Travels with a Gourmet

a food lover's travels, memorable meals, culinary trials and gastronomic experiences

My younger sister works for a Las Vegas weekly magazine and got tickets to see the comedy/improvisation (A.K.A. improv) show of Wayne Brady who was one of the stand-up comedians on the famous Comedy Central show, “Whose line is it anyway?“. I had seen a few of those shows and looked forward to accompanying her to this event. My youngest sister, Dr. R, agreed to baby-sit both kids, her daughter N plus my son, J. Since the show was at one of the Strip’s famous hotels, the Venetian, we went online to see which restaurants were there and finally settled on one of my all-time favorites, Bouchon.

Bouchon is Thomas Keller’s (yes, that one from the famous French Laundry) bistro restaurant which started out in Napa several years ago. It’s a few hundred meters down the road from the French Laundry in Yountville. My husband, A, and I always make it a point to eat there when we’re in Napa and had also been to the Las Vegas Bouchon once for breakfast about a year ago.

My sister and I booked a table for 7:00 (very early for us but typical in the States) to give us enough time to walk across the hotel and casino and get to the show on time at 9:00 p.m. We were seated right away and led to a really nice table overlooking the patio. The interiors are “faux-bistro” with studded-edged banquettes, brass railings, mosaic-tiled floors, cane chairs and paper-covered tables along with a large seafood bar and waiters dressed in the traditional white shirt, black waistcoat, trousers and bow tie and floor-length white apron.

As in Napa, the menus are printed on waxed brown-paper and folded over the crisp white linen napkins. Since we didn’t have much time, we quickly looked at the menu and decided not to order any appetizers and go straight to the main course – I chose the Steak Frites (a seared flatiron steak with maitre d’hotel butter) and my sister ordered Truite Amandine (pan-roasted trout with almonds and beurre noisette and green beans). To accompany my steak, I ordered a glass of Pinot noir from the extensive wine list.

Freshly-baked bread was placed on the table with a small pot of cold, sweet butter along with some warm pistachios. Soon after, we were served our meals. I had asked for a medium-rare steak and was given one that was cooked to medium. There were also caramelized shallots spread over the whole lukewarm steak with the herb butter resting on top. This was definitely disappointing since one of the best things about having a hot steak-frites is having the butter melt over the seared meat and mix in with the juices. Besides, it was completely covered in shallots and didn’t taste like a steak-frites at all. My sister’s trout was fine with the crispy almond slivers on top of the green beans. I was hungry and didn’t have the time to send it back and ask for a new one so I ate it anyway. When we ordered desserts, I asked for the menu to be brought back so I could check that the description for the steak didn’t include shallots and it didn’t (maybe the chef was improvising last night?).

We decided to share the dessert du jour, Bouchons (bite-sized Valrhona chocolate brownies) with vanilla ice cream. Our coffees were served first then the waiter arrived with our dessert plus three other plates: creme caramel, tarte au citron (lemon tart) and a small plate of petits fours with macaroons, nut brittle, chocolate truffles and a fruit jelly – all compliments of the pastry chef. I must admit that was a nice touch but we were both wondering why they had sent us all those desserts – was it the conspicuous photo taking of the food or did they hear me complain to my sister about the shallots on my steak? Whatever the reason was, it ended our dinner on a good note and with a full stomach ready for the show.

We walked through the casino and the hotel and finally got to the Venetian Showroom in time to pick up our tickets at the box office – excellent seats at second row and center which was right in front of the stage. The place started filling up and the show began on time at 9:00 p.m. The show was funny especially the bits when Wayne Brady did improvisation with volunteers from the audience and his signature musical “improv” where he would sing songs making up the words on the spot and singing exactly like several famous artists. He did very funny yet realistic renditions of Prince, Mick Jagger, Bob Dylan, Creed, Kamen and Michael Jackson. The hour and a half went by quickly and we headed home through the noise and neon of the Strip with smiles on our faces.

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