Jean Philippe- Las Vegas

The Aztecs drank it, the West Africans grew it, the Dutch produced it, the English sold it, the French refined it, the Easter bunny wore it, and everybody loves it- chocolate.  Archaeological findings suggest that humans were enjoying chocolate as far back as 1400 BC when it was consumed as a beverage.  The Mayans made it into a frothy bitter drink while the Aztecs, who called it xocolatl, often flavored it with vanilla, chili pepper or annatto.  With the Spanish conquest of the Aztecs, chocolate crossed the high seas and fell upon the lips of the Europeans, leading to a continental frenzy over this little bean that could.  The first chocolate house opened in London in 1657, and the rest is history.  Everybody in the world knows what chocolate is, and everybody, whether or not they want to admit it, loves it.

Flash forward to the 21st century, and we now have chocolate available everywhere we turn.  Supermarkets stock entire aisles of it, and even local gas stations have a pretty impressive collection by the Cheetos rack.  But the really good stuff comes from learned pastry chefs and chocolate makers who have dedicate their lives to pleasing us with enchanting sweets.  On a whole other different level we have master chocolatiers, who are artisans in the art of chocolate who have studied the history and chemistry of chocolates and trained their skills extensively.

On a previous visit to Paris I was blown away by the artistry of Patrick Roger and his beautiful gallery on Blvd St. Germain.  One of my guilty pleasures when I visit my family in Tokyo is to nibble on a few of French chocolatier Jean-Paul Hévin’s treasures at the Isetan in Shinjuku.  Los Angeles isn’t host to a distinguished chocolaterie yet, but with the recent surge of fine dining establishments and discerning gourmands, I’m hoping that it’s not too far in the future.  On my recent trip to Las Vegas I got a chance to revel in the beautiful cacao installments of patissier Jean-Philippe Maury on the Vegas strip.  At the Jean Philippe Pâtisserie in the Bellagio and now the Aria, die hard sweets fans can sinfully indulge in Meilleur Ouvrier de France and World Pastry Champion Jean Philippe Maury’s sensational creations.  There is something for everybody at Jean Philippe, where he offers not only chocolates, but pastries, salads and sandwiches too.

The Pâtisserie on the ground floor of the Aria has multiple sections, starting with an impressive display of rotating white and dark chocolate flowers by the gelateria.  Adjacent to the gelato and sorbet section is a crêperie where skilled crêpe makers will make a savory or sweet crêpe for your liking, followed by the beautiful retail store with rows and rows of enticing chocolates and candies.

Nougats, brittles, spreads, sticks, artisan jams, caramels, cakes and even rice crispy balls are all made on site every day by a team of 80 bakers in the kitchen.  At the chocolate bar, you can choose from a variety of sensational hand crafted artisanal chocolates with flavors like anise, amaretto, banana, peanut orange and vanilla rum, and take it home in beautiful boxes.

Imaginative displays of chocolate sculptures sit high on rotating pedestals, delighting shop patrons even further with Maury’s whimsies.  All of the edible works of art are colorful, vibrant and dramatic in true Vegas style.

My favorite chocolate sculpture was the chocolate bonsai, delicately carved with fine details of the tree bark and spiny leaves, and accompanied by a dainty three-tiered sakura cake in celebration of spring.

Long glass display cases line the other end of the large pâtisserie, showing off endless rows of pastries and breads, and intricate cakes like tiramisu in a glass cylinder, cheesecake encased in a soft folded white chocolate envelope and tarts with raspberries piled high in a tall pyramid like a croquembouche.

What I love about this pâtisserie is that it’s not just a take away boutique like most pâtisseries.  It’s also a cafe where patrons can experience instant gratification at any one of the cafe tables that face the display cases.  Salads, paninis and cold sandwiches are also offered here, giving diners the option of having an entire light meal here.  Naturally, hot chocolate is on the menu, and with so many options for dessert, one may easily have a continuous dessert tasting and never leave the cafe.

