Restaurant Guy Savoy, Las Vegas (June 2011)

Three-star Michelin restaurants, Mario Batali is wont to say, are nothing more than a guarantee that people can eat the same food anywhere in the world. While he means that disparagingly, I see the globalization of chefs as a windfall, for I wanted to try Guy Savoy’s food without having to travel to Paris. And the Vegas rendition, located in Caesar’s Palace, includes many of the same dishes, servers that have worked at Restaurant Guy Savoy in Paris, and unlike the one in Paris, diners can see an Eiffel Tower from inside the restaurant.

Upon getting on the other side of those grand double doors, we were seated at a commodious two-top that could have easily accommodated four and greeted by Alain, our thoroughly French, Anton Ego-looking server. Without hesitation, I placed our order for the menu prestige–ten courses that include some of Savoy’s signature dishes–along with two supplements. When Alain asked if we would like to do the wine pairing–something I had seriously considered–I inquired into the price, was told $175 and politely declined. Instead we ordered glasses of raisiny 2007 Riesling, a wine with the highest residual sugar on their bible-size wine list.

In terms of the food, unlike Gagnaire, a Columbus of gastronomy in exploring newly discovered culinary territory, Savoy keeps it comparatively classical. Fittingly, our first amuse would be a foie gras club sandwich with a truffle vinaigrette. Crusty bread and creamy foie gras–what a great way to inaugurate the meal! I could wax poetic about just how exceptional service was, but I think an example should suffice. After downing the sandwich, my mother casually said, if this were a cocktail party, I would go back for seconds, and as if our table was mic’d, Alain delivered another round of sandwiches within seconds.

Next out, a bowl of raw peas into which a vichysoisse was poured with ground cardamon providing aromatics to the chilled potage.

Underneath the ground cardamon rested brunoised octopus on an eggplant purée with chive and a potato chip.

With amuses cleared, an enthusiastic runner and supervisor of the bread trolley delivered a warm tomato country bread with crisp edges and a florid interior. And a minute later that same runner introduced us to one of the most august bread displays my mother and I have ever seen in a restaurant. With more than a dozen on display, we took him up on his offer to do a bread pairing.

Our first course, titled “Peas All Around,” included halved raw and cooked peas, a pea gelée, pea purée, pea shoots, shiso leaves and a sixty-three degree quail egg. The amalgam proved to be a treatise on texture, which became a leitmotif throughout the three-hour and fifteen minute dinner.

For the second course a salty seawood ciabatta was paired with a salad of variegated beets and carrots finished tableside with a briny oyster vinaigrette and steaming liquid that filled the air with a cooled fog. And a chilled oyster shooter with lemon juice and a lemon foam served as a palate cleanser. 

Among the reasons for making the evening memorable was the fact that for the first 80 minutes of dinner, it was as if we had the restaurant to ourselves. 

Moving on to heartier plates, I requested the mosaic of milk-fed poulard, artichoke and foie gras with a black truffle vinaigrette and a piece of toast as a supplement. The black truffle vinaigrette would be an addictively good salad dressing; on this dish, though, it teamed up with the artichoke to balance the richness of the poulard and foie.

Paired with the skin-fried sea bass, swiss chard, shitake mushrooms, fennel, a vanilla-laced fish stock foam and five-spice (minus the cinnamon) was a bread punctuated by tart lemon rind. Leaving the scales on the bass resulted in an extra element of crispness, while the flesh flaked away beautifully into bite-sized bits.

Never have I been this excited to see a shot glass. From zero to $90 in four mother of pearl spoonfuls, the creamy, slightly tangy, vegetal and salty “Colors of Caviar” has become one of Guy Savoy’s most celebrated dishes, and it’s not hard to understand why. From bottom up, there’s a caviar crème fraîche, a caviar vinaigrette, a haricot vert purée, a layer of Russian golden osetra caviar and a warm sabayon spooned over tableside. So as not to overpower the caviar, we passed on the bread pairing, which would have been a plain ciabatta.

How do you follow up a caviar parfait? With foie gras–paired with caramelized onion ciabatta–of course. Steamed in a large plastic bag, which before being plated was brought to the table all puffed up, the foie sat in a sherry vinegar-duck consommé with radish and radish leaves. The bitter radish combined with the lobe of foie was a phenomenal twosome, though it didn’t quite measure up to Twist’s preparation one night earlier.

Leaving one’s fingers butter soaked, the black truffle brioche with black truffle butter was the perfect bread for the intense artichoke and black truffle soup with shavings of parmesan. When I say intense, I mean the aromas could be detected ten or more feet away.

With my mother and I both still rhapsodizing about the soup, Alain brought out the thyme and lemon rotisseried poussin with shaved summer truffles, warm asparagus salad, roasted onion and poussin jus paired with a multigrain and bacon-milk bread. The munificent main course included a juice-extruding breast, tender drumstick and fatty thigh meat, all of which I enhanced with coarse sea salt. 

For our second supplement, we went with the cinnamon bread crumb-crusted sweetbread on sautéed spinach with roasted carrots and a carrot-ginger sauce paired with a basil loaf. As tasty as the veal was, the trio of poultry was just too good to be followed up with another savory course.

Not pictured–my bad!–was the vegetable course: a braised cylinder of turnip with a chicken consommé gelée and a chicken stock-carrot foam.

For the cheese course–served with a litany of jams, of which I chose apricot and fig–I selected comté, fourme d’ambert and a chalky goat’s milk cheese with a spreadable consistency.

On to the sweets. To start a bitter grapefruit terrine glazed with Earl Grey and sitting on a maple tuile. 

The next two desserts were chilled and incredibly refreshing: (1) an orange custard with an orange granita, passion fruit sorbet and mint leaves and (2) a rhubarb jello with poached rhubarb, strawberry sorbet and basil granita.

The final course–a dark chocolate fondant on top of crunchy praline with chicory cream, toasted macadamia nut and a chocolate-praline crisp–was sheer decadence. Creamy, crunchy, sweet and bitter, this dessert seemingly had it all.

Full at this point, but aware of the restaurant’s dessert trolley, I overindulgently asked for one of each offering save for the praline ice cream. That included, inter alia, a praline mousse, vanilla ice cream, cherry sorbet, raspberry cheesecake, a lemon tartlet, a passion fruit marshmallow, a toasted coconut marshmallow, crème caramel, pistachio sablé, rose-praline rice pudding, vanilla bean rice pudding and chocolate mousse. Not surprisingly, we couldn’t finish them all. I did, however, consciously decide to end on a fruity note, popping the blackberry jelly into my mouth, realizing it would be the last thing that I ate in Vegas.

Restaurant Guy Savoy is Greece-bailout expensive, the most I’ve ever paid per person for a single meal. At the time, in my state of euphoria, it seemed irrelevant, for it had far exceeded my lofty expectations. From the three-star Michelin service to the exceptional food, it really is last-meal good!

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