GUY SAVOY

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The destiny of nations depends on how they nourish themselves. – Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin

FRANCE

As clichés go, the one about Americans falling in love with France is an old one. It probably started around the time they helped us win our independence from England, gained more currency when noted Francophile Thomas Jefferson was in the White House, and gathered full steam when the literary lions of the Roaring 20s (Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Stein, et al) took France to their bosom and spent most of the mid-20th Century living there and writing about it.

When I began traveling there in the early 1990s, France was still the ne plus ultra of dining. The rise of Spain in the early aughts might have eclipsed it for a while (as did the mercifully short New Nordic fad), but the French gastronomic meal (an official UNESCO cultural heritage icon) is still the standard by which all western dining is judged.

More accurately, the progression of how we eat our formal meals — from light to heavy, fish to meat, soup to nuts — is based upon culinary rules set down hundreds of years ago. They’ve lasted this long because they make sense — both from a taste and digestion standpoint — and because:

The gastronomic meal emphasizes togetherness, the pleasure of taste, and the balance between human beings and the products of nature. Important elements include the careful selection of dishes from a constantly growing repertoire of recipes; the purchase of good, preferably local products whose flavours go well together; the pairing of food with wine; the setting of a beautiful table; and specific actions during consumption, such as smelling and tasting items at the table. The gastronomic meal should respect a fixed structure, commencing with an apéritif (drinks before the meal) and ending with liqueurs, containing in between at least four successive courses, namely a starter, fish and/or meat with vegetables, cheese and dessert. Individuals called gastronomes who possess deep knowledge of the tradition and preserve its memory watch over the living practice of the rites, thus contributing to their oral and/or written transmission, in particular to younger generations.

In other words, there’s a reason you don’t start dinner with ice cream and steak, proceed to chocolate cake, and then end with a hunk of sautéed skate, and those reasons were first codified by the French when native Americans were still throwing rocks at each other.

FRENCH FOOD

Image(It’s tough to clam up about GS)

From a food writing perspective, that same period (deep into 1990s) was dominated by the French. From M.F.K. Fisher to Richard Olney to Elizabeth David to Julia Child, if you were “into food” back then, you were into France. Couldn’t help it. Whereas these days the food media goes a ga-ga over obscure Asian soups and South African street food, then it was pot au feu or bust.

Fifteen years before I actually went there, I immersed myself in French cooking. Pierre Franey, Julia Child, Craig Claiborne and Jacques Pepin were my guides (as were two subscriptions to Gourmet and Bon Appétit magazines), and I soaked up information like a baguette in bouillabaisse.

Reading about French food is nothing like tasting it, though, and tasting it in France is incomparable to eating it anywhere else. This I had to learn the expensive way.

French food is about technique — French chefs are drilled with military precision into masters of slicing, dicing, braising and plating. Their repertoire is vast and their training so thorough they can break down chicken or fish with the ease of a blindfolded Marine dismantling his rifle.

The French spend more time thinking about steaming a bundle of asparagus than an Italian thinks about vegetables his entire life. And when it comes to sauces, no country can touch them. A Greek’s idea of a sauce is squeezing a lemon over something; the Japanese don’t have them at all. A Gaulois will massage a demi-glace for hours.

Image(Ex-cepe-tional Parisian eats)

French food gets a bad rap because it’s complicated — and it is — in the same way all worthwhile things are. Do you refuse to listen to classical music because too many instruments are involved? (Too many notes!) Do we avoid art museums because studying all those pictures hurts our eyes? Should we disdain books because they overload us with information? Criticizing French food for being multi-layered, richly-textured, and densely fascinating is like knocking Mozart because you can’t dance to him. The old triticism about La Cuisine Française being too heavy — another insult tossed about by those challenged by anything beyond a meatball — hasn’t been true since 1972.

Modern French cuisine really began with Escoffier over a century ago. It was further lightened up by the nouvelle cuisine revolution of the 1970s — spearheaded by Paul Bocuse, Jean Troigros and others —  and settled into post-modern form (if you want to label it thus) around the time Guy Savoy received his second Michelin star (back when they actually meant something) in 1985. Thirty-five years later, he is still cooking some of the best food in Paris…which means some of the best food in the world.

