For the last night of our trip to Las Vegas, we decided to have dinner at Thomas Keller's Bouchon in the Venetian (not to be confused with Bouchon in Santa Barbra, where I've also dined but is not related). Having tried unsuccessfully (several times) to book a table at the French Laundry, I thought that Bouchon Las Vegas might be my best shot at sampling Thomas Keller's fare as I have no idea when I'll be up in the Napa area again. I was able to get a Saturday evening reservation for 7:15 using OpenTable.com. If you haven't used OpenTable yet, I highly recommend it.
Bouchon LV is the sister restaurant to the original Bouchon in Yountville, and follows the trend of other celebrity chef outposts in Las Vegas (i.e. Thomas Keller does not live in Las Vegas). That didn't really bother me in this case as the majority of reviews I read beforehand were positive, and executive chef Jeffrey Cerciello has earned himself a reputation from his work at the Yountville location.
After I had booked the reservation, I called Bouchon and asked if there was a dress code since I know that Las Vegas can be a mix of very casual and very formal. I was told that the attire was "business casual". When I asked if this included "dressy jeans", the woman on the phone said "no, but you don't need a jacket or a tie". Since Bouchon is a bistro, I figured as much as far as the jacket and tie went.
We arrived for dinner promptly at 7:05 and the first thing we noticed were several groups of diners more casually dressed than "business casual". Normally, this wouldn't have been that big a deal. However, since we were planning to go out after dinner in a totally different setting, Pere had worn a dress appropriate for business casual and I wore a button-up shirt and slacks. This meant we would have to take a cab back to our hotel after dinner just to change only to take another cab out to our next destination. Inconvenient to say the least, especially after I had called to inquire about appropriate attire. We were told our table should be ready in about 10 minutes (at our reservation time), so we took a seat at the bar and ordered sapphire and tonics. The drinks were good, but unfortunately, we were seated close to where the servers picked up their orders from the bar and were subjected to several admonishments from the bartender to staff who weren't meeting his expectations for various reasons. Not the end of the world, but not something you would expect from a restaurant of this class.
At around 7:30, we were finally seated - right between a couple wearing jeans, and a family with two kids (teens) wearing sweatshirts and drawing all over their paper tablecloths with crayons. Ok, that's the last comment about jeans.
The menu at Bouchon came folded around the napkin. Pere liked the idea, and I expect we'll be seeing something similar at one of our future dinner parties. Pere is quite the accomplished napkin folder, and is always looking for new ideas.
The first item that immediately grabbed our attention (while at the bar) was the oysters. Bouchon boasts a fresh selection of oysters, and we had to indulge. We started our meal with a half dozen on the half shell. There were two each of three varieties. The oysters were accompanied by lemon and two dipping sauces, one a cocktail sauce and the other a vinegar based sauce. The vinegar sauce didn't do anything for me, so I went with a squeeze of lemon and a dollop of cocktail sauce on each oyster. They were great. Perfectly filtered so there was no grit, with a clean taste so often lacking in many of the oysters I've had.
From there, we split a Pate de Campagne, a country style pate wrapped in bacon and served with watercress, cornichons, radishes, mustard, and crusty bread. The pate was nice, but undistinguishable from other similar country pate's I've had.
For my entree, I had the Truite aux Amandes, a pan roasted trout served with the head on, the filets butterflied with haricots verts and almonds on top, finished with a brown butter. The fish was excellent. It was perfectly cooked with a very nice flavor. My only complaint is that the brown butter was a bit too salty, but otherwise I enjoyed it very much.
Pere had the Moules au Safran et a la Moutarde, Maine bouchot mussels steamed in white wine, mustard & saffron served with fries. The mussels came out in a cast iron Staub mussle pot. We own a Staub teapot, so seeing the serving vessle made me think I want to get one for myself. The fries were served in a paper funnel stuffed inside conical holder. Very nice presentation. The muscles themselves were amazing. They easily rank in the top five for mussels I've had in restaurants. In addition to the great flavor and the fact that there were no dead ones in the bunch, the sheer amount in the serving was admirable.
Now normally when having fish, especially something delicate like trout, I'd have a white wine. However, after having had white wine the night before, I was really in the mood for a red. So, to hell with wine snobs, I ordered a liter of one of the house wines, a 2001 Rock River California Cabernet. It was on the fruity side, with hints of raspberry and a bit of spiciness. For me, I didn't notice that it overpowered my trout at all.
After consuming our entrees, we thought we were too full for dessert. Originally we had planned on a cheese course followed by dessert, but that just wasn't going to happen. I managed to convince Pere, though, to split a Pot de Creme with me. The flavor of the evening was Gran Marnier. The light orange infusion with the smoothness of the creme was sublime.
All-in-all, our experience at Bouchon was positive. Although it started out a bit rough, the quality and consistency of the food more than made up for earlier inconveniences. I only wish we had been able to reserve a patio table as Bouchon has a small patio overlooking one of the Venetian's pool and garden terraces.