Caesars Palace (last visit: September 2012).
In the battle of Michelin three star chefs, MGM Grand drew first blood with Joël Robuchon. Caesars Palace responded with Guy Savoy. Both chefs are French food gods. Both restaurants are super expensive, featuring multi- (and I mean multi-) course tasting menus.
The menu emphasizes what I think of as traditional French food: luxury ingredients such as foie gras, truffles and caviar; rich sauces (although not so many as I would have expected); strong flavors. There's a choice between a la carte dining, two different levels of tasting menus, and a pre-theatre prix fixe menu.
There is also a huge, printed wine list that I found very intimidating. Fortunately, the wine steward was not nearly as intimidating. He spent a lot of time describing some of what was available, and kept an eye on things throughout the meal. Even though I only had a couple of glasses of wine, I felt very well taken care of. It's worth noting that Champagne by the glass is one of their specialties. Not long after I got settled at the table, a large cart of iced Champagnes was rolled to me, with descriptions provided for each one.
The overall feeling is modern and spare. Colors lean towards gray and brown. Furniture is very plain and functional. A few simple plants provide greenery. Lighting is moderate. This is the kind of style I tend to like, but somehow I didn't find it attractive in this case.
On a more positive note, service was friendly and efficient. The restaurant is managed by Guy Savoy's son Frank. He seemed to be everywhere, introducing himself to guests and always making sure that things were running smoothly. There was always someone nearby to take care of my every need. In comparison to Joël Robuchon at The Mansion, service at Guy Savoy was a little more personal, but not quite as smooth - a different style.
My First Meal (2006)
Before the meal, there were a number of items. First, an amuse bouche: a tiny, fingernail sized sandwich of thin slices of toast and foie gras. It was meltingly rich. Excellent! About this time, some country bread arrived, with two crocks of butter: sweet and salted.
Sometime around this point, I ordered dinner - the 10 course Menu Prestige. The bread steward (if that's what you call him) told me that, unless I wanted to choose differently, there were bread pairings for each course. While I was digesting all of this information, some additional amuses bouche (if that's how you make it plural) arrived: a potato cake, a piece of quail breast, and a third item I forgot to write down. All were very good.
A little while later, yet another amuse bouche arrived: a tiny cup of carrot and pumpkin soup, with fennel, bacon, and popped wild rice. It was very good, and came with a surprise. The cup was actually two cups, fused together. One cup held the soup, the other cup was upside down. When I was finished with the soup, I lifted the two cup combo off the plate, and under the upside down cup was a little pumpkin risotto. It was even better than the soup.
I'd been eating for at least a half hour, but now the meal officially began. The courses were:
That was the end of the meal. Almost. Still to come were mignardises - a few extra sweets to end the meal. In this case, they came on a small cart, and one chose anything desired. There was also some incredible lemon sage sorbet. It tasted like solid lemon juice - overwhelmingly sour. I love this kind of stuff.
- Oyster in Ice Gelée. A combination of three elements: geleé with good briny flavor; a tasty small oyster; oyster cream, inviting to look at but without much flavor. Paired with seaweed bread. Very good.
- Tomato Tartar, Young Vegetables and "Seaweed-Lemon" Granité. This was a complex dish. In addition to chopped tomato, there were bits of micro green beans (incredibly tiny), egg white and yolk, yellow tomato puree, geleé, and perhaps other ingredients. Paper thin fried slices of tomato and squash sat upright in the other ingredients. On top of all of this was seaweed flavored lemon granité. The flavors were very strong. Seven grain bread accompanied this dish. It was surprisingly good.
- Colors of Caviar. Layered in a cylindrical glass were: vinaigrette of caviar; cream of caviar; string bean puree; Iranian golden Osetra caviar; warm Saboyan. Seaweed bread. The different layers each contributed strong flavors, although they masked the caviar just a bit. Still, very good.
- Slow Cooked Wild King Salmon, Licorice and Star Anis Jus, Brochette of Vegetable "en Côtes". A nice piece of fish, with fennel, anise, and vegetables. Served with ciabatta bread. A very simple dish. I should have taken more notes on this dish, as it was my favorite of the first four courses - very simple, but very tasty.
