Central Michel Richard
 Las Vegas, Nevada        Date of Visit: 12/16/11       

Learning that Chef Michel Richard was opening a spot in Las Vegas I was super exicted to see what the jolly Frenchman would be bringing to the table. The idea behind the place is apparently a 24 hour New York eatery featuring the Chef’s take on some American staples. Chef is an anathema in and of himself, the first time we encountered him in Chicago he charged us and started to rub my shaved noggin while laughing and incoherently trying to suggest we had the same barber. Certainly not the attitude you would expect from a classically trained French chef, more Santa than terrorist.



Kitchen Inspired Art and Lots of Vino

The place is nice, modern and warm with a large open fridge to showcase the wine selection. Our server was efficient but quiet; quiet enough for us to spend a good deal of time wondering what he had said. It is also a little weird to have very formal French service when you are ordering a burger and fried chicken, but we never wanted for anything during our stop.

We started with the Gougeres (Cheese Puffs) which are essentially bite sized version of cheese popovers. Hot and cheesy we were off to a good start. A variety of country breads hit the table with triangles of salted French butter, MMMMmmmmmmmmm.  We ordered the burger, the tuna burger and the fried chicken and smashed potatoes. We also tried the Brussels sprouts and bacon and the mac and cheese for sides.

I am a fan of trying to add a special touch to the most familiar of American menu items. I am surprised how often there are definitive successes and stupendous failures in the same kitchen. Such was the case at Central.

Only the French Make Butter Like This

Hot Cheesy Puffs

The Burger Was Good But Came In Last for the Three Over the Weekend, Way Last

Mac was Good, But Again, Nothing Special
  The sprouts had a great flavor but really suffered from being over cooked, you could have shaken the cast iron crock it came in a dozen times and Viola, instant baby food. The mac and cheese was good but again failed to break new ground.

The tuna  burger was a seared salad of sushi grade bluefin tuna which was a shame, the fish itself was stupendous at a mid rare, whatever else was in the salad overshadowed the protein in a very poor way. Neither one of us had any interest in more than a bite or two, the first we took with vigor, the second bites were to figure out what in the world is that?!? The more traditional burger was good  but like the mac and cheese…ehhhh. The bun and fricco tasted good but were a sloppy and textural distraction. Great patty though.


Why People Hate Brussels Sprouts...Mushy Overcooked Babyfood

The Tuna Burger Looked Interesting and Tasty

The Tuna Was Great, Whatever Else Was In It Was Not

The Dish Of Redemption...Fried Chicken and Smashers

The fried chicken turned out to be the real hit of the evening. Chef has always been known for his playful attitude and his thoughtful approach to food, coming just short of the high-tech molecular gastronomy of some of his peers. The chicken shows those flashes of genius that result in something special. The salad and taters were just dandy, the chicken…delicious. The bird itself is cooked sous vide in an immersion circulator until it reaches and can be held at perfection. The skin (removed before the chicken hot tub) is pureed into a mousse. When the chicken is ordered the perfect meat is dunked into the skin mousse and then rolled in sour dough bread pieces and flash fried. The sour dough really makes a difference. The only beef I had was the breading doesn’t adhere as well as traditional forms but it is insanely crunchy and uniquely wonderful. There were some definite bombs and some real triumphs at Central, I had hoped for more from Chef Richard.

Whoda Thought Chicken Skin Mousse and Sour Dough Would Be So Awesome



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