“How do you like the roast chicken?”
Martha Stewart asked the question of a lunch guest at The Bedford by Martha Stewart, her new restaurant in Paris Las Vegas. Stewart was hosting the lunch Saturday to celebrate the restaurant opening that evening.
The guest liked the chicken very much — crisp skin, moist meat, seams of fat and salt — and told Stewart so.
“It’s D’Artagnan,” she said, referring to the famed purveyor of top-quality meats that is a Bedford supplier. “Eat your baked potato,” Stewart continued, the words part maternal suggestion, part friendly command.
The guest was more than happy to comply: Among the available toppings were bacon lardons, perfectly brunoised, and an icy tin of Osetra caviar. There were other menu items at the lunch that occasioned cheerful assent: jalapeño corn pudding; halibut laked by summer corn chowder; the upside-down lemon meringue pie with tangy filling inside a cluster of meringue cloches.
“These are the dishes I’ve perfected over the years,” Steward said. “These are the dishes I make in my own home.”
The Bedford draws inspiration from that home, Stewart’s 1920s farmhouse in Bedford, a tony suburb of New York City. The look and feel of the restaurant, and the menu itself, showcase the cozy luxury Stewart has celebrated through four decades of showing the world how to cook, entertain, decorate, dwell, garden — and now dine out.
“When most people my age are retiring,” she said, “I’m embarking on a restaurant, of all things.”
Showcasing a favorite technique
A replica of a country house facade rises above the pergola that spans the front of the restaurant. The Bedford affords nearly 200 seats, including a roomy central bar. Clear-front cabinets display elaborate glassware. There is wainscoting and crown molding, avian prints and fireplaces flanked by sconces.
The restaurant is rendered in shades of gray, a neutral palette that makes touches like tiny table lamps and gilt-framed mirrors seem especially opulent. Panels rendered in faux bois (“false wood”) are set into columns and walls throughout The Bedford. The technique involves painting surfaces to resemble wood grain (and, as it happens, the shimmer of moiré taffeta).
At lunch, served in a re-creation of her faux bois dining room, Stewart gestured toward a panel, explaining that a special roller was used to create the technique. “It’s not that difficult,” she said. That point might have been debatable; the beauty of the faux bois was not.
Mom’s pierogis; Martha’s chard
Gleaming copper pans from Stewart’s cookware line partly screen the action in The Bedford’s open kitchen. That caviar-laden baked potato served at lunch? For regular service, it issues from the kitchen after slow baking, then gets smashed tableside to break the skin, revealing golden fluffy flesh. That roast chicken the lunch guest loved? It’s cooked whole, then carved tableside.
The menu at The Bedford also features oysters Rockefeller baked in Pernod cream beneath a coverlet of breadcrumbs; a classic Niçoise salad spiked with anchovy vinaigrette; and Big Martha’s pierogis with potato filling and brown butter (or a zhoosh of Osetra caviar and sour cream).
“My mother taught me how to make them,” Stewart said of her late parent, Martha Kostyra, who was a schoolteacher. “I still meet people in the street who say, ‘Your mom was my teacher.’ ”
On the wine list, Martha’s Chard takes pride of place. The California chardonnay, also poured at lunch, was eminently pairable and sippable, with a nice balance of leanness and richness. Earlier this year, Stewart launched the wine under 19 Crimes, the same brand under which her longtime friend and collaborator, Snoop Dogg, launched his California red blend.
During lunch, Stewart offered that Snoop is building a home in Las Vegas. Can faux bois and pierogis be far behind?