We road-tripped to Vegas from Phoenix. During that time, I thumbed through four New Yorkers, a New York Times book review, and tweeted a photo of Mr. Ed, a horse in front of us who stuck his head out the window for most of the trip.
We rolled in after four and a half hours and were escorted to the VIP check-in at the Bellagio where we were assigned a media rate room for our Valentine’s Day restaurant review and anniversary weekend. They fed us hors d’oeuvres and wine before escorting us to our quiet corner suite on the 25th floor. The walk from the elevator to our room equaled the distance of three city blocks.
The CEO welcomed us to our suite with a hand-written card, heart-shaped arrangement of rose petals on the bed, and a bottle of Champagne and chocolate covered strawberries. We couldn’t resist chuckling about the romantic snack—I have an aversion to chocolate and consort has a severe allergy to strawberries.
Our dinner reservation at Alizé s (French for Tradewinds??), known for its spectacular views of the strip and outstanding French cuisine was set for 8 PM. I wore a low-cut, short black dress with sexy lace tights and gloves, and high-heel ankle boots. Consort wore black jeans, black shirt, a black sports coat, and his French cap. Yes, we love to dress in black.
We cabbed it to the Palms Hotel, an older philistine establishment, rushed through clouds of smoke through the dingy casino without taking a breath—trying to protect our pallets. We were cleared by the elevator police before being allowed to ride to the 56th floor. Not a great first impression.
We walked past the restaurant’s center piece, a glassed-in wine cellar displaying several levels of their renowned wine and cognac collection. Sitting at a table overlooking the Rio, the rear-end of the Bellagio, with a great view of Vegas’s brand new Big Wheel (550 foot- High Roller) spinning in the distance, delivered the sparkling glitz one expects from Las Vegas. We ordered our usual Kir Royales to sip while we took in the delights of the Chefs’ classic menu—a selection loaded with quality and not much in the way of innovation. I realized that the value of the dinner had to be measured by how well the cooks execute their vision, not on creativity.
As the cocktails arrived, the server ceremoniously placed a gold key with a red velvet tassel on the table and said, “This fits a treasure with a surprise at the end of the meal.” The suspense was palpable. I could hardly contain myself imagining all kinds of gifts.
After we ordered, an amuse bouche so small as to be nearly invisible appeared – a cocktail spoonful of cauliflower soup with a tiny cube of raspberry gelée and a few drips of basil oil. Delicious! The concept of the amuse—to titillate the patron’s tastebuds, build anticipation for the meal, and to introduce the chef’s style of cuisine.
I ordered Roasted Lobster Bisque with saffron polenta lobster tortellini and a slash of tarragon oil and Consort had the Seared Foie Gras with brioche pain perdu, sweet potato purée and apple chutney. We intended to share. My bisque was a silky smooth seafood cream lightly populated with floating pillows of lobster-filled pasta—wonderful. Sorry. Forgot to share.
The foie was well seared, simply oozing fatty flavor and goodness. The pain perdu (think bit o’ French toast) was the snappiest of the accompaniments, sweet and savory at the same time and a good match for the foie. We paired the meal with a Cote de Provence Rosé.
Entrées followed. My Dover Sole was expertly prepared and the sauce Véronique presented with a queue of grapes in a military formation along the top of the filet like rotund, yet tasty, marching soldiers. Consort’s Veal Wellington, seemingly the only innovative dish on the menu, was both visually appealing and flavorful. The rounds of veal were run thru with asparagus, almost sushi-like, rolled in puff pastry and served in a pool of truffled jus. It cut like butter and tasted like food of the gods.
Still dreaming about the fabulous contents of our treasure chest, we stumbled blindly through dessert. I think it was a less-than-extraordinary kiwi/lime Panna Cotta. This time I shared.
Finally, I was given the key to unlock the mystery prize. Trembling, I twisted the key to reveal the booty. It was a mushy chocolate and caramel cupcake boxed and wrapped in plastic wrap. Big deal! It melted by the time we made it back to the room.
Our dining experience at Alizé seemed adequate to begin the romantic weekend tasting—a pretty place with a knockout view, but its French cuisine desperately needs a makeover.
FYI: When cabbing back and forth in Vegas, be sure to get the number of the vehicle (posted on the side of the cab) and a receipt, just in case you lose something valuable. Yes, I know, we learned the hard way. What’s left in Vegas, stays in Vegas.