By Nikki Neu
It’s easy to dismiss a French restaurant as being stuffy, complicated and unapproachable.
But you’re in Las Vegas, land of customer service, home of hospitality. We wouldn’t do that to you. Granted, the fine dining restaurants from world-renowned chefs like Joël Robuchon and Guy Savoy are traditionally French, decorated impeccably and boast the city’s brightest culinary staffs. But fear not, these restaurants and others insist on making your dining experience a comfortable one.
There’s something magical about the French restaurants in Vegas, where wine glasses clink in celebration, the Champagne flows freely and house music is replaced with Edith Piaf or better still, silence.
Of course, the food is extraordinary, the technique is perfect and the plate presentation is like art. But there are components of a French restaurant to consider far beyond the poached lobster and Osetra caviar. Attention to detail, excellent service and inspiring décor are also part of the guest’s experience. These elements all aid in the comfort of the guest – and in Vegas, keeping guests happy is what we do.
Service with a smile
“Nowadays, it appears that food is not only important, but service is also very important,” says Franck Savoy, director of food and beverage at Caesars Palace. Franck is the son of Chef Guy Savoy and former general manager of Restaurant Guy Savoy in Las Vegas.
When dining at a French restaurant, one thing you can count on is excellent service. At Twist in Mandarin Oriental, ladies will be offered a shawl if they get cold. At Joël Robuchon in MGM Grand, complimentary limousine service is offered to and from the restaurant.
Alessandro Stratta, executive chef of Alex in Wynn Las Vegas, says the food and the service are of equal importance. That’s because making the guest feel comfortable is key.
“When you feel like there’s genuine hospitality and you feel comfortable with something and you’re feeling that you’re really well taken care of, not too many people, don’t like it,” says Stratta.
Details, details, details
It’s the little things that count and these restaurant go the extra mile to make sure your dining experience is memorable.
“Every detail is not done randomly,” says Franck Savoy.
For example, he explains if a gentleman is a return guest, the staff at Restaurant Guy Savoy takes special care in remembering him.
“We know what he had the last time he came. We know what he liked and what he disliked,” he said.
At Alex, similar attention is paid. No detail is left to chance and the staff’s authentic concern for the guest is crucial to their dining experience.
“Genuine hospitality is attentiveness. It’s personalized service. It’s thinking one step ahead of the guest, remembering their name. [It’s] remembering, if they came back again, what they like to drink…These things all have nothing to do with cooking,” says Stratta.
At Alex, there aren’t too many things left to be desired. The service is impeccable. The food is exquisite. The dining room is opulent. There’s even a stool for your purse, so you’re not tossing your Chanel 2.55 handbag on the floor. It’s a girl thing, but trust that the little damask-covered cushion is one detail that goes a long way.
“We think of everything we possibly can,” says Stratta.
A triumphant tasting
One of the best parts of dining at French restaurants is that each restaurant has developed at least one tasting menu – a symphony of dishes that are carefully selected in order to display a sampling of cuisine from the restaurant. These dishes come together in perfect harmony and an unsuspecting guest might think they just got lucky with a good meal.
In actuality, careful planning by the chef and restaurant staff is needed to properly execute such a menu. When composing these tasting menus, there are a few key points restaurants consider, starting with ingredients.
“I come to Las Vegas four times a year and a lot of time is spent changing the menus so we follow the seasons and the ingredients available,” says Robuchon.
Any of the chefs will tell you seasonality is important. But other aspects of the menu, like timing, the order the dishes come in and fluidity of the meal, is also critical.
“You also need to take into account the flow of the dinner and make sure that the dishes flow well together,” says Robuchon.
Tasting menus can be as few as three courses and as many as 16 courses (offered at Joël Robuchon.) These menus take the guess work out of ordering. Because the restaurant staff has created a meal, a guest won’t have to frantically search for an appetizer to go with their entrée. They can relax and trust their meal will be exquisite.
At Twist, everything comes with a, well, twist. Chef Pierre Gagnaire’s innovative French Nouveaux cuisine is served on fine china, but with minimalist décor. The room’s view of the Las Vegas Strip is about the only thing to fix your eyes on.
It’s a similar view at Restaurant Guy Savoy. Aside from a few pop-art wall hangings, the room is a simple, elegant clean design. That’s because at both of these restaurants, the food is the star.
When asked why there is no music playing in the dining room at Restaurant Guy Savoy, the response is simple.
“Because, you don’t serve food in the opera and because the music is on the plate,” says Franck Savoy.
But Mix, Alain Ducasse’s restaurant atop THEhotel at Mandalay Bay, Alex and Joel Robuchon are full of rich, opulent décor.
“What we try to give is an experience that is going to stimulate all senses. The restaurant needs to be beautiful so we change the color theme each season,” says Robuchon.
The main dining room at Robuchon features plush purple velvet banquets, a king-sized crystal chandelier, gilded molding and fresh floral arrangements.
Alex’s dramatic staircase, rich floor-to-ceiling draperies and dark wood paneling give the dining room a French Riviera feel. At Mix, the oversized columns, 24-foot chandelier made of 15,000 hand-blown glass spheres and curved staircase leading to a second-story private dining area are just some of the impressive features for viewing.
Whether it is simple to complement the food or over-the-top to excite the guest’s palate, décor is a major component of French dining in Vegas.
The “wow” factor
The sum of all these components, food, service, detail and décor, makes a truly exquisite French dining experience in Vegas. As unique as each restaurant is, they all emphasize these things and the overall impact they have with guests.
Franck Savoy insists that the friendly, fun atmosphere is the way to go in the dining room.
“The ‘wow’ aspect of Guy is the comfortable service that my waiters provide to the guest. There is not one night you won’t hear customers laughing with the maître d’hôtel or the waiters. I want them to laugh. I want them to have fun,” he said.
These French restaurants take pride in what they present, the food they cook, the table they set and the details they scrutinize over.
In terms of pride and popularity, Robuchon says it best:
“I think that French cuisine is still regarded as one of the best in the world and this is what makes it so popular…The clientele in Las Vegas is great.”