19. DB BRASSERIE
No one was happier than yours truly when Daniel Boulud decided to return to Las Vegas — after a four year hiatus. And return he has, with a top toque in the kitchen, and you won’t find better, unfussy French food in town right now.
The place is all sleek lines and dark woods — reminding us of a top flight New York steakhouse — and is unrecognizable from the old Valentino spot it replaced. The designers have cannily opened the place up to the main casino floor, but have somewhat disingenuously placed the bar towards the back of joint. (We’re guessing it was a plumbing thing.)
Regardless, the feng shui is in all the right places (even if the joint would have more charm at half its size), and you will feel right at home as soon as you are seated. The lighting is flattering to the food and the customer — bright but not too so — and the tables are set with tablecloths (hooray for civilized dining!) and eye to the diner’s comfort, not how much money they can save with disgusting, reusable placemats.
Upon being seated, you will be handed a wine list. You will notice that it’s evenly divided between new and old world, and heavy with Burgundies and pinot noirs at expensive, but not insanely expensive, markups. Before that, if you’re smart, you will have ordered one of the house-specialty cocktails, of which there’s not a clinker in the bunch. (Our staff knows of which they speak, having made it through the entire list…on more than one occasion.)
What they and the rest of the menu announce is that this restaurant is basically all over the (French) map. So, expect to find an ethereal lemon-saffron-seafood-draped linguine du sud:….nicely echoing the light and lemony flavors of Provence, side by side with a spicy Tunisian lamb (presented as a luscious chop ringed with a house-made Merguez sausage), or a fabulous duck confit, or crispy-skin, roast chicken….all of which could be straight from a French farmhouse.
Executive Chef David Middleton has major chops — having cut his teeth with Alex Stratta at the defunct Alex — and he’s equally at home whipping up a classic beef Bourguignon as he is a country pate or a omelet aux fine herbes.
Everything (including a superior steak frites) show a kitchen with great attention to detail (a Boulud trademark). What they also show is something new in these here parts: a move away from strictly à la carte dining — as each of the entrees (save the pasta) is presented as a finished plate of food — complete with vegetables sauces and sides attached. In other words, your $48 12 oz. New York strip comes with a sauce and haricot verts — with no need to pay separately for the accoutrements — definitely a bargain compared to what many a top end steakhouse gouges you for…if you want anything but a bare piece of meat on your plate.
If that isn’t bargin enough for you, the two, three-course prix fixe menus: $32/lunch; $48/dinner, are a criminally cheap for vittles this good.
Pastry Chef Robyn Lucas is giving it her all, and Black & White Fondant and Pistachio-Cherry Sundae will have your table fighting for every bite…as will her ethereal madeleines:
….of which we defy you to eat just one.
Max Jacobson (who hasn’t been well enough to review this place, but dollars-to-doughnuts, this is what he would say): Once again, Curtas’s Freudian French slip is showing. But in spite of his slavish devotion to Francophilia, occasionally he has a point. The cooking here is solid, if unspectacular, and would appeal to me a lot more if Boulud and Middleton incorporated more Uzbekistani notes and yak milk into their cuisine.
Recommended dishes: Salmon Rillettes; Carrot Salad; Mediterranean Lamb Flatbread; Short Rib Tagliatelle; Tarte Flambee; French Onion Soup; Pate de Campagne; Terrine of Foie Gras; Escargots Spatzle; Smoked Salmon; Liguine de Sud; Roasted Chicken; Duck Confit; Tunisian Lamb; Basically everything on the friggin’ menu + the omelet aux fine herbs (which is off it).