Sunday, December 2, 2012

Twist by Pierre Gagnaire - a la Carte Reinvented

As a person from California, I've went to Las Vegas with one of the main goals of satisfying my Foie Gras cravings since its ban in my state. After enjoying my time at Pierre Gagnaire in Tokyo, I was set in going to his restaurant in Las Vegas "Twist by Pierre Gagnaire".

Twist by Pierre Gagnaire is located at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel next to Aria and the Monte Carlo.

The restaurant itself is located on the 23rd floor which I assume in the above picture is highlighted with a boarder of lights.

As I was dining alone, I was seated next to the window where I had an amazing view of the city. For my review of Twist, I do apologize that the pictures did not receive ample lighting as I didn't want to disturb the other guests with my camera's flash. Although it's very nice to have a dining companion, I've felt well taken care of as I was a party of one. I just want to say that a person should never feel ashamed if he or she dines alone. Restaurants of this caliber will go to great lengths to make you feel comfortable in any way.

I've started off with my starter cocktail of choice, a (Bombay) Sapphire Martini with instead a lemon twist. Judging from how well-pealed the lemon twist was, my Martini was definitely made with the hands of a very skilled bartender.

Unlike the menu at Pierre Gagnaire in Tokyo during my time then, most of the items offered at Twist are served a la carte although a tasting menu was offered as well. When one orders off of their a la carte menu, it might seem that he or she is ordering the standard 2-3 courses for dinner consisting of appetizer, main dish and maybe dessert. However, each a la carte course comes out as three different dishes for each course such as the following foie gras course I ordered. I highly admire this concept of Twist as by having three different dishes for each course seems much more satisfying as the restaurant would offer different flavors to the customer. The customer is certainly getting his or her money's worth as I can imagine it takes immense effort to craft three individual dishes for each course. In addition, this concept is much more intriguing instead of the typical single, large portion for an appetizer and a single, much larger main dish. As I've mentioned of my Foie Gras cravings, it was by impulse that I first order the Foie Gras appetizer. Still amazed by the over the top Wagyu (from Saga) Tenderloin topped with Hokkaido Uni at the Tokyo location and with the recent repeal of the Japanese beef ban, I was temped to order the Wagyu steak (forgot the cut that was offered) that was from a town nearby Kobe. However, my waiter, who was very friendly and accommodating, suggested that I ordered the Maine Lobster as my main course to which I did.

After placing my order, I was given bread and amuse bouches to start out my meal. I also apologize that I do not remember every single thing that was offered for this part of the meal.

I was given this Gelée of Armanac (I'm assuming). It had a mild sweetness in order to invigorate but not overwhelm one's palate.

The breads were a baguette, Italian Focaccia, and another Italian Focaccia made with molasses. All of the three breads were well made.

The first of the three canapes in the back was a Cod Roe canape with Marscarpone Cheese. That was my favorite out of the three as the flavor of the cod roe was there but not overwhelmingly salty as cod roe usually is. The next was some sort of shortbread which I did enjoy. However, the last canape which I thought was made with Tuna was so so in my opinion. As the waitstaff knew I was dining alone, I was given a book with pictures of Pierre Gagnaire's dishes. It wasn't a cook book as it didn't have any recipes but it was essentially a fat Penthouse magazine of food porn.

The last part of my amuse bouche was a spinach dip with flax seed crackers. I wish I could get this as an amazing snack as this spinach dip has been refined to such a high level versus the spinach dips offered as a happy hour appetizer in other restaurants. The two yellow disks in the back are butter from France to accompany with my bread. The butter was divine that I didn't know it could possibly ever taste like that.

When my Hudson Valley Foie Gras Appetizer came, I was amazed and impressed as it was served as three different dishes. 

This is Poached Foie Gras on a bed of sauerkraut topped with charcuterie of sausage and radishes. Although it lacked the carmelization of seared foie gras, it was delicious.

Next came the Glenmorangie Glazed Foie Gras Terrine. This was the best foie gras dish during my recent stay in vegas. The scotch glaze accompanied so well, along with the hazelnut/ ginger bread powder cakes, with the terrine. Although I usually preferred seared foie gras like many others who first eat foie gras, I'm starting to pick up why French chefs really dwell in preparing and having their customers enjoy foie gras terrines.

