Holiday Dining My Way

ELV note: We’ve been as busy as a beaver this fall — writing for a various ‘zines and trying to finish the copy for the fourth edition of EATING LAS VEGAS – The 50 Essential Restaurants. Oh yes, and we also took a two-week trip to Germany and Alsace (that we’ll be writing about as soon as the book gets done), and we got engaged to be married AND we’ve been trying to keep up with our day job — saving the taxpayers’ money at the City of Las Vegas. As a result, our nights have been shorter and our ELV posts have been fewer. So, with all that in mind, we thought this would be a good time to post our recently published article in VEGAS magazine, highlighting our ideas for where to best have a bacchanalian blowout over the holidays. Read on, happy holidays, and we’ll resume more regular postings once all this hubbub subsides.

Upscale Egg Salad at Le Cirque Las Vegas(Le Cirque puts its spin on egg salad)

Dining in Las Vegas is extravagant any time of year, but during the holidays, our temples of gastronomic delight really pull out all the stops—and stoppers.

In Las Vegas, creating a holiday environment all year-round is our specialty. But during our winter holidays (when, granted, you might have to look for snow in the Bellagio Conservatory rather than outside), the city’s best restaurants stage the ultimate in over-the-top dining—featuring très luxe products from around the globe brought in to satisfy gourmands looking to dress up, dine out, and drink it all in, the Vegas way.

As the French invented both the modern restaurant and Champagne, you can be assured a holiday meal at Joël Robuchon (MGM Grand, 702-891-7925) will be second to none. James Beard Award–winning Executive Chef Claude Le-Tohic (pictured above with the man himself) is a truffle snob of the best kind, and by Christmas Day, his menu is usually festooned with the finest black truffles. “After about mid-December, the white truffles start declining in quality,” he explains. “That’s when we start using truffes noires, which are much better when cooked. Many of our customers request them over the holidays.” Thus can you find these gorgeous fungi adorning everything from a mousseline served with a semi-soft boiled egg with Comté cheese to a white onion tart with smoked bacon that proves the rest of the world has nothing on the French when it comes to crafting an umami bomb.

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The 50 Essential Restaurants – Number One


Here it is food fans: The unbridled, unvarnished, unimpeachable list of the top 50 restaurants in Las Vegas. The essentials. In order of excellence. Unfettered by Max Jacobson’s loathing of all things Japanese, or Al Mancini’s insistence that a hamburger deserves the same respect as haute cuisine.


Yes, we have gone from a oligarchy to autocracy, but we at ELV prefer to think about it as a benign dictatorship — one that applauds substance, talent, and hard work over hype.


As owners of the book EATING LAS VEGAS – The 50 Essential Restaurants will note, much of the text is taken from our portion of the book. But we have made cuts and edits where appropriate (e.g. Valentino has closed and Marche Bacchus lost its chef and the food there no longer warrants top ten status), and will roll out our current top 10, one at a time, over the next week or so.




I hate Joël Robuchon and his dastardly henchmen. Especially Claude Le Tohic and Steve Benjamin – I really hate those guys. They are evil wicked men who deserve to die, smothered in a glistening vat of torchon de foie gras of their own making.*

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A Day with Joel, Guy, a Hottie and a Hare

Life is so brief that we should not glance either too far backwards or forwards…therefore study how to fix our happiness in our glass and on our plateGrimod de la Reyniere

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It’s no secret that ELV is an inveterate Francophile. Since the days of Thomas Jefferson, it has been French food, French restaurants, and most especially French chefs who have led America out of its uncouth culinary youth and into the promised land of good eating. China may be the greatest of all world cuisines, but it is French technique and savoir faire that have been most responsible for Americans eating well.

Because of this, as just about every food fan in Vegas knows, we’ve been in sauté/cassoulet/à votre santé heaven over the last five years — ever since Joël (as in Robuchon) and Guy (as in Savoy) planted their flags on our soil. And if you’ll forgive us a bit of local pride, neither New York nor Chicago nor L.A. nor ‘Frisco has seduced these luminaries (along with paisans Pierre Gagnaire and Alain Ducasse), the way our humble burg has.

It’s all about money of course — 38 million mouths are more tempting than the cut-throat, small bore Manhattan restaurant scene, or San Francisco’s provincial one — but because the crème de la crème are here and not there, the baseline for great cooking in the High Mojave has been forever raised and spoiled us for anything that doesn’t measure up.

To such thoughts did ELV’s mind wander as he appeared at the Fox 5 studios to watch Robuchon give his first Las Vegas TV interview (and one of the few interviews he’s ever done in America) recently. Besides kibbitzing with him, and James Beard Southwest Chef of the Year Claude Le Tohic, and G.M. Emmanuel Cornet, we got to hang with Fox 5’s foxy Rachel Smith:

(KVVU’s resident foodie), and hear Joël compliment our book and thank us for being such big supporters of Vegas’ French Foodie Revolution. To which we could only reply de rien, Mon. Robuchon.

From hobnobbing with JR, it was only a short stroll over to Restaurant Guy Savoy for its autumn menu, featuring lièvre à la royale (wild hare fit for a king). Waverly Root defines this hare-raising dish as a creation from the Limousin (Central Plateau) area of France. It is a dish so famous that in the eighteenth century, a special terrine/earthenware dish was invented for it. (If you’ve ever seen those oval-shaped, rabbit-covered terrines in Williams-Sonoma, you get the idea.) Root says: “Its chief distinction was its stuffing, into which went the liver, heart and lungs of the hare, hashed up together; cooked with goose foie gras; fat pork; bread crumbs soaked in bouillon; chopped onions previously cooked in butter, chopped truffles and parsley; a little garlic and hare’s blood.”

That blood (and those lungs, heart and liver), give this dish a wild, gamy funk that is one of the most unique in gastronomy. It is not for the faint of heart…or hare…but is one of those essential dishes to try if you ever want to establish your gourmet bona fides, or cross swords, or stubby fingers with the likes of Reyniere. Super-somm Phil Park matched it perfectly with a La Chappelle (no relation to Dave) de la Mission Haut-Brion (’99)that, like that wabbit, had a finish so long we’re still tasting it.

ELV left a $95 tip on his comped meal that would’ve been a Benjamin if he hadn’t needed an Abe for the valet.


In Caesars Palace Hotel and Casino

3570 Las Vegas Blvd. South

Las Vegas, NV 89109