French restaurants continue to dominate any list of the world’s best, and at the time of the Covid shutdowns, Savoy was riding high atop (or near the top) of many of them.

Having spent forty years with this food, we don’t place a lot of stock in the opinion of others. Nor do we cotton to the idea that there a “best” restaurant anymore than there is a best concert, movie, or book. The “best” of anything really can’t be measured unless a score or finish line is involved. At most what you have is a continuum of quality, and at the pinnacle (as with art, literature, and music) there is a level of excellence only a select few ever achieve. All the rest of us can do is sit back and enjoy the show.

The show at both Guy Savoys is always on the plate. No one and nothing seems to be trying too hard, and the effect is one of seamlessness — like a virtuoso who is barely breaking a sweat. As the audience, we soak it all up, blissfully unmindful of how much training and repetition goes into making it look so easy.

PARIS

Image(Guy Savoy Paris)

Invariably, whenever I update my review of Restaurant Guy Savoy, the question is asked: How does Vegas compare to Guy Savoy Paris? The most honest answer I can give is: GS Paris is great French food in France; RGS in America is sublime, but it’s an extension of the original that’s traveled 6,000 miles to get here. Nothing compares to eating a cuisine on its native soil, and nothing, not clam chowder, tacos or Lièvre à La Royale improves once it is transported to another locale for interpretation.

This is not to take away from our off-shoot (as you will read below), but only to point out that the edges are finer, the applications more punctilious, the snap and sizzle a tad sharper in Paris than anywhere not Paris. Eating French bread and French cheeses on French soil, or desserts too, for that matter, is the apotheosis of alimentation — black belt gastronomy at tariffs to match.

The French know these things and are very proud of their culinary heritage, but the old saw about French restaurants being snooty is as out of date as the guillotine. Yes, you have to have the coin to dine in these temples, but if you come with an open mind and a smile on your face, you will be charmed out of your socks. Everywhere in Paris, restaurant staffs are young, way better looking than waiters were in my day, multi-lingual, and cheerfully solicitous. Anyone who thinks French waiters are sour and condescending ought to visit Germany sometime.

You eat with your eyes, the old saying goes, and everything about Savoy’s new digs (since 2015) in Paris is an eyeful. As at Caesars Palace, the location is in an unlikely place: in this case through a courtyard of a large building that used to house the Paris Mint (Monnaie de Paris), up two massive flights of stairs, to an entrance desk leading to a warren of small rooms, each holding 3-4 tables looking out onto the Pont Neuf (Ninth/New Bridge).

The maze is impressive and effective — preparing you for your entry into the rarefied air of the French meal at its most refined. Four centuries of savoir faire distilled into edible things on a plate, served course by course, all so delicious they will send a happy shudder down your spine.

Image(Sweetbreads and peas in Gay Paree)

Many months after my last meal there, the details are still vivid: the petit pois with sweetbreads (above); woodsy cèpes — tasting of good clean earth — folded into a flower around an onion-bacon marmalade; San Pierre with the sweetest razor and baby clams; bread and butter to die for; a langoustine seemingly dropped from a Norway fijord onto to your plate; les fromages; les desserts…as I sit here writing it all comes flooding back, haunting me like Proust ruminating on a madeleine:

An exquisite pleasure had invaded my senses, but individual, detached, with no suggestion of its origin. And at once the vicissitudes of life had become indifferent to me, its disasters innocuous, its brevity illusory–this new sensation having had on me the effect which love has of filling me with a precious essence; or rather this essence was not in me, it was myself. I had ceased now to feel mediocre, accidental, mortal. Whence could it have come to me, this all-powerful joy?

All it took was a few crumbs from a tea cake for Marcel; with me, it is sitting down to a meal at Guy Savoy to make my mortality and the burdens of existence but a fleeting thought for a few hours. A great meal in a great city by a great chef will do that to you.

