Jul 01, 2017
The latest incarnation of Andre’s offers a masterful survey of French dining — with a breezy assurance and a few welcome twists
The scene suggests an iconic fine dining restaurant on the Strip: In a room illuminated by twilight and flickering candles, I drizzle shallot-sherry mignonette on a chilled platter of Maine lobster tail, king crab legs, shrimp, and oysters on the half-shell. But this scene is taking place in a strip mall on Fort Apache Road — and yet it’s still totally classic Las Vegas. It’s the new Andre’s Bistro & Bar.
Over the past two years, there’s been a flourishing of French cuisine in town: Oh La La French Bistro, EATT Gourmet Bistro, Rosallie Le French Café, Café Breizh, and La Maison de Maggie are some of the new names. But none have the old-school Sin City track record of Andre’s, or of its namesake, André Rochat. He’s been a top toque here since 1973, well before the fine-dining boom of the past 15 years. For many locals, Rochat is known and revered for his original but long-gone Downtown location, which once earned him a street with his name. Then came Andre’s in the Monte Carlo (which closed in October) and Alizé in the Palms. Fans have been waiting for his new venture since fall, and they’ve been dutifully filling its chairs every day since it opened in January. They’re satisfying an appetite for more than just fine food. The latest incarnation of Andre’s offers a complete French dining experience that, from entrées to ambience to service, reflects an assured, expansive mastery.
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You get full foodie immersion before you even walk through the door, as the space’s front windows are adorned cookbook-style with quotes from culinary luminaries like Brillat-Savarin, Julia Child, and Thomas Keller. The interior is warm and inviting, filled with rustic wood, whimsical framed vintage restaurant menus, and de rigueur rooster art. The bar at the entrance sets a welcoming note for the entire room, tables to booths.
The appetizer list leaps out with time-tested French favorites with a modern twist, such as frog legs Provençal paired with herbal garlic-white wine sauce and tomato concasse. The legs are lightly breaded and fried to give them a fried-chicken familiarity for newbies. The charcuterie board features an abundance of imported and housemade cured meats. And while it might sound like a dessert at first, the seared foie gras on grilled brioche with a smattering of Nutella and vibrant strawberries in Sauternes glaze is sumptuous but not overly sweet. The onion soup is solidly traditional, with a red wine broth that interplays with the nutty flavor profile of a Gruyère cheese-laden croûton. The beet salad is stunning, with roasted golden and garnet roots sided with goat cheese, candied walnuts and frisée.
The dinner menu features numerous French favorites, such as moules frites — Prince Edward Island mussels sautéed in a rich garlic-parsley sauce and served with crispy duck-fat fries for dipping. The roasted chicken breast elevates the cut with mushrooms, bacon, pearl onions, and fingerling potatoes. Another standout is the golden trout amandine, with Idaho-raised fish fillets covered in almonds and green beans in a luscious beurre noisette sauce. For red meats, braised lamb shank with orzo is a popular order. Numerous cuts of Black Angus beef are sizzled in the kitchen, too: flat iron, filet, and ribeye.
Then there’s the cassoulet, a show entrée all its own. The baked white bean dish arrives steaming in a cast-iron casserole pan, with slices of Polish kielbasa and hunks of tender duck confit concealed under a crust. A server then stirs the stew and deftly spoons portions onto your dinner plates. Packed with slow-cooked, savory flavor, it’s consummate comfort food.
The dessert selection is wide in variety and exuberant in its presentation — once again, the servers add a theatrical touch. Puffy soufflés (either Grand Marnier or chocolate) are pierced with a spoon by a server, then either crème anglaise or chocolate sauce is poured down the middle. The elegant pot de crème, baked chocolate custard with Chantilly cream and a beautiful, delicate vanilla wafer, is light and silky without being cloyingly sweet. For those who love the hits, there’s crème brûlée, and ice cream shows up in sundaes, floats, and even milkshakes.
But to suggest Andre’s is only an “event” restaurant would overlook the rest of the menu. My first visit to Andre’s was for a seemingly simple weekend lunch: a hot dog with sautéed onions. The beef frankfurter, crafted by Andre’s staff, was superb, served with the restaurant’s signature Dijon mustard and cornichon trays for added zing. Other notables include a Maine lobster roll; a mighty hamburger with melty imported Swiss cheese, red onion marmalade, and truffle mayonnaise; and an open-faced croque madame with ham, Gruyère, béchamel, and fried egg. The brunch menu brings on even more eggs. In particular, the quiche Lorraine is done to perfection, with its supple, custard-like filling of bacon and Comté cheese.
Having excellent French dining in a Vegas neighborhood is a fine enough thing. But it’s not just the food that makes Andre’s Bistro & Bar noteworthy. It’s the sense of continuity and tradition it carries forward; the fact that much of Rochat’s close-knit staff, from servers to chefs, have worked with him for decades suggests it’s something like a longtime family business. It continues to earn that distinction with every dish coming out of the bustling kitchen.