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September 20, 2014

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Chef’s creations wow at Comme Ca wine dinner

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Carrot-poached lobster with vadouvan granola.

When it comes to cutting-edge cuisine in Las Vegas, daring diners have to face the facts: while there is no shortage of creative talent on the Strip, every chef in every restaurant must meet the demands of dollars and sense. The food can’t be as wild and crazy as they (and we) may want it to be. The menu must be approachable enough for our all-important visitors, whether we’re talking conventioneers, vacationing tourists or all-around insatiable eaters (like us). It’s no wonder there are so many steakhouses on the Strip; beef is still what the people want.

But that doesn’t mean these amazing chefs don’t get the chance to show off their skill and imagination. Special event dinners often provide the opportunity for kitchen crews to spread their wings, and I experienced just that last week at the Joseph Phelps Wine Dinner at Comme Ça in the Cosmopolitan. Bill Phelps, son of the Spring Valley, California winemaker, was in the house to talk about the vineyard and its delicious creations, and the wine and pairings were outstanding. (The biggest and baddest had to be the 2006 Insignia, black as night, earthy and fruity.) But nothing could outshine the four courses of mind-blowing food from Comme Ça executive chef Brian Howard, who continues to build a reputation as one of the city’s most ambitious and innovative young chefs.

The Details

Comme Ça
Cosmopolitan, 698-7910.
Lunch, Friday-Sunday, 12 p.m.-5 p.m.; Dinner, daily, 5:30 p.m.-11 p.m.

Insanely good passed hors d’oeuvres set the tone, including tiny pastry cones stuffed with sweetbreads and foie gras macarons. The first course, served with Phelps’ brisk Fogdog Chardonnay, was a homerun off the first pitch: chilled lobster, poached with carrots to create an unbelievably fresh, subtly sweet bite, served with curry-spiced granola. Howard joked that he’d be selling the granola at Whole Foods soon, but it’s serious stuff, an addictive, crunchy, richly-spiced snack.

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Pork belly, confit of young eel and pork crackling in tomato jus.

Next was a decadent stack of charred pork belly, confit of eel, and crisp chicharron in a deep roasted tomato jus, next-level surf and turf. The third course combined lamb neck tagine (in puff pastry), wild boar tenderloin and foie gras. Howard is a genius when it comes to animal parts seldom used in American cooking, and this was another meat masterpiece to add to his repertoire (especially paired with a vertical flight of Insignia).

Dessert was a deliciously sweet science project, rhubarb slow cooked in celery with compressed pineapple “sprinkles” and coconut. Each dish was so good, and so different, that it was a shame only 30 people shared the adventure. Fortunately, Howard has a multi-course Bistronomy menu to mix with the straight-up delicious brasserie classics at Comme Ça. It’s one of the best ways to sample one chef’s creativity.

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