Sunday, December 19, 2010

Morels French Steakhouse, Las Vegas NV

…as it turns out there is more than one Morel’s French Steakhouse – when I made Brunch reservations for our third day in Las Vegas I really had no idea…not until we walked by the familiar façade four days later at The Grove in Los Angeles. While not as high profile as other restaurants on the Las Vegas culinary landscape a quick browse of the menu and positive words from a friend combined with early opening hours (8am) made brunch a logical choice…besides, I love French food and I’d already tasted “the best” of Sin City’s breakfast and brunch scene.

Arriving at eight on the dot we actually presented to closed doors – no worries though, they’d open only minutes later. Making our way into the vast confines of the restaurant we stated our names, though reservations clearly were not necessary. Led to a comfortable 4-top near the large glass windows we marveled at the black and white tiled floor, raw bar, cheese bar, cork wreath, chandeliers, and generally lovely layout of the space. Greeted quickly by our server, Gina G, we were provided with menus and water was filled for us all while the others opted for Orange Juice, Hot Tea, and a specialty French Press of Rwandan Komera coffee – a bold citrus blend with plenty of body that didn’t really appeal to me, but my mother enjoyed a lot.

Browsing the menu of both traditional and non-traditional bistro fare we settled on a pair of sweets and a pair of savories to be shared around. With service good throughout the meal there were two small issues considering only one other table was seated during the entirety of our brunch – the first being the fact that my water actually reached empty twice and the second when one of the ancillary staff nearly filled my sister’s tea with coffee. With light classical playing overhead it would be approximately 15 minutes before our plates would arrive.

For myself, the standard in such circumstances; a Croque Madame with Country Ham, Gruyère Cheese, Sauce Mornay,Crispy Sourdough, Fried Egg and a side of Pommes Frites with organic Heinz ketchup. While the frites were largely a miss – hot but somewhat anemic and flavorless, the sandwich was actually quite good, albeit lightly topped. With two thin slices of rich ham and an equal portion of Gruyere sandwiched between the crispy bread, the highlight of the dish was unquestionably the lovely Mornay and creamy egg yolk.

The second option, my mothers, was the crispy Belgium Waffle with fresh Berries and Housemade Vanilla Syrup. Simple in concept the execution of this dish was quite poor in my opinion – the waffle doughy and the vanilla syrup tasting identical to the pure maple syrup (not a bad thing, but false advertising) until blended with the dollop of vanilla cream atop the waffles. Admittedly the fruits were very fresh and tasty, however.

Opting for more unique dishes proved advantageous to my sister and aunt, the sooner ordering the Crab Oscar Benedict with Asparagus, Dungeness crab, Poached Eggs, and Citrus Hollandaise atop a round popover. Already hefty and artery clogging with the crab clearly cooked in butter and the lovely hollandaise with just a tinge of lemon, piercing the two creamy eggs with a fork added a whole new level to the dish. With white asparagus adding necessary fiber and texture the entirety of this dish was decadence well worth the calories.

The final choice, my aunts, was another winner – Banana and Mascarpone stuffed French Toast with Saigon cinnamon and pure maple syrup. With bread similarly shaped to that from the popover I gather the toast itself was actually a bread pudding style custard. With a thick layer of banana accented sweet cheese inside and fresh bananas atop the toast was first pan seared and then torch bruleed forming a crisp top that crackled on cutting. With plentiful notes of cinnamon and the maple syrup on the plate instead of being poured over top I really liked the flavor profile and presentation of the dish, as did my aunt who is not keen on maple as she finds it overwhelming.

With tax and tip the total for brunch would run approximately $25 a person – not a bargain compared to the $5 grand slam at Denny’s that we passed to get there, but on par with the prices at Mon Ami Gabi and slightly less pricey than MoZen, Tableau, or Bouchon. With that said, while there was nothing wrong with Morels, it also didn’t move me or wow me and at such a price I’d much sooner take the elevator up to Bouchon at the Venetian than the escalator down to Morels at the Palazzo. The Croque, Frites, French Toast, and Waffles at Bouchon are simply better….and the eggs and crab dish I’d have there on Christmas day left that Benedict a distant memory, regardless of how good it was.

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