On The Menu

Bouchon Vegas and Il Mulino Vegas (JP Review)


Category : , , , ,

Eating dinner with a large group of guys is tough. We are loud, make bad jokes, and probably extremely offensive. Seeing as this was Vegas and a bachelor party, multiply all of that by 1 million. Why, oh why, did we choose to eat so nicely, instead of choosing the Hooters or ESPN Zone or some other cliche spot? Who knows.


I first went to Bouchon with Abby for an Oyster meal a couple of years ago. It was incredible. Everything about the place, from having to enter through an elevator behind the main lobby to the clean marble bar that stores all the fresh seafood, is so unbelievably classy. That experience was limited to only the oysters and a few items that included the greatest sandwich of all time (Croque Madame). Bourdain mentioned that the fries were the best he's ever had and was pissed that they were better than his own restaurant's frites. Well, I've had both Les Halles and Bouchon's fries, and it's a tough call, but Bouchon barely wins.

This time I was going to dinner with 6 other guys. (The rest of the bachelor party crew haven't arrived yet.) I was nervous because I was hyping Bouchon up like no other, explaining that the food, at their prices, were a great bargain and that the fries were to die for. I kept telling them how great the steak frites were suppose to be and how it's the greatest on the strip. (I would have said how I was surprised how the restaurant didn't even get a sniff of a Michelin star, but not sure if I wanted to food-geek myself that much.) I think I hyped the restaurant a little too much.

We arrived a little early and sat in the parlor room and had a drink. $10 belvie and tonics aren't a bad start. (Side note: apparently our bar waiter looked like Adam from The Office. I don't watch The Office, so I had no idea if this was true or not, but the bar waiter seemed to find this humorous.) We were seated and explained that our menu was also our napkin wrapper. Neat...but probably one of the reasons this didn't get a Michelin star.

Bread was just thrown onto the parchment paper on the table and was joined with the most amazing homemade butter ever. Also, there were two containers of pistachios and some mustard. While the bread was crispy and warm, and the pistachios were a nice addition, I began to see why this glorious bistro struck out with the stars. 4 of us ordered the steak frites, while the others ordered the Gnocchi a la Parisienne, Gigot d'Agneau (roasted leg of lamb) and Plats de Cotes de Bosuf (prime beef short ribs). Jim splurged and got the caviar as starter (he never had it before and wanted to try it out.) Jason and Jobby got the sweet corn soup as a starter as well. The caviar was very good, if not pricey, but that's to be expected. It came with some very nice accompaniments in ground up egg yolk, egg white, and creme fraiche. Tasty, though not everyone at the table enjoyed it. The sweet corn soup had a great consistency and seemed to be a nice palate starter. Jason wished it had more salt though, while the couple of spoonfuls I had could have used a little pepper.

Now we waited....it seemed to take a very, very long time for our dinners to arrive. For someone who's enjoyed the service at a Thomas Keller restaurant, I was very disappointed by the service here. His restaurants are notoriously known for how much attention to details their waiters have. I noticed other tables getting asked if they wanted pepper in their soups and other waters being refilled promptly. Food seemed to be coming out of the kitchen, but not to our table. Every time the waiter came by he looked like he came from a sauna with sweat coming down off his face.

JJ and I had a long talk about how to cook steaks, and how he was trying to perfect the art of cooking a steak on the grill. I never met JJ before (he's going to be my boy's Jason's new brother in law) but this confirmed the fact that he was cool as shit. Gotta love steak lovers. Our food finally arrives and everyone seemed happy. The steaks were perfectly cooked, but not to the doneness that everyone was expecting. They were all medium rare, but I was the only one to ask for medium rare...the others asked for medium. Syam and JJ weren't blown away from the fries, but I still thought they were damn tasty. I love the fact that the side of fries you get is equal to nearly two extra value fries from McDonalds. It's a lot of fries. The steaks had this layer of garlic and onions over it with a nice slab of butter melting onto the flatiron steak. (Side note from wiki: "The flat iron steak is a cut of steak from the shoulder of a steer, also known as the Teres Major.") The first bite, the sauteed onion and butter were a great addition to the steak...but after a few more bites, it was a little overwhelming and I had to scoop the onions off. Overall...a really great steak, but not the best on the strip probably. I have a feeling craftsteak has a great steak and fries on their menu.

