Db Brasserie succeeds on all counts

We were on our dessert course at db Brasserie before we noticed a flaw.

An assistant had brought one of our desserts, the profiteroles ($13). As he served it, he tipped a little cup over the ice-cream-filled puffs, trying to pour the chocolate sauce over them. He shook, and shook — and shook — to no avail. Not warm enough? Too thick? Whatever; he gave up, shrugged and left, and we ended up spooning it out.

And yeah, that’s definitely not much of a flaw, which puts our overall dinner experience at db Brasserie in perspective.

Db Brasserie, Daniel Boulud’s newish restaurant at The Venetian (and his only Las Vegas presence since the demise of his outpost at Wynn Las Vegas) is, true to its name, a fairly casual spot, all dark wood and frosted glass and leather banquettes, and an example of the slightly more downscale ethos that has become the norm for new restaurants in Las Vegas. Slightly more downscale, maybe, but that’s not to mean they’re lacking in quality, and db Brasserie is a shining example of that.

Service, for example, was excellent. Our server was polished and experienced, and he was assisted by at least two others, plus a runner or two, all of them professional but clearly possessed of healthy senses of humor, which I always consider laudable.

Another thing I liked was the flexibility. There’s a prix-fixe menu, which is a pretty good deal if you’re planning to order multiple courses, but unlike some restaurants not everyone at the table has to order prix-fixe, and our server did a good job of keeping courses well timed.

For the prix-fixe option ($48) we chose courses we’d been considering on the regular menu — Country Pate Bourgignon, steak frites and Black &White Fondant (which would have been $66 if ordered separately).

First, the frites: Generally, as has been the case since my first steak frites in France many, many years ago, this tends to be a thin cut of beef, too often tough and overcooked. And indeed this was a hanger steak, which can end up akin to shoe leather in the wrong hands. Not so here, though; this was the most tender, most flavorful steak frites I could remember — light-years better than that first one.

The “frites” part of the steak frites is, of course, what we Americans like to call french fries (or, when we’re miffed at the French, “freedom fries”), and in this case they were exceptional, perfectly crisp. I don’t know if they’d been fried in duck fat, but they were that crisp. And the lightly roasted tiny head of Boston lettuce was a great contrast.

The pate was not exceptional but only to the degree that it was such a pure iteration of a classic, county-coarse with a pronounced liver flavor — good things both — and accompanied by crisp baguette slices and house-made gherkins.

For the rest of our dishes we went a la carte, starting with another classic, the Alsatian tarte flambee ($15), a rectangular sheet of not-too-crisp flatbread topped with sweet caramelized onions, white French cheese and just enough bacon that it was the perfect supporting player, yielding the stage to the onions and cheese.

Because Boulud was really the first French burger pioneer we had to put one to the test, and so the Frenchie ($19), a juicy patty of beefy goodness topped with confit pork belly, Morbier cheese and arugula, and all of those aggressive flavors formed an effective harmony along with a slice of tomato, some onion compote and some mustard.

And yes, the profiteroles, which were quite nice despite the minuscule flaw with the chocolate sauce — although, while the menu said the ice cream filling was to be salted caramel, the flavor read coffee to us.

No matter; I have a strong suspicion we’ll be giving them another go.

Las Vegas Review-Journal restaurant reviews are done anonymously at Review-Journal expense. Email Heidi Knapp Rinella at, or call 702-383-0474. Follow @HKRinella on Twitter.

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