The bright, fresh new décor and dishes in Jardin transform the restaurant into a light-filled centerpiece for Wynn’s colorful gardens.
The Fleur chocolate cake at Jardin tells the restaurant’s story in layered dark chocolate mousse and moist chocolate cake in a chocolate “flower pot.”
For years the restaurant at the beginning of the Encore Esplanade greeted diners with Seated Lady, a giant bronze by Colombian artist Fernando Botero and known affectionately by regulars as “The Fat Lady.” Now gone, the big, dark statue personified the restaurant Botero, the dinner-only steakhouse that has given way to its polar opposite, the light, bright Jardin. The new three-meal-daily eatery overlooks the Encore pool, and its very name, French for “garden,” evokes warmth.
“I don’t design to theme. But the name of the restaurant says it all: It’s about gardens in all the beauty they present. Our job is to connect the inside to the outside and vice versa,” explains Roger Thomas, Executive Vice President of Design for Wynn Design and Development. “The dining room was completely refurnished with cabinets specifically selected for Jardin and used to separate the space into more intimate dining areas while maintaining the focus of the view on the beautiful gardens that surround the circular room.” The overall architecture was not changed, since the restaurant lends itself to being either dark and more formal or full of light, he says. The focus of the space is now on a giant flower arrangement and a mirror-filled light well. And since a busy room that serves three meals a day can accumulate carts and other elements, part of Thomas’s job was to eliminate clutter.
Bridging the gap between the more formal Tableau and the casual Terrace Pointe Café, Jardin brings gourmet riffs on American favorites and comfort foods to Wynn—along with a wealth of institutional memory. Chef Joe Zanelli helped open Tableau in 2005, then launched the Country Club, before running room service for both hotels when Encore opened. After a stint with popular local restaurateurs Blau + Associates at their Honey Salt and Andiron Steak & Seafood eateries, he returned here to wind down Botero and oversee its transformation into Jardin.
“I was doing a hundred filets a night at Botero,” says Zanelli. That was just months ago, but today the leading dinner choice at Jardin is herb-crusted salmon sitting atop a sunny yellow sauce of lemon, confit fennel, and Peruvian yellow peppers served with a quinoa and vegetable medley. “Usually you have a fish dish in the top four or five, but I never expected it to become so popular. It is definitely number one.”
While the salmon reflects the lighter, fresher aesthetic at Jardin, with its quarterly menus focused on the best seasonal ingredients, this is still Vegas, and Zanelli is quick to point out that “filet is number two.” Other heartier favorites are the short-rib ravioli at dinner, and what has quickly become the breakfast signature, the chef’s inspired take on fried chicken and waffles. The classic soul food dish has enjoyed a national resurgence, but he did not want to do another cookie-cutter version—and had no plans to serve waffles at all. Instead, he borrows from the classic Toad in a Hole egg dish and makes a slice of thick, crispy French toast with an egg set in a hole in its center, paired with double-breaded, buttermilk-soaked fried chicken. The same poultry preparation anchors one of the most popular lunch choices, the buttermilk fried chicken sandwich, on a challah bun with house-made ranch dressing and coleslaw.
“You have to appeal to every taste here,” says Zanelli. “Everyone in the two hotels comes for breakfast. At lunch you get shoppers and conventioneers, plus some players. For dinner we get a big pre-show crowd and big club crowd. It is very varied, but we wanted to elevate the three-meal restaurant. Using high-quality ingredients, we make as much as we can here from scratch, try to be creative, and do as much tableside preparation as we can.” That means soups poured individually and a flashy signature dessert, the Fleur “flower pot cake”: dark chocolate cake inside a hard chocolate-shell “pot” sprayed the color of terra cotta. Serving three to four, the cake is presented whole and sliced tableside. “So many people started ordering them to go that I had to find special boxes. We make at least 30 a day.”
Other tableside flair includes the rolling Bloody Mary cart at breakfast, and Moscow Mule cart the rest of the day. Designed by Wynn property mixologist Damian Cross, this includes a giant copper mule mug that holds an entire bottle of vodka and all the fixings, which is then ladled out like punch for the table in individual copper cups.
To keep things seasonal and garden-style, Zanelli contracted with a local farmer and has booked an entire greenhouse to provide tomatoes, zucchini, arugula, and other vegetables. “I’m an East Coaster, but I have been out here long enough for my flavor profile to lighten up. I use more spices, herbs, and acids, and we put a lot of flavor in, but we are not cooking with butter or heavy cream,” he notes. “It is related to the weather here in Vegas, and this space, which is very bright with lots of natural light. It’s like eating on your sun porch.”