(I wrote this piece just over a year ago. It got buried in Facebook so I’ve decided to post it here. Some of you may find this interesting given the Anthony Bourdain reference)
Fans of Anthony Bourdain have no doubt read his books and watched his TV programs and one chef he has often spoken highly of is Thomas Keller, the owner of The French Laundry. Renowned for his vision, creativity, presentation and pursuit of perfection, Keller is perhaps the pre-eminent chef in America today. So when news came that he opened a French Bistro restaurant at the Venetian hotel in Las Vegas, Bourdain was deeply intrigued and decided to pay a visit.
In the Las Vegas episode of his program “No Reservations”, Bourdain documented his visit to Bouchon Las Vegas (http://bouchonbistro.com/) , which was opened in 2004. The highlight of that segment was when Bourdain was asked to taste & provide an honest assessment of the frites (French for French fries) offered at Bouchon. After a few strings, he jokingly expressed his deep anger and jealously towards Keller because for many years, Bourdain felt the frites served at his own restaurant, Brasseire Les Halles was the best…….until that day at Bouchon. And it’s with that story in mind that I paid my first visit to this little bistro while on my honeymoon (2006).
The décor is unmistakably French and we felt like we were somewhere in the heart of Paris. Our meal started with some toasted pasticcios and fresh baked French rolls along with the soup du jour of puree wild mushroom with a touch of truffle oil & crème fraise.
For our main course, Pie Pie Lo chose the braised lamb shank with a side of garlic mashed potatoes and a medley of veggies. The meat was tender and very flavorful. The portion was quite generous as well. I decided to try the gnocchi with braised apple and onions and every little piece was firm, not mushy at all. I was also pleasantly surprised the pieces of gnocchi stayed warm even though I took my time devouring them.
Then came the item we’ve been waiting for: the frites. At first glance I thought they were bought from the Mickey Dee’s down the Vegas strip but when you bite into them you realized they are definitely NOT your standard, fast food variety. Despite the similarities in shape and size, the Bouchon frites were made, I was told, from Yukon Gold potatoes and you can actually “taste” the potato. Seasoned with just the right amount of sea salt, these frites are excellent just on their own. No wonder our waitress was somewhat taken aback when we asked for ketchup on the side. At the end of the night, the condiment was barely touched. The frites were THAT good.
Our meal ended with a complimentary dish of dessert items that included, amongst other things, a mini chocolate lava cake and a scoop of homemade French vanilla ice cream. Simply decadent!
They say whatever happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas. But dining at Bouchon is definitely an experience worth sharing.
(Update for 2008)
Didn’t think Pie Pie Lo and I would be back in Vegas so soon (1.5 years since) but we were nonetheless delighted to share another meal at Bouchon. As usual we ordered the frites, amongst other things, and it certainly didn’t disappoint. The highlight of this meal has to be the Poulet Roti (Roast chicken) I ordered. People say the breast of a chicken is the easiest part to overcook but when I cut into mine it was tendered, juicy and cooked just right. Very impressed. Overall it was another satisfying meal but the only “regret” was we didn’t have room to sample the selection of fresh seafood, which Bouchon is also famous for. I suppose this give us another reason for coming back, besides the frites……
Item du jour
No Reservations – Las Vegas Episode
Part 1 – Watch (6:54 – 9:41)
Part 2 – Watch (0:00 – 1:29)
A cook’s tour – The French Laundry Experience