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Chef Keller as a person. In his media appearances, he comes across as a simple, ordinary, down to earth kind of person who happens to have an extraordinary commitment to excellence. Therefore, of all the restaurants I planned on visiting during this turn in Las Vegas, Bouchon - Thomas Keller's ideal of the French bistro - was the one restaurant I really had my heart set on and the one I most looked forward to. I expected Bouchon to be the marquee meal that would define the entire trip.
Bouchon at the Venetian is located in the Venezia Tower, apart from the main hotel and casino. To find the elevator that will take you to the restaurant, exit the lobby and head towards the parking garage. Just before the parking garage you will see a group of elevators. The ones for Bouchon will be clearly marked.
The restaurant itself is classy yet welcoming. Upon entry, diners are greeted by the oyster bar where cooks put together the seafood platters. A mirror-backed bar faces a wall containing floor to ceiling windows that, I imagine, allow plenty of light to filter in during the day. The dining room is split in two by a high divider that doubles as a banquette. Wood paneling and low lighting from twin globe fixtures contribute to create a serene atmosphere.
What I ate:
Prior to our courses, "P" and I received a complimentary epi baguette, superb butter, and pistachios. It was a great combination.
1. Soupe à l'Oignon (9.75 USD): French style onion soup. I thought the onion soup was a perfectly balanced rendition of the French classic. I loved the gooey cheese (Gruyère, yes?) and the thoroughly soaked yet still taut crouton. If you like caramelized flavors, this soup is for you.
2. Pâté de Campagne (12.50 USD): Country style pâté with watercress, cornichons, and radishes. This was my favorite dish of the night. I am a BIG fan of charcuterie and this presentation did not disappoint. When spread on toast and dressed up with the accompaniments, the pâté gave me immense pleasure.
3. Gigot d'Agneau (33.75 USD): Roasted leg of lamb with flageolet beans, garlic confit, and thyme jus. The meat was cooked perfectly medium rare and had a pleasant, mellow fell flavor. The beans were cooked properly for the most part; unfortunately, some were mealy, which could have been the result of a number of causes.
4. Corbières, Lignères, Notre Dame, Syrah 2006 (11 USD). This was a nice glass of Syrah that I would describe as being typical of the variety - peppery and robust in flavor and aroma.
5. Tarte au Citron (9.50 USD): Lemon tart. I wasn't a fan of the lemon tart. I found it to be quite unbalanced - overly acerbic. Also, there was an off flavor in the crust that might have come from the addition of bad butter. I liked the burnt top of the tart - nice touch.
"P" had the Moules au Safran for his main course: Maine bouchot mussels steamed with white wine, Dijon mustard, and saffron served with French fries (28.50 USD). I got to taste some of this dish and I thought it was fantastic. The predominant flavor was of mussels - fancy that! The ingredients served to highlight the mussels' natural goodness and not mask it. The rich, buttery mussel broth was so good, I could've drunk it straight from the pot if not for a sense of decorum. On the other hand, I thought the French fries were just okay, still good, but not the best I've ever had. (I thought the ketchup for the fries was housemade but "P" proved me wrong when he asked the waiter about it. Hope you enjoyed my dollar, sucka!)
Unlike the ketchup, the Dijon mustard definitely was something special. Chef Keller sources it from the French maker Edmond Fallot. (Way better than Grey Poupon, don't you think "P"?)
"P" and I drank the house water, which I believe is probably filtered on the premises. It had a very neutral profile. ("P" thinks all waters taste the same so I'm going to have him do a taste test to change his mind.)
There was an oh-so-slight misstep in service. Our waiter forgot to bring my glass of wine at the same time as my main course; fortunately, he remembered just in time and brought it when I was half finished. It's okay because I was enjoying dinner so much I had completely forgotten it as well!
Parking: To self park at the Venetian, enter from Las Vegas Boulevard and follow the signs provided. The parking garage is HUGE so don't get lost!
The Bill: 113.50 USD.
My Rating: out of four stars (very good to excellent). Open every day. Breakfast is from 7 AM to 10:30 AM and dinner begins at 5 PM and service concludes at 10 PM. The oyster bar is open from 3 PM until closing. Brunch on weekends between 8 AM and 2 PM. Credit cards accepted. www.bouchonbistro.com
Last Word: Thank you Chef Keller and staff of Bouchon Las Vegas for a lovely experience! I look forward to coming back so I can try more dishes - the breakfast looks especially appetizing on Yelp!
The next review will be about Henderson's Settebello and their Vera Pizza Napoletana.
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