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VegasEats: Picasso at Bellagio

By JohnH on Tuesday, 14th June 2011 3:51pm
  » filed under Las Vegas  comments: 10


Bellagio Picasso

Entering Picasso, much like entering Bellagio itself, is to be transported to another world entirely. You don't feel as if you've been transported to a tacky recreation of any of Picasso's studios in Europe, but instead, are immersed in a world in which the artist arguably would have felt comfortable. The interior design, much like Picasso's works, is playful and inviting, yet ultimately challenging and almost provocative. This is the world of Picasso, and to enter it, acts as something of a precursor or predictor of the meal one is about to engage in.

Bellagio Picasso Paint Urns

After taking in the space and lounging in the bar area for a few minutes, a hostess promptly seated me at a table near the windows overlooking Lake Bellagio. I know it's probably a cliché to mention, but sitting at one of those window-side seats and seeing those fountains work their magic is as indescribably beautiful as imagined. Sitting there, you really can understand the urban legend that explains Steve Wynn's inspiration to building the mountain at Wynn might not exactly be apocryphal. The neon emanating from PHo, Jockey Club, and now, Cosmo really tends to take away from the stately atmosphere of the place.

Bellagio Picasso Fountain View

Picasso offers two menus: a three-course mix-n-match prix fixe or a three-course menu degustation. The price difference between the two is really negligible, and as such, I opted for the mite more expensive degustation with additional wine pairing.

Bellagio Picasso Fountain View

One of a handful of real Picasso paintings which adorn the restaurant's walls

And so it began. After I was seated, I was offered a cocktail and was allowed to enjoy that beautiful Manhattan to my heart's content - apparently, that enjoyment period can last for about thirty minutes. Following that, they brought the bread course around. I opted for their manchego raisin number and a simple baguette. The baguette was forgettable, but the manchego was absurdly delicious. Creamy, sweet, and just light enough to think you're enjoying something with far fewer calories than you would want to know it actually contained. It was beautiful.

Then there was the amuse bouche. A small sampling potato leek soup paired with manchego-stuffed smoked salmon, quail egg, cucumber, and caviar. First, this is food pr0n at its finest, folks. Second, good God, was it delicious. The soup was the perfect palate cleanser, and in retrospect, it was clear that the salmon ditty combined almost every aspect of the meal that was yet to come in the most compact of versions. It did exactly what an amuse should do, brilliantly.

The first course of the meal is normally a "Maine Lobster Salad," but sadly, I possess an almost deadly allergy to lobster (I literally develop so many hives that I start to physically resemble the things). It's a demon, really. As such, though, I had to ask for a substitution. Naturally, they obliged and brought out this improvisational little number.

Now, at first glance, they're just raw oysters topped with caviar, right? Wrong. What you see before you, ladies and gents, is a set of poached oysters placed back in its shell, topped with caviar, and then misted with the slightest soupçon of a vermouth sauce. It was a dish that was so playfully punny that it almost rivaled Thomas Keller's much lauded "Oysters and Pearls." Was it as good as that iconic creation? Probably not, but with all of its warm, creamy, and oyster-y richness, it was pretty freaking balls-to-the-wall awesome if you ask me.

Bellagio Picasso Oysters

Sadly, I was so drunk by the second course that I forgot to take a photo of the "Pan Seared U-10 Day Scallop." Or was it that the dish was so good that I had finished it before I remembered to take the photo? It was one of the two. Maybe both. Needless to say, though, the dish was orgasmic. A collusion of textures - the velvety smoothness of the mashed potatoes, the sheen-like sweetness of the scallop, and the unctuous bite of a perfectly salted potato crisp - that played on each other in an almost symphonic pattern, it was, like its predecessors, excellence on a plate.

Foie gras, oh how I do love thee. I love it so much that I don't have a problem with the way it's procured. I love it so much that I'd force-feed it to a dues-paying PeTA member just to see them recognize its creamy brilliance. God, even thinking about that fattened goose liver is getting me all kinds of hot and bothered. It's really like culinary meth, but instead of the "meth mouth," this'll just make you heinously fat. But I digress. I really loved this foie gras. Maybe it was the rhubarb tart that it was paired with. Or maybe it was the almonds that accompanied it. Whatever it was, I loved it.

Bellagio Picasso Foie Gras

The main course, sadly, was probably the least impressive of the entire meal. Pretty to look at? Yes. Delicious to the taste? Absolutely. But the "Roasted Tournedo Loin of Colorado Lamb" was tough. The sides accompanying it - a delicately-prepared whole tomato and ratatouille - were perfect, but that lamb was just too damn tough for me to truly enjoy. Had I not needed a chainsaw to hack through the thing, it would have been perfect. And yet, it wasn't.

