No daytime plans were made for the last day of vacation in Vegas. Lounging by the pool and relaxing was mandatory, but I didn’t have any strict rules for lunch. When hunger arose, we went walking in search of decent grub. We didn’t make it very far, and settled into the Caesar’s Palace Hotel (which was next door to our hotel) to scope out the scene. Within the Greek-inspired casino that was quiet, dim, and depressing during the day we came across the uber-bright Mesa Grill.
Having watched more than my fair share of Bobby Flay on Iron Chef America, Throwdown, & The Next Food Netword Star, I was not jazzed to gobble down his goods. It’s clear the food is southwestern and I expected mediocrity. I mean, the man uses ancho chiles, honey, and blue cornmeal with everything. Not to misrepresent myself, I thoroughly enjoyed Bar Americain in NYC (his upscale ode to regional, American cuisine) but that’s because it’s his upscale ode to regional, American cuisine. Southwestern food does not make my brain melt and I didn’t want to gorge on a cheesy, blue cornmeal-y lunch when i knew I had an important final dinner later that evening. But, as is true with most partnerships, I folded when Lauren stated she wanted to eat there (the kid loves this type of food) and I was reminded that I had made almost every other decision on the Las Vegas Eating Tour of 2009.
So, I put on a happy face and dragged my feet through a torturous meal at an abomination of a restaurant, akin to a trucker rest stop on I-95. (Just kidding Lauren! – but the waiter was truly horrific…)
After finding out about a Prix Fixe Lunch, and talking myself out of tasting the salmon and tuna tartares, I went for it. $29 gets you a choice of an appetizer, entree, and the dessert of the day. Considering many of the lunch entrees were in the mid $20’s, I figured it was a wise choice. In addition, I have learned over time (and quite a few bad experiences) that it’s not mandatory to order a tartare just because it’s on the menu. Specifically, if raw fish appears nowhere else on the menu, it’s most probably not a specialty; just an addition or a filler. It’s okay not to try the tartare at mid-level restaurants, I told myself. Hey folks, I’m growing here!
I chose the green chili/pea soup for my appetizer. Then I had fight #2 with my hideous waiter. (Fight #1 surrounded my brainchild of a mocktail. Not very important, but the conclusion was the dude was an arse. Don’t you hate waiters that pass judgement? Especially, when they tell me I’m ordering too much food. As Chris Farley would say, while dressed in women’s clothing on SNL, “Lay off me, I’m starving!” In the end, and after much unecessary discussion, I received an awesome mocktail.)
Back to Fight #2 – I asked if the soup could be made vegetarian, which is not an outlandish request in my book. He checked with the chef and said that it could not. The ham was incorporated into the broth of the soup and was also used as garnish. Fine, not a problem. I then asked if I could get the soup without the addition of the garnish. Me no want no hammy sprinklings. He tried to argue with me about this, attempting to blame the chef and explain how the flavor will be harmed without all proper elements. Listen buddy, you’re a waiter in Las Vegas and you can’t make me eat ham sprinkles. I don’t recall the details, just that the soup arrived without the garnish and the waiter remained an arse.
One slurp of this soup and my inner ‘Debbie Downer’ vanished. The soup was Gooooood! Sweet tangs from the peas, with a spice element from the chiles, and a multi-layered flavor (prolly from the ham hocks in the stock). The texture was creamy and think without moving into pudding territory. An absolute winner.
For my main, I ordered the Grilled Sea Scallops with Blue Corn Tortilla, Avocado Relish, Jalapeno Pesto
The scallops were plump and succeeded in wearing a crispy hat from a sear on high heat. The were fresh, but not transcendental. Avocado can do me no wrong unless it is absolutely rancid – and this was not. The tortilla chips were useless, pointless, flavorless but aided in the food stacking and allowed the dish to meet it’s 6 inch height requirement.
The Chef’s Dessert of the Day was a complete throwaway:
Here is an example of a rare time when it’s super easy to take 2 bites of a dessert and move along. It was trash – fried, bland dough with boring vanilla ice cream. Boo!
Lauren ordered 2 appetizers – both were excellent. (Consensus: appetizers are the way to go.)
Wild Mushroom Quesadilla with white bean hummus & white truffle oil
Tiger Shrimp + Roasted Garlic Corn Tamale with corn-cilantro sauce
The tamale was the stand-out plate of food. Hot, steamy, creamy, corn with large, juicy shrimp. Notes of garlic and cilantro help level out the sweetness of the corn. It’s all about balance.
Overall, the food at Mesa Grill was good; definitely better than decent. The quality level seemed a tad bit low for the prices, but I assume we are asked to pay to eat food prepared by people who may have met Bobby Flay at some point or another. More often than not, the food kept me interested. Just try to stay away from the waiters and the desserts. Plus, you can walk down the hallway and visit Payard Patisserie & Bistro for a pleasant and distinctly scrumptious ending to your meal.