Saturday, October 24, 2009

Masterful At Mesa

My experience, food-wise, at Mesa Grill, also in Ceaser's Palace, was just the opposite of the one at Rao's. At least as far as the food went. The food here was absolutely fabulous. I have eaten at the one in New York and the food there was great as well. Bobby Flay knows how to run restaurants.

Mesa Grill

As you would expect at a place with a Southwestern theme, they had tequila aplenty. I was impressed by the fact that their well tequila was Herradura. I have a bottle right here, and it is the brand I usually buy, both here and in Mexico. For them to have it as a well brand showed real class, in my opinion.

The Upper Shelf Selection

I just settled for a regular old well tequila cocktail and it hit the spot.

Spot Hitten

Although Mesa Grill was pretty packed when we arrived, there were a couple of stools open at the end of the bar so we asked if we could sit and wait until something opened up. They said sure, and also said we could eat there if we liked. Hey, that sounded good to me, and the Mysterious Chinese Woman agreed.

It turned out to be a good idea because the bartender, and damned if I can remember her name, was very friendly and interesting. She was quite good too, managing to be friendly to everyone while still keeping the drinks flowing.

The Unknown Bartender And Partner

And the food, did I mention the food? We skipped the appetizers and headed right for the main courses. Good idea, too, because there was plenty to eat.

I couldn't pass up the chipotle glazed bone-in rib-eye served with a red and green chile sauce. Simply one of the best steaks I have ever eaten. The cut of meat was top-drawer, the chipotle glaze was delicious, and it was prepared perfectly.

Did I Tell You That I Liked It?

The Mysterious Chinese Woman spotted Southwestern spiced duck on the menu and couldn't resist. It came with a chorizo and goat cheese tamale. She raved about the duck and the small taste that I had confirmed her opinion.

Another Hit

They had a couple of nice mezcals and I have developed a bit of a liking for mezcal Margaritas. We had nowhere else to go after dinner so we just hung out at the bar. Me with my Margaritas and the Mysterious Chinese Woman with her wine.

Life Is Good

Mesa Grill isn't cheap, by any means, but if you feel like a bit of a splurge and want to get your money's worth, I can't think of a better place. Well, actually, I can. But it would be a lot more money and you would have to wear a tie. Not many better places, though, pretty near the top of my list.

I brought home a fair-sized chunk of my steak thinking I would eat it on the plane ride home. Alas, it was not to be. I used the in-room check out service, which was quick and slick. However, once you check out they automatically lock the refrigerator so my chunk of steak could not be retrieved. I didn't mind at the time, but about three hours into my flight home I sure missed my meat.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Cheap Beer

Only in New York. There was an article in the New York Daily News about how bars had reduced the price of beer after the Yankees loss to the Angels last night, apparently to help fans drown their sorrows. But this made me stop and think:

"It is great to see them back in the playoffs again," said Noelle Mooney, co-owner of Stout and the neighboring Fat Annie's Truck Stop where beers were slashed to $5 for last night's game.

The price of a beer was slashed to $5? Good Lord, what was the pre-slashed price?

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

No Hoorah For Rao's

My first night in Las Vegas was certainly a disappointment. We were staying at Ceaser's Palace and figured for our first night we would just eat at one of the many restaurants there. Rao's caught our eye because we passed it on our way to our rooms. Plus Rao's is quite famous, make that legendary, here in New York. It is located up in Harlem and only has about a dozen tables. Of those most are permanently reserved so getting to eat there is difficult if not impossible. Of course the fact that it was a favorite haunt of Frank Sinatra and his crew has just added to its allure. And, from all that I have heard, the food is excellent.

Rao's - New York

Now Las Vegas has become full of spin-off restaurants or restaurants opened by famous chefs. Bobby Flay's Mesa Grill, also in Ceaser's Palace, is another example (more on that later). And all I can say is that this was just a poor attempt to replicate a classic restaurant. When they try to build almost a model of the original, be suspicious.

The Las Vegas Rendition Of Rao's

We got to Rao's about 4:30 P.M. just to check on what the reservation situation was like. The hostess said we could either eat at 5:00 P.M. when they opened for dinner or we would have to wait until 9:00 P.M. for an opening. We were running on New York time so 5:00 P.M. sounded good to us. We headed to the bar where I chatted with the bartender, got his philosophy of mixology, and he built me a very nice Margarita.

So Far, So Good

One of the rooms in the Las Vegas Rao is supposed to be an exact replica of the whole Rao's restaurant in New York. You can kind of get an idea of how small that restaurant must be.

Built To Scale

Sadly, the food here was mediocre, at best. And considering the prices and the hype it should have been nothing short of excellent. We started out with an appetizer of deep-fried seafood and, while it looked good, we both agreed we have had as good out on the boardwalk of Coney Island.