Fortunately there is a reason to leave the Jean Philippe Pâtisserie at Aria- the Jean Philippe Pâtisserie at the Bellagio.  There you can take in the dramatic floor-to-ceiling 27 foot chocolate fountain that put Jean Philippe on the Guinness World Records.  Nearly 2 tons of dark, milk and white chocolate cascade down leveled tiers in a glass enclosed space in a spectacular display of this true life Willy Wonka factory.  On your way out, don’t forget to buy a box of chocolate truffles for that person you love.  Who are we kidding?  Buy it for yourself.

“Like jewelry or perfume.  A blend, a shape, a texture.  Creating a candy with precision, emotion and passion.  Give yourself the pleasure of gods.”  – Jean Philippe Maury

Jean Philippe Pâtisserie

Bellagio – 3600 South Las Vegas Boulevard
Las Vegas, NV, 89109
(702) 693-8788

Aria- 3730  South Las Vegas Boulevard
Las Vegas, NV 89109
(866) 359-7111

Open 6am-12am

Random trivia: Recent studies show that chocolate gives us many health benefits.  It is believed to suppress the symptoms of migraines and stop diarrhea.  Regular consumption of dark chocolate can lower the possibility of a heart attack.  Post-exercise consumption of lowfat chocolate milk in athletes provided superior muscle recovery in studies.  Theobromine in chocolate proved more effective at cough suppression than codeine.  But eating chocolate for our health is just an excuse.  Studies showed that melting chocolate in one’s mouth produced an increase in brain activity and heart rate that was more intense than that associated with passionate kissing, and also lasted 4 times as long after the activity had ended.  Now that’s what I’m talking about.

Twist by Pierre Gagnaire- Las Vegas

I weave through the evening crowds on the Las Vegas strip as I make my way toward CityCenter.  The abrasive sounds of honking taxis and electronic slot machines pierce my ears and follow me everywhere.  Obnoxiously drunk college kids bump into me without an apology, almost spilling their beer from the fluorescent plastic yard glasses that they carry like a trophy.  While crossing the pedestrian bridge to get to the other side of the street, I get caught in a bottleneck of tourists who push me aside with their cheap cameras in order to get their postcard shot of the neon city.  The noise and the crowds start to get under my skin and I quicken my pace toward the Mandarin Oriental Hotel.

I enter the dark and desolate ground floor of the hotel, wondering if I’m in the right place- there’s nobody there.  All of a sudden it’s so quiet that I can hear a pin drop on the black marble floors of the elevator lobby.  As I relax on the velvet bench in the elevator that silently whisks me up to the hotel lobby on the 23rd floor, I have a momentary flashback of a similar experience.  I remember the same feeling of escaping from a crazy urban jungle into a quiet zen oasis when I visited the Tapas Molecular Bar at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Tokyo.  There too, a magical elevator transported me from concrete chaos to a chic hideaway in the skies with 360 degree views of the city lights.  Only this time, I’m finally getting my chance to dine at Pierre Gagnaire’s restaurant.

Pierre Gagnaire‘s only US restaurant, Twist, which opened in December 2009, is accessed through a dark hallway from the spacious lobby.  A wondrous spectacle of 300 illuminated glass globes floating from the ceiling at different heights against a dynamic backdrop of the Vegas strip awaits at the other end of the dark tunnel.  The charming maitre d’ greets me by name and escorts me to a table against the back wall on the upper level which has equally good views of the open kitchen and the city lights.  It’s a surprisingly small restaurant where every seat is a good seat with an amazing view of the Strip.  I breath a sigh of relief for the tranquility and intimacy in this gorgeous restaurant which is unlike others in this bustling city where ‘bigger is better’.

The soft purple lights accent the dreamy atmosphere of this quaint and modern haven where I feel far removed from the bustle of the city below.  In true Mandarin Oriental style, this hotel and restaurant feel exclusive and private.  Even the bathrooms are exquisite, offering panoramic views of the city through its polished glass windows behind the sinks.  The service reflects the 3 Michelin star status of the world renowned French chef whose adoring American fans have rejoiced at the opening of this US outpost. For me it’s a blessing, as I’m still licking my wounds from last year’s trip to France when I had to cancel Saturday night reservations at his world famous restaurant on Rue Balzac in Paris because I was sick.

