Dry, from overly air-conditioned Las Vegas casino, my eyes struggled to make sense of the slow-moving hands on the dealer’s watch. “What time is it?” I asked, swallowing whatever remnant saliva I could muster up to soothe my scratchy throat. The continuous spew of cigarette smoke from my lone fellow Asiatic gambler seated on third base had taken its toll after three hours of inhalation.
I’d imagined the Chinese man with yellow teeth to be some ambiguous assassin. An unsuspecting killer using Black Jack as a cover, while he watched his mark from across the pit at the roulette table, waiting for the right moment to follow his target to the bathroom from which only one would leave alive. But he only ever got up to step away from the table to check his phone.
A blip in the white noise of slot machines dinging, gamblers screaming, and dealers shouting “color out” and “checks play,” it seemed as if asking the dealer for the time was wrong. An unwelcome interruption to her intense shuffling of the six-deck shoe. A task she could probably perform blindfolded with her hands tied behind her back. With the raised eyebrow of a dealer’s disdain, as if I were a novice player reaching for his chips before being paid, the cranky Korean grunted, “tree ay-em,” and went back to her shuffling. Her wrists moved with ninja speed and precision, mixing and matching stacks of cards, and collating them with routine effortlessness. So this is why they call it the City that Never Sleeps, I thought to myself as I scanned the crowd of drunk married couples happy to be away from their terrorizing kids, philanderers on business trips, and gamblers (like me) buzzed and numb from the barrage of constant stimulation. Why weren’t we already passed out and hung over?
Bored, and drunk from the three complimentary Hennessy’s served neat, I struggled with a big decision; do I walk the quarter mile to the men’s room through a sea of sin to urinate, or do I just hold it and disregard the mushrooming pain in my urethra? I decided to pinch it and stay put.
By then, Ju Ween—who should have been named Ju Looze— screamed, “shuffle check!” and we were ready to roll. Then the assassin got up from the table to check his smart phone and light up another cigarette.
“Dis a probrem,” the dealer said, tapping her bound feet with annoyance, because she was unable to deal until the assassin either pulled his chips off the table or sat down. “Or-ways connected….or-ways wulking.”
And that was the start of the deepest hour-long conversation I’ve ever had with a middle-aged Korean stranger. We commiserated over the slow death of interpersonal communication thanks to the proliferation of technology in our everyday lives. “Dey no know how to tark any-moh,” she said, sounding genuinely upset. Thanks to the immediacy of Facebook updates, 140 character Tweets, and continuous newsfeeds on every app possible; we’ve forgotten the importance of stopping to smell the roses. We’ve forgotten what it’s like to sit down, and listen to each other…we, as a culture, have lost the art of storytelling. Aside form old people, nobody tells stories anymore. We’re all addicted to instant gratification, and want to digest as much in as little time as possible. Stringing a series of unrelated sound bites together does not a story make. And we’re so used to being fed crumbs that it feels uncomfortable to stop, simmer down and take a big bite that requires us to chew for a few minutes before swallowing it down. [I couldn’t help the food analogy] And that’s exactly what Eatsporkjew is all about– the revival of our oral traditions. Yep, I said oral. This website is a throwback to the art of reminiscing, to a time when there was no TV, there was no internet, and all phones were dumb and wired. Eatsporkjew is my single protest— as ineffective as it might be—against the dark arts of digital interconnectedness.
Now, I’m not at all purporting that I’m anymore talented and capable of telling a story than anyone else, I am, after all, a product of my own digital upbringing, but I do think we need to unplug every once in awhile, and remember what it’s like to fall in love with complete sentences, real coherent dialogue, descriptive scenes and conversations that aren’t punctuated with hashtags and ampersats.
Which leads me to one of the most innovative and talented storytellers of our time—Chef Guy Savoy (pronounced Ghee Sav-wah), an writer in his own right, who uses epicurean techniques and the freshest of ingredients to tell us stories of our past, present, and future. Because whether we want to admit it or not, our lives revolve around food, and our communities, however small or big as they may be, have evolved around the dinner table. A meal at Guy Savoy in Las Vegas at Caesars Palace is the foodie equivalent of a Book of Genesis reading, which is so exciting for the staunch supporter of storytelling in me, because it happens to be the oldest story one can eat….I mean tell…you know what I mean.
Guy Savoy at Caesars Palace: One of the Best Meal of My Life
The meal started off with three amuse bouches. The first was a skewer of foie gras and brioche.
Next was a parmesan, salt and black pepper waffle.
