Friday, March 27, 2009

Boulud Escargots a la Marc Aubry...

Lunch yesterday was in Gourmand. I had talked to N about how I very much enjoyed the Escargot I had in Daniel Boulud Brasserie in Las Vegas during my last trip, So he asked Chef Marc if he can replicate it. Marc willingly agreed to give it as shot. We gave him the link to my blog and based on what he saw, he would create the same dish for us.

We also had a nice surprise during the lunch: A Special bottle from N that he wanted us to taste blind to see what we thought of it. As we arrived, we proceeded to chill our 07 Domain Rimbault Pouilly Fume, which we were going to have with our Escargot. N's wine was open already, wrapped with a newspaper since he wanted us to taste it blind.

As we we poured the wine, my initial assessment was that it was an old vintage, since it had that brownish earthy color, not as dark as other younger reds that we had. Basically that's all I could decipher from that wine. It had a particular smell, which I thought was the glass, but eventually as indicated by N, it was 'bottle stink', a stale, somewhat stinky odor that sometimes exists when a cork is first withdrawn from the bottle. Bottle stink usually dissipates fairly quickly. We let the wine in our glass for another 20 minutes and after the 2nd sip, it seemed to have opened up more. S said he thought it was a very old vintage and was only 2 years off from his initial guess and R said he thought it was from Margaux. While they were thinking all that, I was just enjoying the wine...

Finally we removed the newspaper to reveal the wine. It was a 1978 Chateau Siran. The wine was re corked in 2005, which is a normal practice for wines of that age. We continued to enjoy the wine but after a few more minutes, the wine seemed to have lost a bit and fell apart. This is probably the oldest wine I have tried, so thank you N for sharing this with us. At the end, we all had our guesses but R was right by saying it was from Margaux and S was pretty close on the year - I think he said it was pretty close...

So on to the food: We were initially served with the Boulud Escargots a la Marc. The dish was plated beautifully, almost an exact replica of the one I had. The taste was superb and everyone enjoyed it. The bread was smothered with garlic butter and the poached egg was perfectly done,with all the goldy egg yolk oozing out. The chicken oysters (Oysters are two small, round pieces of dark meat on the back of a bird near the thigh, regarded by some to be the most flavorful and tender part of the bird) were ok but I remember mine being crispy, which gave the dish a bit more of texture, but never the less this dish by Marc was excellent (so much so that S ordered another one as his main course). It is not on the regular menu but we told him that it should be part of his menu already since we would be ordering this more often.

For main, I had the Seared Lamb Tenderloin with Tomato and Garlic Butter and Saute Potatoes. The Lamb was perfectly cooked (medium is the way I like my lamb) and was a perfect match with the Tomato and the Saute Potatoes). With this, we had 2 wines form Rhone, which we had purchased some time ago for a Rhone night dinner. E. Guigal Gigondas and an E. Guigal Cote Rotie. Both are AOC's in the Southern and Northern Wine Region of Rhone. Both wines are mostly made of Syrah. I can't remember the vintages of the 2 wines but all I can say is I enjoyed the Gigondas with my lamb and it also was a good match to the Cassoulet that N and R ordered.

For dessert, we had Poached Pear in Red wine with Nougatine Ice Cream - delicious. The Pear was still quite 'crunchy' and sweet and the Nougatine Ice Cream was a perfect. It also had some lemon rind which I think was poached with the red wine. I am not sure if this is on the regular menu, but if it isn't, then it should be placed as it was really delicious.

We finished at around 4 PM with some double espressos. Great lunch as usual and would like to thank Noel and Marc for coordinating everything...I hope we can repeat this soon...

Monday, March 23, 2009

Carnevino - by Mario Batali..

This is my last post about my dining experience in Las Vegas...but actually the first restaurant I went to when I got there. This place was recommended to me by a friend. It had better reviews than the other Batali Restaurant in Vegas, B&B.

