Friday, September 25, 2009

Mon Ami Gabi, Las Vegas NV

The day after a superb dinner at Guy Savoy (getting in later than my friends who were in Vegas to “party” and still waking up before them) I woke up early – feeling great I went for a run outside, the first time I’d ever done so in Vegas – what they say about it being “a dry heat” is right and the mornings are dry and cool – running from the Venetian down to Mandalay Bay and back I was more dehydrated than I normally am on a run twice the distance. Drinking plenty of water and showering I’d worked up quite an appetite and made my way out for another walk south on the strip – this time to Mon Ami Gabi at Paris. Arriving at 7:20am I was greeted by the friendly hostesses at the door and led promptly to a prime seat on the patio where I watched Vegas roll by – the best part about early morning Vegas is that there are only two sorts of people – the early morning joggers and the people just heading home. I laughed like hell when a guy came up and yelled “high five – yellow shirt – I love yellow shirts” with regard to my vintage LA Kings T. Only in Vegas.

Having heard much about Mon Ami Gabi’s view – truly awesome sitting 4 feet above Las Vegas Boulevard and directly across from the fountains at Bellagio – I must admit I’d heard mixed reviews of the food and went in with tempered expectations. Greeted by my server and handed a menu I was offered coffee which I graciously accepted. A decent French Roast with heavy nuttiness the coffee was good, but probably the worst I had during my trip to Vegas…and refills were slow at best despite the restaurant being unfilled throughout my meal. Browsing the menu I was impressed by both the sweets and the savories – deciding between the Blueberry French Toast and Poached Pear Waffles proved difficult and thus I ended up with neither. Placing my order I also opted to order a pain au chocolate from the limited bakery menu.

Sitting for nearly 30 minutes while I waited for my food I sipped my coffee and watched the street – I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, half the “Vegas Experience” is people watching. Eventually arriving along with only my first refill of coffee (I had to request it – thankfully after this service improved and a young man took over my coffee refills) I was somewhat surprised when the sweet arrived with my savory breakfast. Cool and questionably fresh the Pain au Chocolate was appropriately buttery and flakey but lacked any pizzazz. Featuring a small single vein of average chocolate I could’ve gotten the same dish for much less than $3.50 at most convenience stores.

Where I would consider the sweet a failure – I didn’t even finish it - my savory at MAG was actually a unique take on a classic and quite delicious. Described as a “classic” Croque Madame the dish was actually presented in a “deconstructed” fork and knife sandwich manner with two large slices of hearty grain bread pan fried in butter and then cut in half, topped with ham and gruyere cheese plus chives, and finished with a sunny-side up egg. Accompanying the croque on the plate was a simple salad of frisee and vinegar and on a side plate were some oily and uninspiring (and decidedly American) hash browns with Heinz ketchup poured into a small cup. While good this croque and accoutrements certainly wasn’t as good as the version the previous day at Pinot and no-where near on par with the versions in Northern California at Butler and the Chef or Bouchon.

Finishing my meal and sipping on my coffee again my female server finally returned to my table to ask if I needed anything else – when I asked for a “to go” cup of coffee plus the check this duty was pawned off on the young man who’d been filling my coffee while she went back to talking to the other female server near the register. Like Pinot I simply don’t understand why “bistro” entails sub-par service in Las Vegas and I actually mentioned on my way out suggesting that I wanted my tip (left in cash as opposed to on my credit card as I normally do on vacation) be given to the young man and not my “server.” In general I can’t say there is much to brag about at Mon Ami Gabi aside from the view and while the restaurant would certainly stand at the top of French cuisine in Columbus Ohio (my home) I’d much sooner go back to Pinot, Bouchon, Payard, or Tableau when in a dining destination city like Las Vegas.

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