Fleur de Lys, Las Vegas (December 2008)

I never thought it would come to this, but I am short on superlatives–a regrettable development considering the meal’s grandiosity. Fleur de Lys’ Christmas Eve tasting menu epitomizes what Nassim Taleb calls a black swan–to wit, an event that satisfies three conditions: outlier, extreme impact, and retrospective determinism. First, Fleur de Lys in Las Vegas is anomalous insofar as not earning a Michelin star, poignantly displaying Michelin’s fallibility. Second, the meal wholly exceeded expectations, both converting me into a Hubert Keller disciple and making a visit to his flagship restaurant in San Francisco inexorable. And third, I could, a posteriori, claim an accumulated clairvoyance when it comes to restaurant selection. As Taleb explains, however, randomness tends to be underestimated vis-a-vis human predictive capacity, even though the latter has proved to be devastatingly inaccurate (insert consequential event here). With the broader paean in place, I will turn to specific instances that left me gobsmacked.

When I heard the server describe the amuse as tempura halibut, doubts arose. Why would a kitchen start dinner with fried fish? My a priori quibble disappeared quicker than a Bernie Madoff investment. Eating vinegarish potatoes after the tempura removed its cloying oil.

Amuse bouche: tempura halibut, cayenne crème fraîche, and potato vinaigrette
Rarely can an ingredient subdue an onion’s harshness. Well, I found one such rarity: the black truffle. The photo below shows the black truffle strips floating to the surface. Unlike Alizé, which combined truffle oil–there is no actual truffle in this expensive accoutrement–with Lilliputian bits, Fleur de Lys used comparatively Brobdingnagian stripes.
Truffled onion soup – black truffle crepe filled with braised duck, julienned black truffles, and red wine onion puree

I enjoyed a bite off my brother’s plate, discerning the ginger dipping sauce straightaway.

Ahi tuna tartare, sesame cracker, dill and fennel salad, and ginger ponzu
Whoever reared this calf should know that their care did not go unnoticed.
Braised veal and potato ravioli, pea foam, veal jus, and mixed vegetables
This time I arranged a quid pro quo for a forkful from my mom’s plate. After Daniel’s buttery skate, this version contained a smokey note.
Seared skate salad, toasted pine nut dressing, and basil oil
Crispy-skinned medallions married harmoniously with the al dente risotto.
Guinea hen, green and white asparagus risotto, parmesan foam
In a vein similar to Alizé’s crab and horseradish amalgamation, the paprika crème fraiche poured over the lobster left a pleasant warmth after the lobster’s initial sweetness.
Butter poached Maine lobster, paprika crème fraîche, spaetzle, sauerkraut, chanterelles

This dish reveals the critical gulf between black and white truffles. A black truffle’s flavor intensifies when cooked, whereas a white truffle loses much of its essence if subjected to heat; as a result, restaurants only offer to shave white truffles over plates–an indulgence I can only hope to experience during next fall’s truffle harvest.

Beef Tenderloin, seared foie gras, black truffles, spinach, and wild mushrooms
Lean and strongly flavored, the pan-seared venison valiantly challenged the beef loin. I am still in disbelief that such perfect doneness could be achieved without an immersion circulator. Regarding the pomme pureé, it may be more veracious to rename the accoutrement butter with a touch of potato. For those who bake, the potatoes mirrored a stiff peak.

Venison loin, red cabbage, huckleberries, pomme pureé
The mastodonic ramekin brimmed with delicate crust and a moist interior.
Spiced pumpkin soufflé and cinnamon ice cream
The mounting pressures of dinner service manifested as the server told my brother that the pastry chef’s first soufflé collapsed. The sweet trap of anticipation was worth waiting for; when it did arrive seven minutes later, I scraped up the bittersweet chocolate remains once his self-described “food coma” set in.
Chocolate soufflé and espresso ice cream
Among the three petit four plates, these were the freshest.
Strawberry and chocolate macaron, ginger snap cookie, carrot cake, banana bread, cherry jelly

Pros: Accurate server descriptions and bread selection

Cons: Because Fleur de Lys has a lounge, we were forced to watch meretricious waitresses sashay through the dining room.


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