Picasso, Las Vegas (March 2009)

Las Vegas mogul Steve Wynn has some noteworthy accomplishments to his name, perhaps none more so than luring Julian Serrano away from Masa’s in San Francisco.

With two-star Michelin recipient Coi still etched in my hypothalamus, Picasso had to follow one of San Francisco’s best. Located in the Bellagio, Picasso’s ambiance did not disappoint. Eleven Picasso paintings–exceeding over $100 million (I cannot imagine many takers any time soon)–adorn the walls; additionally, we were seated near a window with an eye-level perspective of the “lake.”

The silky smooth raw salmon with the cold cucumber was a refreshing bite after the soup.

Corn soup, salmon-marscapone wrap, cucumber and mint salad, quail egg, osetra caviar

After last night’s adamantine lobster, I savored the tender chunks of decadent crustacean. 

Lobster salad, apple-champagne vinaigrette, tomato, cantaloupe, celery

In essence, this dish involved two items: a scallop and a potato. Such straightforward simplicity necessitates extraordinary execution. I enjoyed it all–the crisp potato chip, the creamy pomme purée, and the just slightly warmed through scallop.

Scallop, potato mousseline, veal jus

The foie gras needs no elaboration beyond saying that it was pure opulence. As surreptitious as Goldman Sachs receiving $13 billion as part of the initial AIG bailout, a piece of brioche soaked up all of the fatty drippings. I am wont to see citrus and liver; in this dish, however, I can chalk up the pear as yet another fruit and foie permutation. The toothsome almonds sufficiently lightened the dish and contributed a needed textural counterpoint.

Foie gras, honey-Muscat poached pear, crushed almond, brioche, crème fraîche gastrique
After the fusillade of meat and fish Mesa Grill piled in front of us, it was a welcome adjustment to see a more reasonable meat to vegetable ratio. The quickly seared pigeon left the breasts a lusciously mouthwatering crimson. To the touch, it felt like a pudgy cheek. A cherry note could be detected in the jus, obviating any possibility for the squab to be too salty. Wild rice takes forever to cook, so I appreciate the laborious dedication the kitchen put forth just for an accoutrement. The copious amount of parmesan made the side dish even more inviting.

Squab, asparagus, carrot, wild rice risotto, wild game jus
The rosemary sprig impregnated the potato’s paunch with its herbal fragrance. As for the thick chop, it was more tender than pieces of veal tenderloin that I have tasted. The savory part of our meal could not have ended on a more Elysian note, as the Bellagio water show commenced, bellowing Andrea Bocelli’s “It’s Time to Say Goodbye.”
Veal chop, rosemary potato, wild mushrooms
I made frequent use of the raisin bread provided alongside the cheese. Dehors the Roquefort, I liked the raisin rind for its dichotomous flavor and texture.

Roquefort, chèvre, manchego, raisin rind
I sampled the sorbet, which hit the palate like a blackberry explosion. 
Opera cake, Muscat sorbet

The lemon meringue and grapefruit jelly offered a pleasing conclusion to the meal. As we walked out, the reservationist handed us two boxes of breakfast pastries. 

Petite fours
Picasso reminds me of a well-engineered roller coaster–to wit, the first three dishes take you up to the top of the steep slope, the next two–foie gras and squab/veal chop–can be considered the exhilarating drop, and finally the ride comes to a smooth and most satisfying end, as the kitchen returns you back to the station, leaving you helplessly yearning for one more go-round.

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