‘Something About This Place …’

Faithful customers turned hands-on owners continue the tasty evolution of their favorite restaurant, Marché Bacchus

If you’re lucky, maybe you’ll discover a neighborhood eatery that you frequent so often that it feels like a second home. That was the case for Rhonda and Jeff Wyatt, who fell in love with a deli and wine market that opened across the street from their Desert Shores home. When Marché Bacchus debuted in a small shopping complex in 2000, the Wyatts were among its first customers.

Since moving from New Orleans in 1997, the couple had been searching for something that reminded them of home. Marché Bacchus’ lakeside vista and French owners, Gregoire and Agathe Verge, instantly put them at ease, and soon the couples were close friends and travel companions. So when the Verges decided to sell in October 2007, the Wyatts jumped on the opportunity despite having no previous restaurant experience. “It wasn’t that we wanted to be in the restaurant business; it was something about this place,” Rhonda says. “We had been customers for seven years, so we took it as, what did we want as a customer? And that’s what we’ve been trying to deliver.”

They transformed the eatery from a deli to a fine-dining restaurant, necessitating a complete kitchen and patio overhaul that required the Wyatts to put in long hours—sometimes 17 a day.

In April, they reached out to longtime friend, master chef Alex Stratta, to revise the menu, making it more wine-friendly and seasonal. New dishes include wild line-caught Washington Halibut with house-made gnocchi, Stratta’s famous braised short ribs, a crispy pork-belly BLT and Snake River Farms Kobe beef hot dogs.

Stratta’s menu will fluctuate throughout the year, with different daily specials for both lunch and dinner. “He has definitely left his footprint [on the latest menu],” Rhonda says of Stratta. “We are a French bistro with a definite nouveau twist; you’ll see quite a variety. We want to be appealing to a broad amount of tastes.”

That goes for the wine catalog as well. Jeff—who overseas the business side of things while Rhonda wears the hospitality, marketing and catering hats—expanded the mostly French wine menu to include up to 950 varieties from Italy, Spain and the U.S. One unique Marché Bacchus tradition that was held over from the last regime: allowing customers to purchase a bottle of wine in the store and enjoy it with their meal in the restaurant for a $10 corkage fee. Not sure which bottle to choose? The Wyatts promise to be there to lend a hand.

“We try to make recommendations that are not the most expensive choice but the best valued choice,” Rhonda says. “Our goal is to find things that you’ll be happy with and discover new things that are maybe a better value than you would normally gravitate to.”

Speaking of discovering new things, the Wyatts are excited about seeing how their version of Marché Bacchus will evolve. “We have no children, so this really is our baby—we love watching it grow,” Rhonda says. “I loved this place so much as a customer, and I love it even more as an owner.”

Passion project

Jeff Wyatt may not be an official sommelier, but he says he’d take on all comers in a taste-off. He’s been collecting in earnest since 2000 and currently has 800 bottles in his personal collection. “Our most valuable would be the 1982 Chateau Latour, which is our favorite wine and is also a 100-point wine,” he says, referring to its rating by The Wine Advocate’s Robert Parker. “We have several bottles in our cellar.”

Dining out

“We eat less and drink less now that we own a restaurant,” Rhonda Wyatt says. But the couple does try to make time to patronize a few local establishments. “Our favorite restaurant in town is Le Cirque at Bellagio,” Jeff says. “The beauty and intimacy of the restaurant are unique for Vegas, and the food is always sublime.”

The Big Easy

Although the couple calls Las Vegas home, they still long for New Orleans cuisine. “We just added to our menu one of the things we missed most about New Orleans: the pommes soufflé potatoes,” Jeff says. “Imagine large french fries that are crispy on the outside, filled with air on the inside and served with Béarnaise sauce on the side. Absolute heaven!”

Bang for your buck

Marché Bacchus is one of the few places in town offering 20 high-end wines by the glass, which complements the regular selection. The Wyatts use the OZ system, which employs hydrogen to preserve freshness for up to three weeks. “So before you spend $100 on a bottle, you might want to buy 3 ounces or 5 ounces and try it first,” Rhonda advises.

Above and beyond

Live musicians perform jazz, blues and Spanish guitar four nights a week to set the perfect mood for a night of wining and dining. Each month, the Wyatts also hold winemaker dinners, with a special menu executed by chef de cuisine Joe Swan and paired wines. The couple is also willing to craft a wine-pairing menu upon request.