LAS VEGAS

Image(There’s a lot to loaf about Guy Savoy)

By the time Guy Savoy planted his flag in Las Vegas in May 2006, I had dived deeply into the restaurants of France multiple times. His was a name revered for his Michelin stars and his innovative take on the gustatory pleasures of France, but it was one I had missed amidst all my high-altitude eating.

In the early days of Restaurant Guy Savoy, I was like a kid in a French candy store, probably dining there ten times in its first two years, sometimes on my dime, sometime on his. As our dining scene cranked up, the competition got stiffer (Robuchon, Pierre Gagnaire, José Andrés, Mario Batali, Daniel Boulud to name a few) so my visits cooled, even if my ardor didn’t.

In normal times, we hit RGS about once a year. But these are anything but normal times, mon ami. August 2020 finds a double-sawbuck of Vegas hotels closed, and the open ones running at half-steam, if that.

Cruise any hotel on a mid-week evening and you’ll find only a handful of spots open. Even the mighty Bellagio is operating with Picasso, Le Cirque, Michael Mina (and others) closed until further notice.

The late, great Joël Robuchon’s twin destinations in the MGM (his namesake and L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon – the world’s classiest chain restaurant) are shuttered right now. Pierre Gagnaire looks to be kaput over at the Waldorf, and the Eiffel Tower is but an empty vessel these days.

What this means is Savoy has the territory all to himself, and those looking for a high-falutin’, once-in-a-lifetime, big deal French meal — the kind becoming rarer and rarer anywhere outside of France and a few cosmopolitan world capitals — have but one place left in Las Vegas, and that place is located up a flight of stairs in an obscure corner of Caesars Palace.

Repeat customers will notice how things have changed: the bar is closed, the menu is accessed through your phone, the bread is sliced and served from the kitchen, and the cheeses and desserts are lesser in number and covered with plastic lids (yummy). What hasn’t changed is the precise cooking and plating, the fork-dropping combinations of flavors in each dish, and the jaw-dropping amazement one feels at the beginning, middle and end of each dish.

Image(Berry berry berry good)

Great French chefs (unlike the Japanese and Italians) are never content to leave well enough alone . They, like the Chinese, never saw an ingredient they didn’t think they could make taste like more of itself (see blueberries times three above). Unlike the wacky Spanish, they rely more on extracting an ingredient’s essence and less on culinary sleights of hand. What sets Savoy apart is his ability to simplify, amplify, and still astonish without ingenuity for its own sake.

You start your meal with an amuse of something tiny — ranging from the world’s miniest miniburger to an etoile (star)-shaped nugget of poached foie gras. You will, at first, think nothing of this trifle until you pop it in your mouth. It will be rich yet light, intriguing but beckoning you to want more. OMG you will say, either to yourself or to your companions, I could eat ten more of these. And so you could, and so has the amuse-bouche accomplished its job.

Image(Spinach-truffle “Napoleon”)

From then on, you can’t go wrong, no matter what you order. As per everything post-Covid, the menu has been truncated: only one seasonal tasting menu is offered ($355); a la carte sees five starters and six entrees are on the card and that’s it. Newbies with purpose, appetite and purse would do well to go whole hog, but mere mortals will find a shorter experience just as enchanting by sticking to three courses – which quickly become more like six once various treats are tossed your way by the kitchen. (Dessert always seems to be a three course affair, no matter what you order.)

It all starts with the bread (above). The point of French food at this level is that everything has a purpose, and bread is as elemental to the French as water and wine. Échiré butter (salted and un- always at the correct temperature) accompanies it and resistance to their charms will be futile. (This is no place for the gluten or lactose averse.) The whole point of the bread and butter being to transport you to French soil, and within two bites, you’re imagining yourself on the Champs-Elysée.

Those mini-bites of foie gras (along with another perfectly round, seared slab appearing in tiny truffle-d sandwich form) are another symbol of French food — representing classic cuisine both new and old. A larger portion can be ordered as an appetizer, seared and served on brioche, which gives a foie liver lover all they can handle.

