Eulogy for a Brasserie

Former Pinot Brasserie employees reflect on the 15-year-old restaurant’s closing

Photo courtesy of the venetian las vegas

Pinot Brasserie in the Venetian served its last meal May 31. James Beard Award-winning chef Joachim Splichal’s Patina Restaurant Group operated the establishment, which had been serving French cuisine in the Venetian since the resort’s opening in 1999. It was the first place to open on the “restaurant row” that would soon also be home to Emeril’s Delmonico Steakhouse and Piero Selvaggio’s now-shuttered Valentino, and offered a style of French dining and authentic French décor that wasn’t prevalent in Las Vegas at the time.

“I don’t want to say it was the first of its kind,” says Luis De Santos, who opened the restaurant as its wine director. “But it was a [new] concept,” De Santos says. “It was a classic brasserie with the flair of southern France, taking you outside the hustle and bustle of the Las Vegas casino. All of a sudden, you’re in this area where you have the pommes frites, the carafe of wine and certain things that mesmerized you back into the southern part of France.”

Those close to the restaurant say its business never really waned over the years. But it never really got the attention that splashier marquee restaurants such as Thomas Keller’s Bouchon and Mario Batali’s B&B Ristorante received.

“People in Vegas are more focused on the new thing right now,” says Eric Lhuillier, who served as executive chef from 2006 until its closing. “What’s new? What’s the new trend? A restaurant like us that’s been here for a long time—they didn’t forget about us, but it’s not like we were doing anything new. We kept doing what we were doing well.”

The restaurant experienced a critical resurgence last spring and summer. Among others, colleagues Grace Bascos and Max Jacobson both praised it in the pages of this publication, and I wrote about it positively on my blog.

“I think friends of friends started looking at it and saying ‘Hey, look at this great food that we’ve missed out on!’” says John Courtney, who served as a sous chef in the restaurant at the time of that resurgence.

Still, rumors began to circulate earlier this year that Pinot’s days were numbered. And the recent opening of Daniel Boulud’s DB Brasserie (a similar French concept) directly next door may have been the final nail in Pinot’s coffin. So when it finally closed its doors—quietly and without fanfare—few in the dining community were surprised. (At this point, there’s no word on what will replace the restaurant).

Looking back, Lhuillier is proud of what the restaurant accomplished. “It’s a long run,” he says. “Fifteen years in the same hotel, it’s a beautiful thing. It’s an inspiration for a lot of restaurants.” Nonetheless, he admits, “It’s kind of sad to see it go.”