Really, I have been pretty hesitant to write about this restaurant. We have long been visiting the hidden Bouchon Bistro in Las Vegas and it has never disappointed, until a recent spat with a server who insisted that mussels are supposed to be served with sand. I refused though to let him ruin our traditions. I have made it pretty clear that Bouchon is one of my not so secret secret loves of Las Vegas; not because the food is complete drool worthy, but more because I like the simple bistro ambiance combined with the impeccable fine dining service.
After winding paths and endless hallways, we reach our hidden destination. Bouchon Bistro is tucked away in the depths of the Venetian Hotel in Las Vegas. In true Thomas Keller Style, the restaurant is warm, friendly, and focuses on good quality food and good quality service. Though it is in no way pretentious, the dining room is still covered with clean white linens and servers come and go filling your water glasses and sweeping off the bread crumbs without your notice. Again, until recently, we have always had exceptional service at Bouchon.
Now, I find it difficult to wash the terrible service we experienced on our recent visit off my tastebuds so let me rant for just a second: we waited at least 50 minutes for our food; our server forgot about our monkey bread- and about us; Chad-O and Beverly’s food came out 10 minutes before Charlottes or mine were brought to the table; my Croque Madame came out semi cold; and Charlotte’s mussels came filled with sand; instead of simply saying that he will bring the mussels back to the kitchen, our server argued with us insisting that the mussels were supposed to have sand in it; our server then proceeded to continue ignoring us and the situation; no managers came, no offer of a new dish, no excuses. This is not the first time we have ordered this item, but it is the first time we’ve had a server argue with us and insisted that we were in the wrong.
Ok now on to the food – based not just on this experience as it will surely be poisoned.
When our server finally remembered our monkey bread after 30 minutes of coffee drinking (he WAS good with refilling our coffee cups – we were bouncing off the walls as our cup was never really empty) it came toasty warm with butter and the preserve of the day. The jam was a rich mixed berry with a sweet tartness. It was a creamy spread and the flavor varies depending on what is in season. The apple spread we had the last time we were in Vegas tasted like apple pie filling but was less sweet and more appley- I think it was literally mushed up apples – it was great!
As there was a wider selection on menu (having breakfast and lunch combined) we started off with a jar of the oh so tasty Rillettes aux Deux Saumons. This little canister of yummy is a mixture of fresh and smoked salmon preserved with a combination of butter, crème fraiche, and EVOO (plus other seasonings). The topper to this deadly mixture is the top indeed!
It is actually quite a tedious process to jar one of these things (it literally can take hours from marination to refrigeration) to ensure that every bite is infused with rich flavours and creamy textures. When the server pops the jar open he/she will scrape off this thick white layer and proceed to remove it from the table.. unless you burst out like I did and insisted that it be left behind. This thick white layer my friends is the secret to such creamy rich smoky aromatics that come swimming out of the jar. The clarified butter helps keep the moisture trapped in the jar and is absorbed back in to the salmon mixture, it’s also delicious with the crostinis! And yes, I was quite embarrassed when I interrupted our server mid-sentence when he was asking if we would like to keep the layer at the table… at least he did one thing right. Just looking at the picture is bringing back the rich aromas from the jar. I can totally eat an entire jar by myself with some simple sandwich bread or even by the spoonful. It is a melt in your mouth straight to your heart type of food. I know they actually sell these little jars but I never remember to inquire about them until after I leave the restaurant.
Beverly went with the Special of the Day: Oeuf Vol Au Vent. This is a flaky pastry box stuffed with shrimp, mushrooms, vegetables, egg, and is smothered with a variation of a creamy thick béchamel sauce. The pastry was light, flakey, and butter. Beverly said it was good but not 50 minute wait good, though I am sure it would have been better had the service not been so bad. Honestly, you can’t really go wrong with béchamel and flaky pastry! Would she order it again? Probably not.