To conclude the foie gras appetizer, Apple Ice Cream topped with Julienned apples and edible flowers was there to finish in order to cleanse the palate after eating heavy foie gras. It was refreshing and delicious. As I told the waiter that I was from California, he told me that I was the fifth person from California ordering the foie gras as it so happens that there are plenty of others wanting to satisfy their foie gras hunger.

I've ordered a French white wine (sorry I forgot the name, it was Champs-something) to go along with the Maine Lobster course. It had a very fruity aroma while tasting very dry in order to wash down well the heaviness of the lobster.

The first of the three Maine Lobster dishes was the Lobster Fricassée sitting on a bed of various mushrooms and ham along with an onion soubise as a mean of replacing traditional melted butter. It was beautifully presented. This dish was not only delicious but immediately makes a statement of refinement. The refined flavors of the dish demonstrate the talent of the Pierre Gagnaire chefs. However, I've felt the flavor of the dish tasted "too controlled" and expected as the earthiness of the dish was only tasted. It needed a wild factor whether it be acidity or something unexpected that makes Pierre Gagnaire famous of his dishes. Be that as it may, it was a very solid dish with all of its components refined.

Next to the first lobster dish was a Crab Cake along with a Shishito pepper. With nice breading on the side, it was filled with mostly crab and less filler which made me happy to dig right into it. The pepper served as a good cleanser.

 While not wasting any of the lobster, the final component of the Maine Lobster course is a Thai-inspired Lobster Bisque with its knuckles as the meat. The bisque was loaded with coconut milk and lemongrass. Inside the bisque, the noodles served to give it a nice bite of carbs to go well with the intensely rich bisque. I'm really impressed with this as not only could I taste the refinement in this bisque but it brought out Pierre Gagnaire's innovation of modernizing classical French dishes by adding outside components such as ingredients typically used in Asian cooking. This is a great example of how the fusion of cuisines should be properly done.

After eating ample portions of Hudson Valley Foie Gras and Maine Lobster, I was too full to order dessert which I was disappointed as Pierre Gagnaire is really known for his creative desserts as I've experienced firsthand in Tokyo. However, complements of the pastry chef, I was able to divulge in dessert canapes. I only remember the third one on the right being something of pistachio and the first one something of gingerbread. They were all great nonetheless.

I then opted for a digestif of Hennessy VSOP Cognac as a proper way to conclude an extravagant French meal.

After finishing my Cognac, I was given a complementary espresso.

My meal at Twist by Pierre Gagnaire was amazing. However if there's one thing I have to be critical is that some of the dishes, mainly the Lobster Fricassée, felt "scripted". I felt that there could have been more of Pierre Gagnaire's inventiveness in influencing the flavor of his dishes as some of the flavors, although delicious, didn't stand out.

Nevertheless, I would like to point out if I hadn't have already that all of the dishes were served with proper, technical and refined execution. In addition, there wasn't no bad dish whatsoever or any low points throughout the meal although I enjoyed the tuna canape the least. With the extremely high level of refinement in the food served at Twist along with its amazing formal service as all of the members of the waitstaff were extremely polite, friendly and attentive; if the Michelin were still around in Vegas when Twist opened, It would definitely deserve two Michelin stars. In addition, with each course containing three dishes that takes immense effort in order to create each of those dishes with great precision and refinement, the food served at Twist with the Foie Gras appetizer costing $50 and the Maine Lobster main course at $62 is of amazing value. Most other restaurants, particularly steakhouses, that would offer foie gras and lobster at around those prices or even higher I imagine don't come anywhere close to the refined dishes and service offered by Twist.

 I have to say that it wasn't as exciting as my experience at Pierre Gagnaire in Tokyo (I imagine it's even more so at the main Pierre Gagnaire in Paris) with extremely inventive dishes that incorporates a whole lot of risk which ultimately paid off massively at the end.  Be that as it may, I definitely will  return to Twist to try other dishes with hopes that they might have more of Pierre Gagnaire's creativity and wildness while containing all of that in a refined manner.
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