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May 20, 2004



The sky's the limit at John Curtas' two top Las Vegas restaurants. It just depends on what you are looking for.

Two very different meals, on two consecutive nights, at two of our greatest restaurants, gave me two reasons to cheer up about dining out around here..

At one, Le Cirque I dined on the tasting menu of Jeremy Lieb, the chef de cuisine who ably assists Marc Poidevin in executing our town's most sophisticated food. One thing I love about Le Cirque (and full disclosure-I am no stranger there), is the seasonal change in the menu. As good as many of our top shelf eateries are, most are content to stay with a formula that satisfies the high rollers without stressing the talents of chefs who prefer counting money to creating interesting things to eat. That's one of the reasons steakhouses are so popular. Nothing is easier to execute, or bolsters the bottom line better, than slabs of steer muscle. And with the exception of Craftsteak and Prime, no steakhouse, ever, tweaks its menu one iota. Of course steakhouse customers aren't the most adventurous eaters in the world either, so most nights, at most steakhouses, you'll find the bland leading the bland.

But French cuisine is all about seasonality. And now that spring has sprung, Lieb lightens up Le Cirque with dishes like smoked halibut carpaccio with horseradish and dill, chilled sweet pea soup with lobster, arctic salmon with morels....or the sweetest scallops you'll ever taste, surrounded by huge, tender asparagus and wild mushrooms, in a truffle jus.... None of which left the Food Gal complaining about how heavy everything is.....heaviness being what the Food Gal rails against most at most meals. I wasn't complaining either, even after devouring seared foie gras with wild blueberries, and a filet de boeuf with three-peppercorn sauce and a blue cheese tart, that demonstrated how a great chef can fill you up, without filling you out.

But even after that dose of deliciousness, another old favorite was needed to restore my faith in fabulous food. And what better counterpoint to the lusciousness of Le Cirque, than the vivid, tangy and incendiary cuisine of Saipin Chutima at Lotus of Siam. No one does sweet and hot better than Thailand, and her sea bass in a sweet chili glaze is seafood on an ethereal level. Which is also where I'd put her sour Issan sausages and the best Thai beef salad in town. But the real reason we were there, was for the best Asian dessert I've ever tasted: Sliced mango, surrounding huge scoops of fresh cocoanut ice cream, and a warm mound of salty sticky rice, is a sweet, savory, and salty delight....and worth a trip all on its own.

You couldn't find two more different restaurants than Le Cirque and Lotus of Siam....but together, they give us the two best reasons to eat out in Las Vegas.

See discussion rules.


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