Image(The world’s greatest soup)

Savoy’s classic artichoke, truffle, Parmesan soup is always on the menu (even though its flavor profile fits cooler climes than a Las Vegas summer), but by now, its reputation precedes it, so no Savoy meal is without. Likewise “Colors of Caviar” — a multi-hued concoction of  caviar in various guises (creamed, naked, vinaigrette) layered in a small glass with a green beans, is a wonder of tastes, textures and temperatures in a compact vessel that, by all rights, shouldn’t be able to hold so much sumptousness in such a small space. Is it expensive? Yes ($90), but it also represents a level of delicacy very few kitchens in the world can match.

Savoy’s oyster trilogy is remarkable as well, even if they’re out of season. The shellfish are plump and fat and come bedecked with uni, caviar, and a citrus gelée. We could do without the uni (it’s a flavor bully who doesn’t always bring a lot to the party except brininess – something not in short supply with good oysters), but if you insist on ordering ‘ersters in summer, you will find no better.

Image(Tomato “carpaccio” and sorbet)

The cheapest appetizer on the menu right now ($65) is also the best: “Tomatoes All Around.” A play on another Savoy signature, “Peas All Around,” — a  seasonal wonder presenting the love apple in three, distinct ways: as a carpaccio, giving way to a gazpacho (deceptively parked underneath the top plate), accompanied by a thick-flesh tomato compote of pure, aching, tomato sweetness.

At this level of dining, everything counts, everything on the plate has a purpose, every swirl, garnish and smudge is there for a reason. If Japanese food is the most inscrutable, and Italian the most crowd-pleasing, then French is the surely the most thoughtful. Little bites give way to bigger ones: lobster with coral sauce; veal chop and sweetbreads; roast duck in all its glory; John Dory (St. Pierre fish en Français) come sprinkled with crispy fish scales in a nice-sized pool of impeccable beurre blanc.

When Andy Hayler reviewed our Guy Savoy six years ago, he took issue with the quality of the produce (compared to Paris), While there’s no denying the superiority of some European products, I’ve never found the fruits and veggies here to be lacking; where I’ve had some (minor) quibbles has been with the fish. Las Vegas, no matter how good the air freight, can’t compete with Paris for the absolute freshness and variety of French oysters or cold water European seafood…and absolute freshness is everything when considering fish. Just ask François Vatel.

Not sure if chicken has ever appeared on this menu, but we must concede to French authority there as well.

Image(The French know ducks like a Korean knows cabbage)

Savoy himself has told me he prefers American beef, so we will brook no debate with Hayler or anyone else about the quality of the major proteins here (including veal and that roast duck). All compete on equal terms with anything Paris can throw at you.

Chef Nicolas Costagliola runs the kitchen these days, and I have yet to find a misstep in his recitation of the Savoy catechism. No doubt some of these recipes are now so rote the cooks could do them in their sleep, but at this level, every detail must be attended to and it is.  Here, the craftsmanship is so meticulous it is almost invisible, which, at this lofty perch in the fine dining universe, is how it should be.

Each of the entrees pushes way past a hundred dollars (most are in the $120 range), but, as we said, between the extra flourishes, the ingredients, and the flawlessness of the execution, you’re getting the best food money can buy.  As restaurant food goes, this is some of the priciest on earth. But the best of anything is always expensive, and unlike cars, clothes, and real estate, non-oligarchs can experience these delights for themselves, on equal footing with high rollers and trust fund babies.

Image(My usual at GS Caesars)

At these prices the service should never miss a beat…and it never does. As I’ve mentioned before, the wine list (now overseen by Andrew Hurley) remains an oenophile’s dream come true. The only things to fault are not the restaurant’s: the shortened menu, fewer desserts, cheeses, and the sense that you are eating in a restaurant operating with one hand tied behind its back.

But those hands are some of the most skilled in the business, and they’re right in our own backyard. Thomas Keller is closed; California is now being run by scared-of-their-shadow bureaucrats; New York is putting everyone on a sidewalk. Great restaurants are under siege, through no fault of their own. If and how they recover is anyone’s guess.