Chad-O went with his usual Breakfast Americaine. The all American breakfast includes two eggs, bacon, sausages, toasted brioche, choice of pastry (always a croissant for us), juice, and coffee. Really, everything that you want for breakfast put together on a nice little plate. Sometimes Beverly substitutes the bacon for more sausages and I substitute the sausages for more bacon. I love the salty crispy bacon with my eggs and toast. Whenever Beverly comes to Bouchon for breakfast, she is always in deep debate about what to get because if she orders something OTHER than the Breakfast Americaine, she usually ends up wanting to eat Chad-O’s Breakfast Americaine instead of what she ordered… I’ll leave that for those two to figure out.
When comparing regular butter croissants, I must say that Jean Philippe’s is the one I crave. What Bouchon has to offer and what I crave all the time are the seasonal Raspberry Almond croissants and their Chocolate Almond croissants. Again, made fresh each morning with the seasonal fruit preserve spread and topped with a brown sugar butter crumble. The fruit croissants are one of the daily special items depending on what is in season, these are not always available as I have learned over the past few visits. When they are available I usually bring back a few boxes :) There is a small Bouchon Bakery kiosk right outside the Phantom theatre on the casino level of the Venetian if you don’t want to wait 30 minutes for a sit down breakfast. There are no tables around the bakery, but you can certainly grab a croissant and a cup of coffee and sit out by the canals to enjoy this simple yet satisfying breakfast on the go. I am pretty obsessed with these croissants. Everytime someone goes to Vegas or New York (more often than not it is Brother Yu) I would specially request for them to bring back a croissant for me :D
As mentioned, Charlotte went with the mussels. Bouchon’s Moules au Safran et a la Moutarde. Bouchon uses Maine bouchot mussels and they are steamed in a white wine sauce infused with saffron and a hint of mustard. The dish comes out in an egg shaped dome where a section is parted off with a strainer type wall so that you may dip the accompanying pomme frites in the sauce without having to fight with the mussels. The mountain of crispy fries is really never ending and is seasoned just enough where you can eat them on its own and it still tastes great with the white wine sauce. Though it may look and sound heavy, the sauce was really quite light with multiple layers of flavors. Of course, this description is based on previous visits as after 12 mussels, the dish was sent back due to at least 6 of them having hard sand in it. The taste was so bitter that Charlotte is currently refusing to go back… she’s actually not so much a Bouchon fan and definitely prefers Jean Philippe’s croissants over the Bouchon ones… I am currently trying to lure her into going for the salmon.. but she says we can try to make it ourselves… >.>
My Croque Madame arrived as pretty as the sunrise in Maui. Toasted ham and cheese sandwiched between two thick slices of brioche and topped with a fried egg and mornay sauce. I suspect that this was one of the first dishes to be completed in the kitchen because the inside of the sandwich was cooled and the corners of the brioche were quite dry from sitting out for so long. Other than that, the plate was all that I had envisioned.
The egg was cooked perfectly, melting with the mornay sauce upon each bite. The ham was salty and went well with the light flavors of the mornay and egg. Brioche is a slightly heavier type of bread but complements the heaviness from the overall plate. It is the first time I’ve had this dish and I intend to try it out again, perhaps next time my cold ham, cheese, and egg sandwich will be a hot grilled ham, cheese, and egg sandwich.
Like a secret lover hidden away from all the bright lights and loud decor, Bouchon stands with a sweet allurance of food made from the heart to comfort your heart. Though Bouchon is like McDonalds in comparison to the French Laundry, I am sure that his philosophy on his respect for food and creating it with the heart is the fundamentals in all his establishments. Again, until very recently, I have always experienced excellent service from all of the restaurant’s staff here. I like that there are no unnecessary loud bells and whistles and I like that the staff here are not so primp and look down their noses at your sneakers and t-shirt – they actually talk and laugh like real people! Items like the Rillettes aux Deux Saumons is the chef’s love letter to you; it is an expression of himself and of the restaurant. Simple yet elegant and I just can’t get enough and I keep on going back for more.
Last Visit: December 2011