Morels French Steakhouse & Bistro is a premier destination for a good time and a delicious meal in Las Vegas. Located inside the Palazzo, Morels is able to cater to the preferences of even the most discriminating palate. Though the menu is built upon a traditional steakhouse mentality, a vast array of different dishes are offered to accommodate any diner's fancy. Choose from fresh seafood options, an extensive cheese bar with imported Italian charcuterie, exquisite salads, and variations such as chicken, duck or braised lamb shank. For every dish, there is a wine to match. In fact, boasting a "Best of Award of Excellence" from Wine Spectator, Morels houses more than 450 French and California wines by the bottle, as well as over 70 varietals by the glass. With breakfast, lunch, dinner and weekend brunch service, any time is a good time to dine at Morels French Steakhouse & Wine Bar in the Palazzo.Read More ...
Las Vegas plays host to a vast array of fine dining hot spots scattered among the various hotels on the strip, and this evening a friend and I have decided to make our way to the Palazzo to enjoy a meal at Morels Steakhouse. After enormous success with the original restaurant in Los Angeles, it makes sense that the Market City Café Hospitality Group chose to bring a second steakhouse to Vegas. When it comes to location, it doesn’t get much better than the Palazzo, a 5-diamond, suite only, luxury hotel and casino resort situated between the Wynn and the Venetian. This extravagant setting is the perfect lure for the masses of locals and tourists walking the strip, and as we approach the hotel, anticipation begins to mount for the experience ahead.
This restaurant offers a very broad take on French-American cuisine with a heavy emphasis on quality steaks, a large selection of iced seafood, hot seafood, fine cheese, fresh charcuterie, and of course, a well-versed award winning list of superb wine. Executive Chef J.L. Carrera and his talented kitchen team work in tandem with General Manager Chuck Scimeca and his efficient group of service professionals to ensure that all who dine at Morels Steakhouse experience the most memorable meal possible. From first impressions, to flavorful food and consistently outstanding hospitality, I’d say they’ve got all the bases covered. Unlike many fine dining establishments, this steakhouse is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner with a first class brunch offered on Saturdays and Sundays. Service is constant throughout the day, making it simple for anyone to find time to stop by and try the signature styles behind the cuisine at Morels. Each menu is extensive and offers specific items unique to the meal.
Breakfast features more than ten organic egg entrees, traditional sides, griddle specialties, fresh fruit, pastries and samplings from the extraordinary cheese and charcuterie bar. This is one aspect that sets Morels apart from typical steakhouse fare; the cheese bar includes up to 70 artisanal cheeses kept in constant rotation as well as authentic, imported charcuterie served along with California Coastal honeycomb, fruit and nut bread and home-made date and walnut cake to clear the palate between tastings. The menu categorizes the different cheese selections by the type of milk and the style of cheese, from soft to firm and everything in between. The region in which each cheese was produced is also included.
When breakfast ends, lunch begins immediately, and along with various soups, salads and other small appetizers, the mid-day menu features a decent variety of burgers and sandwiches served with either a traditional mesclun salad or a side of authentic pommes frites. The lunch hour also introduces a diverse collection of main courses as well as an esteemed iced seafood selection with six premium offerings including fresh oysters and two well-designed seafood samplers. But, as delicious as breakfast and lunch appear, we are interested in dinner this evening, so we reserve a time to dine just after lunch ends at 4:00 p.m.
For those walking the strip, the entrance to Morels is quite convenient, just steps from the large glass doors leading in to the Palazzo, but there is also valet parking at the hotel entrance and a self-park garage a short distance away. As we make our way up the steps toward the doors, I can’t help but stare at the intricate architecture that surrounds us. The stone columns and expansive archways beguile a sense of regal elegance that is expected when approaching a palace. As I look around, I can see Morels’ long, elevated patio, occupied by over twenty ornate, polished natural stone tables and plenty of high efficiency heating lamps to maintain a comfortable temperature for those who wish to dine out in the night air. Once inside the hotel, we are immediately stopped by the sight of an enormous sculpture accentuating the human form in stunning rose-pink crystal, rising up from the center of a rustic fountain. Surrounding the fountain are eight towering red columns supporting a massive, vaulted, glass-dome ceiling that showers the entire room in natural light. After a couple of snapshots, we turn to make our way into the restaurant, just a few steps away from the extravagant fountain display.
