Welcome Back, Daniel Boulud

The chef's triumphant return to Las Vegas deserves your attention as well as your attendance

Tunisian lamb. | Photo by Bill Milne

Tunisian lamb. | Photo by Bill Milne

Las Vegas has long been a magnet for the top chefs from around the world. And in most instances, once they open a restaurant here, they don’t leave. Daniel Boulud is a rare exception. He’s been on a four-year hiatus from our town since closing Daniel Boulud Brasserie in Wynn in 2010 after five years of operation. “We had aspirations to do something else, and it was difficult to do it there,” the chef says of his departure from Wynn. “So we kind of amicably ended the relationship.”

While he always wanted to return to Las Vegas, the chef quickly got busy with other projects elsewhere. “And I felt like, well, I’ll come back when it’s a good time. But I wanted specifically to be in [the Venetian].” (Click here for our full interview with Boulud.)

The time was finally right after the closing of the Italian fine-dining restaurant Valentino. Boulud and his team have completely renovated the space, now known as DB Brasserie. It’s now much more open and elegantly decorated with dark-brown wood, set off by mirrors, white linen and bright green glassware.

While DB Brasserie’s menu is still developing, the overall feel is a bit more casual than what the chef served in his Wynn restaurant—a bit closer to bistro fare. You’ll find shared plates of the flatbreads and cheese variety, starters such as French onion soup and escargot, and assorted raw and cooked seafood. Entrées include crispy duck confit, scallop Provencale and a roasted half chicken, as well as four steaks.

Chef Daniel Boulud

Chef Daniel Boulud

Then, of course, there are burgers. Boulud is generally credited as the first fine French chef in the world to put his name on a hamburger, helping to kick-start the celebrity chef burger craze. Here, he’s yet to add the signature short rib-and-foie-gras-stuffed DB Burger he served at Wynn. Instead, he’s offering three more casual burgers from his DBGB Kitchen and Bar in New York. The Yankee is a fairly straightforward all-American burger with a choice of cheddar and bacon. The Frenchie comes topped with Morbier cheese, confit pork belly and tomato onion compote. And the Piggie is accented with barbecue pulled pork, jalapeño mayo and a mustard-vinegar slaw. Priced from $17 to $19 for 7-ounce beef patties, they don’t come cheap. But the one I sampled, the Frenchie, was extraordinary.

I’ve also tried three different flatbreads, two of which (a tarte flambé and a Mediterranean lamb version) have found permanent homes on the menu. All three have been wonderful, as has everything I’ve sampled so far at this restaurant. If I had to pick a favorite, however, it would be the tarte flambé, topped with bacon, onion and fromage blanc. If you really need a lamb fix, I’d steer you to the entrée section of the menu for a Tunisian-style duo of lamb chop and merguez sausage with couscous, spinach, chickpeas and red pepper tagine.

Other standout dishes include a combination of smoked salmon, salmon roe, pommes Dauphine (potato puffs) and smoked sable rillettes. And if you’re a calamari fan, try the Thai beer-battered version with pickled peppers and kaffir lime.

It’s impressive how strong the food has been at DB Brasserie right out of the gate. Even great restaurants stumble during their early days, but I’ve yet to see that here. That’s a tribute not only to Boulud, but also to his executive chef David Middleton (most recently of Marché Bacchus) and the team he’s assembled. Let’s hope this place lasts more than five years.

Al’s Menu Picks

  • Tarte flambe ($14)
  • Balik smoked salmon ($20)
  • The Frenchie ($19)
  • Tunisian lamb ($40)

DB Brasserie

In the Venetian, 702-430-1235. Open for dinner daily 5-11 p.m. Bar open daily till 11 p.m. Dinner for two $60-$150.