Parker Does Las Vegas

The authentic ambience of a Paris bistro, in addition to topnotch food, made this an excellent stop while eating, gambling, and catching all the shows in Vegas. One flaw ... the 2000 Châteauneuf du Pape was served "hot," and I had to request an ice bucket to cool it off. That's inexcusable. Expensive

One of the finest French meals I have had in the past year, Las Vegas's La Cirque's cooking has much in common with that of the great Daniel Boulud of New York City. Bold flavors, brilliant execution, and tremendous intensity as well as complexity made for a spectacular night overlooking the phony Lake Como at the Bellagio Hotel. I highly recommend this restaurant. Although the wine list is absurdly priced, I was able to purchase the Pégaü for $85 a bottle. Come to think about it, I have never eaten this well at the NYC La Cirque. Very Expensive

I know it's probably not fair to draw any conclusions based on one visit, but the only reason I can see to go to this restaurant is for the incredible wine service and to view the striking architectural tower of glass wine cellar (5 stories), with their so-called wine angels lifted by cables to retrieve bottles. It is a tour de force as an architectural wonder and innovative wine cellar. I must also say the staff is very informed and helpful. They claim to be the only restaurant in the world using an oversized wireless Palm Pilot-like apparatus to access their entire wine inventory as well as provide a considerable amount of information. That's the good news.

The food was mediocre ... at best. It's almost as if the chef was afraid to use any type of spice or fat to provide flavor. With the exception of the gorgeously succulent hama hama oysters from Washington state, which only had to be shucked and served, virtually everything else was devoid of flavor. How a block of tuna can have absolutely no flavor strikes me as a dubious accomplishment. The same is true for the caramelized chicken, which was served in a watery broth with beautiful translucent ravioli that, again, had no flavor. It appears the chef is afraid to use salt, pepper, spices or fat. If you're on a diet or doing the cure, this might be a noteworthy establishment assuming you also avoid the wine. That's the only reason to dine here. It was a major disappointment. Very Expensive

This is a fun, casual place with excellent cooking including well-prepared dumplings, marvelous hama hama oysters, and great Chinese chicken salad. While we did not have any wine, the list included many intelligent choices with considerable diversity as well as fair prices. Moderate

Here's another example of one of our country's most renowned chefs lending his name to a restaurant that just doesn't make it. The wine list is superb, and the service is impeccable, but the food is well below the quality of most Las Vegas buffets. Expensive

This popular Asian noodle house does Dim Sum on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. The choices are limited, but all are excellent. The noodles are also high class, which is obvious from the lines of customers (mostly Asian) waiting to get into this small establishment. It's a fun place for lunch. I did not ask to see the wine list. For quality, freshness, and impeccable service, this is a great value. Inexpensive

When Spanish-born Julien Serrano was the owner/chef of San Francisco's famed Masa's, that restaurant produced some of my most memorable culinary experiences on the West Coast. I was surprised when he decided to set up shop in Las Vegas, abandoning Masa's for a spectacularly beautiful establishment called Picasso in the Bellagio Hotel. Since it's opening, it has consistently been rated as one of the great culinary destinations in the United States. Based on my one and only meal, it deserves all the accolades it has received. This world-class restaurant is as good as any French three-star Michelin establishment. The cuisine seems more French than Spanish, although his marinated sardines with pequillo peppers, drunk with a 1999 Hirtzberger Grüner Veltliner Smaragd, was one of the most extraordinary combinations of wine and food I have had in the last twelve months. There was not a disappointing course among the exceptionally flavorful tuna tartare, the aforementioned Spanish sardines, the scallops, a marvelous filet of sole, and terrific foie gras and lamb chop.

The white wines stole the show, with the Hirtzberger absolutely spectacular, as was the non-vintage Jacques Selosse Blanc de Blancs Champagne. There was a strong performance by the 1999 Rayas Châteauneuf du Pape Blanc, which was not oxidized as many of these bottlings tend to be. Zind-Humbrecht's 1995 Gewurztraminer Herrenweg de Turckheim Vendange Tardive was the perfect foil for the foie gras, which was served with roasted apples, pistachios, and a bit of rhubarb.

The red wines included two of the most expensive, rare reds in the world. 1996 was a great Médoc vintage, but not exactly a top-flight year in Pomerol. You would never have known that by tasting the 1996 Le Pin. It offered a gorgeous perfume of black fruits, chocolate, espresso roast, and a hint of spice. The wine was thick, rich, full-bodied, and delicious. It was preceded by one of the world's most renowned as well as costly wines, the 1996 Romanée-Conti from the Domaine de la Romanée-Conti. Although a mythical wine, it has rarely delivered the complexity and pleasure I would have expected from a wine of this status. This 1996, considered by Burgundy experts to be a great vintage, exhibited a medium ruby color (already lightening to a rust at the rim) as well as striking aromatics of earth, underbrush, red and black fruits, flowers, incense, and Asian spices. The bouquet merited a score in the low-nineties, but the flavors were a let down. Medium-bodied, with little weight or depth in addition to extremely high acidity, it tasted sharp and texturally deficient. Top Burgundy has great texture, but this wine, which is certainly youthful (chronologically speaking), is not a profound effort. However, legends die hard, and myths, especially among Burgundy wine enthusiasts, are meant to be upheld. However, after spending $2000-5000 a bottle, most label drinkers will somehow rationalize that it is sublime, even if their taste buds and brain cells say it isn't. As Bruce Hornsby sang ... "That's just the way it is."

A glorious night of wine and food finished with a virtually perfect wine, the 1993 Château Pajzos Esszencia from Hungary (produced under the regime of the late Jean-Michel Arcaute, who died long before his time in a freak drowning accident off the coast of Bordeaux). Arcaute was enthralled by the potential of what could be produced in Tokaji, Hungary, and this wine is a tribute to his visionary spirit. Very Expensive

The Las Vegas steakhouse of New York City French chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten, this establishment is located across the hall from Bellagio's restaurant Picasso. The lavishly comfortable, strikingly colored room is beautifully illuminated (nothing glaring). Even more exciting, the food as well as the service were both exceptional. And, like many new Vegas restaurants, it has a world-class wine list. We began our meal with some Washington state oysters. While not the great hamas-hamas I enjoyed at other meals during my stay, they tasted saltier and less creamy, but were stunningly fresh. I had a spectacular deep fried sushi rare Ahi tuna roll served in a cream of wasabi jus. My wife and I shared a Caesar salad that was as good as that famed culinary classic can be. I followed that with the restaurant's short ribs, and my wife indulged in the New York strip steak. Both were outstanding. I would not place Jean-Georges's short ribs on the same pedestal as those of Daniel Boulud of restaurant Daniel, but they were beautifully prepared. I also liked the fact that my wife's sirloin had a very aged beef flavor, and the idea of serving it with six separate sauces was appealing, from the steak au poive sauce to the classic bearnaise, to some unusual but interesting combinations. All in all, this is a serious restaurant for steak and lobster lovers, but there are plenty of other things on the menu for those who desire something other than meat or shellfish. This is a highly recommended venue. Very Expensive

More articles from this author