Fleur-ishing: The evolution of Hubert Keller’s Mandalay restaurant

Chef Hubert Keller

Chef Hubert Keller

When Celebrity Chef Hubert Keller decided to close Fleur de Lys last May, cries rang out from the food-loving community. But with the closing of Fleur de Lys, a fine dining, finely-priced restaurant in Mandalay Bay, came its hipper, cooler younger sister, Fleur.

Keller says his decision to close Fleur de Lys was what the guests wanted. He explained that last year he had a small patio at Fleur de Lys where he offered small plates. It was so popular that people asked if the dishes were served inside the restaurant. Keller knew he was on to something good. Still, when asked about the recent trend in small plates and what gives Fleur the edge, Keller remains humble.

“I won’t be pretentious…I think we are trying to find our own way and our own unique direction,” says Keller.

Indeed, Fleur has unique touches. First, the cuisine is from many different cultures and executing each one accurately with Keller’s signature twist can be quite complex.

“The concept is small bites and cuisine from around the world. It’s a little bit of influence from where I lived, where I grew up and where I traveled to,” says Keller.

Keller was inspired by his French roots, but branched into Spanish, African, South American and Asian flavors for the Fleur menu. For example, the tuna tacos and chicken croquettes are influenced by Latin foods and gnocchi and pizza Napolitano from Italy. Of course, the croque monsieur, a smoked ham, gruyère and béchamel triumph, is a tasty French treat.

Second, looks are important. There are a few special presentations when dining at Fleur. On a recent visit, I was surprised to learn that the ice cream is made tableside. Liquid crème anglaise is slowly frozen with liquid nitrogen to produce a rich, creamy vanilla ice cream. The ice cream serves as the base to the affogato, a dessert where a shot of espresso is poured over the ice cream and topped with a dollup of foam. Additionally, liquid nitrogen is used to create three frozen cocktails on the menu, also made tableside.

Chef Hubert Keller's maple glazed pork ribs at Fleur.

Chef Hubert Keller's maple glazed pork ribs at Fleur.

Another dish with an impressive presentation is the maple glazed pork ribs. Just before serving, a glass dome is placed over the dish. Then, cherry wood is lit and the smoke is pumped under the glass dome creating an individual smoker.

“It’s not only a beautiful presentation in front of the guest, but then you remove the glass dome and have [the ribs] being smoked to order,” explains Keller.

It’s this marriage of form and function that makes Fleur stand apart. It’s not just a smaller portion or an appetizer thrown on a plate, but a careful fine tuning of each small plate. The care and attention to detail ensures the guest will have a memorable experience, even though most dishes are between just $7 – $14.

One final touch: You can order famous food — as seen on TV. Keller, who competed on “Top Chef Master’s” last year, put his winning recipe on the Fleur menu. Keller insists that his “in the shower” mac & cheese is the same recipe as the one infamously made in the college dorm room where he uses the shower faucet to shock the pasta. The only differences: The restaurant uses lobster, not prawns and the pasta is not shocked in the shower.

Fleur by Hubert Keller
located in Mandalay Bay
Open daily, 11 a.m. – 11 p.m.

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