What do you think of when you hear the words Las Vegas? Most likely you start thinking about the ritzy and decked out casinos, where you envision you will win big but end up losing more money than you budgeted to gamble with in the first place. Next, perhaps your mind takes you to the insanely huge hotels inside the casinos? They are always emailing you deals, telling you to come back and give them more money. And how can we forget the party scene. Do you remember the boujee club where you waited in line for an hour to pay a $50 cover to dance to house “music” from a famous DJ until 6am in the morning? That one where a Bud Light costs $14? Or maybe you just have fond memories of seeing the mix of beautiful buildings and oddities while strolling down the strip?
While these details and events come to mind when I think back to the town they call Sin City, there is one other sin that is synonymous with Las Vegas, gluttony. There are plenty of gigantic buffets where you can stuff your face full until your stomach is about ready to explode. I’ve certainly been there before. But, whether you want fine dining or a cheap bowl of udon noodles, there is a much more exciting and delicious food scene in Las Vegas to explore beyond the buffets. While you certainly pay for the experience, one meal in Las Vegas stands out as one of the best I’ve had. In fact, do yourself a favor and don’t gamble your money away and instead spend it on a meal that not only offers very special and delectable food and drink options, but that also delivers an overall experience that you will not forget. From now on when I hear the words Las Vegas, Le Cirque, a French restaurant located in the stunning Bellagio Hotel, will come to mind very early on.
The original Le Cirque is actually located in New York, but like many amazing restaurants that got its start elsewhere it opened up a second location in Las Vegas. The entrance to Le Cirque is grand and exquisite with gold along the floor to the entrance and large wooden and glass doors. The waiting/bar area is the first room, which is dimly lit but still projects so much color from the large and patterned chandelier-like object on the ceiling and features wacky and fun images of circus performers across the walls. Nearby the bar is a hallway that leads to the bathrooms which displays all the illustrious awards that Le Cirque has earned.
The main dining room is one of the most incredible restaurant interiors that I have ever been in. The room is actually quite small and intimate, and while dimly lit the colorful curtain atop the ceiling, the gorgeous chandelier, and the massive murals that line the walls make the room feel vibrant and much bigger than it is. The whole interior is quite awe-inspiring, but the icing on the cake is the view through the window of one of the most famous water fountains in the world. The fountains of Bellagio put on a show every 30 minutes or 15 minutes depending on the time and day, and they deliver a spectacle of music, color, and amazing shapes of water (no Guillermo del Toro fans there is no sea creature available for lovin’ here, although I’m sure you can find that somewhere in Las Vegas). All in all the setting at Le Cirque delivers a touch of the circus, a pinch of France, and a whole lot of color and excitement.
It’s not just the rooms that deliver a fun yet refined atmosphere, but also the little things like the menu and the plates. The menu delivers a circus theme while the initial plates upon arrival at the table include artwork of monkeys reminiscent of Curious George.
After being seated pre-dinner cocktails are offered and I highly suggest you try one or a few before or during the course of your dining experience. Both of the sommeliers at the Las Vegas location, Freddy Montandon and Sanae Halprin, are not only experts in wine but can also recommend cocktail pairings based on food choices as well as liquor and taste preferences. A martini glass is brought out with the necessary ingredients inside and the liquid components are hand shaken right in front of the table and poured into the glass for a fun visual and a fresh cocktail. I started with a drink that featured mezcal and a spicy and salt rimmed glass that made for a smoky, sweet, and spicy flavor combination that I always am a sucker for. My mom, Lorene, opted for a sweeter grapefruit cocktail while I went for a sweet one as well during the meal which featured a heavy cinnamon and brown sugar flavor. All of the cocktails were outstanding and I would be tempted just to stop by the bar upfront for a cocktail when at the Bellagio again.
At most fine dining restaurants there are wine pairing offerings. My father, Bruce, in particular loves wine (he’s the type to smell it repeatedly and slosh it around in his mouth) and was in on the wine pairing from the start. He was able to pressure my brother, Jonathan, into this special experience as well. I was able to try most of the wine that was given to them and while I’m no wine connoisseur, each wine was very tasty although the dessert port wine I’m never a fan of. It’s too sweet for even my sweet tooth. My dad and brother really enjoyed the wine pairing, mentioning that each wine paired impeccably well with their food selections. Maybe next time I’ll be more adventurous and splurge on the wine pairing at Le Cirque. If you are a wine lover and have the extra money to do so, the wine pairing is a must!
Initially, as you start to ponder what selection of courses you would like to order, a selection of fresh bread and butter is brought out to the table. Normally I wouldn’t highlight bread and butter at a restaurant but every piece of bread from the pretzel bread to the chocolate bread was tasty and a nice way to start the meal. Even the butter was presented in a stylish way, molded into the Le Cirque logo!
After ordering food a complimentary amuse bouche (known in french as a “mouth pleaser” that often shows off the chef’s approach to the art of the cuisine) is served. We were served the L’ouef (egg in English) which featured a citrus foam with carrot puree, cucumber, and an edible flower inside. The presentation was sophisticated and the bite was delicious with a smooth texture from the foam and hints of citrus and sweetness from the carrot puree and foam. It was an exciting and tasty start to the evening!
When deciding what and how much to order at Le Cirque there are a few options. Some of the options one can choose from include a prixe-fixe menu (includes one appetizer, one main course, and one dessert), degustation menu (choice of five courses), and the menu prestige (a ten course experience that the whole table has to participate in). Due to the price and our hopes to walk out of the restaurant without being rolled out we all opted for the degustation menu.
For my first course there was only one non-fish and -seafood option, the “Hidden” Spring Garden salad. It featured English peas and tendrils, garbanzo beans, socca emulsion, seasonal blossoms, and wild strawberry mist served in a deep cup-like bowl with a gold and diamond clasp on the outside. If you aren’t eating food out of a bowl with some element of gold and diamond on it, are your really eating? The food inside was excellent though! It was an extremely unique first dish that delivered a multiple textures with fresh and light ingredients.
The rest of my family went with fish and seafood for their first dishes. My mom ordered the Lobster and Avocado Salad which is paired with haricots verts (aka thin green beans) and black truffle vinaigrette. It was one of the most stunningly visual and colorful dishes and my mom thoroughly enjoyed this plate. Jonathan and Bruce opted for the Japanese Yellowtail, another visually pleasing dish that pleased the taste buds as well. It included Hawaiian heart of palm, avocado puree, and yuzu vinaigrette among other small components that made for a bevy of flavors and textures according to my dad and brother.
For the second dish all of us with the exception of my mom went with the St Germain Flambéed Foi Gras made with sesame, tapioca, and gastrique, and served with an elderflower. It was some of the best foi gras I’ve ever had, sweet and creamy with crunch from the sesame, yet not overly-rich. My mom had another dish which I cannot for the life of me remember what it was, so enjoy the picture and beautiful presentation!
The next dish highlighted was a third course for myself and fourth course for others. Due to my allergies I was able to opt for the Braised Veal Cheek earlier in the meal. The veal cheek was made with kohlrabi, porcini, chives blossoms, and jus de veau and was served in a huge and deep bowl that made the whole plate look kind of like a giant flower. The tenderness of the veal cheek, savory flavor from the jus de veau, and other textural components made it my favorite dish of the night!
For their third courses my brother and father kept on twinning and scarfed down the Mediterranean Sea Bass with crisp potato, braised leeks, and a pinot noir reduction. Lorene was the only one to get the Hokkaido Scallop which is made with daikon “tagliatelle” roasted peanuts, ginger, and Thai curry sauce. While all dishes were delicious these were the stand out dishes of the night for my family.
For the fourth course Jonathan and Bruce went with the aforementioned braised veal cheek while my mom and I had the Roasted Organic Chicken topped with foi gras sauce and served with asparagus and wild mushrooms. The chicken was juicy and tender and the thick foi gras sauce on top was delicious and helped to give the chicken some great flavor while not being overly rich. While it was the most basic dish of the night it was very tasty and well executed!
At this point in the meal everyone was pretty full and wondering if we could really finish our dessert that was on its way. But before we were able to ponder that a complimentary pre-dessert was delivered to the table. Brought out to us in a giant copper pineapple jar filled with ice were four balls with pineapple and lavender “explosion” and cacao butter. The treats and ice glowed amid a light at the bottom of the pineapple jar and we all stared in awe and wonderment at this stage in the meal I like to call “onset of food coma.” We were all told to pop the balls into our mouths (my brother and I definitely snickered at that remark) and to not chew but to let the ball pop. I plopped that ball into my mouth and within a couple seconds the ball exploded, bursting with a fresh and light fruity and flowery flavor that was a fun experience and that cleansed the palate well for the final course of the night, dessert.
There were a number of desserts to choose from and all of them sounded delicious. I actually surprised myself and went for a dessert that had no chocolate component at all, opting for the Le Gateau Au Fromage Mascarpone which was made with mascarpone cheese, red velvet cake, and a Monet sugar picture atop, making this dessert truly a piece of art. The fresh mascarpone cheese with the bold red velvet flavor and interesting crunchy texture of the Monet sugar picture made for a delightful dessert, but my brother and parents definitely ordered the two better desserts!
My brother got the most fun, rich, and indulgent dessert of us all, choosing the Chocolate Ball which is filled with praline mousse, white chocolate ice cream, hazelnut caramel crunch and then topped with warm chocolate sauce that melts the ball down in stunning fashion. Its a dessert that certainly won’t disappoint any chocoholic but for those who enjoy lighter or less rich desserts this one may be a bit too much for you. Just make someone else in your party get the dessert so you can witness this ball’s transformation.
My parents decided to go for one of the more traditionally french desserts, the always difficult-to-bake but delicious souffle. If ordering the souffle at Le Cirque you have to order it a bit ahead of time to allow for the necessary time to prepare it. Le Cirque has seasonal souffles that they change up from time to time, and I believe that when we dined there it was a chocolate souffle topped with banana ice cream. It was perfectly prepared, was insanely flavorful, and delivered smooth and soft texture that I love when eating a souffle. My parents scarfed them down very quickly!
After finishing all the courses we were completely stuffed, but when some complimentary and traditional French treats like macaroons were brought out with the final bill we couldn’t help ourselves but to end the night on one last sweet note. Le Cirque even gave Lorene a cute little gift box with some chocolate truffles to take with her just in case we didn’t get our full sugar fix at the restaurant.
The overall experience at Le Cirque is out of this world! When you dine at this restaurant you are the center of attention and you get the best of everything. You will recieve delicious yet unique food, amazing cocktails, excellent wine parings, and stellar service all in an incredible interior and atmosphere. It’s certainly not cheap and should be seen as a special occasion and form of entertainment rather than just a meal. As I said before, I recommend you spend the money you budgeted for gambling here instead of losing it all and not treating your taste buds to this stunning circus of cuisine. You certainly will not be disappointed and Le Cirque will enter the realm of memories that you think of when you hear the words Las Vegas!
-Michael Averbook, Foodie Extraordinaire