DINNER 53: Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Le Cirque, Bellagio Las Vegas NevadaTonight’s dinner was our ‘date night’. Based on the recommendation of Jean-Robert, we ate at Le Cirque in the Bellagio Hotel & Casino on the Strip in Las Vegas Nevada. This ‘jewel box’ of a restauarant seats 80 guests and overlooks the fabulous fountains of the Bellagio. Passing through the tiny bar area, rich with polished woods, you enter the small dining room with its swooping, silk-tented ceiling and whimisical circus scenes in muted colors on the walls.

Wendy & I decided to go to Le Cirque based on the recommendation of Jean-Robert. He trained the executive chef, Jeremy Lieb, at the Maisonette. Based on that recommendation, we made reservations. When I called to confirm our reservations, I inquired if it was possible to greet Chef Lieb and was told that he was no longer with the establishment. A little snooping, and I found out that there’d be quite a shake-up in the restaurant just a few weeks prior, so my expectations of an earth-shattering meal went out the window. I expected it to be good, but a kitchen in transition doesn’t produce amazing food.

Undaunted, we arrived at the restaurant and were seated. (Go to this page and click the “360 view” link under the picture. When it loads in a new window (QuickTime required), left-click and hold your mouse and pan the view to the right. The first banquette you’ll see is where we sat for our meal.) From our comfortable seats, we could see the entire restaurant and had a view of the fountains outside. After looking at the menu, we quickly decided on the Degustation Menu, a 6-course sampling of the kitchen’s work. We made a couple modifications — we added a course of the “Fresh Winter Black Truffle Risotto with Champagne Sauce” and requested a different wine with dessert. Here’s the complete menu, with wines:

The amuse-bouche was an oyster with caviar presented on a funky metal & glass stand with blue ice (we were warned not to eat the ice!)

Lobster Salad “Le Cirque” served with Pouilly Fume, La Doucette, Loire Valley, 2003. A lobster salad in a light mayo dressing with avocado.

Sauteed Foie Gras with Macerated Fruit and Hazelnuts served with Tokaji, 5 Puttonyos, Royal Tokaji Company, 1999. Generous pieces of foie gras atop lovely soft fruit and crunchy hazelnuts, all in an individual silver pot (with the restaurant name embossed in the handle). Delicious.

Cinderella Squash Veloute with Sweetbreads and Truffles served with Puligny-Montrachet, J. Drouhin, Burgundy, 2002. The soup was lovely and the sweetbreads & truffles were divine. However, we noticed that the wine pairings were overpowering. Unfortunately, this trend continued throughout the meal. It was also at this point that the Sommelier stopped by to inquire how we were enjoying the wines. We told him that this particular pairing wasn’t the best, and he quickly proceeded to ignore us the rest of the evening.

Fresh Winter Black Truffle Risotto with Champagne Sauce served with a white Burgundy, “Le Roy”. This additional course was served exactly the right way — in an individual silver pot with a lid. When the pots were set down, the lids were removed and we filled our nostrils with the wonderful earthy smell of the truffles. This was a perfect course — the risotto was tender with the slightest firmness to the bite, and the flavors were wonderful.

Pan-Seared Striped Bass with Fennel Compote and Bouillabeisse Sauce served with Chambolle-Musigny, J. Drouhin, Burgundy, 1999. I recall the bouillabeisse sauce as being extremely flavorful in this dish, and liked the fennel compote very much.

Intermezzo of Passion Mint Sorbet with Champagne.

Beef Tenderloin with Peppercorn Sauce served with Chateau Malescot, St. Exupery, Margaux, 1995. Very tasty — the medium-rare slices of beef were fanned out on the plate. Easy to cut with a fork.

Grand Marnier Souffle & Molten Chocolate Peanut-Butter Cake with Banana Ice Cream served with Moscato di Asti, Vigna Senza Nome, 2004. Seeing Moscato di Asti on the menu, Wendy & I had asked to substitute it for the Port offered on the regular degustation menu. The server informed us that they’d do a different dessert to match it (instead of the Winter Dessert Fantasy promised on the menu). The souffle was excellent — the flavor was light and airy, not eggy at all, and rich with the taste and aroma of Grand Marnier. The Chocolate Peanut-Butter dish was very good as well, and the banana ice cream was smooth and creamy. The Moscato di Asti was one of the best I’d ever tried.

After dinner, we stopped outside in the mild evening to watch the Bellagio Fountains before heading home for the night. It was a great evening.

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