And the third was a cold creamy soup with some finely chopped mini haricot vert (you can’t see them, because they’re under the creamy soup) with a little curry powder.
And when you pick the cup up, there’s a little surprise underneath, which was a terrine of briny mussels.
Then came the bread cart in all it’s glory. One of the staff members explained the forty different kinds of breads and we were able to select as much or as little as we wanted. We tried some multi grain (this was my favorite believe or not), some caramelized onion bread, some mustard seed bread (also very good), lemon bread (infused with lemon peel pieces), parmesan rolls, bread with nori and salt (seaweed bread), mini baguettes, and more. The two butters on the table were also delicious, one with salt and one without. A little advice though, make sure to dine on the early side so you have a chance to try their bacon bread. They only make about 36 per evening, and the tables that were seated before us loved it so much, it was gone by the time we sat down.
Butters, salt and pepper were served in these colorful crystal pieces, that I think were originally intended for votive candles, but who cares.
Langoustines “Three ways”. The first two preparations were served together on a small-perforated plate suspended over dry ice in the base of the larger bowl-like dish. We had just enough time to marvel at the beauty of the plate when the waiter came back to “costume” the langoustines, which in this case meant gently pouring seawater into the bowl. This created an instant-fog that gently billowed through the holes in the china, kissing the langoustines with a hint of briny seawater-perfume.
Once the smoke cleared and we stopped playing with our food by blowing the vapor around, we could take a better look at the langoustine bites. Having heard it’s best to progress through a meal from cold to hot, I decided to start with the cold preparation first. It was a langoustine carpaccio topped with a bundle of delicate spring lettuces and flowers. The noodle-thin slice of carpaccio was soft and melted like butter with a subtle sweetness like amaebi sushi (the raw sweet shrimp nigiri served with the fried shrimp heads).
The second preparation was a langoustine tartar filled squash blossom, and quite possibly one of the best single bites of food I’ve ever chewed. The herbaceous wilted squash blossom paired beautifully with the creaminess of the chopped langoustine. Yum!
The third and final preparation was a piece of langoustine grilled a la plancha on a bed of creamy corn polenta with a little crunch from a popped kernel of corn. The polenta was sweet, smooth and buttery. The shrimp was perfectly cooked to the bite and the smoky charred bits helped cut through some of the sweet honey notes in the polenta. I’m not 100% sure what the foam was made of, but I’m remembering it having a little bit of a shellfish stock taste.
Next we moved on to the terrine, a Mosaic of milk-fed poularde, foie gras, artichoke, and black truffle jus. This was, hands down, the best terrine I’ve ever had. Alternating layers of rich proteins and lipids of milk-fed chicken and foie gras paired with quarter-inch pieces of artichokes and black truffle jus (kind of like a gelee).
Served on a clear glass plate with some fresh ground salt and black pepper to taste. I strategically cut slices of the terrine, carefully capturing a little of each layer, so I could then drag it through a creamy truffle vinaigrette (a nice bright acid), and then serve it up on a piece of sliced brioche toast.
At this point in the meal we’d finished the bottle of the white burgundy we were drinking and decided to move on to a delicious meaty red. This was the second time they brought the infamous giant Guy Savoy leather-bound wine list to our table. It’s huge, like something you’d find in a Hogwarts library or what the Never Ending Story might be written in. To give you a sense of how big it is, it comes to the table resting on its own wooden side table. After trying to make sense of this almanac of alcohol, we took great pleasure in working with the sommelier to pick a wine that wasn’t too dry or jammy, but that met our price point. [BTW, Guy Savoy offers plenty of bottles under $100]
This is my brother holding the wine list with two hands!
With the selection of the red wine, we’d signaled a shift into heartier dishes; the most delicate of which was the poached lobster with avocado puree with a spring vegetable tart made of phyllo pastry layers and topped with crunchy purple potatoes. The lobster tail was flawless from the texture to the taste. It was presented over a piece of celery seed sponge cake (or very soft brioche bread) with a black pepper twill for decoration and crunch.
The twill echoed the spiral of avocado mousse expanding from the center of the plate to the boarder—where the spring vegetable tart triangle waited patiently for my knife and fork.
Tableside, the waiter spooned some jus (could have been a bordelaise) into the spaces between the avocado tracks. It was beautiful to say the least.
