Las Vegas Nevada… My old stomping grounds! It’s great to get back there once in a while and try a new restaurant. I’ve been a little disgruntled about Mandalay Bay’s offerings as of late. RM Seafood has worn out the veggie roll for me and Border Grill left us both wanting for more the last time we were there. So this time around, we decided we would try Fleur by Hubert Keller – we’d already struck it big on the machines, would our luck continue into our meal?
YES! is the answer. Beginning with the hostess with whom we made our reservation, I was promised a vegan meal “no problem” and if there was anything special I was looking for, they’d do their best to accommodate. How could I possibly pass up a chance like this?
Our server, Ceferin, was not only informed about the menu items, but was enthusiastic about the options. He assured me that he would double check on the ingredients of all the items I was considering, and turned out everything was vegan. He even suggested the butternut squash risotto could be made without parmesan if I’d like that as well. Considering the meal was served tapas style, I didn’t think ordering 3 different dishes would be too weird! Besides, Friand wasn’t going to sit idly by!
My meal began with the Caponata and Baguette. The tapenade of eggplant, zucchini, olive, tomato, onion, celery and basil was fresh and light. At first, Friand thought that it was a bit underseasoned, meaning could have used a touch more salt, but I didn’t think the delicate vegetable blend needed anything more than how it was presented. The baguette was lightly grilled so it wasn’t too hard that it broke when you bit into it, this made the balance of warm and cold in your mouth perfect.
Next, I was assured that the tempura would also be vegan. Ok. Let’s try it. There’s only one way to know for sure: later in the evening am I sick? And the answer on this one was no. In fact, the tempura was so light and not greasy at all, it drove the notion deeper into my brain that frying with out animal fats is not only healthier, but it’s much more enjoyable to eat. And yes, I have had tempura that I was told was “vegan” and turns out, a couple hours later, not-so-vegan.
This tempura was a nice sized offering of red pepper, green pepper, zucchini, asparagus, sweet potato and one exceptionally cooked eggplant. The eggplant was so sweet and soft, even the most staunch eggplant haters would be hard pressed to find something unpleasant about it. The dipping sauce was not as incredible as the tempura batter itself, and the sweet little dollop of peppery condiment added just a hint of spice.
And then… the risotto arrived. Long time readers of the blog know that I have been served some pretty incredible risottos in my past, so my expectations were high. When it arrived,the first thing that struck me was how delicate the colors were. The butternut squash coupled with saffron made for a peachy orange hue. Microgreens on top added a texture element, but the real star of the dish was the spice blend used by Chef de Cuisine Lupe. I was informed that it was a “curry blend” which is always code for: it’s a secret recipe. Which is fine by me! Recognizing the saffron immediately, there clearly was a touch of white pepper (a chef’s secret to preserving the light colors of a dish like this) and nutmeg. But other than that, I couldn’t recongize the other subtle flavors. This was one time that the “heat” was not heat at all, but a flavor element. Beautiful. Perfectly cooked abborio rice. My only complaint is that this was tapas, because I could’ve eaten a giant bowl and then ordered another to bring back to the room for later. Butternut squash risotto gets the biggest most enthusiastic thumbs up of the evening!!
Even after all that, I was still looking forward to dessert. Would there be anything but sorbet for the Valley Vegan? Oh yes: pinapple carpaccio with lime sorbet over a shaved ice cilantro “gremolata”. Um yeah. You read that correctly. I wish the lighting was better at our table so you could really see the green of the ice, the perfect white of the pineapple and the gorgeous little flowers decorating the plate. On top of the sorbet was a pineapple chip – gooey and crispy, it truly is nature’s candy. The lime and cilantro combination was nothing short of brilliant. Two foods that already go great together, it was fantastic to get to experience them in a different form.
On a side note: there are many people out there who won’t eat flowers presented on a dish like this. Go ahead: eat them. The rules of culinary arts say that you may not put anything on a plate that isn’t edible. I can’t eat too many flowers (I do have mild allergies) but I always try to taste at least one of each kind. Especially in this case, it’s no accident which flowers are used – they go with the flavors.
Fleur turned out to be a surprise hit! We will absolutely be returning on our trip in March. We were told that the menu would be changing around that time as well, so it will be a great opportunity to try some new foods and see how the kitchen handles a change in ingredients.
Fleur by Hubert Keller obviously gets 5 sprouts!
Fleur is at Mandalay Bay on the Las Vegas Strip, call (702) 632-7200 for reservations
Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino
3950 Las Vegas Blvd. South
Las Vegas, Nevada 89119