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FLEUR BY HUBERT KELLER

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Mandalay Bay

3950 Las Vegas Blvd. S.

Las Vegas, NV 89109

702-632-9400

website

$50-$75

Lunch 11am-3pm

Dinner 5pm-11pm

American

A

AT A GLANCE

What is it?

Exquisite small plates from master chef Hubert Keller.

Where is it?

At Mandalay Bay on the South Strip.

What kind of food is served?

Continental in scope with lots for just about every taste.

What is the atmosphere like?

Gorgeous yet comfortable.

How is the service?

Excellent.

What are the prices like?

Those small plate prices add up quickly.

What else do I need to know?

They have a $5,000 burger if you're really hungry and/or insane.

What's the bottom line?

A fantastic reinvention of a classic Las Vegas institution.

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FULL REVIEW

Chef Hubert Keller's decision to radically redo his beloved Fleur de Lys restaurant at Mandalay Bay was met with some concern. After all, the previous restaurant (based on his celebrated San Francisco eatery of the same name) was widely considered to be one of the finest in Las Vegas, especially among the foodie set who cherished his finely constructed, French influenced cuisine.

But redo it he did, and whether it was because of a desire to not rest on his laurels or as a reaction to an economic climate that can only support so many $150 per person meals is mostly an academic discussion at this point.

Simply known as Fleur now, the restaurant has received a dramatic makeover both in the dining room and on the menu turning it into a more casual affair across the board.

The space is still gorgeous: a patio area and a big bar allows for people watching as they pass down restaurant row at the hotel; casual groupings of sofas and club chairs allowing for a relaxed drink/nosh; and the main dining area has a soaring ceiling set off by stacked stone walls and soothing earth tones on the fabrics. It's elegant but not to the point that you would feel underdressed if you showed up in a pair of jeans and a nice shirt.

The food served within is now mostly of the small-plate variety - servings of the chef's works done in miniature, good for two or three bites each. This is a good thing in that it gives you the opportunity to sample several different items instead of one main course but a bit of a bad thing because it makes you think that things are cheaper than they really are. Hey, the skirt steak with roasted fingerling potatoes and creme fraiche is only $15! Well, yes, but you'll need to get three or four of them to make a full meal out of it.

The menu is divided into several sections - Raw has items like oysters and steak tartar; Savor features salt cod fritters and duck confit among others; Share is like the appetizer section with everything from a cheese platter to maple glazed pork ribs; Necessities provide choices like croque monsier (smoked ham and cheese), lobster mac and cheese, and potato and veal ravioli; Seafood, unsurprisingly, has items like crab and avocado spheres, sea scallop borscht, and filo wrapped shrimp in a banana-curry compote; Meat has sausage, schnitzel, chicken, steak, and sliders; Vegetarian runs the gamut from soup to pasta to pizza; and As Sweet As It Gets is a long list of tempting desserts. Most of the items are in the $7-14 range and to get a full meal you'll probably want three or four dishes per person - you can see how it can get pricey, quickly.

If the small plates concept isn't doing it for you there are also a few full Plates offered - chicken, a rib eye, and a $65 Wagyu beef burger topped with foie gras and truffle. Want to add a bottle of 1995 Chateau Petrus to that burger? It'll only cost you a cool $5,000.

Note that a lunch menu has many of the same items at about the same prices.

There are a lot of choices and if you can't make them on your own you can do a chef-chosen tasting menu (vegetarian or not) or you can literally order everything on the menu for $550.

We found many highs in our samplings and a few not-so-highs...

We started simply with parmesan paprika popcorn, mainly because we liked saying it. It was exactly what you would expect it to be with a name like that but a salty, cheesy fun way to kick the taste buds into gear.

Italian meatballs done in a minestrone garnish were a bit too dense and chewy for my tastes but the croque monsieur was basically the best ham and cheese sandwich I have ever eaten that wasn't purchased at Capriotti's. And the tarte flambee with onion, bacon, and creme fraiche was a savory delight despite our disappointment that it didn't arrive at the table in flames.

The miniature pork schnitzel was a fascinating experiment that was only partially successful - the meat was a little tough - but then came the tender skirt steak and the bursting with flavors Angus sliders with blue cheese, onion, and bacon and all was forgiven.

Of all the things we sampled, you may be surprised to hear that our hands down favorite was a simple potato puree. Served with a truffle jus, this was a creamy wonderland of buttery potato goodness and we had to restrain ourselves from ordering a big gulp sized cup of the stuff to go.

Desserts continue the small plate concept with items like a trio of creme brulee, cheesecake lollipops, a selection of sorbets and more. One of the fun items is called Carnival of Desserts and features cupcakes, cotton candy, and milk shakes while another serves up Bailey's ice cream chilled by liquid nitrogen and delivered to the table in a dry ice fog.

Our total bill with a round of very pricey pre-dinner drinks, tax, and tip came to just shy of $200 for two people, but we ordered more than we needed to (13 items including two desserts). Stick to water or soda and you could probably do it for around $50-60 per person.

That's obviously not cheap but it's certainly cheaper on the whole than it was when it was Fleur de Lys and the food is just as good, if not better.

Better food at lower prices? Wow... when was the last time you heard of that happening in Las Vegas?

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