Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Dinner at Picasso (VegasSummer 09, food)

During my stay at the Bellagio, I decided to go all out and have a real vacation, so I made sure to eat at Picasso and Robuchon (review coming later) at my first available opportunity. Picasso is at the Bellagio and is open Wed-Mon. It is most famous for showcasing actual works of Pablo Picasso in the restaurant. A food fight in here could cost hundreds of millions of dollars!

Atmosphere: I arrived for my 7:30pm reservation and it was still light out. The windows looked out onto a ground level view of the Bellagio fountains. The room itself was dimly lit except for where it showcased the artwork. The flowers and carpet were very colorful, but it was clear that the Picassos were meant to be the visual attraction. Every time the fountain show went off, it sounded like there was a mild typhoon outside.

Service: It was excellent but nothing beyond what I would expect at this price (outside NYC especially). The tables were well-spaced and the ratio of servers to tables was just right to provide attentive service without them being all over you.

Food: The stuff that really matters. During the summer, they only offer a 4 course prix fixe and a 5 course degustation menu. I asked my server for the best dishes here, emphasizing that I was more interested in skill than in ingredients. He pointed to 4 possibilities from the prix fixe and one item from the degustation. Since I already had my eye on the choices my server recommended, I went with the prix fixe and added the one dish from the degustation menu.

The amuse was a cold corn soup, with a little skewer of hard-boiled quail egg and osetra caviar as well as a little skewer of smoked salmon with creme fraiche and cucumber. This was very good. A nice fresh start to the meal and the sweetness of the corn soup matched very well with the saltiness of the caviar and salmon.

The first course was poached oysters garnished with osetra caviar in a beurre blanc vermouth sauce. Delicious, but I thought what really made the dish was the sauce. I asked for another piece of their very good French bread to soak up the rest of the caviar and sauce after I was done with the oysters.

The second course was roasted langoustine with roasted zucchini, crispy artichokes, tomato confit, and piquillo pepper vinaigrette. I love langoustine and this was perfectly cooked with good flavors and a terrific mix of textures. I thought that the tomato confit and pepper vinaigrette were a little strong for the delicate taste of langoustine. Nevertheless, it was an overall delicious dish.

The third course was the added course from the degustation menu. It was the sauteed "A" steak of foie gras with obtuse poached cherries on PX gelee and crushed almonds. At this point I ordered a glass of pinot noir which was actually from California by Soter. I only knew of his Oregon stuff but this was very good too. The seared foie gras was lovely and showcased again the chef's great use of sweet with salty. While many places use foie gras with fruit, I thought the addition of the almonds really gave it something else.

The fourth course was a roasted milk-fed veal chop with rosemary potatoes and au jus. A generous portion of bone-in veal was tasty, but did not wow like the other dishes. I would expect to be able to have something like this in many restaurants in NYC.

Strangely enough I wrote in my notes that there was no dessert. I'm pretty sure I had something since dessert is included in both the prix fixe and the degustation menus. Perhaps it was just not memorable, as is often the case with me and desserts.

Overall: My mind wandered more towards what would happen if someone threw their food at the artwork rather than admiring the Picassos on display. I found the sounds from the fountain show to be distracting, and do not particularly care for restaurants that are too dimly lit. That being said, it's a wonderful atmosphere for a date. The food was excellent and a terrific value for the price. The 4 course prix fixe is 113 while the 5 course degustation is 123. The sauteed foie gras added a la carte was 25. I would definitely recommend going there and plan to be back if I somehow found money to go to Vegas again.

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