Carnevino (as the name says) is Batali's version of Steak house. I was toying between this restaurant and Pucks CUT, which is also a Steak place, but unfortunately they were closed for lunch. Carnevino's lunch menu is much more limited than the dinner menu and the only steak available was the Bone-in New York Strip and the Filet Mignon, which were both huge cuts. I was not really in the mood for a steak since I was eating alone so I decided on Tartare for my appetizer, since it was really my first taste of it during the trip.

The Tartare (Called Carne Cruda in the menu) was served with raw mushrooms. It was very tasty and creamy. When I asked the waiter how it was done he explained to me that it was bound with olive oil instead of egg for a fruitier finish. Needless to say I enjoyed every single bite of it with toasted bread..

For Main, I decided on a sandwich: Pastrami Ciabatta with Fontina, Tomato and Onion. Huge dish...the pastrami was delicious and served on Ciabatta with fresh tomatoes, lettuce, Fontina Cheese and spicy mustard. I loved this and the Fontina cheese made this dish even better. It reminded me of young Queso Manchego. The Pastrami was just incredible tasting. Of course I also devoured it and just left the top part of the Ciabatta, since it was just too much to finish...

A very simple type of lunch which I enjoyed very much. I was practically alone in the restaurant so the service was great and very fast. I'm hoping to try the steaks there some day when I go back to Vegas....

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Wolfgang Puck's Spago

Decided to have a quick and light lunch at Spago @ The Forum Shops at Caesars Palace. That Day I had Breakfast and Bouchon and had a dinner reservation at Daniel Boulud I wanted to have sort of a light lunch.....

My choice was between Spago and B&B (one of Batali's restaurants in The Venetian). I decided on Spago since it was closer, which at the end I kinda regretted. As I got there, there were a few free tables so I was seated immediately. Service was correct and almost immediately served the bread. A walnut raising bread, a sort of pizza bread with cream cheese spread and peppers. It was quite good actually. I ordered a glass of Sancerre which I enjoyed with the bread while watching people walk by.

For main, I decided on one dish only: U.S.D.A. PRIME, NEBRASKA CORN FED SKIRT STEAK "HUNAN STYLE" Sautéed Broccolini and Crisp Onion Rings. I asked it to me medium rare but it arrived well done....I also asked the sauce on the side since I was confused to what they meant by Hunan Style. The waiter could not explain it to me. When the sauce arrived, it was 'Teriyaki sauce'. Bottom line, I was disappointed. It was not very bad but I think I could have done a better job in ordering.

It was still a great experience and lunch was enjoyable because the location of the restaurant, inside the Forum shops, with all the great stores and 'fake sky' included. Its one of the better, more high end shopping malls on the Strip.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Mesa Grill by Bobby Flay @ Caesars Palace

At first I was not really sure about wanting to eat in this Restaurant...I never liked Bobby Flay (I find him very arrogant) and thought he was over rated. Well, my perspective has changed. His food just awesome - not over the top - just plain Southwestern cooking at it's finest.

It starts out with a bread basket...served with 3 kinds of bread: Jalapeno Bread, Raisin Walnut Bread, and Blue/Yellow cornbread muffins. I enjoyed the Jalapeno Bread and the tasty, sweet and savory at the same time...

First, I had the Steak Tartare. I know what people are going to say - "Tartare again?? etc...." but I just could not resist. It as not a regular Tartare, in fact probably the best I had during the whole Vegas was Tartare with Horseradish Mayonnaise and Chili Oil. The mayo give sit the creaminess and once mixed with the Chili oil, the flavors just explode in your mouth. You can't have too much of the chili Oil since it would probably numb your taste buds (it was quite spicy) but the contrast was great.

For main course, I had the Pan Roasted Florida Black Grouper - Red Chile Tomato Sauce, Crushed Avocado and Barbequed Red Onion. Another great I noticed from the menu, He uses a lot of avocado in his dishes and this was no exception. The tangyness of the Red Chile tomato complemented very well the thick, oiliness of the avocado. The fish was perfectly done, very moist on the inside and a little burnt on the outside..

