Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Tuesday, Vegas 3: Milos & Le Cirque

video video

After far too much cantaloupe: the curse of the fruit cup, and a cup of tea from the snack place at the hotel for breakfast, I was on my way to the Greek fish restaurant I’ve been wanting to eat at since I discovered its existence.
Comfortable chairs on the 3rd floor of the Cosmopolitan, awaiting Estiatorio Milos
opening for lunch at noon. The young blond woman scowled as I approached the desk. She was not at all happy about someone looking like me (my hair makes me look like Medusa, quoth Fumiyo) into her restaurant, but alas for her, I have a reservation. It’s a fixed price lunch menu, $20.12, one of the best deals in town. I had thought of ordering the scallops as an appetizer but the neighbour from L’Atelier (the guy who recommended the John Dory!) told me to get the Greek salad appetizer instead and I’m glad I did. Astonishingly good salad, thankfully I left a few hunks of tomato to enjoy with the fish. Called “Lavraki,” or Mediterranean Sea Bass, it is a surprisingly gentle fish- no more battle with fishiness like the previous night at L’Atelier. The fish is served with some superb olive oil (as is the salad) with a few capers and pieces of cooked broccoli. Only problem was the size of the lemon wedge. So big I had difficulty squeezing it onto the fish. For some reason I was never given a spoon, so I had to stir my tea with my knife, before using it to remove the skin from the fish. Lunch finished with some tasty fruit. When my server asked what I thought of the fish, I tell him I’ve heard Milos has the best fish in Vegas and apparently, I heard correctly. “Not only Vegas,” he replies. They should be proud of what they serve here. When I got home, I posted the following on Facebook:
The customs woman at YVR asked where I was. Vegas. Why? Food. Why Vegas? It has the best restaurants. She was incredulous. She should go eat there. She asked my favourite restaurant and of course, it was Guy Savoy, but my 2nd lunch at Milos, the great Greek seafood place, was so good tears were streaming down my cheeks as I ate the tomato salad, It was actually painfully good. Why is Greece famous for its debt, instead of all the debt the world owes to its unique olive oil and the standard it sets for all palates. Better flavours than this can only be imagined, not experienced.

A decent cocktail in the waiting room prepares me of the vibrant intimacy of Le Cirque.
My attentive waiter turns out to know Vancouver well, regularly visiting and we discuss its better restaurants. My bouche is tempted with amusement with a taste of butternut squash soup with the truffles that would dominate my feasts this trip. Must be truffle time. First taste: too much squash, not enough truffle! It’s OK, but I’d rather have the ratios reversed. Like the morels with peas at Hawksworth here in Vancouver. Very light on the expensive stuff. I’m asked if I like bacon. Oh yes. The pastry amuse is said to be full of tomato and bacon and whatever tomato flavour there was couldn’t survive the overpowering pig product. Its texture was intriguing. It seemed to very pleasantly fall apart, grain by grain in my mouth. The butternut squash brought to mind Chef Feeny’s great butternut squash ravioli when he was at Lumiere, some years ago now. Every butternut attempt I’ve had since that ravioli has been noticeably inferior.
My long anticipated dish at Le Cirque, described in Eating Las Vegas in the comment by John Curtas: “langoustines with caviar, passion fruit, apples and vodka gelee will bring tears to the eyes of even the most jaded gourmet.” As soon as the I mm by 1 mm cube of vodka and Granny Smith apple hit my palate, I knew I was back in the land of culinary wizardry I’d visited last Feb, my first trip to Vegas. Aha! This is how good food can get. The langoustine however, was fishy. As bad as L’Atelier’s John Dory, and thankfully, uncharged for. Such a contrast, the divine gelee and the nasty sea creature on the same plate. Gold didn’t help at all.
My turbot was not as good as the turbot I had at Picasso last Feb, the only previous occasion I’ve had this fish. It is very good though. The interplay with the various vegetables and sauces creates numerous moments of enjoyment as I sift through their possibilities. The truffles aren’t really laying their truffleness on me, though other mushrooms perform well. Maybe we’re long past truffle time and all I’m getting are old, tired truffles no longer capable of bringing tears to jaded gourmets. The red wine paired with the turbot was another success. A sip of wine and the turbot began to sparkle. Little bolts of light start shooting out of it, mentally; a galaxy of suns being born as I’m eating. The massive success of the vegetable portion of this meal reminds me again of what Jose Andres said about the sexiness of plants in that 60 Minute interview. The problem with the turbot is that it was a good base on which I expected something to be built. There was more coherent and pleasing structure in Picasso’s turbot preparation. I kept waiting for the turbot to combine with a vegetable and a sauce to soar out of the atmosphere, but I remained earth bound.
Before leaving The Bellagio, I stop by their garden to check on my reservation at Michael Mina schedule for Friday. There are a number of sculptures of Chinese figures in the garden with cunningly displayed lights and sounds. For some reason, I’m particularly moved by the dragon. Not that I find dragons particularly interesting, nor do I find Chinese aesthetics particularly appealing- I suspect I’m really reacting to my meal. When you’re exposed to one kind of beauty, it can expand into other realms quite easily. Sensitivity is expansive, and universes of pleasure leak into each other.

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