Before I knew it, the lobster was gone. Holding my knife and fork in both hands, I leaned over the plate to savor the aromas of that crazy-good crustacean creation. Then it dawned on me; there’s no more lobster? My face turned angry from shock as if I were a guilty criminal returning to the scene of a lobster I’d murdered. I licked my upper and lower lips in search for any remnants, but alas, there were none. Then they brought us the lobster claws almost as an amendment to the dish, with a halibut mousse wrapped around it and a garnish of julienned hearts of palm. It’s as if Guy Savoy’s Executive Chef Mathieu Chartron intended the preemption of any further pain from my yearning for more lobster well before I had a chance to throw a temper tantrum (a la Veruca Salt) in the middle of the restaurant. “But I want another lobster with avocado and a spring tart daddy, and I want one now!”
The artichoke soup with black truffles and parmesan cheese. This soup is one of Chef Guy Savoy’s signature dishes. Christine, our server, told us that it’s the dish that the manager of Caesars Palace tasted when he was dining at Guy Savoy in Paris, and what inspired him to ask Chef Savoy to open up a sister restaurant in the new tower they were building at Caesars Palace. The soup is not made with a broth or any cream. It’s pure unadulterated artichoke puree, but it’s thinned out with water (I’m assuming) because it’s thin. Though it lacks in pulp, it does not miss a beat with flavor. It was served with a flaky buttered mushroom roll too.
And then, like a gift from heaven, the handsome and uber-talented Chef Chartron, rolled a cart up to our table. He introduced himself with a devilish smile and I melted a little in my seat as he explained what he was doing. They called this the “Salmon Iceberg” and here’s why. Chef Chartron placed raw cuts of fresh raw salmon on a block of dry ice to start cooking the exterior of the fatty fish without actually “cooking” (with heat) the fish; a process that would alter it’s soft smooth texture.
While the salmon, in essence got “freezer-burned,” the Chef placed some chervil gelees (reminiscent of parsley) in a bowl with some steamed bok choy. The salmon was then placed into the middle of the dish with the chervil and bok choy and some chilled pieces of finger lime pulp, like caviar, were spooned on top of the salmon.
This is what the finger limes look like with their caviar-like pulp interiors.
A hot broth was poured into the dish and we were instructed to eat it quickly. In all honesty, I would have done anything Chef Mathieu Chartron demanded; with his dimples, talented hands, and culinary prowess, I’m his! But it turns out there was a completely rational, and less lascivious explanation for eating the salmon with a sense of urgency.
Each chew, an intended cacophony of contrast, was both hot and cold, salty and sweet, rich and tart. The longer we waited the less of a temperature contrast we’d experience. So as much as I wanted to revel in each bite for as long as possible, I feared spending too much time with one forkful that I might miss out on repeating the unbelievable effect on the next one. So naturally I gobbled it up like a pig at a slopper, and practically licked the bowl clean.
We finished the savory part of our meal with the roasted duck breast with a mustard crust, served atop carrots a la français. The duck was medium rare and delicious. The carrots were sweet and only partially pureed, and a grilled leaf of lettuce (I think romaine) added a nice earthy bitterness to the plate.
Like they did with the lobster, there was a second act for the duck performance. Duck leg confit with a carrot and duck jus spooned over the duck meat at the table. Here’s the before:
And here’s the after:
Before we engaged in the dessert cart, which they offer up complimentary to all guests as a “thank you” for dining with them, Christine, our awesome head server, took us on a private tour of the kitchen where we got to meet and chat with Executive Chef Mathieu Chartron.
After a visit with some of the staff, and a look at the private in-kitchen dining room sponsored by Krug Champagne, we enjoyed a small taste of the deliciously creamy world famous Époisses cheese. The rest of the cheese cart looked fantastic, but with the dessert cart in sight, an entire plate of cheese seemed glutinous.
So we quickly moved on to dessert and practically raped the infamous Guy Savoy dessert cart by trying one of each item.
There were rum babas.
Cheesecake bites, fruit flavored marshmallows and pate de fruits.
Some shortbread cookies and white chocolate truffles with coconut and apple tart tatin.
Cherry clafoutis, tiramisu, and peach champagne sorbet.
Vanilla ice cream, strawberry sorbet, and peach champagne sorbet.
Precious mini mason jars filled with Guy Savoy’s amazing crème caramel, vanilla rice pudding, and chocolate mousse; all of which– so we were told—had been passed down from one Savoy generation to the next.
Chocolate ganache tart and almond financier.
And a macaroon.
When the meal was over we waddled ourselves towards the front, where the host offered us chartreuse candies that were made in-house. These sweet transparent hard candies tasted like lavender and honey, and were meant to help with the digestion of the meal.
And as a parting gift, the gave each of us a little Guy Savoy box filled with a marble pound cake, which we enjoyed for breakfast the next morning as we recovered from the most expensive meal of our lives.