For folks who don’t really gamble or drink, we sure do love Las Vegas. The hotels are opulent, the spas are luxurious, the shopping is fabulous, and the shows are fantastic. But us? We go to Vegas for the restaurants, of course!
I’ve had some of my favorite meals in Vegas – burgers at Burger Bar, American comfort food at Joe’s Seafood, French fare at Mon Ami Gabi, Texmex at Mesa Grill, Brazilian rodizio at Fogo de Chao, and all of the buffets are stellar. However, on our most recent trip to Vegas I found my new all-time favorite restaurant – Thomas Keller’s Bouchon in the Venetian hotel.
Thomas Keller opened the original Bouchon in 1998 in Napa, California. His lifelong passion has been French bistro fare and he started the restaurant to pay homage to places he’d been to in France. After much success from Bouchon and his other restaurant, The French Laundry, Keller opened the Las Vegas location in 2004. There are two more locations in New York City and Beverly Hills. He is scheduled to open a Bouchon in Tokyo in 2013. Go Keller!
We, and six of our friends who made the trip to Vegas to celebrate John’s 30th birthday, had the most incredible meal at Bouchon. The service was excellent, the friends around the table were irreplaceable, and the food was exquisite. It’s going to be hard to top this meal!
Immediately we were served fresh bread and butter, and pistachios. Humble and playful, the perfect start.
Next we moved on to appetizers. The table split a charcuterie board which was full of incredibly prepared meats and a plateau of the freshest seafood despite being in the middle of the desert. John and I also got the cheese plate which was perfectly paired together and garnished with apple, honey, and candied nuts.
My salad course was divine – a frisee salad with a poached egg and bacon on top, toasted brioche on the side. I need to find a way to somehow recreate this at home.
For the main course I got the pork chop served with greens, peaches, and a mustard crème. John got the perfectly cooked steak frites. These are simple dishes, it’s true. There’s no molecular gastronomy, no foams, no gelees, no liquid nitrogen. Bouchon’s food doesn’t need those types of frills. A perfectly cooked piece of meat stands on its own ceremony and allows the chefs to showcase how good they truly are. The simplistic excellence that is the essence of Bouchon is apparent in every single they dish on the menu.
Of course we all had to get dessert too! Our meal was spaced out over about 3 hours so there was much time in between courses for chatting and digesting. Because it was John’s birthday we got an extra special brownie sundae with house-made ice cream.
The point of Vegas, for us, is to go and feel like rock stars. We relax, pamper ourselves, and indulge in the finer things. Bouchon was the perfect place to have a special birthday meal. It was unique but humble, without pretension at all, and I am still amazed at how expertly they executed everything. It appeared effortless and that is a very hard thing to pull off. I am in awe of Thomas Keller, his vision, and his staff. They operate so flawlessly, it’s really an experience you must have at least once.
John and I are planning a California road trip for our second wedding anniversary next year, with a non-negotiable stop at The French Laundry. I think that meal might be the only thing that could top this meal. We’ll see!