photos courtesy MGM Resorts International

One thing on which virtually everyone in the international dining community can agree is that Las Vegas has an abundance of world-class restaurants and comparable chefs having impressive pedigrees. With restaurants receiving prestigious recognition including Michelin stars, AAA Five Diamond and Forbes 5-Star Awards and Wine Spectator Grand Awards, as well as multiple dining destinations helmed by world-renowned chefs whose only outpost in the United States is right here in our midst, the large number of destinations offering mouth-watering selections assures patrons of unforgettable dining experiences. 

The reality, though, is that all the prestigious accolades received by many local restaurants, along with their chefs’ brilliant credentials, often translate into stratospheric menu prices. And there ARE many instances when overall price may not impact one’s decision-making because of other, overriding considerations; celebrating a very special occasion, entertaining guests or charging on an “expense account” may be a few of the reasons that people look for pricey places to dine. 

However, for most people there is a point when truly jaw-dropping prices transcend even world-class food. Fortunately, Las Vegas has no shortage of outstanding dining choices that don’t break the bank. The responsibility of a restaurant reporter is to bring to his readers an unbiased evaluation of the food, service, décor and value of a given restaurant by applying an experienced, educated palate and expert knowledge of, and familiarity with, the presented cuisine and interpreting how accurately the menu items represent it.

The first restaurant I’ve chosen to feature is Fleur, located in the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino. There is casual seating in the lounge and (weather permitting) on the patio, with a much more intimate experience in the beautiful dining room. The décor is extremely attractive, with extensive use of stone, glass and art that combine to create a very warm and inviting atmosphere. 

Chef/owner Hubert Keller is one of the most highly-acclaimed chefs in America today. He trained and worked with France’s top chefs, including Paul Bocuse and Roger Verge, and has opened various world-renowned restaurants in this country. Keller’s resume includes recognition by the James Beard Foundation as Best Chef-California as well as being named to its list of “Who’s Who in Food and Beverage”; and Food and Wine magazine awarded his Fleur de Lys as its designation as one of the top 25 restaurants in America.  

His menu at Fleur is one-of-a-kind and really defies categorization. It is filled with gourmet small plates that are inspired by Keller’s journeys to Italy, Spain, Asia, South America, North Africa and of course, to his native France. The selections are highly inventive, using imaginative ingredients, unusual culinary approaches and presentations.

All too often, patrons are thrilled with a restaurant’s food but their experience is lessened by inadequate service. At Fleur you can expect the service to be on point and attentive without being stuffy or smothering.  

Unlike many celebrity chefs who open restaurants but seldom are on the premises to display their skills, Keller is often on-site and takes an extremely active role in actually preparing his menu’s delicious offerings.

You may have experienced elsewhere some basic versions of the dishes on Chef Keller’s menu, but not with his special “twist.” Distinctive appetizers to tempt you are grilled octopus with romesco sauce, fingerling potatoes, chimichurri and pickled peppers; onion soup veloute with truffle oil and chives; and ahi tuna poke tacos with black garlic soy, sesame, avocado and shaved radish. Not to be missed, are his Fleur Black Angus sliders with smoked tomato aioli, crispy pork belly and caramelized onions. Keller’s unique and deft combination of ingredients set him apart from the ordinary.   

Among entrees to consider are his red wine braised short ribs with pomme puree, broccolini and crispy shallots; the Fleur burger made with wagyu beef, caramelized onion, abalone mushrooms and pomme frites; and his pan-seared scallops with butternut squash, maitake mushrooms and Brussels sprouts.   

And if you’re really in the mood to spend as much as possible, you’ll want to order Keller’s Fleur burger 5,000, consisting of wagyu beef, foie gras and truffle, served with a bottle of 1995 Chateau Petrus 5,000.

I hope your takeaway from this, my initial recommendation, will be that you can experience great value in a top restaurant, without sacrificing delicious food, décor and service. Go and enjoy. Bon appetite.