I finally got to Park on Fremont Downtown (506 Fremont St., 834-3160), and loved the concept, the buzz, the front and back patios and the sassy servers, although I saw a few things on the menu that could easily be improved. (Full disclosure: Park on Fremont belongs to the principals of WENDOH Media, the company that publishes Vegas Seven.)
Bar food is supposed to make you thirsty, so you’ll order cocktails such as Pillow Talk, my favorite here (Absolut Orient Apple vodka, strawberries and lots of other components). And a few of these items—especially fried pickles, with an herbed semolina crust and an outrageously addictive chipotle ranch dipping sauce—accomplish the objective in style.
But the dressing on the Caesar could use more muscle, the chicken bar bites wouldn’t float in the Dead Sea (too much batter!) and the Cuban would do better with a few more slices of roast pork, and maybe even a pickle or two (which, technically, would make it a media noche.)
Still, I love the real maple-infused syrup with the fried-chicken-and-waffle sandwich, and I also recommend the chilaquiles, corn chips topped with fried egg, avocado, a tomatillo salsa and melted cheese, served in a basket. I’m told the Philly mac ’n’ cheesesteak is a killer, too, but if I ate a gut bomb like that, you’d need a basket to get me home.
Bouchon in the Venetian (414-6200) has a new chef, Josh Crain, and he’s doing a bang-up job of faithfully getting über-chef Thomas Keller’s message to his minions. Among winter dishes to experience, Northwest oysters, leeks vinaigrette and the ethereal lamb Keller gets from a boutique producer in Pennsylvania are standouts, as is the delicate lemon tart you’ll want for dessert.
Meanwhile, in the adjoining Palazzo, chef Nicole Brisson is quietly turning out what might be the best lunch menu on the Strip at Carnevino (lunch daily from noon, 789-4141). In addition to the salumi that she learned to make from the master Tuscan butcher Dario Cecchini (who will be on the property for December’s cultural festival, Winter in Venice), Brisson does an incredible lamb ragu for her fresh spaghetti, a house-made pastrami on ciabatta with Fontina cheese and the piece de resistance, the Burger, topped with pancetta, onion and Gorgonzola.
Finally, I was recently privileged to experience the Taste of the Continents one-off dinner at Twist in the Mandarin Oriental on a night when chef Pierre Gagnaire, the three-Michelin-star dynamo from Paris, was actually cooking on the line.
Dishes from Gagnaire restaurants in Paris, Tokyo and elsewhere are on this menu, and they reinforce my conviction that this man is—and I use this word sparingly—a genius. Just the tomato course (a stuffed tomato flanked by a gin-soaked tomato slice with burratta and a raspberry sorbet, plus another slice topped with fluffy egg and shellfish) would bring me back with bells on.