For a brief moment I blush and check below my feet as I’m led up the staircase to the suspended wine loft which hangs above the front desk.  I’m wearing a dress, and the staircase is made of clear glass.  It’s a sharp and clean space and I want to spend time looking at each bottle, but I’m anxious to finally savor the inventive and curious creations of the irreverent genius.  I don’t even notice the staff tucking me into my comfortable chair or adjusting my table setting as it’s all done quietly and smoothly.  Everything flows with the grace of a summer wind, all except for time which seems to stop.

‘Cuisine does not measure itself in terms of tradition or modernity.  One must read in it the tenderness of the chef’ – Pierre Gagnaire

The intricate menu opens to a description of the $285 tasting menu, titled ‘Homage to the American Product’.  Maine lobster with Riesling granité, Washington Bay scallops with turmeric, biscotti and apple-cinnamon paste, Sonoma foie gras served with vegetable cocotte and Confucius Duck of Sylvia Prizant with fresh morels, finished off by a 5 course dessert, entice my taste buds to explore this option, but I opt for some a la carte items that I can’t pass up.  The Sonoma Valley foie gras dégustation is a must for me, as well as the Langoustine appetizer.  We waver about ordering an additional appetizer of veal sweetbreads, but knowing that 1 course at Pierre Gagnaire means 4-5 offerings of eccentric interpretations of the main product, we keep it simple.  As we peruse the menu, we sip on refreshing signature Twist cocktails, lemongrass mojito and ginger pear bellini.

Meanwhile, an amuse bouche extravaganza arrives at our table, starting with the wondrous  Bluefin tuna chantilly with flax seed crackers.  The luscious whipped cream, infused with smokiness, is so light and airy that it practically floats up into one of the orbs in the ceiling.

Ginger lemongrass sablé with rabbit ear almonds is served with a mini pecorino cheese soufflé topped with a cheese crisp and spinach velouté dot.  I relish the crunchy pecorino morsel that tastes like refined comfort food.

The Guinness and Jack Daniels geleé with gingerbread crumble crust proves to be my favorite amuse with its dark and sexy flavors reminiscent of bitter chocolate.

The Nolpi salad of finely diced cuttlefish, haricot vert, red bell pepper and celeriac doesn’t have much flavoring but it offers a wonderful play of crunchy and chewy textures.

As we try to decipher the 43 page wine menu, we talk about the small nibbles that we just had, only to realize that we hadn’t even ordered our food yet.  There’s so much enthusiasm at the table already and dinner hasn’t officially started.  Even the breads are amazing- molasses raisin bread, mini baguettes and auvergnat are served with wedges of addictive seaweed butter and salted beurre Bretagne.  My anticipation and excitement grow by the second- this is going to be a thrilling and wild ride, and I am buckled up and more than ready to go.

3 servers descend upon our table at once, each carrying 3 plates for a total of 9 to start off our appetizer courses of Langoustine and Foie Gras Dégustation.  We are given strict instructions to start with the pan seared langoustines, served with chanterelle and trumpet mushrooms in a langoustine broth,  seasoned with ‘Terre de Sienne’ spices of piment d’Espelette and coriander and finished off with orange zest.  The fungi bring a distinct earthiness to the rich and creamy broth which we happily lap up with bits of bread.  I wonder if I can order a jar of this marvelous bisque to go, to take a piece of Gagnaire heaven back home with me.

A blushing exoskeleton carries its naked flesh over its shoulders in this interesting seafood plating.  A poached wedge of pear accompanies the perfectly grilled langoustine which is flavored with ginger teriyaki Diablo sauce.

