I celebrated my iconic 30th birthday last October in Las Vegas. I woke up to filet mignon and red wine for breakfast in bed and finished my night at Hubert Keller's restaurant Fleur De Lys in Mandalay Bay.
This was an intense chef's tasting menu all paired around a beer for a change and not paired around wine. They offered it with wine at first, but also let us know once we chose beer, that they would be offering up a regular chef's tasting menu paired around beer as well as their wine course. Finally fine dining is starting to get it.
For those of you who don't know, the Las Vegas strip is a craft beer wasteland. That is until you visit the Burger Bar in Mandalay Bay, also owned by Hubert Keller. A fabulous, low-key burger joint where you can a glorious offering of craft beers, and just about any kind of burger you want. Including their famous $60 burger, The Rossini. It's made with Kobe beef, sauteed foie gras, shaved truffles, Madeira sauce on an onion bun.
Yeah, it's like that.
After deciding I wanted something rich and fabulous to eat for my 30th birthday dinner, we decided on Fleur De Lys. Having recently seen Hubert Keller on Top Chef, I really liked him a lot. He had amazing skills, and a general nice attitude. For once I didn't see a disgusting egomaniac celebrity chef. I know that sounds rude, but most celebrity chefs are so full of themselves. I liked watching Keller, and he seemed like a decent guy. Again his skills were unbelievable. I would love to sit and watch him cook.
This was their 6 course chef's tasting menu prepared by Chef Steve Wolf.
It didn't matter what glorious food was about to be presented to me. They had Tripel Karmeliet and paired my entire meal around this beer. It was a little funny when our waiter informed me that it as a bigger bottle of beer since Todd had ordered his own beer, a Sierra Nevada Torpedo. I informed him that I am a BeerAdvocate and to please bring it on!
Amuse Bouche: Lobster avocado roll in a watermelon bath.
Light, delicious, and refreshing. Clean and finished with a slight hint of salt contrasting the sweet watermelon. This was so refreshing with the crisp, sweet Tripel Karmeliet.
First: Ahi tuna on fennel salad with ponzu sauce.
Fresh, delicate taste, salty ponzu sauce was the right balance with the sweet ginger cracker. Soft tuna, earthy greens, and crunchy cracker made for a wonder mix of textures.
Second: Maui onion cream soup with black truffle and duck ragout wrapped in a crepe and red onion puree with bordeaux.
Sadly my second image was blurred, but that doesn't change how decadent and amazing this soup was. So rich and creamy. The duck fat added a nice flavor to the soup while the black truffle was potent and added a wonderful dirty and delicious earthy tasting pop. The red onion pure was the best part in my opinion adding a nice sweet and rich backbone to the soup. Did I mention that this soup was rich?
Third: Veal and Yukon Gold Potato raviolis with sweet English peas and sunchoke foam.
A wonderful sweet and rich broth balanced by the earthy greens, sweet peas. This is the kind of thing that makes me kick myself for eating veal, but secretly coveting it at the same time.
Two negatives to this course. This was the point where the richness started to become almost too much and it only gets more rich as the courses keep coming. Also I am not a fan of foams on fancy dishes anymore. It's a neat trick albeit an overused technique. I get that it adds the right hint of a flavor you want to add to a dish, but it looks sloppy by the time it gets served. If they could do table side service of adding the foam while it's being presented, I think that could make all the difference. Delicious course, but the foam doesn't exactly make it look all that appetizing.
Fourth: Hamachi with black trumpet mushrooms, ginger foam, and tempura scallions.
More foam but at least this one looked more appetizing than the veal raviolis. The foam was very salty, but the raw Hamachi helped tame it. Another super rich broth course but the unbelivable part was that I couldn't stop myself from eating it all. I was getting a little too full at this point but I had one more main course to go.
I know an American not entirely used to super rich French foods, but this was almost too much.
Fifth: Colorado rack of lamb with harissa, caramelized red onions and potato puree.
The lamb was fatty and perfectly cooked. The harissa was not too hot thankfully. I can't handle too much hot spice. The potatoes were rich and creamy and delicious loaded with pure butter. Despite the potatoes being so rich, they were a nice contrast to the plate and a break up of the rich sauce.
I think at this point you can see why I am beginning to get too full with these fabulously decadent and rich courses. It was just about too much. I was beginning to feel sick-full instead of satisfied.
This will get better though...
Intermezzo: Coconut soup with large tapioca pearls, kiwis, strawberries, and fried plantains, and mango and coconut sorbet.
Like any chef worth their salt, they know when the situation is getting a little precarious. After all the rich and super decadent food sent out, this course came and like magic it erased the sickeningly full feeling.
This course was so light and delicious and a perfect way to cut the richness out of the picture. It was after this course, I was able to sit back and relax feeling comfortably full. If it wasn't for this course, I don't think I would have made it.
Dessert: Sauterne poached pears with fall spices over pressed walnut sable with toasted cinnamon ice cream with sesame crisp. Compressed trio of pears marinated in fino, port, and banyals.
Sauces: Vanilla Sauterne gel
Port spice reduction
I had to have them write this course down. There was literally so much going on on this plate. Wonderful and light dessert course once again perfect and delicious after such an amazingly heavy meal. The pears were fantastic and simple. The walnut sable was a little bit odd and chewy, but flavor wise it was right on point and balanced.
This was a cool little culinary feat for a dessert. Simple tasting and refreshing, but a lot of techniques displayed.
But it didn't end there....
Homemade Madeleines with hot chocolate dipping sauce.
And with our check came a collection of nougat, pate de fruit, a chocolate financier, a lemon macaroon, and something I called a "Tower of awesomeness" in my notes about this dinner.
This was probably the single most expensive meal I have ever had with a check nearing $500 (I did buy two cook books on top of all of this food and it was my birthday), but without a doubt, one of the best meals I have ever had in my life. Everything was wonderful and expertly prepared. Even though I reached my limit with the rich foods, the coconut soup saved the day and reset everything leaving me completely satisfied with my meal.
Our waiter was delightful, helpful, and enthusiastic about beer and past beer dinners the restaurant has held before. I was thrilled to have heard about this place being open to and having hosted beer dinners before. It would be a dream of mine to host a BeerAdvocate sponsored beer dinner at Fleur De Lys. There would be nothing else that could even come close to something that awesome.
This was a fantastic culinary journey and well worth a visit if you happen to be in Las Vegas. And furthermore, they paired that whole amazing dinner around my beer. The beer worked with everything sat in front of me. It was incredible.