The first bite is the banquet. – Chinese proverb
Enough negativity already!
We at ELV are tired of pondering the craven meretriciousness that brings life-threatening food microbes into our digestive systems.
Instead, we should be focusing on the kind of cooking that got us into this gig in the first place.
Food like Pierre Gagnaire’s new Spring menu — containing ingredients so delicious you will think you are eating them for the first time.
Like that little cube of lightly-crusted cube served as an amuse. Is there a springier way to spring into Spring? It tastes like a refreshing cocktail (Midori, yuzu and green tea) compressed into a single square and sets the stage for five courses of dining like it’s supposed to be: elegant, friendly, and fun.
Before we wax poetic about the rest of the meal, a word or two about tasting menus. There seems to be a backlash building against these tyrannical slogs through the entire chef’s repetoire. We are happy to be able to dine in Las Vegas — where even the hoity-est and toity-est of chefs (and their restaurants) are eager to please the customer, not insist upon absolute reverence to their religious zeal for purity, publicity and a fat paycheck.
Rather than engage in fawning hagiographies to famous cooks, we prefer to enjoy fabulous cuisine at the pace and portion sizes we like. Lucky for us (and Vegas diners) we have restaurants that let us do that and let their food do the talking….rather than their publicists.
Food like a sweet, sweet langoustine spiced with a lemon, ginger and tumeric gel. Or some of the best bread anywhere served with absolutely, positively the best butter on earth (Bordier). Or a shellfish mariniere served in a champagne-herb sauce of uncommon intensity. Or a veal tenderloin so magnificently accented (with green curry-scented eggplant and pear and a sorrel-veal chiffonade) it could make a meat eater out of Moby.
Then there is the gorgeous room, the updated (and far-more-interesting-than-it-used-to-be wine list – thanks Will Costello!), the blizzard of desserts, and a view that could melt the heart of a pit boss.
We were a bit shaken when Pascal Sanchez left this kitchen last year, but Ryuki Kawasaki has steadied the ship and given the menu a slightly lighter (but no less concentrated) touch.
It is impossible to get bored by Pierre Gagnaire’s food. We’ve eaten his creations in five different restaurants, on three continents, over seventeen years and find his restless, inventive cuisine as lip-smacking/throw-your-fork-down/slap-my-ass-and-call-me-Sally flavorful as it’s always been. It is no less intriguing now than it was when he was the enfant terrible of the culinary world back in the 90’s, but like the man himself (and many of us), it is now (slightly) more subdued and confident…and every bit as hyper-delicious.
Restaurant food doesn’t get any better than this.
Long may his French flag wave over Vegas.
ELV’s meal was comped and he left a $60 tip.
TWIST by PIERRE GAGNAIRE
In the Mandarin Oriental Hotel
3752 Las Vegas Blvd. South
Las Vegas, NV 89109