Is Twist the best restaurant in town? It certainly is the most interesting on any given night. Everything about the place seems designed to make your senses pop as you partake of Chef-Proprietaire Pierre Gagnaire and Chef de Cuisine Pascal Sanchez’s extraordinary cuisine. That cuisine both soothing and challenging, familiar and cerebral — no easy feat — and it leaves everyone from seasoned gastronomes to neophyte noshers scratching their heads in wonder and patting their tummies in satisfaction.
The meal above, from the sparkling amuse bouche at the beginning to the light-as-air meringue sticks that ended it, was textbook Gagnaire — mixing oysters with cheese and pea puree in one dish, radishes with raspberries in another, then perfectly cooking a slab of pristine halibut and delicately-spiced lamb chops. We didn’t take the time to dissect every dish — having done that on more than one occasion — but, for once, just sat back and enjoyed the ride. We did, however, remember to take a few tasty snaps for you delectation.
Something it was impossible not to pay close attention to was a dinner a few nights later, featuring the international unveiling of Glenmorangie’s Pride 1981 Scotch whisky, paired with Gagnaire’s cuisine:
We were compelled to attend and riveted for two reasons: we don’t much like scotch and we really don’t like the idea of pairing it with food.
But darned if Gagnaire and Glenmorangie’s Head of Distilling Dr. Bill Lumsden didn’t make a convert out of us….sort of.
It wasn’t that the scotch wasn’t good. In fact, to this non-scotch-loving buds, it was perhaps the best we’ve ever tasted…which is a little like a sports fan saying that’s the most exciting WNBA game he’s ever seen.
We’re kidding, of course. Sort of. The Glenmorangie Lasanta, aged for twelve years in sherry casks, was our favorite. It smelled like toffee and tasted like a sherry-infused trifle, and seemed like the perfect introductory scotch for an old bourbon-drinkin’ frat boy like yours truly. Unfortunately, despite its almost, dessert wine-like finish, it, like most of the other bottles, obliterated the taste of Gagnaire’s food. We admired his attempt to match this most un-matchable of spirits with scallops in a sherry/espellette/melon-flavored beurre blanc, but the alcohol and intensity of Glenmorangie’s most un-intense, fruity scotch still overpowered the eats.
So, instead of concentrating on whether the food and spirit marriages worked, we found it more enjoyable to enjoy them both on their own terms — and on those terms, everything was splendid, indeed.
Lumsden’s unveiling of Pride 1981 was impressive, both for the national food and spirits press in attendance, and the singular, special glass we were given for the tasting. That covered glass held in the brandy-like aromas and intensified what can only be described as an ambrosial, sweet, deep, heady, apple tart perfume of the booze. It was so smooth the alcohol became superfluous, and in a blind tasting, ELV would’ve pegged it as an XO cognac. In other words, it was so good we could imagine sipping it on a regular basis as our go-to, post-prandial cordial, but at 113 proof, and $3,600 bottle, with only 1,00o bottles made, we doubt we’ll be cracking one open anytime soon.
Would ELV ever consider matching it with food? Not on your life.
Is he still dreaming about Gagnaire’s pan-seared, curry and coconut langoustines with cauliflower tips with roasted pineapple marmalade and sorbet, or his roasted, corn-fed, pistachio-stuffed chicken? Absolutely.
And did he try to steal a bottle of Chateau d’Yquem ’01 when no one was looking? (to be fair, bottles were all over the place.) You know it.
Damn security guards.
TWIST by PIERRE GAGNAIRE
In the Mandarin Oriental Hotel
3752 Las Vegas Blvd. South
Las Vegas, NV 89109