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Bedford by Martha Stewart restaurant review: a caviar-topped crowd-pleaser

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LAS VEGAS — A few days ago, I called Abby, a friend in San Francisco, and asked if she would be up for a last-minute flight to Las Vegas for dinner. Before I had hung up, the flight was booked. Such is the draw of Martha Stewart, the undisputed goddess of domesticity who last week debuted her first restaurant, at Paris Las Vegas, a French-themed hotel here on the Strip with a replica Eiffel Tower and Arc De Triomphe.

The Bedford — ahem, the Bedford by Martha Stewart — is a 194-seater that bills itself as a replica of the 1925 farmhouse where Stewart lives and hosts dinner parties envied by her millions of Instagram followers. Feathered showgirls sauntered by as the maître d’ took our reservation and escorted us to The Brown Room, an alcove with a fireplace where Stewart herself dined at the restaurant’s grand opening on Aug. 12.

Tucked into plush wingback chairs, we were handed the drinks menu. No food yet. Our waiter, Hector, who said he was raised on his mother’s dutiful execution of Stewart’s meatloaf recipe, dove right in: “One of her favorite drinks is a martini and she really likes this recipe, which uses her favorite vodka — Polish with bison grass infusion — for her –.” I cut him off. “Excuse me,” I said. “But when you say ‘she’ and ‘her,’ who are you talking about?” He stared at me blankly for a moment before we all laughed.

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The ironic paradox of a Martha-themed restaurant is how little it’s about her and how much it’s about her guests. I had feared a vanity trap like the hotel’s neighboring Bobby’s Burgers by Bobby Flay or Vanderpump à Paris, but Stewart’s restaurant was utterly disarming, despite drinks like the Martha-Tini and frozen pomegranate Martha-Rita (a riff on the strawberry version that got her through lockdown).

“I love Vegas,” she told me later. “It’s sort of a good testing ground for an idea because the demographic is so broad.”

At our first sip of Martha-Tini, which is shaken and poured tableside out of a vintage shaker that has a teapot-like handle and spout, both Abby and I were taken aback. Neither of us could recall a better martini and, um, it wasn’t for lack of experience. The bison grass gave it a slight vanilla flavor with vibrant citrus and herbal notes. “Dammit,” said Abby. “I was so ready for this to be cheesy, but this is niiice. I’m such a sucker for comfortable spaces.”

Unlike the hotel’s Nobu, which is exposed to the lobby’s blinged-out bedlam the way an airport restaurant is — Abby called it a “Fauxbu” — the Bedford feels like a secret sanctuary. Its gray walls defy Vegas glitz and urgency, making you forget, frankly, that you are in Vegas, a city that imposes its unforgettableness with as many bells and whistles as the senses can bear.

There are no white tablecloths. The servers wear white sneakers. Sat beside some faux bois cabinets, I opened them to peek inside only to find rows upon rows of Stewart’s cookbooks. It really did feel not quite like a dinner party at her house, but certainly like the conversion of her home into a catered wedding or epic anniversary party.

“Authenticity is part of our brand,” Stewart said in a telephone interview. “It’s one of the tenets of the Martha brand.” (To that end, she had a quick aside about the performative “coastal grandmother” aesthetic fad: “Look at my pictures from Vegas. Do I look like a coastal grandma? I wear Valentino. I wear Balenciaga. I wear Brunello Cucinelli. I’m no coastal grandma.”)

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Her menu is a tribute not just to her favorites and her guests’ favorites, but also to her family: her Polish mother’s pierogi and a buoyant rice wine-dressed salad tribute to her daughter, Alexis, so petite that it had us singing “A Little Bit Alexis” at our table.

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Execution that could be fussy elsewhere felt fanciful here. The exquisite crab cake avoids the laziness of being a lump of overly deep-fried crab chunks and instead offers a true recipe of crab meat wrapped in a barely-there breaded crust (shout-out to Hector for offering extra tartar sauce unprompted!). The whole roasted three-to-four-pound chicken is brined overnight to be finished in a brick pizza oven and not on a Comedy Central dais (where Stewart honed her other roasting technique) then carved tableside and plated elegantly to showcase the herbal stuffing under the skin. Its surprising complexity tasted as though the chicken had been raised under a shower of gold stars to believe it was a duck, a goose, a pheasant or even a swan. The pierogi, although as visually unappealing as, say, French onion soup, got Abby to close her eyes in delight and shush me because she was “in pure bliss.”

Treating ourselves to the menu’s cheapest indulgence in caviar, a $115.95, one-ounce supplement to Stewart’s smashed baked Maine Aroostook County potato — also smashed tableside and which was enjoyed at Stewart’s recent 81st birthday party as what she called “one of my favorite things on Earth” — became an all-smiles glutton’s riddle. Was the caviar an excuse to eat a baked potato or the baked potato an excuse to eat caviar?

“Good!” Stewart laughed when I asked her that question. “That’s exactly what it’s supposed to be.” It’s a question with no wrong answer.

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The crowd was equally playful: girls’ night out with loud outfits and louder laughter, a 90th birthday party replete with a tiara’d guest of honor, date nights, family get-togethers, and plenty of tables of six or more. “Everyone looks so happy and satisfied,” said Abby. “When do you ever see that in Vegas?”

Not everything was perfect. The salmon en croûte was nearly inedible, described accurately by Abby as “the world’s worst sushi roll, too wet on the inside and too dry on the outside.” Similarly, the oysters Rockefeller swung so heavily spinach-forward that they might’ve been prepared by Olive Oyl for her dearest Popeye. And the caipirinha, Stewart’s favorite cocktail, was overwhelmingly sour.

Dessert included an upside-down lemon meringue pie whose crustless splendor could easily find itself in a Michelin-starred menu or the imagination of Dominique Ansel, creator of the Cronut.

It was paired with Kobrick, a small-batch coffee. As a bookend to the martini, the brew was equally exceptional, so much the platonic ideal of coffee that I felt guilty muddying such liquid hygge with a side serving of milk.

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My faux bois doggy bag would look comfortable on Rodeo Drive or Fifth Avenue, as though my stomach went on a treat-yourself shopping spree.

The next morning, I asked Abby what she thought. “I may have already purchased a vintage silver cocktail shaker with a handle and spout,” she replied. From Martha? “No, I found a vintage one,” she said. “And hers were sold out online.”

When I told Stewart, she laughed. “Mine is three times as big,” she boasted. “I have the biggest martini shaker you’ve ever seen. It’s silver, and it fits a whole bottle of vodka.”

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