db Brasserie, the latest concept from French American icon Daniel Boulud, located in the Venetian, Las Vegas, and surrounded by brands from his celebrity chef contemporaries, still finds ways to stand out among wine and service experiences.
My visit occurred the day before Thanksgiving, with heavy activity before the holiday, and amidst the early Black Friday shopping frenzy. Service began long before my meal, as I happened by the restaurant several hours before my reservation. I requested a particular style of booth, which was accommodated promptly. I spent time at the bar during the daily happy hour, where several wines, beers, and craft cocktails were promoted. The green water glasses call attention to the decor, which are further highlighted by touches of green in the various food presentations. The bar is smaller, but gives the feeling of being larger than it is. I was drawn to the display of glassware by Stolzle, and the lineup of hand-labled cocktail ingredients. Large screen televisions are above the bar, and visible throughout many parts of the restaurant. I enjoyed a Lucien Albrecht Cremant de-Alsace Brute Blanc De Blancs NV, which was crispy and refreshing with apple and citrus.
Seating was immediate, in the requested booth with a full view of the restaurant. The lead server made introductions and delivered food and wine menus within seconds. Shortly thereafter, Head Sommelier Devin Zendel greeted the table with Champagne flutes, and announced, "I am going to pour you something." He returned with a bottle of Pierre Paillard Cuvee Daniel Brut NV, and filled the glasses around the table. The Daniel, specifically chosen by the restaurant group, was delicious, with citrus and striking bread dough flavors. I savored the brut while discussing the menu and wine options. The wine list offers an extensive selection of French alongside American bottles, with a broad price range. I asked for Devin's recommendations, hoping to find a new French favorite. He pointed out a couple of wines based on our desired styles, including the Domaine Tempier Bandol 2010. He spoke of the wine's predominant mourvedre, and how Tempier was the leading producer of wines from this grape and the Bandol appellation. He opened, checked, and decanted the wine at a station within eyesight before presenting it to the table. It was delightfully elegant and long-lasting. Still young and a full of potential, it had leather and floral aromas with dark berries. It also paired nicely with the dinner entrees.
The meal began with puffy Gouda bread treats, compliments of the chef. The Tunisian Lamb came as two chops, with lamb sausage, and lemony spinach. The Yankee, one of three signature DB NY Burgers offered, was impressive even with the hype. Coq Au Vin from the Prix Fixe menu was tender, in a very red wine preparation with mushrooms and hints of bacon. The star, though, of db Brasserie and my entire Las Vegas dining tour, was the Steak Frites, also from the Prix Fixe menu. A generously cut flat iron steak, with a spicy-seasoned crust, cooked to the perfect medium rare temperature. It was one of the top steaks in my considerable beefeating history. To finish the meal, the table shared excellent desserts, a citrusy Panna Cotta, and Black and White Fondant, a flourless chocolate cake with white chocolate ganache and vanilla gelato.
Overall service was fast acting, efficient, and friendly. Almost nothing could be criticized, extremely rare for me at a full dining event. The worst I can say is that I poured the wine once. With the Head Sommelier taking the lead at tableside, I felt completely cared for, and somewhat special. Devin knew just where to go in style and price for wine selection. I was glad to see contemporary, yet still appropriate, glassware in play, and enjoyed the sight of the wine being opened and prepared just so at a dedicated area separate from the table. Activity by the team of servers was understated, subtly consistent and thorough, without making too big a show of things or interrupting by their presence. All requests in seating and food preparation were satisfied, and knowledgeable answers to all questions were provided. In the bar, five bartenders and servers buzzed about, displaying comfortable teamwork and communication. It was a pleasant, smooth running operation.
db Brasserie, open only seven months in ultra-competitive Las Vegas, was a highlight of my experiences, and appears on its way to taking the lead in Vegas wine and fine dining.
Read my conversation with Head Sommelier Devin Zendel here.