I definitely enjoyed this meal and was quite a pleasant surprise for me. Now I know why Anthony Bourdain had a feature on this restaurant in his Vegas episode of No Reservations. For me definitely I place I would recommend.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Breakfast at Bouchon @ The Venetian

My 5th day in Vegas was a hectic one - I decided to have Breakfast at Bouchon, Lunch at Spago and Dinner at Daniel Boulud. Bouchon is Thomas Keller's French Bistro in Vegas and is modeled after the original bistro located in Yountville, California. He is also best known for the acclaimed 3 star Michelin French Laundry.

I was quite excited since it was going to be my first decent breakfast. I did not even bother going to any of the Buffet places of the Hotels since I found they were too crowded, etc...So I woke up early and decided to walk from my Hotel to the Venetian, where Bouchon was located.

It was quite a long walk (almost 4 km I would say) but that was good since I had a hectic day of eating and drinking....I got there around 8:30 am and i was half full. They sat me in a small table facing the garden. Service was fast and very efficient. They immediately served brewed coffee and gave me the menu.

Browsing the menu was a feast to my eyes...all kinds of breakfast orders, like Corned Beef Hash, Bacon and Eggs, Eggs Benedict, etc....I was very confused and did not know what to order...Finally i decided to order a Croque Madame - a hot ham and cheese (typically emmental or gruyère) grilled sandwich. Its served with a fried or Poached Egg on top. In this case, it was a fried egg and a huge mountain of French Fries. I could not have chosen a better way to start my day...freshly baked bread, grilled to perfection with ham and melted cheese. The French Fries...probably one of the best I've tried...delicious.

Definitely one of my favorites of the trip, I just wish I also went there for Dinner - but there was no more time. I do plan to come back and have brunch there (only on weekends) and Dinner.

Daniel Boulud Brasserie @ Wynn Las Vegas

I've been quite busy have not had time to update my blog. I still have 3-4 more places to write about from my last trip to Vegas so here goes....

Daniel Boulud is best known for his Restaurant, Daniel, in New York City. He opened The Brasserie at Wynn Las Vegas in 2005 and has been a place to eat and be seen in Vegas ever since. The place is a modern version of a typical French Brasserie, and if I am not mistaken, is a 1 Star Michelin Restaurant.

I had made a reservation for 6:30 since I was alone and wanted to eat early and head back to my Hotel. As I arrived, more than half the restaurant was already taken, and 30 minutes after it was full. For starters, I had a glass of their house white wine, a Sancerre. With that, I was served a little appetizer of creamed Blue cheese wrapped with a thin type of mushroom topped with arugula.

For my first course, I opted for the ESCARGOTS - Burgundy snails, chicken oyster, hazelnut spatzle. I love escargot and this one was exceptionally good. Simple Escargot Bourguignonne with bits of crispy Duck (that's what I thought) and was really enjoying until I discovered the poached egg beneath the salad...wonderful. I very much enjoyed this with my Sancerre and wiped out the whole plate.

For main, I was seriously thinking of ordering again the Steak Tartare but decided not to since I had too much of it already so instead, I had my second favorite, Crispy Duck Confit - with foie gras crouton, braised red cabbage, quince. Another exceptional dish which I enjoyed with a glass of Cotes du Rhone (it was wine by the glass and I can't remember what label it was), but definitely I think it was a perfect match for my Duck. Very crispy Duck perfectly done, and the Foie Gras Crouton - more like a Foie croqueta was incredible. The braised Red Cabbage gave the dish the contrast it needed and was eventually also all wiped out.

I did not have any more space for desert so I just had a double espresso and enjoyed the Light and Fountain show of the Hotel. By the time I was done and paying, the restaurant was complete full house and people waiting outside to try to get a table. Even if I was alone, I had a great time enjoying the food and wine. Definitely this was one of the better places I ate in Vegas....

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon @ MGM Grand Las Vegas

This restaurant was up there on my list of places to go in Vegas...I had been to Robuchon a Galera in Macau last year and set my mind on trying all the Robuchon restaurants all over the world. L'Atelier is the more casual Restaurant of Robuchon, the fine dining one being JOEL ROBUCHON. L'Atelier is a one Star Michelin, a very casual place where people sit at the bar and watch how the food is prepared in an open kitchen .

