Sunday, February 27, 2011


Picasso is an institution in the Las Vegas dining scene, featuring Julian Serrano's Spanish and French cuisine. The chef needs no introduction. Julian Serrano is the recipient of multiple Michelin stars, with Picasso raking in two. The restaurant is beautiful and colorful, as if to imitate or translate the work of the restaurant's namesake.

The atmosphere bleeds fine dining, and the walls are adorned with several Picasso masterpieces.

Several of the plates, too, are playful and depart from the more traditional tendency of restaurants to exclusively serve their food on white plate-ware.

My parents and I got the Menu Desgustation.

The meal started off with a Roasted Red Pepper Soup with a Pheasant Croquette. The soup was silky and deep with an undeniable presence of red pepper. The soup went really well with the croquette's crispy exterior and substantive filling. Nothing too mind-blowing, but really great, straightforward preparation and flavors.

The bread plate featured three types of bread: French baguette, bacon and onion, and honey wheat. Honey wheat was by far the most delicious of the three with a great balance of sweet and nutty. The bread also came with a somewhat comical and tacky piece of butter molded with Picasso's signature.

Next was the Maine Lobster Salad with an Apple-Champagne Vinaigrette. The presentation was beautiful, with a playful assortment of differently shaped fruits and vegetables. The lobster was perfectly cooked and the sweet lightness of the vinaigrette added some subtle acidity and brightness to the lobster. I loved how the pieces of avocado went with the lobster, but most of the other fruits and vegetables seemed unnecessary.

The Pan Seared U-10 Day Scallops with a Potato Mousseline and Jus de Veau was good, but the potato mousseline seemed out of place and excessive. The scallop and mousseline separately went really well the jus, but I just didn't get the purpose of eating the scallop and mousseline together, other than having a starch to act as a base for the protein. A purée of something lighter (maybe cauliflower or sunchoke) probably would have fared a little better for me.

Next in line was the Sautéed Steak of "A" Foie Gras with Poached Pears and Huckleberries, Crushed Pistachios, and Lemon Zest. I love foie gras, but only for a few bites. This steak was massive, and while I felt like I was getting more bang for my buck, I didn't appreciate the heaviness of the dish. The foie was perfectly cooked, though, and the pistachios added a soft crunch. Unfortunately, the pistachios also added to the fattiness of the dish, and the heavily poached pears and huckleberries didn't do much to lighten up the dish.

Our next course provided the option of either fish or lamb.

The Sautéed Filet of Turbot with Green Asparagus and Sauce Hollandaise was lighter than the foie, but was still heavy from the hollandaise. The fish was perfect and reminded me of why I like turbot. Though the combination of green asparagus with fish and hollandaise was a little bit boring and one-note, I enjoyed the flavors. I just wish there were more fish on the plate to eat with the four gigantic spears of asparagus.

The Roasted Lamb Chops with Sweet Bell Pepper Farci was heavy as well, but definitely more satisfying than the foie or the fish. Again, the protein was cooked perfectly. The lamb melted in my mouth. Though there wasn't really much of a bell pepper farci, I enjoyed the dish. The mushrooms helped also. Not the most exciting and the flavors were straightforward like many of the other dishes, but the preparation was great.

Before we had a chance to eat our desserts, we were left with a few moments to get reacquainted with the great environment.

Desserts were plentiful, a bit more inventive, and, surprisingly, not too heavy.

The Quince Quartet was beautiful and explored the versatility of quince. First on the left was the Jasmine Ice Cream, which was light, creamy, and addictively similar to the flowery flavor of jasmine tea. Though the ice cream wasn't labeled a quince ice cream, the flavors melded well with the rest of the quince-based theme. The Carbonated Quince Soup was a simple, quince-flavored soda. Calling it a carbonated soup was a little bit pretentious of them, but the flavor was great and not too sweet. The Quince Napoleon was delicate and crumbled at the touch of a feather. This part of the quartet featured how well the subtle flavor of quince can go with chocolate. Again, nice, light, and not too sweet. The Quince-Jasmine Crème Soufflé brought back the first flavor of jasmine and the creaminess of the ice cream. The top was perfectly torched and the contents were smooth and creamy. All of these had incredibly subtle hints of quince, which was a nice way to complement the lightness of all four components. Definitely my favorite dessert of the night.