Langoustine mousseline with spinach velouté, perfumed with Sherry Amontillado and garnished with dill spears, is creamy and rich.  As I dig my spoon into the pillowy mousseline, the vibrant green color of the velouté comes bleeding out.

Dark brown langoustine geleé is brought alive by the acidity of the sweet and sour heirloom tomato Juliette marmalade, and topped with a fine dusting of  lobster coral.  The minerality of the Leth Gruner Veltliner Steinagrund 2008 that our server pairs for our langoustine dish goes particularly well with the slightly bitter finish that the lobster coral brings to this otherwise rich dish.

My favorite dish of the evening is the fifth and final dish of the langoustine course, the plump and sweet langoustine tartare, served on a platform of wakame seaweed ice to keep the dish at an optimal cool temperature, and nestled under a blanket of nori confetti.  The succulent langoustine tails, such delightful little treasures of the ocean, are held in place with a dollop of creamy nori chantilly and flavored with a spicy grapefruit syrup that brightens up the dish.

The 4 course Sonoma Valley foie gras Dégustation begins with a seared wedge of buttery foie, flavored with sweet and sour duck glaze and accessorized with a complex amalgam of salty and sweet.  Soft chunks of sweet apple marmalade and slivers of Iberico ham take refuge atop the foie gras boat that floats on a puddle of bright aromatic Spanish olive oil.  The fruity olive oil surprisingly doesn’t weigh down the foie gras, but instead enhances and even lightens the fattiness of the protein.  This is a resonant and delightful dish that is well thought out.

Seared zucchini buttons embedded in the top forest green layer of spinach pureé add much needed texture to this otherwise disappointing dish of foie gras custard.  I can’t get past the second bite of the foie gras custard which hides underneath the mossy vegetable swamp, and I apologetically send this dish back.

Perfectly round and toasty foie gras croquettes are served on a bed of delightful Trevicchio coulis made with radicchio and pickled red onions.  The rich and slightly tart purple coulis really makes the dish shine.

The fourth and final interpretation of foie gras is my favorite, a simple terrine flavored with Amontillado sherry on a bed of fig pureé and stabbed with delicate shards of crisp toasted ginger bread at skewed angles.  A splash of ginger bread powder completes the picture of what looks to me like a foie gras under attack.  The buttery and rich wedge of foie gras is exquisite, with each precious bite ending in a sweet lingering note of sherry.  The pairing of our foie gras dégustation with a glass of 2005 late harvest Alain Brumont Brumaire proves to be most triumphant with this terrine.

Our wonderful server surprises us with a complimentary palate cleanser of red beets and champagne parfait.  Succulent cubes of red beets marinated in campari and rum are topped with a layer of refreshing champagne sorbet and an airy beet würtz spuma finish.  The earthy and sweet flavors of the beets are well balanced with the fresh and fruity sorbet, and the vibrant color of the red spuma is mesmerizing.  It’s a sensational dish that almost makes me shed tears of joy.  I would love to try to replicate it at home.

Potato ice cream with chopped eggs and a generous dollop of Osetra caviar also resets our palates with its cold temperature and clean crisp flavors.  Naturally, the caviar is the leading actor here and the supporting cast of potatoes and eggs follow through with their performance.

4 enticing options for seafood include Alaskan halibut with hibiscus gelée, Maine lobster with duck foie gras cake, Loup de Mer with cauliflower velouté and John Dory with fennel pearls and star anise, but we’re hungry for the meats.  La Terre land critter selections like Nebraska bone-in rib eye, filet mignon, filet of veal and guinea hen all stimulate my salivary glands, but we forego these options to order rabbit and lamb.  Our rabbit course kicks off with an amazing marjoram stuffed saddle lightened with the vibrant colors and flavors of basil pesto, pine nuts, basil oil, tomato caviar and Parmigiano Reggiano cheese.  I am pleasantly surprised at how tasty this dish is, given that it is a fairly straightforward and simple dish with ingredients that we can relate to, unlike the quizzical and exotic flavor combinations of Gagnaire’s other dishes.

