Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Le Cirque, Las Vegas Nevada

Arriving in Vegas earlier in the day, I'd been awake for nearly 20 hours when I stepped into the Bellagio for my 7:30 reservation. Tired but excited I walked in and mentioned I had a reservation for one to which the beautiful attendant stated "Ah yes, Dr. U, we've been expecting you." At this point I was handed off to a team of fantastic servers who showed me to my window-side 4-top and the extravagance began. I'll get my complaints out of the way early....there was a spot on the tablecloth approximately the size of more complaints. Perfect service, flawless timing, full descriptions, elaborate presentations, the gorgeous interior and fountain show outdoors....and a customized tasting menu as follows:

Amuse Bouche: Komomoto Oyster w/ American Caviar - I'm not an oyster guy, nor a Caviar guy, but the presentation was gorgeous and the flavors far more subdued than past tastes. While I cannot say I'll ever appreciate these two items as much as other haute-cuisine, I can definitely say I'll look forward to my next unexpected encounter.

Bread Basket: Pretzel, Walnut Olive, French Baguette w/ salted and unsalted butter. The Baguette was crunchy and perfect for soaking up sauces, the pretzel crispy and salty outside and buttery soft inside, and the olive walnut simply sublime. Better Pretzel than Mastros or Yankee Stadium, Better olive than Gramercy Tavern. Runner up to Spago for best basket all time. Better yet - After the first three courses I'd eaten one piece of each and went to grab another piece of Baguette for sauces when the waiter whisked it away and replaced it with a piping hot fresh basket stating "it isn't as good when it cools."

Course One: Lobster Salad w/ avocado, frisee, hericot vert, black truffle - A Le Cirque classic and for very good reason. Beautifully poached lobster over a puree of avocado and hericot verts, a layer or frisse, and a drizzle of black truffle dressing topped with a shaved black truffle. Delicious as it was decadent, a beautiful way to start. (note: the truffle was fresh and quite good, but certainly more for effect than plastic surgery on a super was already great, but here is that extra unnecessary touch.)

Course two: Sauteed Foie Gras w/ microgreens, petite chestnuts, white peach, blackberry, cranberry - Sublime. Fatty and flawless inside, just slightly crisp outside. Served warm and sweet with a brilliant contrast against the tart berries, crispy peach, and crunchy nuts with the microgreens added for texture. While not quite as innovative as the version at EMP, better in flavor.

Course three: Crispy Sweet Breads w/ Fig and grape marmalade, veal reduction, butter basil foam, asparagus/heirloom tomato/mushroom salad - A substitution for the seasonal risotto and absolutely worth the decision. A single sweetbread panflashed and crisp served beneath an airy butter and basil foam over a flavorful salad the dish was further enhanced by the addition of two smears of fig jelly that provided a sweet component to the already incredibly savory dish. The veal reduction was poured in a small ring around the dish tableside and was my first experience with what the sous-chef could really do...until dishes four and five.

Course four: Paupiette of Sea Bass with Pinot Noir sauce, crispy potato skin, microgreens and shredded savoy cabbage - Another Le Cirque classic and another winner in every way. Perfectly poached bass with a crispy paper-thin skin served over a crispy salad and covered with a sauce that can only be described as heavenly. Sweet and winelike yet bold and buttery, refined yet complex....more bread, please.

Course five: Organic chicken w/ Foie gras macaroni, truffle, asparagus, tomato compote - My second substitution as I don't favor beef and a second wonderful choice. Clean and tasty chicken with thin shavings of black tuffle beneath the crispy skin served over a layer of long handmade macaroni and a transcendent sauce of mushroom puree and foie gras. Wonderfully crisp asparagus and a beautifully complex grilled tomato compote lent additional flavors to the dish, as well.

Palate Cleanser: Tequila Sorbet with gold leaf, dragon fruit, dinosaur plum, coconut milk, and edible bowl - More pineapple than tequila, this sorbet was divine and a mere sign of things to come. The fruit compote was delectable and the coconut milk wonderful for offsetting the citrus. I'd like to say I knew the bowl was edible, but initially when I broke it I was worried....I think this was expected as my server then stepped in to suggest I "try a bite." The gold leaf....we'll chalk that up to extravagance, it had no flavor.

Coffee: Not as thick as the house coffee at Bouchon and not as robust as other french restaurants, according to my server this was a rare Jamaican bean but according to my palate it was merely sweet and bold without trying to hard. The refills were more than adequate and considering the length of the day, the caffeine was welcomed.

Dessert Fantasy: With common sense getting the better of me I actually excused myself from the table prior to dessert and went for a short walk in the Bellagio garden to help digest. Good idea, because the word fantasy was appropriate as I was brought not one, but two full portions. Really, is there ever "too much of a good thing?"

Dessert number one - Chocolate Souffle with creme anglais, vanilla bean icecream: No cutting the top off here, instead pushing a conical sphere of icecream into the center and watching the molten chocolate from beneath erupt over top - impressive....and delicious. Light and airy, perfect and fluffy, slight hints of chicory. Everything a souffle should be, yet so large that it went unfinished...or perhaps that was because option two was even better.

Dessert number two - Ice bowl with cherry ice, yuzu cream, strawberry sorbet, marinaded cherries: Appearing as a white cloud with pink flecks on presentation and suddenly erupting into swirl of colors with the addition of the sorbet, another unique presentation and even better flavor. Flawless and smooth lemon cream over a bed of cherries, perfectly tart sorbet...a contrast of warm and cold, crispy and creamy, tart and of the best desserts to ever grace my tongue.

Petit Fours - Lemon Meringue, Cherry Marshmallow, Strawberry Tart, Macaroon, Banana Cream puff, chocolate pretzel: As though the gluttony of the meal was not enough 6 petit fores finally arrived with all being beautiful, well constructed, and tasty, but the tart and cream puff simply fantastic.

Finally, completely full, the check arrived along with a leather and gold jewelry box containing two truffles which were consumed the following afternoon. The first a cocoa dusted dark chocolate and the second a creamy vanilla with coconut flakes. Both, again, were wonderful.

All told, the meal was unlike anything I'd previously experienced. Wonderful food, stellar ambiance, and the service lacking in no department. In a city like no other, a city that has something for almost anyone, its hard to get lost in the get overlooked in the big picture. With the recent influx of Savoy, Robuchon, Stratta, and others I think Le Cirque has become overlooked. From the moment I first contacted them for a complete menu to the moment I walked out the door I can honestly say Le Cirque was perfection.

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