Bellagio Picasso Tournedo Loin

Dessert. By this point, I was so full of Bourbon, wine, and even more wine that I can only say that I remember eating this avant-garde attempt at berry cake. It was passable.

Bellagio Picasso Dessert

As were the mignardises that were served with coffee.

And that was the meal. Well, at least the food portion of it. The service, it must be said, was eloquent-yet-absent. My waiter was extensively knowledgeable of the restaurant's offerings - that might just be because they've been serving the same basic menu for the last thirteen years, but whatever - but still kept his distance such that I could enjoy my meal in a state of gastronomic and alcoholic nirvana. Honest to God, it's kind of exactly what one would expect from a Michelin two-star restaurant.

As was the price tag. Dinner for one, with tax, tip, and a happy ending, came to $269.17. But you know what? It was worth every cubist penny of it.

Tagged: dining   vegaseats   picasso   bellagio   julian serrano   


Comments & Discussion:

great review, one typo "First, this is food pr0n at its finest" i think you were shooting for "food PORN" or maybe thats just what my 15 year old mind inserted in its place!

leet is as leet does. pr0n 4eva.

I had a similar experience at Picasso, and thought it was very disappointing - because when you pay those kinds of prices, you're not expecting to get a tough piece of lamb. You can go to Twist (and not Alex, because the new people at Wynn are spawned from Satan, aka Harrah's) and have every single bite be perfection. So why go to Picasso and have your main course be no good?

Although it's been five years since I last dined at Picasso, your words brought back memories as if it were yesterday. I've never dined there alone, but on each solo visit to Bellagio, I would enjoy a Manhattan at Picasso's four-seat bar and soak up the atmosphere. You described it better than I ever could; it truly was like being "transported to another world entirely."

On our first visit, our dinners were almost identical to yours. I'm sorry you couldn't enjoy the Maine Lobster Salad because it is wonderful. I've had the lamb twice, and each time it was outstanding, perfectly prepared and very tender. Your experience was disappointing, and I'm sure, the exception.

Only once did we order the Wine Pairing. After pre-dinner cocktails, the wine was too much. I'm sure I staggered out of the room.

My Detroit friend and I always looked forward to each visit, but the best memory I have is when I took my Mom to Bellagio for her 90th birthday in 2000 and celebrated at Picasso. The service was unsurpassed, and the staff made her feel she was the most important person in the world. She loved it.

I was told that Steve Wynn ordered five runs of carpeting for Picasso when he built Bellagio. I'm sure MGM is treating the space well, but it can't be quite the same without Steve coming into the room.

John, thanks for the great review and photos.

My favorite restaurant. The room decor, fountain view, service, and of course the food are all exceptional. I think a plausible argument can be made that it is one of the finest dining experiences in the world. I put a 2 hour time limit on all meals, which eliminates much of the competition.

How does it compare to the former Alex restaurant at Wynn?

I love the idea, the transformation (what's left) and from the palette and what I know of the diner, I'm sure the meal was not to be missed...

But for some reason the price is just sticking me the wrong way. I'm wondering if its justified. I've had the meal of a lifetime at SW (first year) at Wynn, and with starters, salad, main course with a la carte sides, dessert, and 3 glasses of wine, the total still came in under 175.

I'd like to hear how it rates with places like Robuchon, Le Cirque, and even the shuttered Alex.

Excellent review, and while I know upwards of $250 for a fine dining experience with drinks isn't something bizarre, I do wonder whether the lamb not being perfect or at least prepared correctly would leave me disappointed in the overall experience. For me the meal might not have the artistic level of Savoy or Robuchon, but at that price tag, I think I'd expect everything to be prepared properly to truly enjoy it.

Perhaps I'm missing something in the review though, was it a personal preference that the lamb didn't meet, possibly a bad cut of it, or just poor preparation? I'm guessing that the other courses and service more then made up for it in order to make the experience unforgettable, but was just curious if that was the case.

I was at Picasso last about two years ago...it was perfect back then, including the main course. The bill was absurdly expensive, but it was worth every single penny. I'll be back for sure - one of my top 5 meals anywhere (and being married to a foodwriter I've been to a lot of great places!).

Lamb is tricky. That's no excuse from a restaurant of this caliber, but sometimes you simply get a tough cut. Avoiding that takes some serious attention, the level of attention you expect from a restaurant like this one.

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