Morsels of pan sautéed rabbit leg dusted with cornflower, juicy chunks of chanterelle mushrooms, glazed turnips and snow peas in a lime jus all take refuge under the dainty umbrella of a crispy peppered nougatine.

Our Colorado lamb course starts with a juicy cut of mousseline wrapped tenderloin atop a blanket of thinly sliced braised turnip and beetroot, flavored with red wine lamb jus and garnished with smooth green blots of zucchini purée.  The soft mousseline encasing imparts an interesting layer of texture to the tender meat.

I happily gnaw every possible bit of flavorful meat and fat off of the lamb rib chop which is gallantly displayed on a mound of crispy spring cabbage encircled by an oregano and tamarind lamb jus moat.  A smidgen of dark brown tamarind mostarda brings a complex earthy accent to the well balanced dish, which pairs nicely with a glass of 2008 Laetitia Pinot from the local California vineyards of Arroyo Grande.

A light and refreshing cold Provençal Tian tower made with alternating layers of slow roasted lamb leg, heirloom tomato, microbasil and a hint of mascarpone cheese is the perfect way to end the savory portion of our meal.

Twist offers a la carte desserts for $16 each, but when you can order the 5-course Grand Dessert Pierre Gagnaire with seasonal fruits and vegetables for $24, the solution is quite simple.  The first dessert course, called LLLemon, is an invigorating citrus tasting flight of lemon sorbet and candied citrus rind in a lagoon of pink Thai grapefruit and citrus gelée.

Sweet honey cream sports a wide-brimmed almond tuille embellished with dried raisins at a tilt like a sassy Southern belle at the Kentucky derby, and the luscious quince syrup that finishes off the honey parfait is even more memorable.

The red cassis carpet is rolled out for the dainty morsels of coffee tartlette with whiskey chantilly and cassis gelée stuffed milk chocolate-pistachio glacée.

The whimsical vegetable dessert, titled The Evil, highlights a scoop of peppered mozzarella ice cream with tomato confit and microgreens, finished off with a film of dried tomato skin and sprinklings of candied eggplant.  It’s an interesting savory dish that one would normally expect to see in the appetizer menu rather than the dessert menu, and I wonder about the inspiration behind naming this vibrant and virtuous dish The Evil.

My favorite dessert is the beautifully layered sweet decadence of ginger and campari marinated Thai grapefruit, chocolate cake, chocolate cremeux and chocolate disc.  The subtle bitterness of campari liqueur and the hint of citrus from the bottom grapefruit layer bring sophistication to this triple chocolate decker by tempering the rich luscious cremeux from being too overwhelming.

In his website, Pierre Gagnaire writes that his restaurant is one which is present in the now, facing the future and respectful of the past, one which strives to give pleasure through a generous yet lively cuisine which takes risks.  I reflect back on my splendid meal of visual, gustatory, olfactory and tactile delights where every dish was a novel artistic interpretation and fantastic insight into his creative genius.  Every dish at Twist certainly had a twist, with flavor concepts and plating which were clearly outside of the box, yet done in a quiet and sophisticated manner that was believable and familiar.  At times saluting classic French cuisine, always using incredibly fresh local ingredients, and otherwise pioneering unconventional and whimsical compositions, this wonderful chef and his unpredictable cuisine has left me in awe.  Such brilliance only comes around once in a while, and I was honored to have had the opportunity to enjoy his creations.  A revenge visit to finally make it out to his flagship restaurant on Rue Balzac to redeem myself is in the works now.  Until then, I will continue to cherish the beautiful memories of this enchanted evening at Twist thanks to the legendary chef who always seems to have an ‘excès de vitalité!’

Twist by Pierre Gagnaire

Mandarin Oriental Las Vegas

3752 Las Vegas Boulevard South
Las Vegas, NV 89109
(888) 881-9367

Random trivia:  Did you know that rabbits eat their own night droppings, called cecotropes?  When a rabbit is engaging in cecotrophy, it is eating nutrient packed droppings from its anus.  Santé!