Looks Good, Tastes - Well, Not So Good

The Mysterious Chinese Woman ordered clams and linquini and it was the same story. The pasta was almost certainly not cooked fresh and they didn't even do a very good job of reheating it. Bland and over-cooked. The clams appeared to be fresh, but that should be a given. The sauce was fine, but nothing special.

Another Disappointment

Her Expression Says It All

Ah well, we can always drink our troubles away. And at $12 a glass this bubbly was the cheapest wine on the menu.

Well, At Least It Is Cold

I ordered one of their specials which was monkfish wrapped in bacon. Again, very disappointing. The fish didn't taste or have the texture of monkfish at all. I wouldn't want to accuse them of misrepresenting the fish, but I don't know how you can cook a monk fish and get it to have a texture more like over-cooked cod or something. Not even cod, really, but certainly not that lobster-like texture a monkfish usually has.

The best part of the dish was the way the bacon was thinly layered over the fish and crisped on. Not hardly enough to compensate, though. The salsa or whatever that accompanied it was nice and crispy but, again, nothing special.

More Mediocrity

The service was very friendly and efficient, no complaints about that. However, I couldn't help but notice that when we left the place was still mostly empty. I am not sure where all of those people who would be keeping the place filled until 9:00 P.M. were. After our meal I sat at a table outside and watched the Twins game for awhile, and still no people showed up. On several other nights when I passed by (it is right on the way to our room) I also noticed that it was pretty empty, and it was the same when I stopped at the bar later in the week for another Margarita.

In short, stop in the bar for a Margarita, they are really good, but I wouldn't recommend that you go there to eat. I have to believe that the food at the Rao's in New York is much better. New Yorker's don't keep a restaurant in business very long if the food isn't any good. It would certainly have to be much better than what they served here.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

But First...

Not a word from the sponsor, but a word about my favorite ale house, Pete's Waterfront Ale House. Our last meal here in Brooklyn before heading out to Las Vegas was here, of course. And to make things a little different, they had their Octoberfest menu. Lot's of good stuff, kind of made me sorry I was leaving town.

They serve good sized portions here so one appetizer and one main dish would be plenty for the two of us.

We started out with a cheese perogi, or something very much like it. Kind of like a blintz too. It was served with carmelized onions on top and then cream cheese and apple sauce on the side. Simply fabulous.

Nicely Crisped

The trick is to pile on the cream cheese and the apple sauce.

Properly Done

They had a lot of specialties on the menu but I only had eyes for one of my favorites, the smoked porkchops. I like stuff that is smoked, from fish to duck, and even like to drink smoked beers on occasion. In fact, this weekend I am going to smoke a leg of lamb out at my Mysterious Sister-In-Law's house for a family get-together.

Pete's grills the smoked porkchops which adds a nice crispness. And the porkchops were nicely smoked. I don't know if they smoke them themselves, I will have to ask. I sometimes get them from my butcher and I think his (the butcher's) might be a bit better and a lot thicker. But then the are more expensive, too. Pete's are about as good as you get in a restaurant. The red cabbage and potatoes were very good as well, and a great complement to the porkchops.

Smoked And Grilled

And, of course, what would an Octoberfest meal be without a couple of beers to wash everything down. Sadly, I have forgotten just what it was we were drinking. All I remember is that it was one of the several Octoberfest beers that they had on tap.

Enjoying A Brew

Really Really Enjoying A Brew

Okay, some Las Vegas stuff tomorrow, I promise.

Monday, October 19, 2009

It's Only Fair

A pig who was at the Minnesota State Fair has been diagnosed with the swine flu.

Tomorrow I will post about my trip to Las Vegas, I promise.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Home Again, Home Again

Flew out of a hot and sunny Las Vegas into a not too bad New York and then woke up to a cold and drizzly Brooklyn waiting for a Nor'easter to hit. Ah, but it is good to be home.

I haven't uploaded my pictures yet (stole this one from Google) but will probably get to it later today while I settle in to watch the Vikings play the Ravens and then the Jets play the Bills.

Yes, I will actually be watching the still not-loved-but-no-longer-hated Brett Favre. Neither the Twins (how can you lose all eleven games you played against the Yankees this year) nor the no-defense Jets won while I was in Las Vegas so I lost money on them both. Ironically, it was the Vikings who prevented my sports betting from being a total washout. And the irony was almost too much to bear.

Oh, and when I got home there were two phone messages from my little neice singing "We will, we will rock you" to rub in the Twins defeat (she is a big Yankees fan) and my brother-in-law Jim had thoughtfully spread out a Staten Island Yankees blanket on my couch. At least Jim also left a beer in the fridge

Gosh, it is good to be back.