Wednesday, Dec. 9, 2009 | 10:53 a.m.
Vegas has always been a below-average breakfast, above-average brunch town. Now, the balance tilts even more in favor of brunch with the advent of the new Sunday Jazz Brunch at Wynn Las Vegas’ Country Club Grill.
The idea came from executive chef Carlos Guia, who formerly manned the stoves at the sorely missed Commander’s Palace, and later at the terrific but perhaps badly located Louis Las Vegas. Guia grew up in the Big Easy, so it is no surprise that both jazz and N’awlins cuisine are at the center of his new brunch.
This clubby, masculine restaurant is decorated with golf paraphernalia and sits over the Wynn golf course—a relaxing, appropriate spot for brunch. The brunch is set up in the bar and so are many of the tables. But for those wishing for a quiet experience, simply request a table in the main dining room, overlooking the golf course through panoramic windows.
Like its sister spread, the Wynn Buffet just down the hall, this brunch features a variety of carved meats and fresh seafood. But this spread goes the original several better by offering fresh oysters, real gumbo and several other hallmarks of Creole and Cajun cooking.
One you are seated, you’ll start off with an “eye opener” cocktail, a choice of Bloody Mary, flute of champagne or Kentucky-style sweet tea. One drink per guest is included in the price.
It would be oh so easy to fill up on the specialty breads—olive epi, parmesan-crusted flatbread and wonderfully flaky croissants, to name just a few—but I’d advise restraint. Save room for the heavyweight stuff.
The layout is simple: five stations, plus a printed menu from which to order dishes from the kitchen. Some of the best things here have to be ordered, so don’t get carried away at the stations. I must admit, I found it hard to resist the cheeseburger sliders at the station called kid’s corner. I ate three before my wife stopped me from eating a fourth.
My next stop was the shellfish station, where you’ll be drawn immediately to a huge metal tureen filled with shrimp and andouille gumbo. Next to the gumbo is a condiment station stocked with chopped green onion and file powder, a starchy thickener condensed from sassafras root. The gumbo doesn’t need it; it’s already thick and hearty, thanks to okra, fat shrimp and diced sausage.
Another New Orleans specialty is shrimp remoulade, though you’ll have to make it yourself. Shelled shrimp on ice are offered at the raw bar, along with Malpeque oysters and king crab legs. Just next to it are accompanying sauces, such as tartar, shallot mignonette and the city’s best, most authentic remoulade—a sauce akin to mayonnaise, ramped up with Dijon mustard, Worcestershire and Tabasco.
Fare made in the kitchen is wonderful. Poached eggs with smoked pulled pork are served on a flaky bacon-cheese muffin. French-toast bread pudding has a garnish of intensely woodsy bacon from New Hampshire. There are shrimp and grits, and eggs Versailles—sort of a Benedict made with smoked salmon. At the cold station, there are two types of house salmon: a classic smoked salmon and a delectable orange-tarragon gravlax, a cured salmon.
Make sure to try Guia’s trio of ceviches and selection of sausages from the carving board. Especially delicious is a ruddy, crusty andouille, cut from what looks like a meatloaf you’d get at Von’s. Beef tenderloin, brown-sugar-brined pork chops and chile-rubbed turkey are all just fine, but not that much better than they are done at other Strip buffets.
The same cannot be said for pastry chef Frederic Robert’s elegant desserts: mini Opera cakes, chocolate éclairs and exotic parfaits. His lemon-tart parfait could win a dessert competition anywhere, unless it was up against his rice pudding in caramel mousse, perhaps my favorite dessert of the year.
While you dine, the smooth-jazz stylings of a trio called Pyramid plays gently in the background. Let the good times roll.