(Also at TWHT/RateVegas)
Last night, I was in for the time of my life! I enjoyed a fabulous dinner at one of my new favorite Vegas restaurants with some very accomplished fine dining luminaries and professionals.
I was in heaven. Yes, indeed, heaven is a place on earth... And it is called Bradley Ogden!
Bradley Ogden really is an interesting spot at Caesars Palace. It opens right to the madness of the Forum Casino, with the soon-to-be-former Pussycat Dolls Casino and just opened Munchbar (which is, by the way, run by Bradley's son, Bryan Ogden) just a short saunter away. However once one steps through the doors, it's like an island of cozy, wood-paneled, earth-toned, San Francisco inspired tranquility in the midst of one of Las Vegas' biggest Strip casinos. If all the over-the-top Caesars glitz ever gets to be too much for you, you may appreciate the calmer vibe at Bradley Ogden.
So anyway, I arrived for the Vegas Uncork'd dinner ready for anything... Even eating some meat for the first time in six years, just for you at RateVegas/TWHT! So pardon me if my meat judging skills are a little rusty, but I'll try to give you the most accurate as possible take on my various courses. And fortunately I had some highly esteemed fine dining authorities sitting at my table, including Bon Appetit executive editor Victoria Von Biel and San Francisco's Best-O-Burger burger boss Randy Lewis.
We started dinner with a lovely amuse bouche consisting of a petite potato cake, good Osetra Caviar, and citrus creme fraiche. The salty caviar played well with the creamy creme fraiche and soft potato cake. I enjoyed this with the 2004 Iron Horse Bradley Ogden Sonoma Cuvee, which may now be my new favorite "California Champagne".
From there, it was on to our next course: charred yellow tail with scallion puree, caramelized hearts of palm, and a "rice cracker". The scallions added a nice, fresh, herby vibe to the dish, while the caramelized hearts of palm added a bit of a sweet touch to the dish. And the 2008 Illumination Sauvignon Blanc was perfectly crisp and a solid pairing here.
Now I don't often cook with butter lettuce at home, but I occasionally eat it when I'm dining out. And I must admit, the butter lettuce salad here was quite delectable. In fact, it may have been one of the "breakout stars" in my humble opinion, with the goat cheese, shaved fennel, and herb vinaigrette all coming together in the perfect balance of tender, soft, crisp, sweet, and tangy. Yum! Oh, and the slightly buttery and sweet 2007 Flowers Chardonnay from the Sonoma Coast paired beautifully here.
And then, it was time for roasted zucchini soup with sundried tomato, zucchini pearl salad, and fresh zucchini bread. I'm usually a sucker for good zucchini bread, and this one was no exception with its pleasant sweetness. This worked well in balancing the earthier flavors of the zucchini soup, cut with a bit of tart and tang from the sundried tomato. We then tried another Flowers Chardonnay, this one being a 2006 Andreen Gale. This one paired pretty well, but it wasn't quite the perfect match the other chardonnay was with the salad.
And from there, we then dove into the Seared Atlantic Diver Scallops with basil puree, pepper relish, and lemon foam. And yes, one can really make lemon foam with the juice... It just involves some really interesting molecular gastronomy. Oh, and the lemon foam was quite tart and tasty, too. Since all the other components had some sort of sweetness, including the rather mild yellow peppers, the tart from the foam was much appreciated. This was paired with yet another Flowers Chardonnay, this one being the 2006 "Camp Meeting Ridge". Now this pairing was a better match than the last course, but I'd still have to say my favorite chardonnay pairing was with the salad.
OK, so after all that fishy goodness, it was time for some red meat! In this case, we did a cut of South Dakota Bison Tenderloin. And yes, bison meat can be eaten! It's actually leaner than beef, and I could taste the difference... Though it was still hearty. And cooked well, with a nice crust on the outside and very tender and red and almost raw inside. Chef Lewis and Ms. Von Biel both noted that the bison meat was most likely done sous vide first, then finished off with some pan searing to get that good crust. The veggies also didn't disappoint, as I was gobbling up the delectable fava beans and sweet spring onions. This all went nicely with the fruity and slightly spicy 2006 Napa Valley Meritage paired with this course.
And finally, dessert! I had survived all the meat as a vegetarian who had not eaten meat in six years, so I was ready to reward myself with some lovely strawberry shortcake. Actually, the shortcake was more of a "mini waffle" finished with strawberries, rhubarb sauce, a mascarpone cream, and real vanilla (as in real vanilla beans were used here!) ice cream. Now the strawberries and shortcake went superbly with the vanilla ice cream. It was a glorious sweet medley, but not too sweet, as the rhubarb sauce helped strike just the right balance for me. However, the wine pairing here was likely the most controversial of the night. A 2007 Flowers Pinot Noir from the Sonoma Coast came just before dessert, and was meant to go with dessert. Now when I first tried the wine, it had a nice but not too strong fruity edge... But when tasted with the dessert, I suddenly got a bitter taste in my mouth that wasn't all that pleasant. This was not too horrifying for me, but for a moment it did seem like I fell out of heaven and crashed back down on Planet Vegas. This was not a total nightmare, but the wine pairing probably was the low point of the dinner for me.
So what do I think overall? Well, even with the dessert wine pairing debacle in the end, I'd still give the Bradley Ogden Uncork'd Dinner a solid A, or at least a good A-. I'm still on the fence. All the food was fantastic, though the caviar amuse bouche, butter lettuce salad, and shortcake dessert (sans wine!) were the real shining stars for me. No one dish was bad at all, but again a couple of the wine pairings did throw me off.
So is Bradley Ogden worth the splurge next time you're in Vegas? Absolutely! I've also eaten here on "regular nights", and the food is consistently solid. Just be careful when pairing a Pinot Noir with a certain dish. ;-)
Oh, and finally, I need to make one more shout out to my new friends... Especially Bon Appetit Executive Editor Victoria Von Biel and Chef Randy Lewis from San Francisco! We, along with the other great folks at our table, gave me quite the "education" on fine food. We also had some fun discussing our favorite LA and Bay Area restaurants. All in all, this was the dinner of my dreams. And I'm about to run over to MGM to see "Chef of the Century" Joel Robuchon. And for dinner, it's The Grand Tasting for moi. Am I awake yet?
(And don't forget to follow me @atdleft on Twitter for today's Uncork'd news, and see my Twitpic for some fun photos from last night!)