The Academie Culinaire de France award is traditionally given to French national chefs for their outstanding contributions to the culinary arts of France, so what does it tell you when a Spaniard snags this coveted honor? It means the chef, Gabino Soletino, really knows his foie gras and can be trusted to run a classic French bistro. When the Paris Hotel and Casino set up shop in Las Vegas about a decade ago, they turned to this James Beard Foundation honoree to run their Stripside (complete with views of the gorgeous Bellagio fountains) establishment, and to this day Gabi is still hard at work presenting his thoroughly unpretentious Francophilic fare to dozens of delighted gamblers daily. My lovely wife the Rock Star and I had first dined there on an earlier excursion several years ago, and decided to see if the quality held, so to speak. Accordingly, we made our way there late one evening.
First, please be advised that Mon Ami Gabi keeps later hours than most restaurants and is open until 11PM Sunday through Thursday and until Midnight Friday and Saturdays. Nocturnal revelers should definitely take advantage. Here, simple and elegant is the order of the day, not only for the food but also in the setting. White tablecloths with flowers for centerpieces. Basic, unadorned wooden chairs. Vintage signage listing such important details as the Plats Du Jour (Daily Specials). An inviting, thoroughly unaffected place to be introduced to the joys of bistro cooking. Despite the late hour (after 9PM), the joint was jumping, proof of Gabi's appeal to the after-show crowd.
Despite our ravenous hunger, we decided to skip the starters. When the waiters at Mon Ami Gabi bring out one of their crusty bagettes with butter, trust me, you probably won't need any other appetizer. We didn't. And what goes better with bread than a delightful glass of (what else?) French wine? Here, we caught a break as they were out of our first choice and instead substituted a more expensive and (according to our waitress) better selection. The Carianne Domaine Grosset Cotes Du Rhone, a meritage of syrah, grenache, and mouverde, paired quite lovely with all our evening's cuisine. Steak Frites are a menu highlight, and as my lovely bride and myself are certified beef lovers, we were quick to indulge. French beef is all about the sauces, and the Steak Roquefort's rich, aged bleu cheese topping more than made up for the thinness of the sirloin. (I prefer my beef a bit thicker and rarer than the medium-done cut I was presented with.) My wife similarly enjoyed her Steak Bearnaise, another skinny top sirloin crowned with a tiara of that creamy concoction that has been the classic topping of beef for many decades. The wafer-thin frites put the French in French fries, giving good potato flavor while still allowing the beef to take center stage, and garlic spinach proved a pungent accompanist as well. Since the hour was late and we were already quite full, no dessert was necessary.
SERVICE & WEBSITE
Unstuffy and unaffected, the wait staff at Mon Ami Gabi was equally adept at handling a couple such as ourselves as taking care of the needs of the large party seated nearby. Website is http://www.monamigabi.com/, where you will lean that there are also locations in Chicagoland and Maryland, if you are so inclined.
What can we say? The quality of Mon Ami Gabi's bistro fare was every bit as good as we had remembered from our earlier visit. Discover if a Spaniard can cook French for yourself, and as always:
LIFE IS TOO SHORT FOR MEDIOCRE FOOD!!!