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by jim begley | May 22, 2013 | Food & Drink
Savoy’s famous Artichoke and Black Truffle Soup.
It is truly Champagne wishes and caviar dreams at Restaurant Guy Savoy.
Foie-Gras “Bitter Infusion”
Two legends of the culinary world, Robin Leach and Guy Savoy, discuss the evolution of fine dining in Vegas.
Leach, Savoy, Chartron, and Alain Alpe, the restaurant’s general manager.
The restaurant’s wall of Champagne, featuring Dom Pérignon and Krug.
Las Vegas’s reigning fine-dining critic and connoisseur, Robin Leach, first tasted Guy Savoy’s famous French fare in Paris more than 20 years ago. “It was about the time when corner restaurants were becoming gourmet restaurants,” Leach says. “Before then, if you wanted an elegant meal, you went to a hotel.” Since Savoy opened his second eponymous locale, at Caesars Palace in 2006, the men, now friends, have watched the Valley’s haute cuisine scene explode. The two legends of the Vegas culinary world—along with Restaurant Guy Savoy’s executive chef, Mathieu Chartron—sat down over several of the restaurant’s signature dishes, and as the Champagne flowed, they mused about the evolution of fine dining in the desert over the past 10 years.
Robin Leach: [Being served Savoy’s famous Colors of Caviar] Look at the clever way they do this in layers.
Mathieu Chartron: From the bottom to the top, we have a caviar vinaigrette, caviar cream, American caviar, and then a layer of haricot vert purée.
Guy Savoy: Like a lemon, green beans are a little acidic, but not so much acidity that it kills the caviar, like a lemon.
RL: Which makes you wonder why every restaurant in America where you eat caviar brings you slices of Meyer lemons and not haricot vert.
As you dig in, tell me: How would you describe the Guy Savoy dining experience?
RL: You would never think that Las Vegas, which is the home of slabs of beef and shrimp cocktail, would ever welcome people like this. This is a very special restaurant, a high roller’s restaurant. It sets the level that everybody else tries to go to, but they can’t afford the quality of food Guy Savoy buys, the help in the kitchen, the time that’s spent preparing this stuff. That’s where the art is, the six hours of prep before they open the doors.
Chef, how would you describe the artistry of fine dining?
GS: In theater, you play the same for everybody. In restaurant, it’s a different live show for every table. Around the table is like a ballet, a discreet ballet that’s very efficient.
[Another course is served: Savoy’s equally famous Artichoke and Black Truffle Soup.]
RL: There are very few chefs in the world who have a trademark dish that is known around the world, that people make pilgrimages for. If you say “truffle soup,” there is only one man who makes it.
GS: I am a soup seller!
RL: I have never asked this question, but I have always presumed that you created this dish?
GS: A guest of my first restaurant explained to me, “The artichoke soup is you.” Why? Because the artichoke is a very powerful product. Like your family, it’s a symbol. The truffle is your way of excellence, and the brioche is your soul. Five years ago my mother explained that when I was a baby, I ate only artichoke purée. So for me, the artichoke is the foundation of my life.
RL: This is like ice cream for me.
GS: I t’s a very simple dish. The dish without brioche is not good. You have to eat the brioche.
How have you seen fine dining evolve in Las Vegas to allow room for restaurants like Guy Savoy?
RL: A s the competition for celebrity chefs began to ramp up here, you had Bellagio and Venetian—literally at the same time, in 1998 and 1999— bidding for chefs, and nobody went after these guys. They went after the American television chefs. So everybody came to me [at the Food Network] wanting Wolf, Emeril, all of them. So when you think about it, Venetian and Bellagio divided up the top chefs, and Palazzo scooped the rest. Then you were left with these guys: Caesars got Guy, MGM got Joël [Robuchon], Mandalay Bay got Alain [Ducasse], and now Mandarin Oriental got Pierre [Gagnaire].
GS: The first time I came here was in 2003. The first meeting was at [the now closed] Bradley Ogden [at Caesars Palace]. I was very surprised by the quality. It’s incredible. I am very interested by the wine list. Where do you find all this wine? It’s a desert! Of course California, but the best French wine, from Italy, from Spain, from anywhere. It’s better than Paris. I see that this place will become a very important place. There are many fine-dining restaurants, of course, but also a lot of different styles, from everywhere.
RL: I’ve often said, and I still believe, that what got created here in the last 10 years in this kind of fine dining, it beats New York, Chicago, and San Francisco. People will say that’s heresy and stupidity. But when you really think about it, you can’t top what Vegas has.
[Foie-Gras “Bitter Infusion” is served tableside, accompanied by a teapot.]
MC: We have matcha [finely ground] green tea. Here we have beets cooked and raw, and I just poured some duck consommé, and we let it infuse.
GS: This infusion with matcha tea and beet root, it’s a little bit low acidity. The bitter with the fat is a good blend. To accentuate the bitter, there is chicory and endive. The bouillon is very important in this…. When I eat the foie gras, I think, I am sure the green tea and beet root blend will be good for the duck eater.
RL: I pray the day never comes when we lose foie gras in this country. It’s a slice of heaven.
Restaurant Guy Savoy, Caesars Palace, 702-731-7286
photography by erik kabik