Welcome to Ten Years In, a feature in which Eater Vegas sits down for a chat with the chefs and owners of restaurants celebrating a milestone anniversary.
Thomas Keller [Photo: Chelsea McManus]
Thomas Keller's Bouchon celebrates its 10th anniversary at the Venetian this weekend with a blowout dinner that includes Keller himself and a seated dinner. Think back to 2004, when the five-year-old Venetian reached out to a star chef to expand his Bouchon to Las Vegas within the Venezia Tower, which at the time was under construction, in an exclusive location near the resort's pools. Here, Keller talks about the first 10 years of the restaurant, how it came to the Venetian, what Bouchon here has that Beverly Hills and Yountville, Calif., do not and more.
How did Bouchon initially come together 10 years ago?
I had several opportunities to come to Las Vegas, but when Sheldon Adelson and Robert Goldstein, both good friends of mine, offered us the opportunity to open a restaurant at the Venetian in the new Venezia Tower, I took it seriously. The Venezia Tower was a unique location for our restaurant. It was detached from the casino and rest of the property. The courtyard provided an outdoor component for us and there was ample opportunity for private dining. The tranquility of the courtyard and entire restaurant is more tranquil.
Were you given any direction from the Venetian in terms of the food?
The Venetian gave us the opportunity to open the same restaurant format and style of food that had been successful for us in Yountville. We were able to complement that format with a breakfast offering, which has proven to be very successful for us, as well as our guests.
What changes did you have to make to the space in order for Bouchon to open at the Venetian?
Since the restaurant was part of the Venezia Tower's brand new construction, we had a blank canvas to recreate Bouchon for the Las Vegas community. Adam Tihany designed the space just as he had done for us in Yountville.
What have you learned over the past 10 years, especially about the market in Vegas compared to other markets with a Bouchon?
Each of our markets — Yountville, Las Vegas and Beverly Hills — is unique and have afforded us great opportunity and great success. We have learned that the integrity and credibility of our restaurant has to do with our team's ability to maintain high quality food and service that truly embraces the Las Vegas community — both traveling visitors and our neighbors alike.
What was the initial menu testing process like?
Since we had already had Bouchon in Yountville for six years and we were bringing the same format to Las Vegas, our menu testing was already complete. We took the foundation of what we had established in Yountville and translated it for the Las Vegas community in the same way we translated The French Laundry for the New York community with Per Se.
Do you find different dishes are popular here?
Bouchon's menu is composed of great food compositions that are recognizable. Beginning with the raw bar, we offer a variety of seasonally fresh oysters, lobster and shrimp. At the core of what we do, we have dishes such as our Bibb lettuce salad, French onion soup, roast chicken, steak frites, roasted leg of lamb, mussels and trout, all of which withstand the test of time and allow for seasonal creativity.
Are there any dishes served only in Vegas? Do you have examples?
For starters, we serve breakfast daily in Las Vegas, which includes dishes such as chicken and waffles, omelets and daily blackboard specials. We also offer a pool menu for our courtyard guests. Being in Nevada allows us to serve foie gras, a favorite for many.
Have the guests at the Venetian embraced the restaurant?
Yes, very much so. Most of our business comes from guests staying at the Venetian. We average 600 guests during the week and 800 on the weekends. Since we are off the beaten path, our guests find the restaurant to be an oasis where they can enjoy a great bistro menu and atmosphere with professional service.
What has changed over the years at Bouchon?
We continue to evolve year after year. About six years ago we started our brunch service, and it continues to grow in popularity. We are constantly improving the menu by bringing in higher quality ingredients to make every brunch in Las Vegas memorable.
Does it seem like it's been 10 years?
It is hard to believe we opened here 10 years ago. The beauty of Bouchon is that it is timeless — our food, our service and the atmosphere will remain relevant for the next 10 years and many more to come.
What's the must-order dish of the moment?
The Grand Plateau is a must-have. Our fresh oyster selection consists of five different types of oysters, in addition to clams, mussels, shrimp, crab, and lobster. Enjoy it with a bottle of Chablis. It is the best way to start any meal in our bistro, whether a guest is joining us for brunch or dinner. Each of our core menu items are enjoyable any day of the week.
What dishes do you regularly sell out of?
Our blackboard specials are always popular, in addition to our chicken and waffles, and classic bistro dishes.
What's in store for the future?
It's important that our evolving team maintains our high quality food service and continues to build our relationships with our partners for a great dining experience.
· All Coverage of Bouchon [~ELV~]
· All Coverage of One Year In [~ELV~]