After a long hiatus, I am back! I apologize to all my loyal friends who follow my blog... Things got really busy (okay, and I got lazy) after I got back from Europe, and my blog has lagged. However, as one of my new year's resolutions for 2008, I plan to update my blog more often. (And of course, it's already February, and this is the only resolution that I've actually started on!)
The good thing is that I did start off the year well with a trip to Las Vegas and enjoying many culinary adventures there. I got to try Restaurant Guy Savoy at Caesar's Palace. The Guy Savoy restaurant in Paris is a Michelin 3-star and was one of the restaurants that I wanted to try when I was in Paris but didn't get a chance to. I was quite happy that Guy Savoy decided to open his only American branch in Vegas. The restaurant in Vegas is only a Michelin 2-star though.
I arrive at the restaurant ahead of my party and was immediately greeted by the maitre d' with a friendly "bon soir." I answered "bon soir" with a smile and he proceeded to continue to speak to me in simple French. (I guess my French did improve after spending my summer in Paris.) Since the rest of my party hasn't arrived, he ushered me into a small bar area to wait and the bartender asked me if I would like to start off with a glass of champagne. He recommended a glass of rosé and I sipped on it while I waited for others. Once everyone arrived, they prompted seated us, and for the women, they brought these little "purse" stools for us to put our purse on. I was so excited because that I've only seen that before once (also in Vegas - at the restaurant Alex at the Wynn) and I knew that the service was going to be impeccable here.
The menu offers both an à la carte and a tasting menu option. The appetizers ranged from $40 to $90 and the entrees ranged from $70 to $95. There are two tasting menus, one called the "TGV Menu: the 90 Minute Experience" for $190 with 4 courses, and the other "Menu Prestige" that is 9 courses for $290. We of course decided to enjoy the full experience so we went with the Menu Prestige with wine pairing, and we readied ourselves for a very extensive meal. Here are our courses:
Amuse Bouche: Carrot cappuccino and "surprise" of tuna tartare on cracker
1. Oysters in Ice Gelée
2. Colors of Caviar
3. Crispy Sea Bass with Delicate Spices
4. Lentil Ragout with Black Truffles and Roasted Foie Gras
5. Artichoke and Black Truffle Soup with Toasted Brioche and Black Truffle Butter
6. Poussin à la Broche, Black Truffle, Fingerling Potatoes and Chanterelles
7. Selection of Cheese
As you can see from the menu, the courses all used very high-quality ingredients, from black truffles galore to foie gras to caviar. Some of the courses were excellent, with very delicate and intricate flavors in one bite. For example, the "Oysters in Ice Gelée" had multiple flavors that danced across your tongue. Similarly the "Colors of Caviar" excellently utilized caviar throughout each layer - they recommended us that we dig our (mother of pearl) spoon deep into the glass so we can make sure to get all the layers. Unfortunately, the flavors started going down from there. Maybe it was because they started off with tastiest courses, it seems that the rest of the menu paled in flavor. While some were still very good (the foie gras was perfectly cooked), the flavors weren't unique and didn't really jump out. And then there were some dishes that just plainly fell flat, like the "Artichoke and Black Truffle Soup," which I was really looking forward to because I love truffles. However, the soup was pretty bland and even though there were slices of shaved truffle and parmesan cheese floating on top, they were tasteless too. We finished the meal with some cheese and two courses of dessert. The selection of cheese was very good though, with a great variety throughout different regions of France and other areas. The pear course was more like a palate cleanser and it was very nice and light. I didn't like the chocolate dessert as much - it was just a bit too rich for me.
The restaurant also had an unbelievable selection of wine. When we first opened the menu to order cocktails, one of the women in our group exclaimed excitedly that she couldn't believe they have Ruinart champagne, which apparently you can't buy in the US. She said that whenever she goes to France, she tries to carry as much of it back as possible. She asked our sommelier how they could serve Ruinart, and he simply smiled and answered, "Well, he's Guy Savoy." Then we proceeded to go through nine different glasses of wine, each perfectly paired with our course. Our sommelier was extremely knowledgeable and gave us a lot of background of the wine including the history of the region/vineyard, winemaker, etc. I couldn't finish all my wine, because I knew that if I did, someone would have to carry me out of the restaurant! (I was impressed that most of the others in my party did finish every single glass.)
So while the food was somewhat inconsistent, the service was absolutely impeccable throughout the night. The restaurant is managed by Guy Savoy's son Frank, and he was extremely attentive and warm. The staff was always there without overbearing, and we were impressed with how they tried to fulfill our every demand. For example, one of the guys in our group had a number of things that he did not eat (e.g. any seafood, foie gras, etc.), and the menu had many items that contained those ingredients, but they were great in substituting a lot of the courses. In another instance, we saw that businessman at a nearby table pull out his laptop, and they immediately rolled over a small table for him to place the laptop on. We joked about how we needed one of those, and they immediately ran to get us one as well. But what impressed us the most was that we had asked them if we could get a list of the different wines that we had, and at the end of the night, they gave each of us a custom menu in a nice cover that was specifically printed for us. It was just a very nice personal touch that will help us remember a special meal.