Trees Plans “Tarantino Film Of Restaurants”

Fresh off the triumphant opening of a bigger, better Esther’s Kitchen on Main Street in The Arts District, James Trees already has his eyes on the future.

James Trees gives a tour of the new Esther’s Kitchen
(Photo: Al Mancini)

He’s working on a French bistro and sister bar called La Petite Bohème and Bar Bohème, which will be located near Main and Imperial Avenue. He also plans an incredibly ambitious fine dining experience for the original Esther’s Kitchen space on California Avenue.

The latter will be called Vignette, Trees told the Food and Loathing podcast during a recent interview (following a hesitant pause that makes one wonder if that’s his final answer). It’s a reference to a cinematic style embraced by filmmakers like Quentin Tarantino.

Blow Your Gastronomic Brains Against The F***ing Back Wall!

“I want this restaurant to be the Quentin Tarantino film of restaurants,” Trees joked of the experience, expected to cost between $300 and $500 a person.

When that statement is met with laughter and references to the director’s notoriously violent style, the chef runs with the joke.

“I want to blow your gastronomic brains against the fucking back wall of this ’64 Chevelle that we’re in,” he replies, laughing.

In actuality, Vignette is a reference to an artist using multiple standalone scenes (aka cinematic vignettes) to tell a complex story. And at Vingette (the restaurant), Trees envisions a series of unique and memorable experiences at different locations within the restaurant, over the course of a meal.

“We’re going to have an opening area where you sit, and you lounge, and you have a glass of Champagne, and we bring you some bites,” Trees explains.

“And then you go into a test kitchen, and have an experience with a chef. Then we’re gonna show you the wine cellar. And then you’re going to meet the chef who’s on the pass, and see the kitchen operating. And you’ll have a bite with that chef. Then we’ll move you to a bar to have another experience. Then we’re going to sit you down and give you a five-course menu with choices.”

Tasting Menu Only

That multi-station tasting menu will be the only experience available at Vignette. And guests should expect it to be an all-night affair.

Trees says that, aside from Japanese omakase and kaiseki restaurants, very few restaurants in Las Vegas offer tasting menus exclusively.

“There is not that representation for American gastronomy in Las Vegas at all,” he bemoans of the local restaurant scene. “And my job, as someone from Las Vegas, is to give Las Vegas the restaurants it deserves. So we are going to create a gastronomic experiential restaurant.”

However, the experience will be very flexible. Instead of a fixed reservation time, Trees plans to offer guests a two-hour window to arrive at their convenience.

Time Is Luxury

These unique touches are intended to embrace a new definition of luxury.

“In this world, foie gras is not luxury anymore,” the chef says. “Is caviar a luxury? No, not really. Do you know what the only luxury we have left in this world is? Time.”

“Time is luxury. Care is luxury; the small service touches, the pairings and the way we move people.”

Vignette will not be an experience for everyone, but that’s okay with its creator. In fact, the restaurant will max out at a few dozen customers per night.

“I need 30 people a night, five days a week,” Trees says. “That’s what I need for a guest count. We are not trying to do 70 covers. We are not gonna have big nights where we do 110. It’s just not that kind of place. We have other places for that. But if you want that experience, and you take the time to book it ahead, it should be special.”

Trees expects it to take six months to a year to launch Vignette.

You can hear his entire interview, which discusses Esther’s Kitchen, Vignette, and more, on the March 15 episode of Food and Loathing.