Jason's short ribs were insanely good. I'm gonna get that or the famous chicken next time I'm at Bouchon. The beef just fell right off the bone and were so very moist and tasty. I didn't try Jobby's lamb or Jim's gnocchi, but they seemed to be very pleased with it.

Service was nice enough to split the bill by 6 credit cards with no hesitation. Roughly $80 a person, and I think it's a great price. I'll always go to a Thomas Keller restaurant when I can have the chance and afford it, but a little of Bouchon's mystic wore off on this visit. Maybe it was because I went with a bunch of dudes instead of a nice romantic dinner with my lady, maybe it was just a off Friday night, who knows. That being said, it was still a great, great meal. I give Bouchon a 3 1/2 out of 5. (I'm sure it'll get back up to the 4 or 4 1/2 after my next visit though.)

Bouchon (Venetian) on Urbanspoon

Il Mulino Vegas

Tucked up on the 3rd floor of the immense Ceaser's Palace Mall is this highly regarded Italian restaurant. New Yorkers rave about their flagship restaurant, saying it's the best Italian in all the 5 boroughs. That's some high praise in a city known for their Batali's and Rocco's, etc. The Vegas location receives some of the same praises, but some critics claim that this is another watered down branch of a brand being stretched too far. Regardless, they accepted 11 guys for dinner on a Saturday night and we were all hungry.

Once we were seated, we were served bread, salami, fried zucchini and everyone had a piece of Parmesan cheese on a small plate. This is a great start and a crowd pleaser for sure. Free food will always make a group of 11 guys happy. We hear the specials and I was going to get the gnocchi but once the waiter said "homemade pappardelle bolognase" it was done and done. I won't repeat what everyone else ordered, but once the meals arrived no one's plate was unappetizing at all. We used small plates and passed around what each other had...and the meals were really, really good.

My homemade pappardelle was incredible. I love homemade pasta, and you can easily tell when pasta is homemade or not. It's so good that you don't need any sauce at all, but I was very please mine came with bolognase. I think I make an incredible bolognase sauce, but this put mine to shame.

Jason started recalling the Italian places he visited when he came to kick it with me a few times in Boston. This was when I lived in the North End and this restaurant reminded me again how great the North End is. While Il Mulino Vegas hit on nearly all cylinders, give me a small mom and pop Italian place any day. When I think Italian, I don't really think ultra fine dining. I think Mario Batali has this same issue when he tried his hardest to get one of his restaurants in NYC a 4-star rating. It's tough to get people to get over pasta and sauce...such a simple dish that when done right, is still a very simple dish about great ingredients. This however did not take away from the food at Il Mulino, which again was top-notch. I also have to say that the whole fish I saw being delivered to another table looked to die for....I'd like to give that a try one night.

So what wasn't working at Il Mulino? I didn't like the service one bit. Again, maybe we shouldn't have been so drunk before we came. Sure we might have been screaming obscenities out in such a fine-dining establishment...sure we might not have ordered as much wine and food they might have expected from such a large group. But damned if I didn't see other tables get offered shredded cheese or a grind or two of pepper and we didn't get any of this. Damn if I didn't see the waiters giving us dirty looks as they talked near the cash register. I dunno...maybe it's just me who thought this, but it still leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

Would I go back? The prices were actually really good. There is a balcony that has many tables and a great romantic view of the strip. The food was really, really good. I might give Il Mulino another chance, but there are so many other places in Vegas I'd like to try first. I give it a 3 out of 5.

Il Mulino at Caesars Palace on Urbanspoon