Since 1969, restaurant, hotel, travel & other witty reviews by a handpicked, worldwide team of discerning professionals—and your views, too.


From Las Vegas

Guy Savoy's Cathedral

A Place for Serious Devotees to Celebrate the New and Old Cult of Gastronomy

By André Gayot

Read Our Restaurant Review of Guy Savoy

High ceilings fit for a cathedral at Restaurant Guy Savoy
High ceilings fit for a cathedral

When you open the monumental and somewhat intimidating dark wooden door into Guy Savoy’s super chic Las Vegas Strip restaurant, you should also open your eyes and your mind. Veer left into the Champagne bar on the second floor of the Augustus Tower of the Caesars Palace. The Champagne officiator, the seasoned Bernard, who probably knows your first name and your pedigree, will walk you to the main hall. Raise your eyes and you will get the subtle message. The high ceiling tells it all: the proportions are that of a cathedral, emphasized by the presence of an oversized ogival window, which is only missing stained glass to finalize the impression that this is a place where services are held to honour a cult. Architect Jean-Michel Wilmotte, who designed the original Guy Savoy as well as parts of the new Louvre in Paris, has designed a deliberately simple yet elegant high temple of gastronomy, seating 75. A few paintings dot the grey walls alternating with dark wood panels, so nothing is meant to distract the attention that serious diners should only devote to their plates. Décor, of course, is not edible.

"Colors of Caviar" à la Savoy
"Colors of Caviar" à la Savoy

You have to know a little bit about Guy Savoy to situate and appreciate his cuisine. First, Savoy is the youngest and probably the last of the legends who invented "Nouvelle Cuisine." Younger than the Bocuses, the Guérards, and the Senderens, but completely sharing their enthusiasm and their new approach to cooking, taking advantage of their experience and their mistakes, he is most likely the only one who is able to interpret and amend the ten commandments of the “Nouvelle.” Second, Savoy is a kung fu master, adept in Zen philosophy. For him, whether in life or in cuisine, frills and flounces are unnecessary. Hence the Zen-like décor and the rare bill of fare.

Let’s peruse the menu to detect what’s really Savoy’s world of savors. Take the “colors of caviar,” for instance. Obsessed with the color green, Savoy dismisses traditional blinis as the accompaniment of caviar and invents a bed of green beans for the black pearls of the Caspian sturgeon. With a white vinaigrette and sabayon, not only does the caviar shine under new colors, but it acquires a sublime taste. The experience is an unforgettable adventure, albeit costly.

Red cabbage "nage" for the foie gras
Red cabbage "nage" for the foie gras

Where in the world could this idea of setting these royal eggs on a modest garden vegetable possibly stem from? Although Savoy is not a devotee of molecular cuisine and won’t admit it, he does flirt with the concept a tad. His idea consists of sublimating the essence of the product by determining what is the catalyst or the detonator that will trigger a chain reaction, rather than just marrying it with the more or less usual compatible and accepted companions. The problem is, research for the miraculous formula can end up in a sheer contradiction. Savoy knows that the research of originality is not a goal in itself and proceeds cautiously and prudently in the uncharted territories of the alchemies of savors.

Another example of his well-contained research lies in his treatment of another royal product, foie gras. What apparently could be more antinomian than a roasted foie gras and a soup? Even if you call it a “nage,” a red cabbage soup is just a basic peasant dish. However, the pairing works just fine, as a spoonful of “nage” to wash down the foie gras makes you discover an extraordinary new facet of the already delightful liver.

Savoy also shows his unique savoir-faire and earns his top chef ranking with his signature dish: the “côte” de gros turbot, in which the fish is steamed with spinach and a poached egg on a slotted platter atop a soup bowl filled with fish bouillon. Flavors percolate, infuse and interact, creating an exceptional bouquet of combined aromas.

Oyster in ice gelée
Oyster in ice gelée

He has not forgotten his young days at the illustrious Troisgros, either, where apprenticing in the classical techniques of the French culinary traditions, he learnt—he says—everything from the famous brothers/chefs/restaurateurs. He is proud and grateful to be considered one of their most faithful and truest heirs. This heritage looms large with the more classic dishes like the roasted veal chop with a truffle potato purée with veal jus, the roasted duckling with citrus scented turnips, or the crispy veal sweetbreads. Lucky for us, in many of his dishes, Savoy is quite generous in his use of black truffles. His oysters in ice gelée show how he combines the traditional with the contemporary.

A cheese cart presents twenty or more varieties of the best French cheeses, while a dessert cart also makes its rounds. Many of Savoy’s best are based on fresh fruits, with the exception of the delicate chocolate ganache infused with Tonka beans. The impressive 1,500-bottle wine list is mainly French, naturellement, and ranges from old and rare vintages to affordable choices. The service is as perfect as it gets.

Guy Savoy cooks the traditional way: Guinea hen in a pig bladder
Guy Savoy cooks the traditional way: Guinea hen in a pig bladder

In order to meet his high standards, Savoy sent his son Franck, who managed his Parisian restaurants, (Le Chiberta, La Butte Chaillot, L'Atelier Maître Albert and Les Bouquinistes), to Las Vegas one year prior to the opening to find the best workers and products available locally. He proclaims he is happy with the "local" ingredients, except for the truffles which he imports. Along with his charming wife Laura, Franck, as general manager, will run the show in Las Vegas, while Guy promises to do frequent stints. Two of his executive chefs from Paris, Damien Dulas and Laurent Solivérès, will alternate behind the stoves in Las Vegas.

Savoy’s successful arrival puts him at the top echelon of the Las Vegas restaurant scene. Not only because he is a world celebrity, but also because he is the simplest and most open-minded man you can meet in this industry. He is a real person, not just a name. After worshipping his food at his cathedral in the desert, you may be tempted to address him as His Eminence, but he is the kind of human being you would like to call your friend.

The seven-course Prestige Menu is $290.

Restaurant Guy Savoy
Caesars Palace
3570 Las Vegas Blvd. South
Las Vegas, NV 89109
702-731-7286
www.guysavoy.com

Going to Las Vegas? Check out our guide.

 


Whether looking to travel across the Australian Outback, the Canadian Rockies or historic Europe, these opulent trains will let travelers see the countryside in comfort.
Enter to win a trip to the posh Waldorf-Astoria Chicago, including round-trip airfare, daily breakfast and a credit for a luxe spa experience.