Monday, January 09, 2012

No. 211: Off-the-Strip in Vegas - Alizé

Having been to Vegas so many times in my past (it's practically an annual tradition for me & my friends from high school,) I am no stranger to all the places to eat & drink on the Strip. The buffets! The happy hours! The late-night joints for post-clubbing nosh! All of which are kinda yawn for me by now (especially given their recent proliferation of ripoffs from LA, SF, DC & NY restaurants.) So on my excursion last month, I made more of an attempt to wander off Las Vegas Blvd. for some truly distinctive bites & sips.

Palms Exterior
Which brings me to Alizé at the Top of the Palms.
Lower Lobby
Even though the meal is partially-hosted, my attempt to give it a preliminary incognito checkout @ the bar was foiled, as there was a receptionist checking me in @ the ground level elevator.
And... they certainly weren't kidding about the amazing view from the 56th floor. This photo doesn't do justice to the gorgeous panorama of scintillating lights and sparkles of the Strip & the city itself.
Wild Turkey Manhattan
While deliberating on what to order, I got a Wild Turkey Manhattan. Purists might scoffed that it was not stirred, but it was not quite shaken either -- rather, it was more of a gentle rolling slosh in the shaker, and the resulting drink was still rather smooth and velvety with a nice balance of the vermouth & bitter aromas with the snappy, spicy bite of the rye.

Alas, despite promises of foie gras, duck breast & rib eye on their Chef's Tasting Menu -- I opted for the Vegetarian Tasting Menu instead, partly to take the road less traveled, partly because I've already eaten too much meat & seafood thus far in my Vegas weekender, but mostly because I'm impressed with the variety of items & preparations offered on that menu, instead of looking like a bunch of side dishes cobbled together.
Wine List
Equally impressive was their tablet-based SmartCellar, which made for easy browsing and choosing of their 7,500+ wines--particularly with sorting by price range, regions, varietals, etc. Some of the details do lean on the generic side, but I have no doubt that a knowledgeable sommelier would be on-hand to give personal attention & TLC should the need arise . . .
Butter Lettuce & Beet Salad
Starting off the seven-course tasting was the butter lettuce & beet salad w candied walnuts. Lovely color and I loved the square-cut slices of the beets, and overall the salad tasted as colorful as it looked, with the tender and crisp leaves anchoring the flavors of the sweet and crunchy walnuts and the tender, earthy beets. And the dressing--a citrus-creme fraiche-shallot vinaigrette--was a wonderful combination of contradictions, rich & decadent but also delicate & bright at the same time, with the creamy texture nicely melding with its tangy savoriness.
Piquillo Pepper w Provencal Vegetables
Next up was a piquillo pepper stuffed with Provencal vegetables and herbed cream cheese. It was a festive melange of zesty & bold flavors, reminiscent of a ratatouille given a little more substance & oompf with the cheese. And the colorful streaks of red pepper puree & basil-infused olive oils added even more zippiness to the equation!
Asparagus Risotto
Following that was an asparagus risotto with truffle beurre monte & gruyere cheese. Subtle yet sublime with perfectly cooked rice (tender but with a toothy texture), a sauce that's thoroughly but delicately infused with truffles, and asparagus that retained its snappy-firm texture and bright, sweet-grassy flavor. What I love best is that this, like the salad dressing, felt like an indulgence without being over-the-top, guilt-inducing rich. Definitely gives me something to aspire to in my own risotto-cooking at home, which does lean a little heavier & a little cheesier.
Before moving onto the heartier savories, I was presented with a palate-cleansing intermezzo of tropical fruit sorbet with pomegranate arils. It was indeed refreshing & tangy but may have been frozen a tad too long, it did take a pretty decent hammering with my spoon before the shot-sized scoop broke apart.
Pascual Toso '09 Malbec
To go the more entreé-ish dishes, I ordered a glass of the 2009 Pascual Toso Malbec, which was silky-smooth with soft tannins, a minor kick of peppery bite and pleasant notes of plum, strawberry and cocoa (though not so much that it smells & tastes like a chocolate-covered starburst.) But do note that by-the-glass markup here is on the high side -- this particular Malbec being $16 for a bottle that costs around $9-10 (the general rule of thumb being a restaurant's by-the-glass pour should be around the bottle's retail price.)
Royal Trumpet Mushroom
The first of the mains was a Royal Trumpet Mushroom atop a roasted potato galette in a pool of huckleberry-green peppercorn sauce with microgreens and a caramelized clementine crisp. With the mushroom being braised or poached, I wasn't sure it would hold up to the other more assertive flavors, but it worked surprisingly well -- lending a meaty texture and slight woodsy taste that complemented the latke-ish galette, celeryish greens, and the vibrant citrus & sauce that's fruity without being cloyingly sweet--the last of which I may have impolitely used bread to lap up long after everything else is gone.
Black Pepper-Crusted Tofu
The other entree in the tasting that was a black-pepper crusted tofu spaced with sweet potatoes, topped with toasted marcona almonds and an apricot glaze. Like the mushroom dish, it was a nice contrast of sweet, spicy and savory. I particularly love the combo of the intensely-fruity glaze against the piquant punch of the cracked peppercorns coating the tofu, which has a delightful crispy shell that quickly gives way to a luxuriously creamy interior. Last but not least, kudos to the accompanying vegetables, which still retained their integrity in flavor and texture (unlike many places that oversteam them to a soft & mushy, generic- & greyish- tasting goop.)
Cheese & Apples
Following up was the cheese course featuring rectangular slices of Stilton with Port-poached figs a chocolate covered square of apple. In short, lots of intense flavors on one plate--from the funk of the bleu to the concentrated tangy-sweetness of the figs and the bittersweet dark chocolate--that I loved mixing and matching with. And to no surprise, the apple itself kind of got lost in the whirlwind of sharp tastes, but it did lend a pleasant crunch to the whole affair.
Poached Pear Brunoise
Desserts started with a poached pear brunoise in vanilla broth, topped with Belle de Brillet ice cream. Despite the plain color palette, this tasted heavenly - with an exquisite explosion of ripe, juicy pear aromas and flavors delightfully rounded out by the rich & comforting vanilla.
Raspberry-Filled Cheesecake
Afterwards was a deconstructed raspberry cheesecake of sorts, with a raspberry filled block of cheesecake coated in graham cracker crumbs accompanied by a graham cracker crisp and curls of dark chocolate. The cheesecake was solid (creamy, not-too-sweet, delicate tang with a punch of fruitiness) but felt a bit too cautious compared to the pear & vanilla. I almost want to invert the sweets order, favoring familiar to playful over light to heavy, so the final impression would be more of a bang.

But overall, Alizé certainly delivered on its promises, the ambience and views are amazing, the service polished and professional without being overbearingly fussy and a tasting menu that delightfully dances back and forth between comforting & curiosity-inducing dishes. And a definite top of my list as a recommendation for a "dinner to impress" in Las Vegas, and especially so for vegetarians & or even just veg-lovers... there aren't too many places where you'll find a tasting menu as dynamic and elegant as this one in the land of prime ribs, lobster tails and foie gras.

4321 W Flamingo Road
Las Vegas 89103
(702) 951-7000


Susie said...

This looks amazing. What a great write-up. A 'dinner to impress' in Vegas to be sure. Thanks for taking the time to write such a detailed summary.

Victor Chen said...

I've never heard of tofu being prepared like 'black-pepper crusted tofu'. Next time I go to Vegas, I'll have to check it out!


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