The Tuscany Kitchen isn’t a restaurant per se. What it is is a conference room at the very ends of the earth within the Bellagio, that management has outfitted with an exhibition kitchen and enough tables and frippery to make a reasonable facsimile of one.
Depending on the event, your evening here will either be an extravaganza of food and wine featuring verticals of some super-premium stuff, or a cooking contest between two (or more) MGM-Mirage chefs. We’ve been to both, and both were supercalifragilisticexpealidocious events, fraught with food and wine finery.
What makes the events so cool are the running commentaries from chefs and wine folks alike as they explain and instruct on the finer points of what they’re cooking and serving. That commentary, along with in person explanations from the winemakers themselves is a good example of an only in Vegas event — something that few restaurants or hotels in the world have the muscle to pull off.
But pull it off they do — and before you could say Jean-Georges Vongerichten we were making the half-mile hike through the Bellagio Convention Center to see what Prime Executive Chef Sean Griffin was whipping up. Griffin has been at Prime‘s stoves for months now — ever since Rob Moore moved over the the Jean Georges Steakhouse in Aria — and the dishes presented gave a good example of simple-yet-sophisticated fare that let something else be the star at the table.
And that star was six vintages, most in magnum, of one of America’s best red wines — from an obscure, unknown, discrete little winery called Opus One. Griffin had the good sense to serve a luscious, slow-baked salmon (with a black truffle-studded vinaigrette) with the intense, dark and spicy ’00 (our personal favorite) and the ‘o1(a warmer, softer wine). For the older ’96 (tough and tannic, needs time), and the amazingly bold and beautiful ’80 (like ELV, a little over the hill, but still showing some testosterone) he braised short ribs with mushrooms, onions and bacon. Wines of this depth, power and complexity need a relatively flat, French flavor profile in the accompanying food to show them at their best, and Griffin’s meal fit the bill splendidly.
Speaking of French, Bellagio Executive Pastry Chef Jean-Marie Auboine knocked everyone out with his finale of a chocolate and Calvados savarin, and an apple “declination ” consisting of a warm beignet with a Granny Smith sorbet. His chocolate petit fours were also a hit, as was the completely edible chocolate stand that presented them to every table. In the picture, Opus One winemaker Michael Silacci (an Italian making a French/American wine? Hummmm?) is pretending to take a bite out of the five pound chocolate sculpture that came to every table. In reality, ELV did just that.
Because that big chunk o’ chocolate looked mighty tasty.
And it was.
As were the wines of Mr. Silacci — who brought his A-game (and A-list wines) to the Bellagio, explained the vintages, and made one helluva drinking buddy. Or at least he seemed to be until The Food Gal hustled us out of there once we started eating the furniture.
In the Bellagio Hotel and Casino
Call 866.406.7117 or 702.693.7076 for upcoming events