Bouchon, Las Vegas (December 2008)

After four dinners in Las Vegas, I must reassess the gastronomic parity on the West Coast. Northern California–and San Francisco in particular–still inhabits the catbird’s seat but not by much. Throughout the four pristine meals, my taste buds were continually tantalized. It will take several more visits just to explore the Francophilic establishments–for instance, Julian Serrano’s Picasso, Alain Ducasse’s Mix, and Joel Robuchon’s L’Atelier. Ending our vacation with a bistro ensured comfort food with hearty portions.

Thomas Keller’s inimitable relationship with fish purveyors warranted at least one fish dish, and this was it. The rillettes had a consistency similar to a crab cake, bursting with both smoked and fresh fish pieces.

Salmon rillettes in clarified butter with croutons
Serving the slow cooked confit with Brussels sprouts helped lighten the dish.
Duck confit, Brussels sprouts, and mustard sauce
The thinly cured meats were imported from both Yountville–preserved at the French Laundry – and Italy.

Charcuterie
Sanitary bloodletting produced a succulent banger sans any off-putting iron aftertaste.

Black pudding, roasted pears, and pomme pureé
The legumes’ taste and texture resembled fava beans.

Lamb leg, flageolet beans, and thyme jus
The prodigious short rib, defined by its fork-tenderness, sent all three of us into a blissful state. The polenta, though, was, well, corny (excuse the banal pun).
Sous vide short rib, cranberry polenta, kale, and roasted cipollini onions

Meyer lemons have a distinctly robust acidity; with the dense pork’s peppery finish still lingering on my palette, the tart seemed judicious.

Meyer lemon tart
Our solicitous server recommended this ornate Christmas special, replete with gingerbread, meringue, peppermint, truffles, a glazed sugar cookie, smoked almonds, and a Valrhona torte.

Bouche de Noel

Pros: Expansive menu

Cons: Since children are permitted, Bouchon’s ambience suffers.

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