Our reservation was for 8 pm and when we got there, the place was already practically full. As we sat down, we were served the typical bread and butter, plus a glass of champagne for me for starters. They had a winter tasting menu and a full Degustation menu, but since I had something similar to the winter tasting in Macao, I decided to just order directly from the menu. My Colleague decided on the Winter Tasting Menu.

First up for me was the Ris de Veau - Veal Sweetbreads with a type of jus and a light foam. Sweetbreads are the thymus glands and pancreas glands of lamb, beef, or pork. Typically sweetbreads are soaked in salt water, then poached in milk after which an outer membrane is removed. Once dry and chilled, they're often breaded and fried until crisp. Mine was not really crisp but more tender and moist. A very simple dish, simple presentation but very enjoyable. I enjoyed this with a glass of a Pouilly Fume from the 'wine by the glass' list.

My main course - of course Le Tartare. I had Steak Tartare in the Robuchon in Macao and wanted to compare them. I must say the one in Macao was much much better than this one. Nothing really special about the one they served me. But never the less of course I enjoyed it. I don't normally like fries with my Tartare so I asked them to serve me toasted bread with it. It went very well with the Glass of Bordeaux wine I was having.

Other dishes we had: Crispy Langostine Fritter and Cod Fillet in Pepper and Tomato Broth. I did not get to try these dishes but the cod looked very fresh and appetizing....

Over all - an enjoyable Dinner. You can't really go wrong in any Robuchon Restaurant - so far the 2 I have tried were great, although I'm looking forward to dining in the fine dining "Joel Robuchon" - either in Paris or Vegas....soon...

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Burgers, Burgers and more Burgers.....

I was in Las Vegas last week for PMA 09 (Photo Marketing Association) trade show/convention. I had been planning for weeks what Restaurants I would go to, since Las Vegas has so many restaurants, from the cheapest, largest buffet to the best fine dining (guy savoy). My first 2 days were at a friends house 10 minutes away from the famous Las Vegas Blvd, where all the Hotels and Casinos are located.

I was craving for typical fast food American Burgers, but stuff that I couldn't find back home. Our first stop was Jack in the Box. I had really enjoyed my last visit there some 3 yrs ago and particularly remembered the cheese stuffed Jalapenos. So I ordered the Bacon Ultimate Cheeseburger and an order of cheese stuffed Jalapenos. It was a half pound burger, with lots a cheese and bacon on it. Very juicy and tasty. The Jalapeno was just as how I remembered it, deep fried and crispy and the cheese spurting out after every bite.

My second Burger fix for the trip was IN N OUT. There are only 2 or 3 in the whole Vegas and we were lucky enough to have one close by. When we got there, I remembered the last time I was there, I had one double double and left there craving for more (the burgers are quite small compared to other places). So this time I decided to have 2...(the fries are purely for decoration and hardly ate them after having the 2 Burgers..)

What makes IN N OUT so special: 2 Beef Patties, Lettuce, Tomato, Spread, 2 slices of American cheese, with our without onions stacked high on a freshly baked Bun...this is what thy call 'animal style'(everything on it). The fries are also fresh cut and not frozen, so you can really taste the difference.

My last Burger was on my last day of the trip. We were killing time before taking the shuttle to the airport and decided to have lunch in Wolfgang Puck Bar & Grill at MGM. I had a Prime Burger with Vermont Cheddar and smoked onion marmalade. This one was not as fast-foodish as the others I had.

The Beef was medium cooked just how I like it. The cheese was complemented very well the smoked onion marmalade which gave it a good contrast. Fries were also fresh and not frozen, served with a cute little bottle of Ketchup.

That ends my Burger tasting in Las my next few posts I'll be featuring other Restaurants that I had the chance to dine L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon, Daniel Boulud Brasserie, Mario Batalis Carnevino, Spago of Wolfgang Puck and others......