Consort and I celebrated our Valentine’s Day anniversary in Sin City—a great place to romance and chillax. The foodie extravaganza began with an evening that upended all expectations. We experienced an unconventional, wild, and outright mélange of cuisine and service with unlikely food combinations paired together for the happiest of unions—a twisted evening affair for lovers.
Twist, three Michelin Star Chef Pierre Gagnaire’s only US restaurant, is nestled high in the swanky Mandarin Oriental Hotel; a place unique among its casino resort neighbors – no gambling, no smoking, just sophistication and sensuality.
When we arrived at the Mandarin, we stumbled around an unmarked lobby, looking for signage or arrows directing us to the restaurant. It was then Consort gently removed my elbow length black laced glove, blindfolded me and led me through the labyrinth.
On arrival, he peeled off my mask just in time to take in the Strip view from the 23rd floor. The contemporary style setting by Adam Tihany with its floor-to-ceiling windows, suspended wine loft reached by a glass staircase, and golden globes floating in space like fireflies gave way to a most romantic evening with outstanding French eclectic gastronomy.
Our host led us to a window table where our server greeted us with a champagne cocktail – Kir Royale’s, our fave. How did he know? While we perused the special Valentine’s Day menu, the requisite amuse bouche arrived. It was a trifecta of tiny delights including a show-stopping dice-sized cube of shimmering gin & tonic pierced through with a spear of vanilla bean.
The four-course Valentine’s Day tasting menu started with a Terrine of Foie Gras with Sauternes – a delightful pâté of lush goose liver made even richer with the addition of a few spoonful’s of exotic sweet French wine. It partnered with tiny specks of intense flavor architecturally arranged on the plate—a cube of red cabbage gelée, bits of apple and quince compote, a toasted brioche square smeared with quince paste and mini drizzles of beetroot and cranberry syrup. Since we had ordered a wine pairing, a two ounce pour of the 2009 Chateau Haut-Mouleyre, from Cadillac, was charged with matching this amazing starter. The results: smooth, unctuous with a hint of sweetness, the Haut-Mouleyre only heightened the Chef’s quirky creation.
The second course, an eye-popping Scallop and Haddock Soufflé – a lightly oven seared “pancake” of goodness from the sea drenched in a rich sauce oozing American hackleback caviar. The soufflé sat in a nest of sea bean slivers (normally painfully salty, these weren’t) on a bed of perfectly cooked gnocchi. A side to this course was an amazing savory pudding of this and that dished up in a champagne glass looking like a child-sized sundae – but definitely crafted for adults. The wine was an Australian red blend “Rose” from Weingut Gerhard Markowitsch, Carnuntum. Like any modest rosé, it allowed all of the flavors of the second course to live on the palate while keeping our whistles wet.
The main course presented a conundrum – a choice had to be made between the Fricassée of Lobster A L’Américaine or the Black Peppered American Wagyu Striploin Steak. However, this being Valentine’s Day, a couples holiday, the solution came easy – Consort had the steak and I ordered the lobster with a promise to share.
The halves of lobster tail were butter poached, sweet and delicately tender. They were dressed in the buttery smooth white wine sauce and accompanied by a salsify and carrot purée and sautéed shiitake mushroom caps. I honestly don’t know what happened to it, except to say, I didn’t play fair—I didn’t want to trade my lobster for a piece of meat.
Consort’s striploin was presented as perfect rectangular Lincoln logs of seared pepper-crusted beef tastefully laid out under a blanket of a rich, creamy bordelaise sauce with plenty of shaved black truffle for good measure. Consort thought the truffled mash croquettes tucked up next to the steak were a bit gooey and bland, but praised the miniature purses of artichoke barigoule for their earthy umami taste.
The entrée course was paired with a unique wine from the Vipava Valley Herzogovinia (first time I ever had to spell that) – the 2006 Monastery Tverdos’ Vranac. This was a deep dark red that had a lot of barnyard on the nose but was fruity and complex on the tongue. Although it was an ideal pair for the Wagyu, it lacked the finesse necessary to accompany the lobster, so my glass was left lonely.
Consort slid his chair an inch back from the table to mentally let out his belt preparing for the dessert course – the Chef’s eponymous Grand Dessert Pierre Gagnaire. If a three Michelin star chef put’s his name on a dish, you don’t pass on dessert. Close your eyes. Now. imagine a tower composed of an orange and ginger roulade cake topped with cheese cake mousseline, chestnut ice cream, cassis marmalade, almond nougatine, caramel, raspberries and meringue straws strewn all around with colorful edible flowers. The fact is, it’s unimaginable. The Hou Hou Shu “Hana Pink,” another personal favorite, sparkling sake was the pair for the final course and they made a beautiful Valentine’s Day couple.
Dinner ended, but our evening was just beginning. We’re not going to go into our usual ‘attention to detail’ narrative. Just use your imagination.