by john curtas | January 25, 2012 | Food & Drink
A romantic table for Valentine’s Day
|A beautiful heirloom tomato, mozzarella, and basil salad|
|Who could say no to a Banana Élysées with an engagement ring topper?|
Sin City turns into the city of love every Valentine’s Day, when Vegas’s five-star dining establishments prepare special menus for couples from all over the country wanting une table pour deux. And no place hits all the right love notes better than Eiffel Tower Restaurant.
It all starts with the private elevator on the main floor of the Paris Hotel that whisks you to a lofty perch inside the hotel’s scaled-down version of La Tour Eiffel. The elevator opens, and there you are facing…the kitchen! Not just any old kitchen, but a gleaming white and stainless steel area filled with the cacophony and aromas of great cuisine being created. “It immediately creates warmth and a sensual connection between the food and the customer; you can feel the sincerity of the cooking,” says uber-chef J. Joho, Chicago’s maven of great French food who brought his precise cuisine to Las Vegas 12 years ago—“before there was anything like all of the great restaurants that are here now.”
Diners are then led past the oval, Art Deco bar to the hostess stand where the restaurant spreads out. Burnished steel, burgundy-colored carpet, and dark rosewood define the room, along with the tower’s structural beams that suspend guests over the Las Vegas Strip. The effect transports a diner back to 1920s Paris, but with the flash of casinos as background instead of the Arc de Triomphe and Les Invalides, and it creates the closest thing to being in Paris you will find on this side of the pond. (If you can’t get to the real Tour Eiffel to pop the question, why not do it at the Vegas version?)
When we asked Joho why the French in general, and French food in particular, are so synonymous with l’amour, his answer was as delicious as his foie gras with caramelized pears: “What do you think sounds sexier,” he asked us, ‘Voulez-vous les plats du chocolat?’ or ‘You want a chocolate platter?’” He continued, “It is all in the language. Does anything sound better than les soufflé chaud aux fraise des bois (a wild strawberry soufflé)? I don’t think so. And let’s not forget Champagne is the most romantic, festive drink in the world.”
It’s hard to argue with him, just as it’s hard to argue with the view from any of the tables that line the huge windows. “Other restaurants have art on their walls,” he says. “Our paintings are the lights of Sin City.” Those tables for two pressed against the glass are obviously the most popular, but there’s really not a bad seat in a house that has attracted celebrities such as Scarlett Johansson and Vegas headliners Celine Dion and Barry Manilow. Once you’re tucked in, it’s time to peruse a menu, which, like the room, is designed (especially on Valentine’s Day) to enhance romance. “We’re aware that many of our customers on holiday may not eat out that often, so we want them to be as comfortable with our food and our menu as they are in our seats,” says executive chef Joung Sohn, who has helmed the kitchen since it opened in September 1999. She understands that people have other things on their mind when they sit down for lunch or dinner on February 14, so her menu is streamlined to make things as tasty and stress-free as possible. “We want every bite to be delicious, but we don’t want anything to distract our couples from wooing or being wooed.”
So what would be an ideal meal for romance? Joho says neither the menu nor the food should challenge the diner, and Sohn believes straightforward flavors go best with love. One bite of Eiffel Tower’s Dover sole, beef Wellington, or one of those soufflés will convince you that this is the most romantic cuisine in the world. More than 400 couples will swoon over this food on Valentine’s Day—so many that the restaurant has its own delivery service for flowers—and if you score a table, you’ll see (and taste) why so many hearts are melting.
photography by jeff green