“To victory Ruhlman, to victory in our time,” says Anthony Bourdain to his friend — the author and schmaltz scholar Michael Ruhlman — raising a flute across a long table in the Hadrian Villa at Caesars Palace. Guy Savoy suddenly appears with artichoke soup and fresh black truffles — and platters of foie gras, wild squab, pheasant, mallard duck and cabbage. “Bobby Flay probably lives like this all the time,” jokes Bourdain, in a scene from this week’s Las Vegas episode of Parts Unknown (airing Sunday on CNN at 9 p.m. EST).
We aren’t in the business of spoilers here, so we’re not even going to go there. But having screened the episode, we can say it’s going to possibly change the way you think of Sin City. There are locals, famous magicians, former mayors and maybe a little dubstep. But, mostly, there is great proof that Vegas is one of America’s greatly underrated food cities. Bourdain skipped the buffets, just in case you were wondering. We reached out to Ruhlman via email to find out a little bit more about the trip.
There is a scene of you having Champagne poured is this crypt-silent private dining room at Caesars. What was going through your head? And how was the meal?
It was so cool as to be almost creepy. I didn't know if Tony had some sinister plot at hand he wasn't telling me about. The meal was amazing, so if that were my last meal I guess it would have been worth it.
What games do you play in Vegas? And how did you do during the filming of the episode?
I play blackjack exclusively when on my own. I left $400 up, good but not half as good as Tony did. I liked that he knew when to step up from the table.
In the episode, Tony heads to Lotus of Siam, which has been called the best Thai restaurant in America. Was it a WTF moment for you?
That bastard Bourdain didn't include me in that one, so he can sit on a corn cob and answer that one himself.
Did you go to any clubs? Late-night clubs? Be honest.
Of course not, early to bed early to rise. And, as my wife may read this site, I should say of course I'm being honest.
Did traveling to Vegas for the show change your mind about the place?
Actually it did. I've always thought of Vegas as a vision of the end of the world — and feel like scratching my eyes out until safely seated on a plane out of there. But I can honestly say it was the first time, EVER, that I was sorry to leave Vegas.
Here is a crucial scene from Sunday's episode: