Heirloom tomato salad

“What’s your favorite restaurant?” is a question I get asked all the time. “It depends on many things, including my mood, the season, and what I had for lunch,” is my usual reply. I go on to say that the restaurant I visit most often—at least once a month for the past few years—is Marché Bacchus. Is it the food? The quaint alfresco seating by the Desert Shores lake? Or is it the stellar wine program that always seems to have the most intriguing bottles at the best prices? All of the above, along with the explanation that what was once a quaint little hideaway for wine lovers twelve miles from the Strip is now making a move to be one of the best restaurants in town.

When Rhonda and Jeff Wyatt decided to buy the business from Agate and Gregoire Verge five years ago, they wanted to elevate the menu at what was then little more than a wine shop with a pleasant café attached. “I was one of their best customers, but I always felt the food could be better,” Jeff says. “It was our intention to bring in top-quality kitchen talent and make the food the equal of the great wines.”

After various upgrades to the kitchen, dining rooms, and expansive outdoor patio, it was time to take the food to the next level. And who better to do it than consulting chef Alex Stratta–formerly of the eponymous Michelin two-star restaurant Alex, and the more casual Stratta, at Wynn Las Vegas? When Alex’s David Middleton came on the market, followed quickly by John Courtney from RM Seafood, the team was secured to create a menu that was every bit the equal of the Grand Cru Burgundies and California cult wines that line the shelves.

Top talent like that doesn’t go unnoticed by others in the food world, and celebrity chefs like Rick Moonen, Carla Pellegrino, Julian Serrano, Bradley Ogden, and Guy Savoy can be seen rubbing shoulders with other famous faces at Marché Bacchus any night of the week. In addition to all the drop-your-fork-delicious food, the very non-Strip atmosphere is a big draw. “I love it because you’d never guess you were in Las Vegas,” says Robin Leach. “No ‘ka-ching’ slot machines, no thumping nightclub music and other noisy distractions always associated with Vegas and the Strip. Marché Bacchus is tranquil—an escape to another world.”

Wayne Brady, Anthony Cools, and such noteworthy foodies as Cosmopolitan CEO John Unwin and Caesars president Gary Selesner are regulars, and singer Deborah Gibson frequents it “more than any place on the Strip.” Like the legions of other customers who keep MB humming seven days a week, she loves the low-key elegance and quiet, quaint atmosphere. “Jeff’s wine picks are exceptional,” Gibson says, “and it’s the only place we’ve been to where you can see and read about the choices in the unique wine shop in the front, and have it brought to your romantic table. We go to Marché Bacchus because you can taste the love in the food.”

These days, you can also taste the love of impeccable ingredients and flawless technique when you take a bite of Middleton’s Alaskan Skuna Bay wild salmon with artichoke ravioli, Beech mushrooms, and barigoule artichoke aioli, or Maple Leaf Farms duck breast with orange-braised fennel. Bistro standards like escargot persillade and a superior steak tartare share space with inspired dishes like lobster ravioli with peas and roasted shiitake mushrooms in beurre blanc sauce, and a torchon of foie gras with strawberry-jalapeño gelée that is so good you’ll think you’re back at Stratta’s Alex in its heyday. And in keeping with the Wyatts’ heritage (they hail from New Orleans), you won’t find a better beignet or bread pudding anywhere in the city.

All of this has been noticed by oenophiles and gourmands throughout the valley. Wine societies like the Commanderie de Bordeaux and the Chevaliers du Tastevin practically treat Marché Bacchus like their private club, discussing and dissecting the dishes and bottles while a Desert Shores duck waddles around at their feet.

“We may not have the Strip’s financial muscle,” says Rhonda Wyatt, “but we still aim for that level of excellence.” Middleton puts it all in tasty perspective: “We are the David to the Strip’s Goliath, but if you get the freshest, highest quality ingredients, manipulate them as little as possible, and let them speak for themselves, you can put out food that’s just as delicious as anything that’s going on down there.” 2620 Regatta Dr., 702-804-8008

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