Fine Dining

A birthday dinner has to consist of two things:  good food and good company.  Luckily, I had both.  I had some amazing food that I would never eat on a daily basis, and my favorite person next to me, who treated me out for my birthday. A birthday doesn’t get any better now does it.

Located at Venetian, Bouchon has a sense of class and ambiance that is so pleasant.  This place is located on the “Bouchon” floor.  Pretty cool.  Once you walk in, you notice the decor isn’t really chic or modern, but has more of a relaxed European (French?) feel to it. Nobody does French better than Thomas Keller.  He is world renowned and is quite possibly the best chef in the world.  I dream of eating at the French Laundry before I die.  Though this isn’t his actual restaurant, until then, Bouchon will have to do.

So the birthday boy, me, wanted some meat.  I ordered the steak frites, minus the frites.  My girlfriend ordered the Croque Madame, which comes with fries already. I switched out my fries with their mac n cheese.  No harm in having a big boy steak and a kid like mac n cheese.

My steak was a pan seared prime flatiron, the cut of a cow right near the neck.  This meant that it had a beefy and livery flavor, but in a gentle way.  There was no sign of caramelizeation of the meat, which was weird to me.  Maybe the maître d’hôtel butter and caramelized onions covered up all the sear.  The taste of the beef was like no other.  It had a grainy beef flavor — it was strong, but it was good. The flavor was just plain unique, in a good way.  Cooked to a perfect medium rare, each bite was juicy and delicious.

Before this amazingness, we shares a grilled octopus salad.  This was the best octopus dish I have ever had.  Not only was the octopus tasty wit the lemon vinegarette dressing, it wasn’t chewy. I was surprised that the octopus wasn’t chewy.  They achieved this by taking the skin off before they cook it.  The soft octopus meat and the tasty salad was such a good mix.  This was fine dining at its finest.

My girlfriend’s Croque Madame was actually more tasty to me.  It was basically a ham sandwich made into an open faced sandwich.  It had toasted ham and cheese on top of a brioche slice.  On top stood a fried egg and mornay sauce. And remember, there was a side of french fries.  The sweetness of the brioche played nice with the ham.  The mornay sauce was very rich and creamy.  It tasted like a mix between a hollandaise and a cheesy cream sauce.  The dish was very tasty, and I would order this again if I ever had a chance to dine here a second time.

A birthday dinner is nothing without a good dessert.  The Marquise au Chocolat was a perfect ending.  The dark chocolate mousse was very strong and not too sweet.  I am a dark chocolate enthusiast and this really hit the spot.  The burnt orange cream was a nice touch to the dessert as well. I am not really a fan of chocolate and citrus fruits, but this one worked well somehow.  It’s not a birthday cake, but this definitely will do.

What an amazing birthday dinner this was.  Not only was I at Vegas, I was doing Vegas right.  Eating at the right places makes all the difference. Vegas and fine dining just go together.  Bouchon is one of the best fine dining spots in Vegas, and The Venetian is a premiere casino and hotel. Off the see the Blue Man Group after an amazing dinner here, and you can call it a night.

Bouchon (Venetian) on Urbanspoon

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Having a Disneyland Pass has its perks.  Need a little pick up after a long day at work?  Go to Disneyland.  Need some excitement in your usual day?  Ride a ride at Disneyland.  One drawback about this is that there are no good eateries inside the theme park.  None.  So what is a person to do?  Luckily, there are a few good options in downtown Disney. One of my new favorites is Catal Restaurant and Uva Bar.

At first entering this restaurant, it really took me away from the busy Disneyland atmosphere.  There was a sense of adult sophistication centered around the decoration of Catal — definately refreshing after all the kids and cartons you see in any given day at Disneyland. Eating outside in the balcony, you get the cool breeze from the outside and watch the people on the ground.  The view is great, and watching the busy downtown Disney floor was really fun.

Not only was the decor sophisticated, but their menu as well which consisted of only a handful of the chefs special dishes.  We ordered the cesar salad, sobrasada, and bucatini pasta.  The salad and the pasta were great, but the sobrasada was just alright.  It was basically slices of cured meat and toasted baguette slices.  Tasty, but ordinary. We also ordered the cherry soda.  It sounded good in the description, and it was.  Refreshing and full of cherry flavor.

My favorites were the cesar salad and the pasta.  The Cesar salad had fresh Romain lettuce and their dressing was delicious.  My favorite part about the dish was that they put a slice of a anchovy on top. It was salty and fishy, a perfect companion for the salad.

The bugatini pasta was amazing, quite possibly the best pasta dish I have ever had.  It had roasted wild mushrooms, shreds of ox tail, and topped with creme fraishe, chives, and shaved Mahon cheese.  The cheese was sort of like a milder Parmesan.  The the earthy taste of the mushrooms and the richness of the oxtail and creme fraishe and cheese was amazing. This dish was definitely rich.  It was probably a good thing that the portions were sensible — this is probably why I was savoring each bite. Combining a bite of the pasta, then a bite of the salad was an amazing mixture in my mouth.  This dish was definitely tasty.

So remember when I stated that there are no good places to eat at Disneyland?  Well, I still stand by that statement.  It looks like the secret lies just outside of the theme park.  Catal is a bit pricey, but the grown up ambiance and sophisticated deliciousness of the food all make it worth while. Grabbing dinner and a drink before or after going to Disneyland is a great idea.  Catal & Uva Bar would be the best place to do that.

Catal Restaurant & Uva Bar (Downtown Disney) on Urbanspoon

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I remember going to Disneyland when I was a kid.  One of my favorite rides was the Pirates of the Caribbean.  The cool robotic and realistic figures causing havoc in pirate land was so entertaining.  They just looked so real!  Drifting away deeper and deeper into the fake world of pirates, I couldn’t help but get lost in it all. One thing I always remembered was the beginning of the ride.  Gazing at the people dining near the Bayou in the dimly lit setting, I always wondered who these people were.  How did they get over there, I asked myself.  In my young and naive mind, I came to the conclusion that, “those people must be special”.

Twenty odd years later, here I was, waiting to be seated where those “special” people had sat.  I entered the dining area, and it was just as I imagined.  Dimly lit with candles and lanterns, cool ambiance of the swamp bayou, and people on the boats riding Pirates of the Caribbean on the calm water. I had come to realize that I was on the other side of the looking glass —  I was finally here.

The setting was romantic.  You almost forget you are at Disneyland — inside of a theme park attraction even. The waiter gave us some bread and butter along with our waters.  I ordered the Buccaneer’s short rib and my girlfriend ordered the Cajun spiced salmon.

My short ribs were really tender and flavorful, but really salty.  I like salty and savory  foods, but even this was too salty for my taste.  Eating each bite of meat with the bread or potatoes really helped a lot. My girlfriend’s salmon was really good though.  The strong flavors of the seasoning and the crawfish beurre blanc was delicious.

Is it weird that I liked the appetizers more than the main course?  The chicken gumbo was really good — the Cajun flavors were really prevalent in the dish. I also liked the starter salad.  The craisins and fresh greens really made this salad pop.

 

So I guess my thinking is still correct.  It is virtually impossible to get a fantastic meal in the happiest place on earth. I guess the food doesn’t have to be spectacular at the Blue Bayou.  They make it up with the nice views and scenery.  I must say though, it was a dream come true eating here.   I had finally made it on the other side of the water.

Blue Bayou (Disneyland) on Urbanspoon

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