- Sautéed Baby Chanterelles, Prosciutto, Crisp Potato Galette and Snow Peas. Paired with excellent bacon bread. This was another complex dish, with a number of items in addition to those mentioned. Strongly flavored broth rounded out the dish. Excellent; my favorite course.
- Artichoke and Black Truffe Soup, Toasted Mushroom Brioche with Black Truffle Butter. The soup was creamy, with a pronounced artichoke flavor. Four slices of truffle floated on top, along with equally sized slivers of what might have been parmesan cheese. The mushroom brioche was a good complement. Almost as good as the previous course.
- Degustation of Veal. There were four different veal preparations, accompanied by a slice of dense country loaf bread. Veal tenderloin with onion confit was very good. Veal shank consisted of meat that was cooked until it fell apart; I like this style, but it could have had a little more flavor. Sweetbreads were fried but not crisp. Since I prefer crispy presentations, I was pleasantly surprised by just how much I enjoyed it. Lastly, there was some type of veal that was hard and chewy, surrounded by crispy fat. I have no idea what it was, but it was very good.
- Sélection de Fromages Affinés. I wasn't looking forward to the cheese course. I don't much care for fancy cheeses, and in any case wouldn't know what to order. I was pleasantly surprised. A large trolley of cheeses was wheeled out. The cheese steward started out by describing the general categories (strong vs mild, cow vs sheep, and so on). He asked me if I had any preferences, and then made some recommendations, along with detailed descriptions. The entire experience was very relaxed and a lot of fun. Accompanying the cheeses were walnut and apricot breads. I've probably mangled some of the cheese names, but here's are the ones I remembered to write down:
- Aged Muenster. I had mentioned that I like strong cheeses, and the steward recommend this one. I was surprised, as I think of Muenster as a very mild, firm cheese. However, this cheese had been aged to the point where it was soft and strongly flavored. Makes me wonder if this is the same cheese I'm thinking of. Very good!
- Goat Blue Cheese. The cheese steward encouraged me to try this variety, made from goat's milk, saying it was very unusual and very special. Very heavily marbled with blue. I hadn't planned on trying this one, but I'm glad I did. It was my favorite.
- Salers. A firm cheese, not so strong. Pretty good.
- Mountain cheese. Possibly named something like St. Pierre, but I'm not sure. Hard, almost gritty, and salty. Not one of my favorites, but not bad.
- Livarot. The taste and the aroma of this cheese were too strong for me.
- palate cleanser. This wasn't on the menu. It consisted of a little fruit soup - very strongly acidic and sweet - with bits of fruit. Accompanying it was a little bit of frozen foam.
- The Peach. A peach half, with baked or fried shredded phyllo dough, and lavender ice cream. The peach was flavorful, soft and chewy - an odd but pleasing combination. The entire dessert sounds a bit strange, but was very good - one of my favorite non-chocolate desserts in recent memory.
- Chocolate Fondant, Crunchy Praline, Chicory Cream. Layers of gianduja-like paste and chocolate ganache. Both layers were very, very thick/dense. On the side was a little chicory cream. Cut a little piece of the dessert, and dip it in the chicory cream. I'm having trouble giving a good description, but it was excellent!
Click here for a large image of the 2006 tasting menu
I've returned twice since my first meal (not counting Vegas Uncork'd, as described below). The second time, I had a menu fairly similar to the one above. I won't go into details, other than to say I enjoyed my second meal even a little more than my first.
For my third trip in September 2012, a new tasting menu was offered: the Innovation-Inspiration menu, offering even more courses, and a number of new items. It lived up to the hype - my favorite Guy Savoy meal to date; click here for a large image of the 2012 Innovation-Inspiration tasting menu. If you want all the gory details, click here for my course-by-course impressions.
These meals have been some of the best dining experiences I've had. The food is excellent, the service is excellent, and just as importantly it's a lot of fun.
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 Innovation-Inspiration menu is $350; the Signature menu is $260; a small, quicker (90 minute) tasting menu is $120. A three course la carte meal will run between $150 and $250. To these prices, add drinks, tax and tip.
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 dinners cooked by famous chefs, most of them with a presence in Las Vegas. I attended one meal at Guy Savoy, where Guy Savoy himself presided in the kitchen. See my Vegas Uncork'd 2008 link for all the details.
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