Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Ladies Who Lunch: A Tale of Two Cities (Part 1)

Sure I was intrigued by the Wine Angels at Aureole in Vegas.  Who wouldn’t  be?  Yet, was it enough to pull me into the restaurant?  As someone who usually finds “special effects” movies boring and lacking in substance, it left me a bit leery.  However, after years of hearing about how innovative Charlie Palmer is as a chef (some of these raves from friends whose opinions I value greatly) and watching his restaurant empire grow, I am happy to say I finally have tried not one, but two of his restaurants.  In order to give both of these restaurants the attention they deserve I am writing about them in two parts.  This, the first part, will detail my outing to Charlie Palmer Steak in Las Vegas.

Nestled inside the Four Seasons Hotel, it is a nice departure from the rest of the Vegas Scene.  Don’t get me wrong, I do love the hustle, bustle and noise of the whole strip scene, but it is also nice to take a short break from it for a more refined experience.  That refined experience is definitely reflected in the decor of the restaurant. The arched doorways, ceilings and ochre walls hint at Southwestern Spanish Architecture, while the dark mahogany paneling and furnishings give it an Upper East Side Club Room feel.  The mix of these two styles work beautifully together in creating an atmosphere of relaxed elegance and sophistication; taking two old world styles and making them somehow modern.

I experienced Charlie Palmer Steak as a party of six. No, I didn’t eat enough for six people (although it did feel like it), it was myself plus five others.  A table full of foodies with everyone wanting to try out as much as possible, we had a fairly wide range of the menu at our table.  I will do my best to cover as much of it as humanly possible. :)  Sadly the photos that I took did not come out (need to remember to bring a flash camera!).
While four in our party waited for the final two, we enjoyed a glass of Tamarack Cellars Merlot 2007 (nice full bodied with flavors of raspberry, black cherry and hints of chocolate) and took in the atmosphere.  When the final two arrived, the game began!! Not only did we order a full array of appetizers, but our crazy group made a special request to the chef to make us potato chips (not on the menu), and he did!!  And by the way, the freshly made potato chips were awesome.
On to the appetizers!!  I had the Wild Arugula Salad with Roasted Beets, Oregon Blue, Pecans and a Sherry Vinaigrette.  The arugula was fresh and crisp and the presentation was beautiful with slices of roasted beets and a puree of beet.  The combination of elements came together perfectly for a perfect salad.  The rest of the table shared several appetizers. The Ahi Tuna Carpaccio had barely hit the table when it disappeared and additional servings were immediately ordered (I think that says it all!!).  In rapid succession, Seared Hudson Valley Foie Gras, Oysters on the Half Shell and Brocconcini Mozzarella w/ Cured Tomatoes arrived at our table and were ooohed and aaaahed over.  Like the arugula salad, the presentations were just right and  inviting.  Everyone thoroughly enjoyed the appetizers which lived up to Charlie Palmer’s image of being a pioneer of progressive American cuisine.   The fusion of classic American cooking with Soba Noodles and a ginger lime vinaigrette (Ahi Tuna Carpaccio) or Foie Gras and White Plum Tart expands the concept of American cuisine to a whole new level that left everyone chomping at the bit for the main course.

For the main course, Surf and Turf (Roasted Maine Lobster/Filet Mignon), Filet Mignon with Roasted Shallot Jus, American Kobe Beef Tartare and Crispy Skinned Japanese “Suzuki” Sea Bass were thoroughly enjoyed by the rest of our group.  I feasted on a plate composed of sides: Wild Mushrooms w/ Carmelized Onions, Garlic Broccolini and an order of the wonderful CP Steak Fries. just thinking about the amazing flavors on my plate is making my mouth water as I write this. There were also sides ordered for the table: Lobster Rice, Sauteed Spinach, more CP Steak Fries and a Truffle Baked Potato.  The Truffle Baked Potato was amazing, but so rich that I didn’t have much room left but to have a small bite.
At this point I thought that I might have actually been restrained enough to leave the restaurant without having someone roll me out, but then dessert was ordered.  Everyone shared an order each of the Warm Summer Fruit Crisp, Strawberry Vanilla Ice Cream Terrine, Chocolate Peanut Butter Bar, Chocolate Brownie Sundae and a selection of Fruit Sorbets.  I initially swore to only take little tastes of each to be able to experience them, but my resolve was not strong enough and I hate to admit that I had more than a taste of each.  I just couldn’t resist!!  
As we wrapped up our meal and prepared to leave, I had to admit that I was impressed with the entire meal, both presentation and ingenuity in blending flavors.  I believe that I was beginning to understand the appeal of Charlie Palmer’s cuisine and knew that I would have to sample more of his wares.  Of course all of this meant I would have to fit in an extra workout the next day, but somehow it was all worth it.