Simply put, everything in Las Vegas is big. In the world’s largest theme park, filled with faux historic monuments and huge plastic waterfalls, celebrity-chef-powered high-end restaurants are often another can’t-miss ride. To accommodate the crowds, great New York destinations, like the intimate Café Boulud, are reinterpreted with the typical Vegas flamboyance. And this is what you get.
Daniel Boulud Brasserie is proudly featured at the Wynn hotel, just a few steps from the busy casino floor. The restaurant has huge open doors to the dining room. Anyone walking by can see you inside and everyone inside can see you walking by. An overly colorful tile floor adorns the entrance where a couple of hosts stand behind a curved podium. To the left, more open doors lead the way to an outside patio with privileged views of the giant plastic waterfall (more on that later). At the very end of the dining room, a circular glass structure houses the kitchen. Protected like a sanctuary from the sins outside.
The hostess took us to our table. It was clearly not big enough for the 5 of us but she was quick to point out that we would have great views of the outside spectacle. Even with the semi Cheesecake Factory ambience, I still had high hopes for the food.
DBB’s menu is simple but very appetizing. Classic French Brasserie dishes and some reinvented American standards carefully described with no unnecessary pretentiousness. There’s also a prix fix menu but only until 7pm (a.k.a. early bird special).
The waiter recommended her favorites and a couple of additions to the menu. When I asked her about The Original NY DB Burger, her response was “Don’t order it if you don’t like burgers”. We were ready to order.
To start, we ordered 2 dozen oysters, but that was not really how the meal started. Our appetizers arrived first.
I ordered the Lobster Bisque, tarragon whipped cream, puff pastry palmier. It was delicious. Rich, complex, flavorful. Presentation didn’t stand behind. First, the soup bowl with a generous portion of lobster meat was placed on the table ¬–for the record. The creamy bisque was then poured carefully over it.
As we were midway through our soups, we spotted a couple of waiters arguing over our oyster plates set on a console a few feet from our table. One of the waiters approached us to say that the 2 plates prepared would not fit on our table so they were taking it back to be re-set.
It was only when we finished our appetizers that the oysters finally arrived. Late, yet a little too soon as our empty soup plates were still on the table, waiting to be removed. Service was clearly out of sync. Oysters, on the other hand, were pretty fresh. We had 3 varieties (unfortunately the waiter couldn’t remember what they were). It was time for the main course.
I always wanted to try Daniel’s take on the American staple so, despite the warning, I ordered the burger. The 9oz sirloin beef is stuffed with braised short ribs and foie gras and served with black truffle, parmesan bun and french fries. It came pre-sliced in half proudly displaying all its layers of richness –also for the record. Eating it though proved to be a bit tricky. At about 4 inches tall, a simple bite was no easy task. But it was worth it. Every ounce. The fries were good but not as good as I’d expect so I decided to leave them to the side and instead try my friend’s entrée she could only handle half.
To be honest, she picked the entrée I would have ordered hadn’t I been intrigued by the $32 burger. Braised Short Ribs with Parsnip Puree and Pearl Onions. The boneless meat was incredibly tender and flavorful. The parsnip puree was light and creamy.
For dessert, I had the Chocolate Napoleon with Coffee Ice Cream. Gorgeous presentation and even better taste. Not too sweet, perfectly balanced in flavors and textures. I also tried a couple of other desserts that were as good as mine.
While we were eating our desserts, we noticed a small commotion as the lights outside went down over the plastic waterfall (or Magnificent Lake of Dreams, as its officially known). People were gathering to see the light show that included psychedelic projections, smoke and a 10-foot tall mechanic frog. I wondered if maybe it was the wine. Unfortunately, I hadn’t had enough of it. That was actually happening.
Despite the Vegas-inspired décor, the lack of intimacy in the oversized dining room, the service mishaps and the somewhat disconcerting light performances; DBB offers impeccable food. As good as its New York counterpart and not at the exorbitant prices that follow most high-end Vegas meals. Definitely worth a visit, even if you must close your eyes.