Mon Ami Gabi
Paris (last visit: September 2012).
It's a chain restaurant. And what's with the name of the corporation? Lettuce Entertain You?? But what a view! If you're lucky enough to snag one of the outdoor tables, you're almost on top of Las Vegas Boulevard, with a view of The Bellagio fountains. Some people find the crowds and the traffic noise distracting; I relish it.
Reservations are not taken for outdoor tables, so it's first come, first served. I arrived for lunch at 11:20 am, ten minutes before opening time. That earned me a table next to the railing, with a direct view of The Bellagio. There was some traffic noise, but nothing terrible. I had Steak Classique: a large (10" x 8"), thin piece of grilled steak, tender and with very good flavor. A large pat of herb butter was on top. Accompanying it was a huge pile of French fries, cut thin like egg noodles and very crisp. All in all, a good meal in an excellent setting.
In 2009, Mon Ami Gabi opened for breakfast. On a November Saturday morning at 7:30 am, it was almost empty outside. Perhaps this was because it was 48 degrees, and several of the heaters were broken. My café au lait was steaming in the cold air. Nonetheless, it was a beautiful morning, with joggers and other early risers sharing the sidewalk.
I opted for a Croque Madame - the French version of a grilled ham and cheese, with an egg on top. The bread was good, with a pleasing crunch, but was a bit greasy. It was made with decent ham and cheese, and a sunny side up egg. I was a little disappointed that there was no Mornay sauce (a usual accompaniment). I'd say this was a decent version, but nothing special. Alongside the croque was a large cone of French fries. Mon Ami Gabi's version are very thin -- almost like linguine -- and very, very crisp; not one of my favorites.
I've returned for al fresco breakfast a number of times. A chocolate bacon waffle sounded good, but was overly sweet, and the crisp outside was marred by a slightly underdone inside.
Much better were the cinnamon big skinny pancakes: two crepes laid flat, with a fair amount of melted butter and cinnamon sugar, put under a broiler until the crepes began to puff up and crisp, and the sugar barely began to caramelize. Should one desire to gild the lily, whipped cream was provided.
The food at Mon Ami Gabi is pretty much what I'd expect from a mid-level chain: pleasant, sometimes good, but not worth a special visit. What will bring me back are the outdoor tables. If you enjoy people watching, it's worth a try.
The bill for my one lunch (including a drink, tax, and tip): $35. For breakfast: $15 - 30.
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