Daniel Boulud’s return is this year’s most exciting food moment

DB Brasserie’s escargots spätzle, Burgundy snail fricassée with chicken “oysters,” mushrooms, garlic, parsley coulis and hazelnut.
Photo: Bill Milne
Daniel Boulud is back.

Daniel Boulud is back.

This year will be a good one for food in Las Vegas, anchored by plenty of exciting restaurant openings on the Strip. And yet, not even halfway through 2014, it already seems as if we’ve reached the pinnacle. It’s highly unlikely anything could come along to top DB Brasserie.

Whoa. The place has only been open six weeks. That’s crazy talk. The highly anticipated return of chef Daniel Boulud—who was on Wynn’s opening roster in 2005—is a big deal, but many famous faces of food have been hitting the Strip lately. And he’s doing approachable French fare at the Venetian, where Thomas Keller has been doing it for more than a decade. Tap the brakes, right?

DB Brasserie's amazing smoked fish duo, salmon and sable <em>rillettes</em>.

DB Brasserie's amazing smoked fish duo, salmon and sable rillettes.

Thing is, it’s difficult to avoid blossoming hyperbole once you’ve tasted the food. The seafood starter poissons fumés ($20) is pure edible art, the most succulent slabs of smoked salmon with preserved cucumber opposite creamy, bewitching smoked sable rillettes. In between fishes, a row of tiny pommes dauphine, crème fraîche-filled potato puffs topped with dill and salmon roe. Every component sings.

Burrata is beautiful atop a layer of tomato marmalade and a shell of artichoke. Escargot fricasée ($18) teams with firm spätzle, the unctuous dark meat bits known as chicken oysters and parsley coulis. Another temptation: beer-battered calamari with Thai flavors ($15). And these are just starting dishes, people.

Then there’s the perfect burger. Boulud helped pioneer fancy burgers with his foie gras and truffle creation, but that one hasn’t made it to Vegas yet. For now, there are three, and while pork belly or barbecue pulled pork both make great toppings, it’ll be tough to improve on the Yankee ($17), a juicy model of subtlety. Definitely add cheddar to the perfect proportions of meat to sesame seed bun, lettuce, tomato and onion. This is what a hamburger should be.

Chef David Middleton's favorite <em>linguine de sud</em>.

Chef David Middleton's favorite linguine de sud.

David Middleton loves a plate of pasta. Fresh off an impressive tenure at Marche Bacchus, he’s found his ideal position as Boulud’s executive chef, and one of his favorite dishes is linguine de sud ($27). Clams, shrimp and little shaved bottarga (cured and dried roe) dress lemon-saffron pasta, plus a little brine (sea beans) and pepper (wilted arugula), bright sparks intermingling in richness.

DB Brasserie draws dishes from several of Boulud’s New York restaurants. From the Mediterranean-inspired Boulud Sud we get an addictive spiced lamb flatbread ($16) and a colorful duo of roasted lamb chop and Merguez sausage ($40). The latter is another amazingly balanced plate, with each piece—from lemon-braised spinach to red pepper tagine to minted yogurt—gently pushing to please your palate.

Boulud and Middleton distinguish DB with creativity, a style and flair much different than anything at the Venetian or elsewhere on the Strip. It doesn’t matter how big this year will be. You have to eat this food.

DB Brasserie Venetian, 702-430-1235. Daily; lunch, 11:30 a.m.-3 p.m.; bar menu, 3-5 p.m.; dinner, 5-11 p.m.

Tags: Dining
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Brock is an award-winning writer and reporter who has been documenting life in Las Vegas for 20 years. He currently ...

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