Picasso – Las Vegas
March 28, 2007
On March 27, 2007, Linda and I dined at Picasso, one of the top rated restaurants in Las Vegas. It is in the enormous Bellagio Casino and Hotel complex where we were staying. The chef is Spanish and the cuisine is supposed to be, like the restaurant’s namesake, Hispano-Franco fusion, but we saw no signs of that in our meal. There are real Picasso paintings on the walls, a holdover from Steve Wynn’s former ownership of the hotel. The clientele is surprisingly well-dressed and well-behaved, in contrast to the hordes just outside the entrance. The price, the need for an advance reservation and the optional recommendation that gentlemen should wear jackets undoubtedly contribute to this. We arrived five minutes early for our 8:00 reservation and had to wait twenty minutes seated under Picasso’s Portrait of a Man before being seated at an excellent corner table. A month before Las Vegas had happily banned smoking in restaurants.
There is a five-course tasting menu at $115 or a $105 prix fixe menu with several choices in each of four courses. Wine pairings are offered for both menus. With the tasting menu one can also order “premium wine pairings,” a cheese course or a caviar course.
We ordered two bottles of wine from our friendly waiter: a Tantara Talley’s Vineyard Arroyo Grande Chardonnay and a 2002 Talley’s Vineyard Arroyo Grande Pinot Noir. The first was served quickly and was delicious; we thought we would have guessed a viognier tasting blind. Then the young sommelier arrived to inform us that the Talley’s Vineyard Pinot Noir was not available. He then suggested several more expensive Pinots Noirs, with elaborate, useless descriptions of each. We chose what was supposed to be the smoothest one, a 2003 Whitcraft “Melville Vinyards” SantaRitaHills Pinot Noir. But it was a big, rough fruit bomb that might be very good in twenty years. I had forgotten what I knew well: that in fancy restaurants, if you don’t want to pay for the old wines, it is best to order less expensive red wines as they are more likely to be ready to drink. An amuse-gueule of watercress soup and a tartine of foie gras mousse arrived. It was okay.
The first course was Roasted Maine Lobster with Trio of Corn. I don’t know what the “trio” referred to, but, in addition to corn kernels, there was sort of a corn custard mound; it was all held together with a slightly sweet sauce like a creamy mayonnaise. The generous pieces of lobster were superb, but that made three slightly sweet ingredients, which didn’t work for me, but Linda liked it.
The next course was Pan Seared U-10 Day Boat Scallop with fresh asparagus and Hollandaise-Mousseline. The one huge scallop was delicious and caramelized just right with its searing. The sauce was good, but the asparagus were not as fresh as the scallop.
Then came Sautéed Foie Gras with poached lady apple, roasted walnuts apple cider and apple cider vinegar. This was good; there was the right amount of salt, which is tricky with foie gras, which was clearly grilled, not sautéed.
The fourth course was Aged Lamb Roti with Sofrito, Truffled Mashed Potatoes and Au Jus. This was also good, although I couldn’t taste the truffles. I am appalled at the chef’s misuse of “au jus” on the menu.
We were given a choice of desserts. Linda took the Apple-Cinnamon Beignets with Calvados, Vanilla, Caramel Sauce and Caramel-Apple Ice Cream.
My choice was the Lychee Bavarois with Coconut Creamsicle and Tropical Fruits.
All in all, the meal was good, but Picasso would not be rated among the top thirty restaurants in New York, maybe not the top fifty.