Guy Savoy is all we have left, ladies and gentlemen, the last Frenchman standing in America, if you will. Who knows what the future will bring, but if you are one of those intrepid types who seeks food so good it will make you weep, all you can do is applaud Caesars Palace for taking the bold move of reopening its most high-toned restaurant. From two recent visits, the gamble seems to be paying off, as most of the tables were full — telling us that even in this messed-up world, there are those who still seek the best when it is offered to them.

And make no mistake, Guy Savoy is the best. To completely contradict myself: Restaurant Guy Savoy is certainly the best restaurant in Las Vegas right now, and for the foreseeable future, it might be the best one in America.

My last two meals at Restaurant Guy Savoy in Las Vegas, cost $1,000 and $455 (for two). (The more expensive one was 50% wine.) My last meal at Guy Savoy Paris was comped; I left a 100E tip.

Monnaie de Paris
11 Quai de Conti
Paris, France 75006
+33 1 43 80 40 61
Caesars Palace
3570 Las Vegas Blvd. South
Las Vegas, NV 89109
702.731.7286
French chef Guy Savoy in the kitchen of his eponymous restaurant in Paris.

The Barbarians Are At The Gate

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Nothing brings out the proles and trolls faster than criticizing the way someone is dressed.

Even if that person is dressed like a knuckle-dragging schlemiel  in one of the best restaurants in the world.

Such was the case last week when I tucked myself into my favorite table at Restaurant Guy Savoy in Caesars Palace to sample the culinary stylings of Julien Asseo — who’s been top toque there for over a year now.

About my third course in, I looked up to see a couple of women being led to the table beside me.

They were not young women, but they were not that old. If I had to guess, I’d say they were in their late 30s-early 40s. To put it another way, they were old enough to know better.

Both of them were wearing shorts and t-shirts and sneakers. Beat up ones, all three clothing items, on both women. The one closest to me was in jorts (jean shorts). More precisely, she was overflowing a pair of jorts that stuck to her fleshy, tattooed legs like sausage casings. They were not short shorts, but rather the type of almost-to-the-knee shorts one might wear to an outdoor picnic or to mow one’s lawn. The other lady’s hair was the sort of tangled mass you usually see after a day at the pool, pulled back by a scrunchy, sitting atop her head like a chlorinated shock of dirty wheat.

WTF? I thought to myself. I wasn’t so much offended by their appearance as I was stunned that they would wander into the joint in the first place. Keep in mind, to be seated at GS you must do the following things:

  1. Find it. (Not that easy. It’s up a big staircase and down a hushed hallway on the second floor of one of the towers. No one casually strolls by Restaurant Guy Savoy and decides to pop in. It is a destination restaurant in every sense of the word.)
  2. Walk past a display at the top of the stairs that you can’t miss. (There are several stands, plaques, awards, etc. among this large collection, most prominent of which are all the available menus with prices easy to read.)
  3. Ignore the sign that says: Appropriate Dress Required. No Shorts or Flip-Flops Please.”
  4. Pass through giant 15 foot doors that fairly scream, “THIS IS A REALLY EXPENSIVE RESTAURANT!”
  5. Approach the hostess stand — itself a rather formal and intimidating place. (see above)
  6. Observe (unless you have horse blinders on) the wine racks to your right and a sleek, ultra-modern lounge that not-so-modestly announces, “THIS IS A VERY SLEEK, ULTRA-MODERN, SOPHISTICATED, DRESSY LOUNGE ATTACHED TO ONE OF THE WORLD’S GREATEST RESTAURANTS!”
  7. Engage with the host or hostess while doing numbers 4. and 5.
  8. Ask for a table. (You can even peruse the menu here if you’d like to, for as long as you want.)
  9. Walk to that table, observing a) the spiffy, tuxedo’d waiters, b) the world’s greatest bread cart, c) the 20 foot ceilings, d) the thick, double-padded, floor-length white tablecloths, e) the sleek/chic table settings, and f) the champagne cart, and g) diners enjoying themselves WHO AREN’T DRESSED LIKE THEY’RE CLEANING THEIR BATHROOMS OR PICKING WEEDS!
  10. Take a seat.

As so they did, and so they were handed menus where the appetizers start at $80 a pop.

https://www.guysavoy.com/cache/photo_big/uploads/53f738bcf10f1.jpg

“This ought to be interesting,” I thought to myself.

