Friday, Dec. 17, 2004 | 8:32 a.m.
Muriel Stevens' dining column appears Fridays. Her shopping and travel columns appear Wednesday. Reach her at (702) 259-4080 or [email protected]
It's more than the view that makes Alain Ducasse's Mix in Las Vegas magic. Mix, on the 64th floor of The Hotel at Mandalay Bay, will open to the public Dec. 27.
Mix designer Patrick Jouin has created a dramatically wonderful setting for a restaurant. With the acclaimed cuisine of Ducasse, panoramic views of the Strip and the expertise of China Grill Management, expectation is high that Ducasse and China Grill's Jeffrey Chodorow will flourish.
Overseeing the China Grill Management Group, including Mix, is Director of Operations Mitch Mehr (a charming Richard Gere look-alike). It's a formidable team.
The preview dinner I attended Tuesday night and a tour of the restaurant a few days before were hardly enough time to get to know Mix. There are many parts to Mix. A small, jewel-like champagne bar is a highlight of the lounge; the wraparound terrace with heat lamps that work is another. A chef's table offers a clear view of the marvelous kitchen and the battery of chefs that fill every station. The kitchen is central to both the bar and lounge and the dining room.
Executive Chef Bruno Davaillon and all of the chefs were personally chosen by Chef Ducasse, who will frequently be on the scene.
The enchanting dining room is quite large, yet the design belies its size. The space is beautifully conceived, so guests had clear views of many tables. There was much table-hopping. A coterie of chefs who were longtime friends of Ducasse were there, as well as well-wishers from Wynn Las Vegas.
From my viewpoint I could see Hubert Keller (Fleur de Lys), Jean Joho (Eiffel Tower), Rick Moonen (rm), Kerry Simon (Simon Kitchen & Bar), Kim Canteenwalla, Grant MacPherson, Elizabeth Blau, Kevin Stuessi and more (too many to remember).
Seated next to me was Mika Ogura, a Japanese journalist from Tokyo. Somewhere in our travels, probably at a conference, our paths had crossed before. We tried to remember where, but finally gave up. Ogura was doing a story about Ducasse's Tokyo restaurant, Chanel, at the top of the Chanel Tower in the Ginza district. Chanel is expected to open soon.
I had the sense that chance encounters such as mine with Ogura often occur at a Ducasse restaurant.
Our dinner was a tasting menu with four courses and dessert. All of the dishes were chosen from the regular menu. Portions were tasting size, but more than generous.
It was a lovely meal that included an appetizer of pressed chicken, black truffle and foie gras with a crunchy artichoke salad (the crunch came from bits of dried artichokes sprinkled over the artichoke); Tuscan hand-rolled pasta with perfectly cooked shellfish seasoned with basil; a slice of sweet, tender Atlantic cod with capers and lemon; a superb Colorado rack of lamb, ribs removed and caramelized, and potato boulangere.
Dessert was a whimsical delight -- a Mix candy bar (like no other) embellished with edible leaf, pistachios and a covering of chocolate ganache. On the side was a divine lime sorbet that tempered the richness of the candy bar. A small pizza plate offered one half of a black (chocolate) pizza and a matching white half (white chocolate and pineapple). Such delicious conceits.
The menu includes appetizers ($20 to $180 for caviar and blinis); a selection of Ducasse classics from his restaurants in Paris and Monte Carlo; fish and shellfish main courses ($30-$46); meat and poultry, including a bison tenderloin with peppercorn sauce ($29-$48). All desserts are $9.
Dinner hours are 5 p.m. to 11 p.m. nightly. Reservations are required. Admission to the lounge and bar is free before 10 p.m. There is a cover charge after 10 p.m. of $20 per person Sunday through Thursday and $25 Fridays and Saturdays. Local women are never charged. For reservations or more information call 632-9500.
On Thursday I wrote about some of my favorite cookbooks for the holidays. Following are a few more that I like:
"Cakes to Dream On: A Master Class in Decorating," Colette Peters (Wiley, $40): Peters is a one of the world's premier cake designers. Dazzling photography, step-by-step instructions and other aids. Only dedicated decorators will have the patience to join Peters' artistic world. I'm not one of them, yet I love this amazing book. Great insight into what it takes to become a master. Eat the mistakes; no one will know.
"The Good Cook: 70 Essential Techniques, 250 step-by-step photographs, 350 Easy Recipes," Anne Willan (Stewart, Tabori & Chang, $40): Willan is the founder of La Varenne Cooking School in Paris. I had the pleasure taking classes when she taught at the Cordon Bleu in London. "The Good Cook" is filled with the kind of information that every good cook wants and needs to know. A lifetime of good cooking from a marvelous professional.
"Getting Thin & Loving Food: 200 Easy Recipes to Take You Where you Want to Be," Kathleen Daelemans (Houghton Mifflin, $27): It's difficult to believe that this size 6 chef once was a size 22 and weighed 205 pounds! This is a success story that did not include crazy diets. The now-petite beauty did it by applying knowledge she already had. It was a job as a cook at a spa that encouraged her. Her successful weight loss made her a Food Network star and gave her a place as a leading figure in the food world. Yes, you can do it, too.
"Chef's Secrets: Insider Techniques from Today's Culinary Masters," as told to Francine Maroukian (Quirk Books, $16.95): A handy-dandy small paperback volume that includes the expert way to roast a turkey from Aureole owner Charlie Palmer; how to build a three-zone fire on a charcoal grill from Steven Raichlen; and my favorite how-to from physician/cook Robert Steinberg, co-founder of Scharffen Berger Chocolate maker -- how to make the best ganache ever. Love the chocolate and the ganache! An invaluable addition to any foodie's collection.
"Great Grilled Cheese: 50 Innovative Recipes for Stovetop, Grill and Sandwich Maker," Laura Werlin (Stewart Tabori & Chang, $16.95: Who knew the time would come when grilled cheese sandwiches would have their own cookbook?
Werlin has turned a passion for grilled cheese sandwiches into a comfort food cookbook. Werlin ate a grilled cheese sandwich every day throughout her school years. She has expanded her repertoire to include dessert grilled cheese and other inventive sandwiches. A mess of good eating from a passionate grilled cheese sandwich aficionado.