Todd English P.U.B. – Las Vegas

Boy meets girl.  Boy and girl fall in love.  Boy proposes with a 6-carat diamond ring.  Boy whisks girl away to Croatia, where he surprises her with a private (but not legal) wedding ceremony on a yacht. Boy presents girl with a prenup saying that girl will get nothing upon divorce.  Girl allegedly attacks boy with his Chopard watch and tears up the prenup agreement.  Boy goes to the hospital to get 7 stitches next to his eye.

Boy disappears a week before the $150,000 wedding.  Girl goes crazy.  Boy phones girl a few hours before the wedding to call it off.  Girl later learns that boy had called his friends and family days before the wedding to tell them that it wasn’t happening.  Girl gets slapped with the outstanding bill for the lavish wedding.  Girl goes public and does a tell-all interview, calling boy an animal.  Girl gets charged for assault in the Chopard incident.  Girl is ordered by the court to do community service and attend anger management classes.

This is not a script for Eva Longoria’s character in Desperate Housewives- it’s the true life story of her Beso business partner, Chef Todd English, and the romance-gone-wrong fiasco that unfolded last year.  If you thought that soap opera plots only happened to Hollywood celebrities, then you’re in for a surprise.  The culinary world is packed with jaw dropping drama, from the recent murder charges against Food Network TV Chef Juan-Carlos Cruz for soliciting homeless men in a plot to murder his wife, to Paula Deen being sued for trademark infringements.  We still don’t know who fathered Padma Lakshmi’s baby, and let us not forget the ordeal with America’s criminal sweetheart, Martha Stewart.

Despite headline news of chefs gone bad, it’s hard to resist patronizing their restaurants when their food is good.  I felt intense moral guilt about dining at Todd English’s recent venture in Las Vegas, knowing that I was financially supporting his bad boy behavior, but on that particular late afternoon in Vegas, it sounded like the best option to satiate my appetite.  For a city that never sleeps, there are surprisingly very few options for all-day celebrity chef dining.  Las Vegas has become the new culinary mecca for internationally acclaimed chefs like Joël Robuchon, Guy Savoy and Alain Ducasse, but these places are usually only open for dinner.  Some places are open for lunch between 12-2:30pm, but honestly, if you’re up in time for lunch at noon, then you ain’t doing it right in Sin City.

When I stumbled out of bed at 3pm with ringing ears and a voracious appetite, still trying to make sense of the wine stains on my shirt (where did I go and what did I do last night?!), I reviewed my dining options.  Where can we find a decent brewski to numb that pounding headache?  Throwing back oysters at the raw bar at Bouchon in the Venetian seemed like an enticing option, but with a Bouchon back home in Los Angeles now, it wasn’t exciting.  Hubert Keller’s Burger Bar at Mandalay Bay seemed painfully far from the center of the strip.  I wanted much more than dainty charcuterie at Batali’s Enoteca San Marco in the Venetian.  Gastropub fare at Crystals in the new CityCenter complex was the perfect solution.

James Beard Award-winning chef Todd English already had an Olives outpost in the Bellagio, but it was the back to back opening of Beso and adjacent PUB that marked his dynamic success in Vegas.  PUB, which stands for Public Urban Bar, opened 3 months ago with a wild opening party filled with juggling dwarf leprechauns and Vegas celebrities.

I remember seeing his original restaurant Olives, packed every night with enthusiastic patrons, back in the days when I spent my college years in Boston.  Little did I know that he would eventually become a national celebrity, opening numerous restaurants from Seattle to Orlando and even Los Angeles in his joint venture Beso with actress Eva Longoria.  With nearly 20 food establishments in the nation now, it’s an understatement to say that he’s spreading himself a little too thin, making me doubt whether dining at any one of his restaurants actually qualifies for eating Todd English’s cuisine.