Inside the doorway, we approach the smiling hostess, who quickly looks up our reservation. We ask if the manager is available, since we have never been to Morels French Steakhouse and we would love to take a tour of the space and gain a bit of inside information about the restaurant. As she strolls off to accommodate our request, we wander in after her and find ourselves in the midst of Morels’ casual bar and lounge area. Though there are only a few high tables and bar seating for up to eight, the space is dominated by plush armchairs and couches of stark black and brilliant white. This is obviously an area for diners to walk in and take a load off while enjoying some of the hand-crafted signature cocktails, draft beers and premium wines available.
The bar itself, like much of the interior architecture, is built of fine dark wood stretching upward, nearly reaching the ceiling. There is a high definition television at each end of the structure showcasing current sporting events, and a myriad of shelves and cabinetry displaying an impressive collection of premium vodkas, gin, scotch, whiskey, tequila, rum and cognac. But, the most noticeable aspect of this custom bar is a series of wine bottles tapped and locked in to the revolutionary Enomatic. This impressive machine holds up to eight different bottles and automatically pours samples in one, three or five ounce increments. While I stand admiring the innovative charm of this convenient wine tasting operation, the hostess returns with the general manager close behind. He introduces himself as Chuck and graciously offers us a personal tour of the establishment.
We begin with a step outside onto the spacious patio through one of the two access points within the lounge. Because it is elevated above street level, the patio offers a clear view of the charismatic pirate display at Treasure Island allowing diners to enjoy the nightly shows as they sit beneath the warmth of highly efficient heating lamps. Chuck explains that patio seating is upon request only, and with more than twenty tables along the lengthy open space, the patio is able to easily accommodate more than one hundred guests at any given time. He also informs us that the entire patio can be reserved for private events with a capacity for parties up to 175. With such a keen view, I don’t doubt that the patio is a hot spot for a good time.
Back inside the lounge, Chuck notes that this space is also available for special events, and he leads us around the bar to a floor-to-ceiling, semi-circle stack of shelving, heavily laden with well over a hundred bottles of wine. These are the select varietals from Morels’ vast, Wine Spectator’s “Best of Award of Excellence” winning list that are used for the Enomatic wine tasting machine. The display of so many quality vintages is most impressive. From here we are led into the main dining room on the back side of the bar. To our left we can see the large glass wine room which houses over 600 wines in a perfectly temperature controlled environment. Although there is a heavy emphasis on French and California grapes, the large cellar also features other international varietals from Italy, Germany, New Zealand, Spain and more. On our right, directly adjacent to the towering Enomatic wine display, Chuck shows us the notorious cheese and charcuterie bar. The space is not an active preparation station, but rather acts as a storage and display case for anywhere from 40 to 70 different cheeses as well as numerous authentic cold cuts that are imported fresh from Italy. As we gaze at the many different cheese options, I can only hope that I will have assistance in choosing which to try this evening.
The dining room is much more spacious than I expected. Along the back wall facing out towards the patio, there is a series of large, semi-circle booths that are slightly elevated above the other tables. Chuck confirms our initial suspicions when he tells us that these seats are highly coveted; he explains that he always tries his best to accommodate booth requests, but since they are so popular, there is never a guarantee. The booths look out across the open room and offer a view of all the happenings within the restaurant as well as a direct line-of-sight through the numerous window-paneled doors that lead to the outside patio. Down on the main floor, white table cloths and pale blue walls, hung with original, live-model paintings make the entire space feel intimate and authentic, and several ornate chandeliers cast a soft glow for added intimacy. As we head across the restaurant, Chuck leads the way to the two private dining rooms which have been affectionately named Marie and Louis after the notorious French royals (Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette). The Marie room is large enough to accommodate up to 50 guests comfortably, and the Louis room, perhaps the more desirable of the two because of the large window and natural lighting, has enough space for up to 40. It is quite clear, that with intimate booth seating, a spacious dining room, two private rooms, a casual lounge and a lengthy heated patio, Morels is a perfect destination for any occasion, and I can’t wait to discover what delicious bistro creations are in store for us. We take our seats and settle in for the feast ahead.
