other restaurants! :)
...Must head back once I hit 21, hehe ;)

 
At 6:14 AM, Blogger Juliet said...

I've never really had a desire to go to Vegas before, but this review is making me rethink that.
My mom and her life partner will be going there soon. I'll pass on this recommendation to them.

 
At 8:31 AM, Blogger elmomonster said...

Kathy,

Oh gosh. You're not even 21 yet!? Anyway, french toast bread pudding?! My that sounds awesome in so many ways. I need to try it next time, for sure!

Juliet,

With LOS, and Bouchon, Vegas has totally become a dining destination for us. To me, the casino floor is just an obstacle to get me to the good food.

 
At 5:02 PM, Blogger Passionate Eater said...

After reading about those mussels, I now know why it is called "Sin City." Gosh, the description of those mussels had me gulping for more! More sin please Elmo!

 
At 11:42 PM, Blogger elmomonster said...

PE,

Gluttony: a sin we can all agree on!

 
At 11:31 AM, Blogger r4m3n said...

hmm... I actually disagree with you on this one. I went with 15 of my friends during New Year's Eve and Bouchon was our backup restaurant since the one we were going to was overbooked.

Anyway, a lot of didn't think the restaurant was all that great. The french onion soup was bland and the lamb was good but portions small. My friend ordered the filet mignon and that seemed to be only one worth money :P

 
At 8:06 PM, Blogger eatdrinknbmerry said...

hey elmo, i've eaten at the bouchon in yountvilla/napa and also the vegas location. i agree with you on keller's liking for vegas. in fact, i love that it's tucked away and hidden from the fanny-pack/hawaiian shirt wearing tourists. both restaurants are beautiful. i've only had the fries at the yountville location and like them too. i tried the seafood plate at the vegas location and loved the oysters - everything else was so so. overall, i would still come back here. nice posting as always.

 
At 7:44 AM, Blogger elmomonster said...

r4m3n,

It's always great to hear an opposing opinion. As the previous poster mentioned about the fries being from frozen, it makes for a balanced perspective on the restaurant.

EDBM,

On this second trip, everything was amazing. On the first one last year, we tried the chicken, and it tasted like...well chicken. I guess there's only so much Thomas Keller can do.

 
At 9:22 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hmm... Perhaps dinners are wonderful. Breakfast, however, do avoid! For $20 you will get a cup of tea, a glass of juice, croissant, dry "salpicon potatoes" (bit of a joke! - they use frozen cubes!), a couple of eggs (made whichever way you like - a plus!) and a "toasted brioche" which is your regular white toast. They call it "Breakfast Provencale" - I would be insulted if I was French. VERY VERY disappointing. The worst breakfast we had in Vegas - there are MUCH better places for a better price. Check out the Ceasar's buffet for example...

 
At 7:07 PM, Anonymous josh said...

Everything from what I've heard, including people I really respect, Bouchon in Vegas isn't that great especially for those prices. It may have started out strong, but there's been too much turnover and the food has really suffered in the past couple years.

 

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