It looks as if the elephant of Sunset Road has finally been laid to rest.
What I’m talking about here is an elephant burial mound, as a restaurant-critic friend so aptly labeled the phenomenon some years ago. The term refers to a building that — usually inexplicably — is the site of a long succession of restaurants, few of which survive infancy. The tenacity of the phenomenon can be as impressive as the reasons are mysterious; one site near Boca Park was such a challenge that one of the restaurant operators openly embraced it with good humor, bringing in a shaman to burn sage in the corners and concocting a cocktail called The Curse. All of which was to no avail; the site now is a veterinary practice.
Such has been the case with the building at 2021 W. Sunset Road, which has struggled with the phenomenon for 15 years that I know of. If memory serves, it started as a fast-food place, then went through a series that included a hot-rock restaurant, an Asian noodle shop and bistro and more diners and similar spots than I can count. Many of them were quite good; what they all had in common was that they were short-lived.
So I was a little bemused when a sign went up proclaiming that Bernard’s Bistro, a comparatively long-established restaurant in the village at Lake Las Vegas, would be the next place to give it a go. And since it opened in January I’ve been absolutely fascinated to notice that every time I went by, whether on weeknight or weekend, the parking lot was packed.
It was time to figure out what gives, and after dinner there, I think this one just may break the spell. Bernard’s not only brings the burbs a white-tablecloth-and-live-music experience with excellent service and fine, French-accented food, but it does it with an extremely varied menu and reasonable prices.
Thus, we were able to order both chicken and mushroom crepes ($12.95) and herb-crusted lamb chops ($24.75) at dinner (the dinner menu also includes sandwiches, burgers and flatbreads; Bernard’s Bistro also is open for lunch). Both were excellent.
Somewhat of a surprise (but a pleasant one) was the salad that preceded the crepes, with a variety of lettuces that included oak leaf and a sweetish vinaigrette that appealed to only one of us. The crepes themselves were suitably delicate, the “cheese fondue” sauce listed on the menu not nearly as heavy as that sounds.
The lamb chops also were nicely executed, medium-rare as ordered and crusted with a coating that had the flavor of herbs and the crunch of panko. This one included creamy mashed potatoes and a very appealing array of fresh vegetables, including a whole large asparagus spear, some green beans, a slice of carrot and one of zucchini.
We’d started dinner with the restaurant’s nicely crusty bread and butter, and an appetizer of ahi tuna tartare ($12.50). This starter was tantamount to an entree salad or even an entree, a stacked configuration that included chunks of avocado, a tangle of seaweed and sesame-topped wonton triangles.
Somehow, though, we’d managed to save room for dessert, and the creme brulee ($6.75) was absolutely perfect — which we don’t encounter much — the sugar top a crackly brittle without any trace of granulation, the custard rich and classic.
We’d arrived at Bernard’s Bistro fairly early at what usually is a popular dinner hour in the burbs, but noticed that the place filled up considerably as the evening wore on. As time passes and word spreads, I think it will only fill up more.
And RIP to the elephant.
Las Vegas Review-Journal restaurant reviews are done anonymously at Review-Journal expense. Email Heidi Knapp Rinella at Hrinella@reviewjournal.com, or call 702-383-0474. Follow @HKRinella on Twitter.