To start things off right, Chuck introduces us to the house sommelier, Alex. He has been with Morels for about two years, and has prepared a selection of wines to accompany our first courses. Our servers bring us Evian water and offer to put the bottle on ice, but we opt to just keep it at the table before Chuck approaches and presents a stunning seafood sampler called the Grand Plateau De Mer. Served atop a chrome tower, the dish includes 1 lobster, 8 shrimp, 12 oysters, octopus ceviche and half a Dungeness crab, all on ice. The Plateau also offers us a taste of four house-made condiments, a mignonette sauce, citrus aioli, tarragon aioli and Atomic horseradish to heighten the natural flavors of each item. To complete the experience, Alex pours two glasses of a 2010 Chablis Chardonnay. He explains that this white wine pairs well with our seafood because of the clean, crisp bite, which quickly cleanses the palate between tastings of the different items in the sampler. He also tells us that this wine is especially popular with fresh oysters, so I decide to begin with an oyster, topped with a bit of horseradish, before moving on to the octopus ceviche. The taste of the sea is all that comes to mind with fresh oysters, but with the addition of atomic horseradish, the balance of salt and spice is perfect. The octopus ceviche is sweet a first, with a savory finish and the texture is tender and consistent, not rubbery at all. The Maine lobster and the Dungeness crab are at the peak of freshness. Alex instructs us to use the citrus aioli for the crab, which gives the salty, tender meat a delicious tangy bite and a creamy finish. He then recommends the tarragon aioli for the lobster, lending the unmistakable kick of fresh tarragon that lingers until my next sip of wine. To finish off the Plateau, I sample one of the rather large prawns and pair it with the house-made mignonette sauce and a dash of horseradish. The shrimp is high quality, very juicy, and offers the perfect salty canvas for the sweet and spicy mixture of mignonette and horseradish. Feeling now somewhat well-versed in the iced seafood section of Morels’ menu, we are ready to move on to the next signature aspect of this fine restaurant.
While one of our good-natured servers removes the remnants of the Grand Plateau, Alex presents us with two wooden boards; one features a mixture of three different Italian cured meats, and the other carries a grand display of six different gourmet cheeses. Both boards also include freshly sliced bread and each individual piece of cheese is garnished with a small paper label providing the name of the cheese, the type of milk used to create it and the country the cheese is from. For us, Alex has chosen Hook’s 10 Year Aged Cheddar, the Valencay Pyramide, Reblochon Fleur D Alps, an Epoisses AOC, Idiazabel and Bleu d’ Auvergne along with fresh Prosciutto, Saucisson Sec and Molinari Finnochionci cold cuts. He has also poured each of us two new glasses of wine: for the charcuterie, a 2006 Prima Voce, Red Toscana, often described as a “super Tuscan”, and for several of the cheeses, a very rich, very thick, 1985 Pedro Ximenez Port, poured into a small, fluted glass. As we dig in, it is quite entertaining to sample each individual meat with the several diverse cheeses to determine which flavor combinations suit our individual tastes, and we are intrigued by the multiple wines for us to test with each new bite. Alex has done well by us, and as a good sommelier should, he leaves us to our own curiosity so that we can learn first-hand the importance of a proper wine pairing.
As our wine supply dwindles, we now prepare for one of the more personal aspects of Morels Steakhouse. A traditional Caesar Salad is prepared tableside by our talented server who gladly vocalizes each step on the process. “First, fresh squeezed lemon juice, then we add our home-made sour cream, a little bit of Dijon mustard, next garlic, a tiny bit of anchovies, some mayonnaise instead of the more traditional raw egg, and then we finish it off with a bit of Worcestershire sauce, red wine vinegar, plenty of olive oil, and fresh grated parmesan…” While we sit and watch him toss the ingredients with fresh Romaine lettuce in a large wooden bowl, Chuck brings us a dish that he calls Seafood Two Ways, a combination of the Tuna Tartare and Grilled shrimp appetizers, and with this he offers a specialty cocktail called Heard It Through the Grape Vine. The drink is a mixture of Grey Goose Orange Vodka, St. Germain Elderflower Liqueur, fresh house-made sour mix and crushed grapes, shaken and served on ice. It is clean and tart, congruent with the house-made sour mix, and above all, it is smooth and drinkable. With our Caesar now served on beautiful, square glass plates and our seafood waiting in front of us, we waste no time.