Still, this new gastropub offering scrumptious comfort food and beers on tap at an affordable price is a welcome addition to the Vegas strip where the previous dining options meant a cheap bad meal or double down and bust.  The tiny door at the entrance is deceiving- I expected a small dark room crammed with patrons noshing on burgers, but instead I stepped into a surprisingly large and brightly lit industrial space that was split into several sections.  Dart boards decorated the walls of the banquette section on the right, leading to the back section filled with more tables that looked onto the semi-open kitchen.  A communal table accommodated a party of 10 by the raw bar at the edge of the circumferential bar, while smoking patrons basked in the afternoon Vegas sun outside on the patio.  I loved the tall ceilings in this English-pub-meets-Balthazar restaurant where we chose a barside table that looked out onto Julian Serrano’s restaurant next door at Aria.

In classic pub style, Executive Chef Isaac Carter enhances every dish with a generous serving of oil and butter to please all lagerphiles.  He started off  in the original Olives kitchen with Chef English, and continued on in numerous other English adventures like Kingfish Hall, Olives at the Bellagio and Beso at CityCenter.  The menu is upscale pub food, offering classics like fish and chips and sheperd’s pie, and satisfying simple cravings for good meat with tableside sandwich carvings of prime beef and roasted lamb while appealing to finicky gourmands with finger licking selections of duck buns and moules frites.  In addition to the bivalves and crustaceans from the raw bar, the items to get are the sliders, which range from traditional beef burger sliders to chicken parmesan to pastrami with kraut and swiss cheese.  Of course, PUB’s the name, and the entire flip side of the one sheet food menu lists a wealthy selection of malts and hops.

We started, naturally, with a plate of fish and chips to accompany our Stella Artois Pilsner and Pyramid Audacious Apricot Ale.  A half-inch thick layer of crunchy batter encased moist cuts of cod which we happily chased down with the refreshing bell pepper and cabbage cole slaw.  The thick cut fries were divine, and I couldn’t stop eating them, especially when dipped in the tart and wonderful malt vinegar aioli.

Freshly shucked Hama Hama oysters were the perfect hangover cure with a squeeze of lemon and a drop of shallot vinaigrette.

Chicken liver pâté with balsamic, garlic and onions served hot in a small cast iron pot was a gooey mound of intense gameyness.  The chopped egg and sliced scallion garnish did nothing to temper the overwhelming heartiness of the pâté, but the toasted challah bread triangles that it came with were a crunchy and heavenly delight.

The sensational winner at PUB was the brown butter lobster roll dish, made with freshly shucked Maine lobster tossed in a warm brown butter aioli and served with a side of kettle chips and creamy cole slaw.  The buttery and tasty lobster meat was tucked into an even more buttery soft bread, which was then lightly grilled with even more butter.  It was a lobster and butter marriage made in heaven, a sinful crustacean pleasure, and I still dream of going back to Vegas just to have another one of these rolls.

PUB at CityCenter is the perfect answer to those odd hour cravings.  Whether you’re looking for quick eats after emerging from an after hours club, rolling out of bed in your sweats in the late afternoon, or seeking a casual joint for late night cravings, this is a wonderful gastropub that will satisfy your belly without breaking your wallet.  If you’re a star struck fan of Chef Todd English, previously named one of People magazine’s 50 Most Beautiful People, then don’t get your hopes up.  You’ll probably never see him at PUB, or any of his other restaurants for that matter.  If you’re hesitant about feeding his business because you’re morally conflicted about chefs gone wild (was it a case of psycho bride-to-be or boy behaving badly?), then take a cab over to Hubert Keller‘s Burger Bar and support the ‘nice chefs’.

Todd English PUB

Crystals, City Center

3720 Las Vegas Boulevard South
Las Vegas, NV 89109
(702) 489-8080

Random trivia:  Did you know that the quintessential British dish of ‘fish and chips‘ originated in the 1860’s?  Deep fried fish and crispy potato wedges developed separately- fried potatoes spread south from Scotland while the popularity of fried fish moved north from Southern England, eventually merging in the first official fish and chip shop opened by a Jewish proprietor in London in 1860.