Wynn Las Vegas (last visit: October 2006 [plus Vegas Uncork'd in May 2008]).
Alex is Wynn Las Vegas' signature restaurant. When Steve Wynn built The Bellagio, he talked to two chefs about running his signature restaurant - Julian Serrano and Alex Stratta. The story is, Serrano responded first, and became the chef at Picasso. As a sort of consolation prize, Wynn set Stratta up at Renoir, at the Mirage. When Wynn Las Vegas was built, Stratta rejoined Wynn's team at the restaurant bearing his name.
The menu used to offer three prix fixe options: a three course meal with choices for each course; a six course tasting menu, with optional wine pairing; a special six course Sommelier's Selections tasting menu, including special wines. The menu seems to change somewhat from season to season, so it's possible to get the tasting menu more than once and still have some variety. The Sommelier's Selections tasting menu no longer appears on the menu; I don't know if it's available on request. If you want the three course meal but see something on the tasting menu that interests you, just ask. They usually can accommodate you.
The decor is somewhat ornate: crystal chandeliers; dark woods; plush furniture in the entry area. Colors tend toward red, orange, brown and cream. Green Cymbidium blooms are abundant - single blooms on dining tables, tall glass vases with columns of blooms scattered here and there. Sometimes the tall vases have Phalaenopsis orchids instead of Cymbidiums. Soft music, mostly vocals, plays in the background. Very large glass doors admit a lot of light early in the evening.
Service was excellent throughout both of my meals. It was attentive and friendly without being overbearing. I was always referred to by name. Perhaps they get a lot of requests for souvenir menus, as they offered me such a souvenir early in the evening - a nice touch.
Meal #1 - The Tasting Menu
OK already, let's get to the food. There was a lot of it. To get things going, they provided an amuse bouche - or is that amuses bouche? In any case, there were four of them: mushroom soup, tempura scallop, raw tuna on a shrimp chip, and mushroom in puff pastry. The mushroom soup and scallop were especially good. Then another round arrived. I didn't manage to write down the offerings, but they also were good. Lastly, there was a generous selection of breads. The pancetta bread was best, but cranberry was also very good.
For the meal itself, I chose the tasting menu. The courses were:
- Yet another amuse bouche: chilled red prawn with sea urchin. Good, but not as interesting as it sounded.
- Sea scallops with cauliflower puree and truffles. The scallop was crisp on the outside, barely cooked on the inside. The cauliflower puree served as a sauce, and was strongly flavored. Very good to excellent.
- Foie gras with plum mustard. The foie gras was served as a steak, somewhat crisp on the outside, very soft on the inside; it perhaps should have been a little crisper. The plum mustard sauce was an excellent foil. Overall, very good.
- Roasted wild turbot. Perfectly cooked, it was crisp on the outside, meltingly soft on the inside. A sweet sauce on the plate was just right. Excellent.
- Wagyu beef with red wine. Alex, thank you for not caving in to the hype and calling this Kobe beef. In any case, the beef was tender, with good flavor. The accompanying sauce was strongly flavored. Very good.
- Coconut tapioca with tropical fruit. Served in a shot glass, I assumed this was a palate cleanser. Perhaps, but it was a delicious course by itself: creamy coconut; pearls of tapioca; sweet and very tart passion fruit pulp. An inspired combination; excellent.
- Warm citrus pound cake wafers with mascarpone, vanilla ice cream and huckleberry juice. You just had to be there. This sounded off the wall, but was another inspired combination. Very good to excellent.
- That was the end of the official meal, but of course there was more. First, a few mini madelaines, fresh out of the oven. Then, mignardises: a few sweets. Very good!
Meal #2 - The Regular Prix Fixe Menu
It was tempting to get the tasting menu yet again, but I wanted to try some of the regular menu selections. Even before a menu was offered, I was presented with a series of amuses bouche, served in two rounds: scallop soup (rich and creamy); lobster tempura (light, crisp and tasty, a favorite); a bit of caviar; corn ravioli; a shot glass of cherry soda (with real cherry flavor); mushroom vol-au-vent (intense mushroom flavor, another favorite); gruyere in a pastry crust; cantaloupe jelly with crème fraîche. Much more than the typical amuse bouche, these treats were an appetizer in themselves, and were very good.
Last time I tried the pancetta and cranberry breads. This time I tried the walnut bread and the mini baguette. The walnut bread was crusty and dense, with a generous amount of walnuts. The mini baguette was also crusty and was also good.
Once I ordered, another amuse bouche arrived. I got the impression this one might be menu specific. Sweet corn custard with Osetra caviar was an interesting combination. The custard was silky smooth, with a strong corn flavor; it was a good foil to the generous small spoonful of salty caviar. Very good.
My appetizer was Roasted Veal Sweetbreads 'Piccata' with Spinach, Raisins and Pine Nuts. It consisted of a good sized hunk of sweetbreads, with a tangy sauce containing the mentioned ingredients, plus capers and crispy shallot rings. The consistency of the sweetbreads was creamy but very firm. The combination of ingredients, along with the sauce, was just right. Very good to excellent.
As a main course, I chose Atlantic Halibut with Borlotti Beans, Tomato Confit and Razor Clams. This dish was a study in contrasting colors: white fish; deep red tomato, in a pool of very deep green parsley puree. The fish was seared, and barely cooked through - just right. On top was a piece of crisped skin. It was a simple dish, but very good.
The palate cleanser was again coconut tapioca with tropical fruit. I wish they would offer this as a dessert - it's excellent.
The list of desserts didn't look very appealing to me. I finally settled on White Bitter Chocolate Cream Napoleon with Milk Chocolate Ice Cream. Well, based on this dessert and on my last meal's dessert as well, I just must not be able to interpret the menu very well. In other words, the dessert was excellent. It consisted of dark, milk, and white chocolate cream layered between super thin crispy wafers. A small scoop of strongly flavored milk chocolate (yes, such a thing is possible) ice cream was on top. To the side were a few tiny cubes of excellent chocolate fudge.
Lastly appeared a half dozen mini madelaines, hot out of the oven. OK, almost lastly. Next came 4 chocolates in a small dish, plus an even dozen petits fours of all varieties. I didn't manage to finish all of them, but I did my best!
Both meals were excellent - not quite as good as my dinner at Joël Robuchon at the Mansion, but it was only half the price. If you have the time and the appetite, the tasting menu is the way to go. If not, the three course prix fixe menu is nearly as good.
Of course, there are the inevitable comparisons to other top Las Vegas restaurants. Rather than repeat this under each restaurant, click here for my top three Las Vegas restaurants.
The three course prix fixe menu is $120. The tasting menu is $165, or $295 with a flight of six wines. Other drinks, tax and tip are not included.
A Special Visit: Vegas Uncork'd
In May 2008 I attended a very special food extravaganza called Vegas Uncork'd. It featured a number of lunches and dinners cooked by famous chefs, most of them with a presence in Las Vegas. I attended one lunch at Alex, with Alex Stratta presiding in the kitchen. See my Vegas Uncork'd link for all the details.
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