The salad is crisp and full of different flavors in every bite. It is a wonder how such simple ingredients can be used to create such a complex palette of color and bold flavors, and because we were able to watch every step of its preparation, the quality of the salad comes as no surprise. The tuna tartare is also very high quality, served raw, with avocado, peppers, cilantro, pine nuts and sesame oil, all on top of a delicate fried truffle gafete, reminiscent of a very fancy potato chip. The buttery avocado is perfect with the rich, salty tuna and offers a creamy consistency to each bite that complements the crunch of the pine nuts and the lingering truffle aftertaste of the gafete. The shrimp is again quite large and rests atop a home-made pistachio pistou along with tarragon, mache salad, baby heirloom tomatoes, olives and chopped California pistachios. The outside layer is slightly charred, giving it a crunchy coating and a smoky flavor. With a stunning array of colors from the orange shrimp to the red tomatoes and the green salad, it is almost a shame to eat such a colorful piece of culinary art, almost.
Our empty plates are quickly cleared away, and before we can ponder what might be next, our servers set out fresh silverware and the decadent Pan Seared French Rougie Foie Gras appetizer. Since it has been banned in some states like California, foie gras is always a must when the opportunity presents itself in Vegas. Perfectly browned and served with caramelized red onion, candied apple beneath a light bouche pastry, mesclun salad wrapped in cucumber slices and a small serving of vin cotto, this dish is dressed to impress. The vin cotto is a triple pressed balsamic reduction which lends a sweet, tart accent to the rich, buttery duck liver. Along with bits of caramelized onion, it is a sweet and savory delicacy, and the candied apple and mesclun salad accoutrements provide an efficient palate cleansing combination so that each bite is as memorable as the first.
At this point, we have reached the half-way mark of this extraordinary chef’s tasting, and we know this because we are now offered a small White Peach Sorbet Intermezzo with Champagne sauce. This serves as a literal intermission from the meal, designed to help settle the stomach in preparation for the main courses. We are told that the sorbet is always fresh, because like most things in the restaurant, they make it themselves. The addition of the Champagne sauce, made with vodka, Champagne and passion fruit, helps refresh our palates and calm our stomachs before resuming the feast.
We relax and listen intently as Alex begins to pour our next two selections of wine: a 2007 Jurtschitsch Sonhof, Steinhaus and a Guner Veltliner, Red Bordeaux. The first is a white wine with a distinct aroma of lentils and other vegetables, and like the Chablis from our first course, it has been paired with a creation from the ocean. The second is a very robust red with a slightly spicy finish, the perfect accompaniment for quality steak. With our glasses filled and our knowledge of wine increased, we are now offered a series of three main courses and four signature sides to match. We pause a moment to take in the sight of our table, now covered with piping hot, cast iron dishes housing our samplings of the 8-ounce Petit Cut Filet Mignon, the 32-ounce Porterhouse (carved tableside), Sautéed Green Beans in Foie Gras Butter, Potato Dauphinois, Artichoke Au Morels, and the Chef’s Country Mac & Cheese, along with individual helpings of hearty Seafood Fettucine, showcasing Manila clams, mussels, shrimp and lobster with tomato concassee, garlic and white wine.
