I can’t remember the last time I used an almanac. Elementary school? Was it Old Farmer’s? I think Ben Franklin created it. Three decades later, I looked at one again. What time does the sun set in Vegas in September?
You know you’re going to a Vegas restaurant with class when you leave the main walkway, whether it’s taking the escalator down to SW at Wynn or the escalator up to the center Strip Olive Garden. My anticipation grew each day, reaching its climax as we walked down the stairs off the northern Bellagio walkway. The sun had just started to set as we walked to our patio table. My research months before, trying to plan the perfect time to see Vegas turn from day to night, had paid off. My simple request for outdoor seating when I made my reservation helped as well. No money or mentions of influence were needed.
The 4-course degustation menu is just under $150 per person. We added the $98 wine pairing. My wife and I prefer reds yet neglected to think about the menu at hand, which naturally called for white pairings. We didn’t want to state our preference, we just allowed the expert to guide us. Sommeliers are without prejudice and have, I dare say, a sick sense of humor, which makes them quite dangerous with their ability to find the most odorous, unpleasant varietal they’ll assure you in their monologue is delicate and arousing. I don’t know if Picasso’s sommelier that night was dabbling in malevolence, but he found something foul to pair with the first dish. It had a lingering taste of toasted grapes soaked in peat moss. My wife is a good sport. She drank it all. The wines that followed were less eventful but far more pleasing.
As we moved on from dish to dish, the orange of the sunset was replaced by the same hue from the soft light bouncing off the furniture and stucco. Meals at Picasso stop when the music starts playing, all of us waiting for that first blast of the water cannons. We were blessed to be serenaded by popular jazz and pop numbers and not Lee Greenwood’s patriotic tune, God Bless the USA, which, head-scratchingly, remains in Bellagio’s fountain playlist, a song with zero subtext and uniquely unsuitable for a French restaurant in an Italian-themed resort. The dishes were that of traditional French cuisine, savory and subtle, unlike that terrible ode to America 6th grade choirs have to sing at every 4th of July festival.
The Picasso patio provides a manufactured view. Everything we’re gawking at is fake. But it’s wondrously fake. A real sunset over a fake lake with a truly beautiful woman is the best Vegas can get.
A man who has never enjoyed beautiful things in the company of a woman whom he loved has not experienced to the full the magic power of which such things are capable.Bertrand Russell, The Conquest of Happiness
Any discussion of Picasso or other high-end dining devolves to the question, is it worth it? If this is the kind of experience you’re after, it is. Ultimately, the food doesn’t matter. The wine doesn’t matter. Sitting fountain-side on an early fall night with the company you enjoy is what matters. I would’ve been fine with a deconstructed burrito. Though they’d probably have to rename the restaurant Pollock.
Vegas has several unique restaurants you can try. And you should try one. Even if it’s budget-breaking, it’s worth saving up or sacrificing your bankroll. Don’t wait until your aspirational restaurant is gone or diminished. If tomorrow all the things were gone I worked for all my life, and I had to start again with just my children and my wife, I’d thank my lucky stars I got to dine at Picasso at least once.