Thursday, July 27, 2006

Mesa Grill

Apparently, I have confused some people. Yes, my wife and I are in Vegas at the moment. Call it a belated honeymoon. Still, I'm excited to be able to eat at some of the restaurants that I've been reading about, and I feel it my intrinsic duty to report on them.

My wife wanted to visit the Forum Shops at Ceasar's Palace, so we hopped the monorail and headed on over. On our way to the monorail, I saw something that I had seen on TV, on a show that I even went so far as to tape: Bobby Flay's Mesa Grill. I informed my wife that we had to go there for lunch, as soon as we were done at the Forum Shops. Sometime around noon, we headed on over.

Now, this is a nice looking place. Unlike the seating at Wolfy's place, which was open to the casino and thus extremely loud, this place is mostly enclosed with clear and colored panels. As we walked in, the hostess asked if we would be dining with them for lunch. We said yes, and she asked if we needed a table for two. This impressed my wife. Normally when we eat out, the host or hostess starts the conversation by asking "table for two?" Prefacing that with "will you be dining with us?" seemed much more elagant to her.

As we walked to our table, we passed a row of waiters eagerly awaiting the chance to serve. They were well-dressed and clean. As we sat down, our waiter approached to ask for our drink order. He excitedly asked if we had seen Bobby Flay on TV. Dear readers, I should tell you now: I am a jerk. I feigned ignorance. I asked who he was, acted surprised that he was a TV chef, the whole bit. I felt kind of bad, because the waiter seemed a little deflated by that. When he came back, my wife asked him more about this "Bobby, um, what was it? Flay?" That seemed to cheer him up a little, and I told us about some of the people that had come because they had seen Bobby on TV.

The menu was very Southwestern, so of course, I wanted to order at least half of it. It was also very reasonably priced, at least for the area, with appetizers hanging around the $10-15 range, and entrees not much above that. My wife ordered a spicy pork sandwich while I ordered black bean chicken quesadillas. Those of you that know me know that I generally hate avocados, which were advertised as part of my dish, but I managed to stop myself just in time from asking to have them left out. Why would I not ask them to leave off an ingredient that I know I'm probably not going to like? I believe that part of the experience of dining out at a nice place involves trusting the chef to take care of you. That's their job, after all.

We were brought bread and butter, just like at Wolfy's place. Why did I not mention that in my review of Wolfy's place? Because Wolfy's bread was largely flavorless. It looked like it would be interesting, but the texture was boring and there was so little flavor, I couldn't tell you what kind at actually was. This was not the case with Bobby's bread. When they gave it to us, they took the time to explain to us that we had a ciabatta and a raisin bread with sesame seeds. We soon discovered that we also had spicy corn muffins, half yellow corn, half blue corn. They were all fabulous. The ciabatta had a fantastic sourdough flavor, a nice hard chewy crust and a nice soft chewy inside. The raisin sesame bread was a little more flavorful than I expected, much better than its visual doppleganger from last night. The corn muffins were spicy, and if they had any gluten at all, it wasn't much. They were crumbly and tasty, and I was a little frustrated that I couldn't get the whole thing in my mouth without half of it falling out in crumbs.

When the food arrived, it looked awesome. I had my camera out to take photos, and the waiter asked if we wanted our picture taken from the second story of the rotisserie. I handed him my camera and he went up and took our picture. I liked that my wife's and my plates were different. Her sandwich arrived on a long, textured glass tray, complete with fries stacked inside a monkey dish. My quesadilla was a little smaller than I expected, just about a perfect size for an appetizer. It arrived on a round, white plate. I love using different plates for different dishes. I think that properly done, they can really enhance the appearance of the dish, and overall impression of the meal. I tasted one of my wife's fries, and they were awesome. Not much different than your standard fry, except that they were spiced with some kind of chile powder, and seemed to have some sort of chopped green herb on them as well. She let me take a bit of her sandwich, and it was stellar. Spicy, but not so much that it distracted from the flavor of everything else. It seemed to have little fingers of pork, rather than a huge flavorless hunk of meat, or pulled pork, which might not have added the right texture for this sandwich.

My quesadilla was killer. It was made with smallish tortillas, maybe 6 or 7 inches across, and cut into quarters. Each slice had a mound of some sort of avocado mixture on top, with what looked like a small piece of fried plantain on top. The tortillas were spiced like the fries, not so much that it distraced, but enough that it added to the appearace, and made the flavor seem to dance on my tongue. There seemed to be a couple of lined of habanero sauce across the sides, which were flavorful, but not at all hot. In fact, like the avocado, the orange pepper sauce was full of flavor, and seemed to taste more like itself than one would expect. The filling was equally amazing, and I ended up eating everything, using the tortilla pieces to mop up any flavor that might have fallen away.

Even though we were pretty full, I had to see what Bobby's dessert menu was like. One dish immediately caught my eye: Roasted Strawberry Shortcake. I had to try it. Well before it arrived, the waiter brought us long spoons and forks. Did I mention that we saw the waiter a lot? He took good care of us. Our water was refilled several times, and they were prompt and friendly about it. When they brought our dessert, it looked amazing. It had some sort of strawberry crisp thing that tasted a little cooked, but not bad. It has a pinot noir sorbet with a kind of grainy texture that actually worked really well. The whipped cream had cream cheese in it, and tasted amazing with the strawberries.

The bill for all this was only about $40, which I thought was a really killer deal. As we were preparing to leave, a sharp looking man in a suit came over and talked to us for a moment, making sure we enjoyed the meal and had a good time. We assured him that it was a fabulous meal, and as we left, every employee that we had had contact with made sure to wave goodbye to us, and wish us a good day.

Now, I know a lot of people don't like Bobby Flay. In fact, I know a lot of people that read my blog really don't like him. I've been watching him cook for years now, and like him or not, I've always maintained that his dishes look really good. I can now tell you for a fact that his food is nothing short of astounding. Don't be slagging on Bobby Flay anymore. The man really can cook, and he really knows how to run a restaurant. If you ever get a chance, I think it would be criminal of you to not try his food out.


  1. I've been silently following your blog for a while. My first experience at the Mesa Grill was last November. I was there for a business trip. The whole trip was a waste of time except for that dinner.

    I had the New Mexican rubbed pork tenderloin. It was incredible. At that time, I honestly hadn't heard of Bobby Flay. Ever since then, I've been a big fan. I think you really have to experience it to get it.

    Now I'm hooked. I'm much more interested in cooking than my day job writing code.

  2. Thanks for your comments! Just be careful, man. I used to be just a regular old programmer getting tossed around between "dot bombs" until I discovered cooking. Problem was, I was a lousy cook. So I packed up and went to cooking school, and now look at me: I'm a regular old programmer that cooks a lot more, and has a lot more debt. I don't regret cooking school for a moment, though.


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