We begin with the fettucine, and I am happy to say, nothing has been over cooked. This provides tender, flavorful morsels of meat that practically dissolve on my tongue. I especially appreciate the skillful preparation of the mussels and clams, as they can become tough and chewy if not done properly. The Steinhaus wine is a superb bridge from the powerful flavors and aromas of the buttery seafood entree to our next more savory endeavor. Our fettucine is cleared and we are given new forks and heavy steak knives, the necessary tools to conquer the focal point of Morels, their all natural, 28-day aged beef, grilled under a 1200 degree broiler and served with a house-made bordelaise sauce and Morel mushroom sauce. In addition to new cutlery, a server also lays out a long rectangular dish which holds another Morels specialty. He explains that what we see before us are three rare salts recommended specifically for the enhancement of steak flavor. We have an Alder wood-smoked Black Sea salt, Pink Sea Salt from the Philippines, and Pink Himalayan salt (the rarest of the three). Each adds a unique twist to the meat, and I particularly favor the charred, roasted smoke flavor of the Black Sea salt. I slice through a large piece of the filet with relative ease and I admire how well the outer layer has been seared, hiding the perfect medium rare interior. As expected, the meat is very tender, and each bite is warm and juicy. The Porterhouse on the other hand is much more dense, and tougher to cut through. This piece is all about extra flavor, with a beautiful marbling of fatty tissues that dissolve during the chewing process. The bordelaise and Morel mushroom sauce offer a rich addition to an already well-rounded scope of flavors and the Black Sea salt provides a one-of-a-kind steak experience.
After my first few bites, I venture further into the specialized sides that accompany our steaks. The Country Mac & Cheese is thick and creamy. Beneath the crispy, hand-made bread crumb topping, a well-balanced combination of cured ham and noodles are engulfed in a gourmet sauce of parmesan, blue, Ementhal and Gruyere cheeses. In my opinion, this dish is the definite standout of the four sides; it is complex and could easily serve as an entrée by itself. The Artichokes Au Morel are very tender and provide a noticeable kick of fresh garlic, and the green beans receive an extra flavor boost from fresh shallots, garlic and a sprits of lemon juice. In a close second to the Country Mac & Cheese, the Potato Dauphinois create a cross between potatoes au gratin and a classic baked potato, served fresh from the oven with roasted garlic and cream. The top layer is browned and crispy, but gives way to a mother lode of soft, slow-cooked potatoes and creamy garlic flavor.
Our meal is finally winding down, and I am not sure whether we will possibly have room for anything more, but Chuck has yet to reveal the grand finale. He tells us that our dessert course will include his own award-winning Chocolate Martini, the Chocolate Hazelnut Dome, Vanilla Crème Brulee, Profiteroles and a sampler of in-house ice creams and sorbets. The dome is made of hazelnut mousse riddled with bits of peanut butter crunch over a cracker-like crust, all coated with a dense thin layer of chocolate fudge. It is rich and decadent. The crème brulee has a beautiful caramelized outer crust that is smoky and sweet, much like a good fire-roasted marshmallow shell that gives way to the smooth, creamy interior with a strong vanilla flavor. The Profiteroles is a thin, flaky pastry served with almond ice cream and sliced almonds. It is simple and straightforward, with the ice cream and sliced nuts creating a creamy and crunchy combination of fresh almond flavor.
Our sampler of ice cream and sorbet includes eight selections: mango, blackberry, vanilla, mint chocolate chip, milk chocolate, banana, strawberry, and passion fruit. The ice creams are thick and creamy, lending very simple natural flavors and each sorbet is fresh and tart, adding the highlight of various fresh fruits to clear the palate, making each spoonful is as refreshing as the first. To wrap up this extraordinary and extensive feast, Chuck presents us with his famous Chocolate Martini and proudly informs us that every single ingredient contains alcohol. We ask for the recipe, but sadly it is top secret and we are left to guess. One thing I can say for certain is this drink is strong. It is thick, creamy and rich, with real Godiva liqueur and acts as a perfect ending to a perfect meal.
We finish every last drop before finally gathering our things to return to real life. Morels French Steakhouse & Bistro has left us with memories of one of the most thorough chef’s tastings I have ever had the pleasure of experiencing. The menu here is truly capable of catering to any diner, whether adventurous or conservative, and with plenty of space from the patio, to the bar, lounge, main dining room and private dining areas, Morels can host parties of all different sizes for any special occasion. Take a step inside the beautiful Palazzo Hotel and uncover the majesty of Morels Steakhouse. The experience will blow you away.
Insider Tip: General Manager Chuck Scimeca really knows his stuff when it comes to a great cocktail. If you see him floating around, be sure to take advantage of his expertise and let him recommend a drink to fit your tastes.
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