And then I snapped a surreptitious photo, intentionally blurry, solely to get my point across:

And then I tweeted:

Your right to look like a slob in restaurants ends where my appetite begins.

And from that point forward it was on.

People came out of their shoes.

Unhinged. Both pro and con.

Comments (in the hundreds, mostly on Facebook), ranged from the critical-but-thoughtful:

John I love you BUT taking a picture of someone without their knowledge/consent and then mocking their appearance is so distasteful. Can’t you make your very valid point without tearing down someone you don’t even know?

To the contemplative-literate-yet-contemptuous:

If I may ask another question: So, how WAS the food dressed at Guy Savoy? Since you were obviously there to critique attire.

Poor guy. Some lady wasn’t wearing a little black dress and sat in your oh-so-important line of sight. Ruining your ability to lay judgement on a glass of crushed fermented grapes and some bread. You know, the things people desperately need to be concerned about.

So, instead you were able to miraculously recover from this heinous, unscrupulous act of wardrobe warfare by taking evasive action and expertly reconfiguring your expertise to where it now needed it’s most attention: the assailant herself. To which you have now summoned the ire of your legions of infallible fashionistas to be brought down upon this wretched minimalist, for how dare she soil the lavishness of this establishment with her lack of pride and presentation, subjecting the likes of those otherwise there to enjoy the fringe benefits of an exquisite dining experience to a villainous mismanagement of apparel. Resulting in the vanquishing of appetite and the need to, without haste, exhort the masses of her inconsiderate and vile violations against humanity.

 

To the scolding:

Body shaming tourists is so … beneath you, Sir.

To the comical:

One of the fun little evolutionary advantages that allowed homo sapiens to climb to the top of the food chain lies in the species ability to simultaneously rotate the head while adjusting the focus of the eyes. maybe one day, you’ll catch up…

To the comically illiterate:

I hope she Sue his Old Ass.

To the downright nasty:

You are a shameless asshole piece of shit💩 Are you so perfect you can go and body shame others. Remember karma is a bitch sooner or later you too will be shamed on and loudly I hope. He doesn’t even know how spell shorts. WHO FUCKING CARES…LIVE AND LET LIVE! IF YOU DON’T LIKE IT THEN LEAVE. YOU ALL MUST LIVE BORING LONELY LIVES. GLAD I DON’T KNOW ANYONE SO SHITTY AND JUDGMENTAL AS ALL OF YOU ASSHOLES 💩GUESS WHAT YOUR SHIT STINKS AS MUCH AS ANYBODY. HOPE YOU ALL GET FAT N UGLY SO YOU CAN GET MORE N MORE MISERABLE. SHAME ON ALL OF YOU!

All culminating in perplexing, asshole-obsessed threats of anal violation:

I saw the story that you were bothered about the women who was not dressed to your standards and bitched about it. if the restaurant let her come in dressed that way, your bitch is with them not her. I would bet you didn”t not have the “balls’ to say anything to her. If you ever said anything to me I would have stuck the filet up your ass real quick, Asshole.

Some people defended me (and scolded the scolders):

Not body shaming, shaming the fact that she like other clueless Americans insist on going dressed like they are camping to a fine dining establishment and other events that anyone who has a clue would go dressed appropriately. You’re the idiot for not realizing this. I never said anything about what she looked like body wise just lack of fashion or decorum.

Some people invoked more civilized climes:

I’m in the Italian Riviera where even though the vibe is laid back Italian, there’s nothing laid back about how people dress here. While day time is cut off denim with midriff baring tops, the chic Italian summer style comes out at night for dining even at casual, seaside restaurants. I am not talking about ball gowns and tiaras but rather summer-y dresses, men in button downs, etc. It elevates the entire experience to one in which you are glad to participate vs one that causes controversy. I haven’t seen men in denim shorts or women in lululemon, and I couldn’t be more grateful!

