Viva Las Vegas

Saturday, June 07th , 2014

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Las Vegas does not go in much for subtlety (the lake at The Bellagio is pictured), and like other cities that are primarily aimed at tourists can be a challenging dining destination. I tried three of the more prominent places on this short visit. Picasso was at the Bellagio hotel, and despite the distraction of the lake and fountains was rather disappointing. The food was pleasant enough but distinctly old-fashioned in places, and at a high price considering the quality level of what arrived on the plate.

Sage was better, a modern American restaurant from a Chicago chef., in the Aria hotel and casino. Although the service left the distinct impression of diners being processed, the dishes that I tried were quite capable and were at a tolerable price level. I liked a beef tartare dish in particular, and indeed each dish that I sampled was enjoyable and quite well made. This was not earth-shattering food, but seemed to me to deliver decent value.

The best meal was at Guy Savoy, the outpost of the iconic French chef with a three Michelin star restaurant in Paris. This was yet another casino outpost, this time based at the vast Caesar’s Palace, and had much slicker service. More importantly, the food was good too, with strong culinary technique on show. The ingredients were inevitably a limiting factor here compared to what is available in Paris, and it was hardly cheap, but at least the cooking was in solid Michelin star level territory (Michelin themselves no longer cover Las Vegas after an aborted guide launched there in 2008/2009, which apparently sold few copies).

Parlour continues to be a favourite of mine, a fairly modest pub in a distinctly unprepossessing street in Kensal Rise that is home to the gifted Jesse Dunford Wood. The chef likes to play with retro British dishes, and on the visit I tried a lovely chicken Kyiv (as Kiev is now spelt) and had a fine strawberry soufflé. He also has a knack of producing clever and original salads, as in the form of a green salad with celery leaves, fennel, Jerusalem artichokes, radishes, courgettes and black grapes, a combination that was unusual but effective.

My 48th meal at Hedone was very impressive indeed, with the cooking moving to new levels of refinement. The top quality ingredient emphasis continues unchanged, shown with the superb Luberon asparagus and dazzling “black lady” chicken from Touraine, which is held in similar regard to Poulet Bresse but to me had even better flavour. Dishes that were already superb such as the liquid Parmesan ravioli, have been improved even further, in this case with a more concentrated onion flavour in the broth. New dishes such as a superb strawberry dessert had fruit with the kind of flavour that I had forgotten was possible from a strawberry (at least from one outside of Japan, where the fruit in general is of a remarkably high standard).  The food at Hedone is now clearly between two and three star level territory.

The blog next week will appear a day later than usual due to some travel.