Postcard From Tom: Las Vegas

Sunday, February 6, 2005

Thirty-seven million visitors -- a lot of appetites -- head to Las Vegas every year. The discerning among them should consider these three jackpots.

BOUCHON (3355 Las Vegas Blvd. S., 702-414-6200)

Never mind its difficult location, deep in the Venetian hotel complex. Bouchon, the creation of mega-star chef Thomas Keller, thoroughly convinces patrons they're tucked in a Parisian brasserie. The seductions start with silken quiche and elegant French toast in the morning and run to pork roast with cabbage and prunes, and trout scattered with toasted almonds, at night. Mosaic tiles, rich wood, a zinc bar and a view of fountains only enhance the gustatory pleasures. Dinner entrees $16.95-$32.50.

CRAVINGS (3400 Las Vegas Blvd. S., 702-791-7111)

If you need proof that all buffets are not equal, this is it: thirteen sleek food stations displaying a world of choices. Prime rib is juicy, kimchi is fiery, dumplings come nicely seasoned, seviche packs a fresh tang and macaroons are irresistible. That -- and much, much more -- costs a mere $17.50 per feaster. The room's muted lighting, comfortable seating and chic carpet reveal the design sense of no less than Adam Tihany, who spent $12 million refining "all you can eat" here in the Mirage Hotel.

FLEUR DE LYS (3950 Las Vegas Blvd. S., 702-632-9400)

A glamorous offshoot of the romantic restaurant of the same name in San Francisco, this destination in the Mandalay Bay resort is a food lover's fantasy. Foie gras is swirled into a decadent "cappuccino," beets are showcased in a fetching "symphony," and salmon arrives on a bed of cauliflower "couscous" along with a teasing horseradish-mint sauce -- and caviar. VIP tip: The most sought-after seats are the four tented cabanas off to the side, one with a private back entrance. Three courses $68.

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