Date: Aug. 8, 2011
When it comes to celebrity chefs, Bobby Flay is my favorite by far. His use of Southwestern flavors and vast variety of grilling techniques inspire my cooking just about every time I step into the kitchen. Since the majority of his restaurants are back east (completely on the wrong side of the country for me), there was no way I was going to miss an opportunity to visit his brainchild nestled within Caesar's Palace (and no, Caesar did not actually live there). Mesa Grill beckoned and I emphatically obliged.
My mouth began to water as my senses filled with the savory aroma of captivating modern Southwestern cuisine. In stride with my grandpa and sister, we were greeted by a smiling hostess and stacks of Mr. Flay's cookbooks (two of which I already own). Yes, table for three. Please seat us for lunch already!
What should I have? Something new, of course! The first intriguing dish: Blue Corn Pancake with barbecued duck and habanero chile - star anise sauce. I was a little confused thinking I'd be served a thick fluffy blue pancake with some duck on the side, so I asked about it. Apparently, the menu says it's a pancake because people don't know what a crepe is. People! A crepe is a very thin pancake associated with French cuisine. They can be stuffed with a vast range of flavors from sweet to savory to anything in between. Mesa Grill, we are all educated now, so please replace pancake with crepe on the menu. I also learned that the dish (which is on the appetizer menu) is a measly three bites. At thirteen bucks, the price per bite was just way too high.
|Images from Microsoft Office Clip Art|
My second choice was the Grilled Swordfish Club (another protein I've never tasted). Sorry sir, the swordfish hasn't arrived yet. Awesome. I respect and appreciate the fact that Mesa Grill gets their swordfish fresh daily, but if it can't swim fast enough to make it for lunch (understandable since an abundance of land separates Vegas from the sea) don't put it on the lunch menu.
Down two strikes thanks to a duck's undesirable price-to-bite ratio and a tardy fish, I asked the waiter for a suggestion. Smoked Shrimp Tacos and Salsas. Perfect.
Shrimp is a protein I'm very familiar with, so I wasn't quite as excited about my shrimp tacos. From the waiter's description, however, I expected a lot more for the price. The shrimp was fine. The smoked flavor was there, but they were cooked a little too far. The stars of the dish were really the slaw and trio of sauces, which I'm sure wasn't supposed to be the case. The cabbage slaw was cool, crisp and vinegar-based - the only way I'll eat slaw. It added a nice acidic element to each bite and helped distract my taste buds from the mildly overcooked shrimp. Each sauce also helped keep the flavors interesting. There was a vibrant mango salsa delicately sweetening each bite. The spicy tomatillo blend shocked my taste buds with a polite wake-up call, balancing the mango's sweetness. Finally, the guacamole cooled everything down and topped each bite with a much needed creamy texture otherwise missing from the dish. Despite the fact that I prefer corn over flour tortillas, the tortillas felt like a presentation afterthought to me. I expected a presentation more creative than two tortillas folded flat next to a tower of shrimp covered with more herb garnish than necessary, but that's just me.
Fortunately, my sister had a much more satisfying dish: the Mesa Burger!
The bun was lightly toasted, soft and warm creating the perfect vehicle for the rich, meaty flavors of the burger and creamy sharpness of the cheddar cheese. The grilled onions were perfectly tender without an overpowering onion flavor. The horseradish mustard, however, may be my new favorite condiment. I enjoyed the unique spicy contribution it added to each bite. Furthermore, the Southwestern Fries may be the best non-sweet potato fries I've had. Salty, spicy, crisp, warm and tender in the middle - pretty much exactly what a french fry should be.
Unfortunately, the description I just gave you pertained to the second burger of the afternoon. Before taking a bite of my sister's original burger, a piece of the bun fell off and revealed a small little hair embedded in the melted cheese. Certainly not on the guest list, the waiter quickly escorted the hair-infused burger out and returned with round two. Nevertheless, there's no excuse for committing one of the cardinal sins of cooking, especially when the offender is a proud, prestigious establishment like Mesa Grill.
While the second burger was delicious and the fries were incredibly tasty, I think it's safe to sum up my overall experience in the words of my sister, "Bobby Flay got chopped!"