Wednesday, 30 July 2008

Las Vegas Part Two – Daniel Boulud and Le Reve

Scrubbed and smartened, a cab takes us behind The Strip to avoid the teatime traffic and drops us at The Wynn again in time for our dinner reservation at Daniel Boulud’s eponymous brasserie. The reservation is the earliest available, to give us time to make our later theatre performance.

There seem to be a lot of management-looking types milling around as we approach the desk and, when I go to present ourselves, I first have to step out of the path of a passing sniffer dog. The table, it transpires, is not quite ready so, taking a risk leaving them alone in a strange country, I tell the Meerkats to sit and stay and head off to the Box Office to pick up our tickets for Le Reve, one of The Wynn’s two shows. One less job for later. When I return, I feel sure that they will have been seated but, no, 10 minutes after the booked time, they are still standing.

I go to the desk and ask what’s going on. Cue much dashing about, the arrival of a Maitre d’, profuse apology and a welcome to us all. He offers us a table indoors or out; we opt for indoors and he seats us with a clear view of the Lake of Dreams. En route, he explains the delay. The President of Chile is in the adjacent private dining room and the security arrangements have been slightly more intrusive than they had hoped. Our own Pinochet looks slightly uncomfortable as he tries to remember whether the current postholder is friend or foe.

We are then fussed over and generally treated exceptionally well by the entire staff, who subtly and comfortingly acknowledge that we have to be seated for a show later, are already running a little late and do everything they can to make us as relaxed as possible. As a veggie, MCC asks the server if Chef can offer anything to augment the menu which, though otherwise extensive, is not particularly well-populated with meat-free options. The server describes today’s Chef’s vegetarian creation and MCC signs up. FCC orders the famous db Burger, while CC here plumps for the Tenderloin.

With our tickets on the table, we are kept informed of progress in the kitchen as drinks are refreshed, bread basket replenished and the restaurant fills up. When it arrives, the food is nouvelle in US terms, but for us Brits it remains hearty in proportion, is beautifully presented, professionally served and, most importantly of course, tastes wonderful.

We have coffee before heading to the theatre, with the staff offering us the option, if we wish, to return after the show for dessert. A nice touch and one which is a good sales strategy for them too, I would think.

Le Reve is the creative work of one Francois Dragone, formerly of Cirque du Soleil and, more recently, feted as the man behind Celine Dion’s A New Day show in Vegas. The theatre is specially built, in the round, and most notable for its stage which rises and falls from a huge water tank. As ‘curtain up’ approaches, it’s obvious however that the theatre is not particularly full. I have booked the VIP Package, which includes a half bottle of Perrier-Jouet champagne per person, special seating and chocolate-dipped strawberries. These seats constitute the back row of the theatre, forming a circle above and around all the standard seats. The lowest, front seats are classified as Splash Zone. Ours, meanwhile, are of almost Lay-Z-Boy proportions and each pair is separated by a coffee table. Upon each of these is a plate of four large strawberries per person, and champagne flutes. A server is assigned, greets, pours the first glass and then keeps the bottle on ice.

The show is stunning, in an admittedly very generic way. There are no celebrities, no stars, no well-known music, just an acrobatic performance of consummate skill, choreographed and lit superbly, with great sound. The stage moves in and out of the water, with the performers regularly falling into the water, swimming, diving, jumping and then being held submerged while they are fed oxygen by scuba divers out-of-sight below the surface. VIP guests can see some of this underwater action on monitors set into the low wall in front of their seats. The water makes the impossibility of some of the moves and holds performed by the acrobats even more incredible.

Speaking of incredible, here’s a thing. Every time I put my drained champagne glass down, I could see, from the corner of my eye, the neck of the bottle swooping down to refill it. Maximum setting down to pour time: 6 seconds. Impressive. I did start to feel very relaxed and, through a fug of fizz, began to consider the possibility that I may have had slightly more than half a bottle. Perhaps the meerkats were not quaffing so quickly? I resolve to observe. FCC is not downing it, but MCC is certainly taking advantage. The pouring continues unabated. The show ends and our server asks us if we would like the rest of the champagne ‘to go’. So, expecting a few remaining drops in a stoppered bottle, I say ‘amen’ to that and wait a moment. She arrives back with three Wynn-branded plastic oversized tumblers and shares the contents of what must have been near-enough a full bottle between them.

God bless America!

We head out into the casino with our buckets of fizz sloshing, feeling quite the lushes and veering slightly. Dulled by the booze, FCC puts up no fight when forced to sit at a slot machine, and I ceremonially present a single dollar bill. He plays it and emerges triumphant with a 60% return. MCC is less successful with hers, recording a mere 2% upswing. Expecting them to keep their winners’ slips as souvenirs, I move to leave but no, they wish to cash their chips. Meerkats. Who’d have ‘em?

We cab it back to the calm serenity of the Four Seasons in preparation for an early start the following morning. I try to convince Pinochet that if he’d dropped a mill, he’d be sitting on another 600K now, but he’s having none of it. He is looking forward to his turndown chocolate though. And hiccoughing fizz quite a lot.

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