As mentioned in my post on Food Travel Tips, my biggest splurge was to go to Fleur, Hubert Keller's restaurant in the MGM Grand Casino. As mentioned in other posts, I am a Top Chef: Masters fan and remembered the easy-going and talented Keller. Normally, his restaurant would have been out of my price range, but a good deal on a gift certificate from Restaurant.com gave me a good excuse to splurge.
Since the gift certificate specified that we had to spend $100, Kathy and I decided to order as much food as we could. In hindsight, a better idea would have been to order a drink so as not to overly satiate ourselves as much as we did, but . . . coulda woulda shoulda.
We ordered six small plates and two desserts. Here is a photo journey through our food adventure. Sorry that they aren't the greatest shots, but the low lighting in Fleur wasn't very conducive to food photography.
Steak Tartar: I’ve never had steak tartar and decided to be brave. The tartar itself was buttery and smooth; you would never now it was raw meat. The tartar also had an added velvet quality from the egg yolk on top. I also liked the flavors profile: bright citrus flavors, spiciness from the paprika used to spell “Fleur,” and a fennel aioli. Served with a fresh salad and cheesy crisps, and Keller made me a tartar convert.
Fig Flambe: Though this is a classic combination of thin, crunchy crust, figs, pancetta, and cheese, the effect is hardly ordinary: creamy, rich, slightly smoky, and slightly sweet. I think there was even something that reminded me of red bean paste dolloped on top.
P.E.I. Mussels: Another knockout and probably the best mussels I’ve ever had. The mussels were salty and tender and made light with a bright basil Parmesan emulsion. My favorite part was dunking the bread in the mussel liquid at the bottom of the bowl.
Mac’n’cheese: Mac’n’cheese with lobster and a crunchy parsley and cheese topping. It is rich and decadent and made more so by hints of lobster and sharp shallots.
Pork Schnitzel: This was probably my least favorite; not because it was bad, it was just a little too down the line. But, what I will say, is that it was some of tenderest pork schnitzel I’ve had and was highlighted by a very tasty sauce. The light vinegar based potato salad on the side was also good, but my favorite part of the dish was the creamy dill cucumbers.
Rock Shrimp: This was my favorite. The tartar impressed me the most, but this was the one I just couldn’t stop eating. The more I ate, the more I wanted to eat. Homemade noodles were covered with a red dragon sauce--a sweet-n-sour sauce that is taken to the next level--and crunchy pickled green onions.
Creme Brule Trio and "PB&J:" The desserts were a trio of creme brule (pistachio, vanilla, and raspberry) and chocolate macaroons with peanut butter buttercream, strawberry marmalade, and rum iced milk for dunking. The creme brule was everything you want creme brule to be and the best of the three was the pistachio. But, for me, the "PB&J" stole the show. Words won't even do justice to how delicious that combination of sticky strawberry, salty/sweet peanut butter, chewy macaroons, and cool milk was.
Overall, this will go down as one of my favorite all-around dining out experiences. The waitress, Kathleen, seemed to be just as excited about Kathy and I’s food adventures as we were. Upon noticing that I was taking pictures of all the food, she mentioned that she, too, takes pictures of her meals when she goes out to eat. All the staff were attentive and helpful and seemed to share in a common joy of the food. Given that sometimes restaurants of Fleur’s status can feel pretentious and snooty, the even-keeled and at-home vibe was very welcome and appreciated.
What also made this an especially superb experience was the expertise of the food. Each dish was completely unified, maintained a harmony of textures, flavors, and craft. In other words, you could see the “theme” of each dish in every bite. I also liked that while everyone seems to be going for bigger and better and finding the next best thing, Keller has specialized in reinventing the wheel. He takes all those great childhood dishes, like macaroni and cheese, pork schnitzel, pb&j, that are filled with nostalgia and simplicity, and he modernizes them into adult classics, keeping the wistfulness while updating for mature palates.