The Warm Chocolate Fondant came with Caramel and Candy Cashew Ice Cream and Chocolate Covered Cashews. The fondant was thick, but not too heavy, while the ice cream had just the right balance of cashew and caramel to bring a sweet, yet refreshing aspect to the plate. The cashews were alright on their own, but were really there to just add some texture to the dish. Overall, this dessert was my least favorite, but it was still good.

My second favorite dessert of the night was the Frangipane Baked Pear. This came with a Sweet Marsala Sauce and a French Butter Pear Sorbet. Everything about this dish sounded heavy and overly sweet, but the sorbet really helped to lighten the entire dish up. The frangipane was crispy and beautifully toasted and encased a perfectly baked pear that oozed with flavor like a poached egg.

The contents were warm, sweet, and fresh, all at the same time, and when eaten together with the frangipane there was a sweet, nutty effect that reminded me of a warm almond-pear tart. The sorbet was a great way to divide up your bites, despite the fact that it was hard not to devour the entire pear and frangipane encasing all at once.

After enjoying our desserts, we took a moment to admire the roses in the middle of the table. Somehow, without us even noticing, the waiter had slipped in a plate of more sweets. Don't mind if I do.

Nothing stood out, but they were delicious, as far as complimentary sweets go.

Speaking of complimentary, they also gave my parents a box of these guys as we were leaving the restaurant. They were nice and buttery, but less crispy and flaky than I was hoping they would be. Regardless of taste, they were free.

What was difficult to enjoy about Picasso was their generous use of heavy and cliché ingredients. Where restaurants like Hatfield's are using healthier, and honestly, more flavorful alternatives (i.e., sunchoke or cauliflower purée instead of mashed potatoes), Picasso seems to be stuck in the land of the more traditional and conservative. For a restaurant called Picasso, their dishes seemed to be less revolutionary than I thought they would be.

That being said, Picasso probably seems more traditional now mostly because its food is up against an onslaught of modernist cuisine and new American restaurants. You've probably noticed that I used the word "perfect" a lot in this post, and that's because the overall dining experience really was incredible. Service was impeccable, the artwork was unbelievable, preparations were perfect, presentation was artistic, and the food had some truly beautiful moments. And let's not forget the fact that they have seating that overlooks the Bellagio fountain show.

The bill was a hard pill to swallow, but Picasso, truly, thank you for the meal.

The Bellagio
3600 Las Vegas Blvd. South
Las Vegas, NV 89109
(702) 693-7223

GET: The Menu Desgustation.


  1. Do you think it was worth it? Some of the dishes do look great. Actually, that chocolate dessert you didn't love is beautiful.

  2. I actually still liked the chocolate dessert, but it just wasn't my favorite of the three. It was strange how their desserts were their strong suit (pun intended...get it? Vegas?? Cards???) that night. Overall, the environment, service, and the artsy-ness of the restaurant make it more than enjoyable. Food-wise, just be prepared to get some misses with the hits, and don't expect anything revolutionary.

    I'd still recommend going, but don't rush to make it the top of your list.

  3. I went to Picasso couple years back and was unimpressed. This looks better, but still not good enough to bring me back.

    I guess, why would I come here when I have the likes of Robuchon and Savoy at my disposal?

  4. I still have a lot to explore in Vegas, but I agree, I don't think I'll be going back any time soon with a huge list of other restaurants I want to try.

    Robuchon is on my dream list. This past trip was a bit impromptu, but definitely going to make it a point to save up some more money next time I hit up Vegas.


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