And a lot of people weighed in with comments such as:

This isn’t about people/body shaming. It’s about dressing appropriately for the occasion. A T-shirt and shorts isn’t appropriate for Guy Savoy, whether you’re Giselle Buchen or Mabel from Milwaukee.

and:

When you’re going to a nice restaurant, dress for dinner like a civilized person. Otherwise there’s a Denny’s nearby. Clods who don’t do that do nothing for me. This has nothing to do with “shaming” someone for physical attributes that they can’t help. You choose to dress like a slob, as this woman did.

And finally, my friend and fellow critic John Mariani tried to put it into perspective:

There is no more tone anywhere anymore. All restaurateurs have caved in to the “my-ugly t-shirt and jeans are appropriate dress” demands of wholly clueless customers. Remember, they are “guests” in a restaurant and they should dress accordingly.

All of which led to a report from a local TV station.

Then to another report from the same TV station.

Those reports — seeking to gin-up controversy about me — in the end only furthered my cause and brought my slob-shaming to the fore. Yes, I am a snob, an elitist and an imperious, condescending parvenu. I’m especially those things in restaurants, and I’m really all about those things in fine restaurants — of which we have dozens in our humble burg. Who gives a shit how you look in Orlando or Branson, Missouri? You can look anyway you want at the Bubba Gump Shrimp Company while you tuck into your Shrimp Shack Mac n Cheese.

Las Vegas is Midtown Manhattan next to those repositories of rednecks, and when you eat out here, in our world famous restaurants, you need to bring your A-game attire, not your beach wear. The cooking demands it, the setting demands it, and the entire experienced is enhanced by looking your best when you are eating at your best. Who in the hell disagrees with this point?

Then it hit me: This isn’t about body-shaming, or slob-shaming or style-shaming. This isn’t about how, when and why we judge our fellow man. This is about class, pure and simple. Not “class” in the sense that those hapless women next to me at GS didn’t have any, but class in the sense of the social classes — the demarcation of income and appearance that define us all.

This is an elemental discussion that goes to the very core of our beings: the right to look and act the way you want versus society’s right to impose standards of behavior on its participants. We are both fiercely individual beings and part of a collective, and when those two impulses clash, strong feelings arise.

Social classes — whether you live in trailer by a swamp or in a tony, high-rise — impose their own rules on members. The less fortunate do not have the luxury of worrying about how they look; the upper orders probably spend too much time on the subject. When they have to meet in public, sparks are sure to fly. And where they meet (and clash) these days is in restaurants. Not at concerts or malls, not at work or at the beach, but in places where we all eat.

This is elemental stuff: haves v. have nots, Republicans v. Democrats, management v. labor, and when the gloves come off, it’s not pretty.

The trouble I have with how people look in public relates directly to their class in society — not to put them down, but to shame them for dressing beneath themselves. Because, you see, we are not talking about the proletariat here.

A truly poor person can’t help the way they dress. But if you’re coming to Las Vegas for vacation, you are not a poor person. If you have the presence and the wherewithal to stroll into Michael Mina or Spago or Guy Savoy, I do not feel sorry for you. You are a person of means. You are not living by a swamp and struggling to survive. You have money and a job and some degree of function within society, yet you choose to look like a bum, a beachcomber, or a refugee from a rock concert.

You do this because 1) you think your comfort trumps all other considerations when you are in public, and 2) you have been conditioned by society and other like-minded slobs that informality, no matter how poorly you look, is acceptable in all circumstances. This would be true if you were an island, or if you’re consorting with a like-minded mob (think: Phish fans and sporting events), but when we break bread as strangers, it behooves us, as social beings, to put our best foot forward. The Native Americans realized this a thousand years ago, Marge and Mabel from Manitoba think it doesn’t matter anymore.

It matters. To you, the restaurant, your fellow diners and society as a whole. When you look better, you act better. When you act better, you feel better about yourself. When you feel better about yourself, you interact with society in a more positive way. Not to get too philosophical, but it’s a short plunge from how informal society has gotten to how rude and crude our politics have become.

As for Marge and Mabel, well, they looked at the menu for about five minutes and then snuck out. The barest amount of awareness would’ve saved them their ordeal, but when all you’re thinking about is yourself, awareness of anything else never enters the picture.