Due to their rustic simplicity and historic preparation by poor persons utilizing limited ingredients, I personally believe gnocchi/dumplings (along with Bread Pudding) to be the ultimate foods by which to judge a chef and knowing that my time in Vegas would be limited, I e-mailed ahead approximately 2 weeks early and asked if it would be possible for the chef to prepare the Gnocchi a la Parisienne during the weekday breakfast hours. While an odd request for sure, my e-mail was almost immediately answered by General Manager Andy St. John who stated the chef would be delighted to prepare the meal during the day at no additional costs, no questions asked. Gnocchi for breakfast? Well, kinda…
Arriving at Bouchon around 7:30 I checked in with the host who introduced me to dining manager Robert who took me to my seat, indoors looking out at the pool given the bright sun and my fare skin. Water was delivered and I was given a few moments to browse the restaurant before my server returned. The simple bistro layout, the open doors to the pool and garden, the fresh smell of the baking breads….lovely. When Robert returned specials were discussed, despite already knowing my strange request, and I settled on a starter of the Chocolate Almond Croissant and a cup (make that about 6 cups) of coffee. See, the croissant was Breakfast…the Gnocchi just followed closely.
The croissant, like all of Keller’s pastries, was magical…the best croissant I’ve ever had in terms of flavor. Crispy and warm on the outside with chocolate drizzle and copious almonds, plus a flaky interior and a thick layer of chocolate gnache folded into the flaky dough and then loaded with chopped almonds. If I lived close to a Bouchon this would be a very frequent indulgence to say the least. The coffee...thick, robust, french pressed...the best priced cup of coffee in Vegas for sure.
A couple more coffee refills and it was time for the main course (consumed with water, not coffee.) Without further ado, I will just say that this dish redefined gnocchi in all ways. Unlike Italian gnocchi, the French style utilized butter in the noodles along with the potatoes and the effect literally creates a dumpling that melts on the tongue. Every single piece appeared hand crafted, perfectly tender on the outside, yet toothsome and textural on the outside. The dish was complimented with carrots, spinach, mushrooms fricassee and beurre noisette as dressing and the entire effect was simply perfection on a plate. I honestly cannot think of the last time it took me so long to savor each bite of a dish, but by all accounts I believe I ate each piece individually, slowly. Such simple ingredients, such flawless execution.
Certainly I love foie gras, blue lobster, diver scallops, and desserts considered to be delicacies, but I also appreciate when simplicity yields perfection. While I’ve not been to French Laundry or Per Se, both will have their time in the sun in the near future…but for now I will simply state that if it is the little things that count, Bouchon is doing ALL the little things right from superior service to setting to food. After breakfast I made my second of four visits during the trip to Bouchon Bakery for a carry-along snack…two days later I returned to Bouchon for Brunch, my only repeat of the trip….yes, it was that impressive.