Bardot Brasseries Has Perfected Parisian Culinary Tradition
By Larry Olmsted Photography by Sabin Orr| May 4, 2015 |
Food & Drink
In a culinary landscape so expansive it can be dauntIng, Bardot Brasserie concentrates on one thIng: perfecting Parisian tradition.
Bardot Brasserie’s all-French cheese board is sourced from artisanal purveyors around the world.
Despite Las Vegas’s plethora of Michelin-starred, Parisian-inspired gastronomic temples with multihour tasting menus, no one had taken a straightforward approach to superlative French comfort food—the kind that real Parisians enjoy on a regular basis—until Michael Mina’s Bardot Brasserie arrived recently in Aria.
A rare stand-alone restaurant within a casino hotel, Bardot is built to look like it occupies its own street corner, with “outside” tables for café dining. Seemingly transported straight from France, it has gold lettering stenciled on its broad windows, Laguiole cutlery, and two short steps up to its front entrance. “Authentic” is a word thrown around too liberally to describe imported cuisine, but in this case it’s accurate from top to bottom, from the classic menu to the black-and-white checkered floor, marble tables, and brass-clad bar. But the most authentic element at Bardot may be its philosophy when it comes to ingredients. Long before “farm to table” became an American culinary craze, European chefs were devising market-based menus, choosing the best meat, fish, and produce available daily, and using them to elevate apparently simple dishes like roast chicken and steak frites. Vegas may lack the food halls and local markets that Paris teems with, but Mina and Executive Chef Josh Smith have filled the void by carefully sourcing exceptional products from artisanal purveyors around the country and—in the case of the all-French cheese board, a local rarity—around the world.
“When I think French brasserie, it’s the ultimate comfort foods,” says Mina. “We think meat loaf and mashed potatoes; they think perfectly roasted chicken and French onion soup. The most important piece was staying within the bounds of tradition. When we were constructing the menu, the restaurant design, the style of service, it was all about not reinventing the brasserie but perfecting it. It’s really important that people feel comfortable, but with a level of sophistication in food and design.
“Sophistication is harder to get in simple food,” he continues. “If we’re going to do steak tartare, we’re going to grind it to order. We’ll do it right.” In fact, Bardot has a special hand-operated grinder just for this dish, uses USDA Prime beef tenderloin (the same as pricey filet mignon), and grinds each serving individually, even for a recent set-menu party for 50.
Among the other classic French dishes you’ll find here are a fresh shellfish platter, tuna niçoise salad, escargots, and duck à l’orange. Several equally essential brasserie plates for sharing are listed under “Plats pour Deux,” including lobster Thermidor and côte de boeuf. But what makes them shine is not their history or their ubiquity in Paris but their ingredients and painstaking preparation. The Barefoot Contessa’s “perfect” roast chicken recipe takes 90 minutes to cook, but Smith’s takes two days and involves not just heirloom chickens but a variety of specialty ingredients and elaborate in-house processes. The bread in the bread pudding is hand-torn from the restaurant’s gorgeous freshbaked loaves; the charcuterie is made in-house from Niman Ranch natural pork; the egg dishes are prepared with specially sourced fertilized eggs featuring ultrabright yolks and a fresh taste.
“These eggs are popular with sushi chefs and cost about four times as much,” Smith says. “We don’t add truffles or foie gras just to Vegasize recipes. What I really wanted to do at Bardot was take these dishes and get the right ingredients to make them perfect.” He adds that he experiments elaborately on every new recipe. “We use really high-quality wines for cooking. Julia Child said if you wouldn’t drink it, don’t cook with it, but you see the same boxed wines and inexpensive cooking brandy in kitchens up and down the Strip. We don’t do that.”
The attention to detail that Mina and Smith live by is clearly evident in the taste of dishes like the egg-topped croque madame sandwich—and just about everything else on the menu. Aria, 702-230-2742