Chef Thomas Keller has transcended celebrity chef status to that of a fine-dining guru and restaurant magnate. Keller has too many accolades and awards to count, and his suite of restaurants reads like a who’s-who list of fine dining.
Although The French Laundry was not his first restaurant, it landed Keller in the national spotlight when he took ownership of the Yountville, California, restaurant in 1994.
The French Laundry remains Keller’s flagship restaurant, but it can be tough for larger groups to visit; the restaurant offers private dining for eight to 14 people. Keller opened his first Bouchon restaurant in 1998 just down the street from the French Laundry, and the original location offers French bistro fare and an extensive raw bar. However, its main dining room, which can seat 60, and courtyard, which can accommodate 28 for seated dinners, are only available for private event buy-outs.
The answer, then, for larger groups to enjoy Keller’s genius may be his second Bouchon location, which opened in 2004 at the Venetian casino resort in Las Vegas. The restaurant is housed in the Venezia Tower and, much like the original location, features antique light fixtures and murals hand painted by French artist Paulin Paris. The larger Las Vegas location offers more flexibility for groups, which can choose from a 14-seat private dining room or a 48-seat private dining room. Exclusive use of the restaurants accommodates up to 170 seated diners or up to 350 guests for receptions when also using the courtyard.
Although the menu changes with the seasons, some of Keller’s perennial favorites can be found on the menu year-round, including roast chicken, croque-madame and pot de creme.
Musso and Frank Grill
There’s nowhere as quintessentially Hollywood as the Musso and Frank Grill in Los Angeles. Though the restaurant is famous as a favorite among Hollywood elite during the golden age of cinema, it was also a hangout for burgeoning literary giants.
The restaurant opened in 1919, and its location on Hollywood Boulevard is just a couple of blocks from the historic El Capitan Theatre and Grauman’s Chinese Theatre, which hosted the Academy Awards in the mid-1940s. The Hollywood Walk of Fame stretches past the restaurant’s front door.
Everything about Musso and Frank’s is classic: the mahogany bar, the waitstaff’s smart red jackets, the worn red-leather seats in the wood booths, the menu not so different from the one French chef Jean Rue created. The menu features steakhouse fare and Italian staples, but the “Classics Made to Order” section includes dishes such as Welsh rarebit, oyster stew, calf’s sweetbreads and grenadine of beef.
It was in the 1930s that Musso and Frank’s sealed its spot in Hollywood history. Stanley Rose opened his famed bookshop a few doors down from the restaurant in 1935, drawing writers such as F. Scott Fitzgerald, James M. Cain and Raymond Chandler to both the bookstore and the Musso and Frank’s bar. But the restaurant also opened its storied Back Room in 1934 to serve the film industry with an unyielding maître d’ who decided who got in. Although that space is no longer part of the restaurant, the New Room, the dining room that was expanded next door, today houses the Back Room’s original bar, light fixtures and furniture from 1934.
Private parties may be arranged on Sundays and Mondays, when the restaurant is typically closed to the public. Private parties and group dining for up to 300 people can also be scheduled during regular business hours, and menus can be customized.