Vegas can be a foodie mecca, which is one of the reasons I enjoy going there. I have eaten some amazing meals in Sin City, but had never yet gone to Bobby Flay's restaurant, Mesa Grill. My good friend was with me who is a big fan of Mr. Flay and asked that we dine there. Mesa Grill is located inside Caesar's Palace on the Las Vegas Strip. I'll admit to watching some of Bobby Flay's shows on Food Network, so I was looking forward to the meal.
Mesa Grill has an upbeat, modern vibe to it. Lots of glass, light woods, and metal. The bar is off to the side as you enter and has a warm and inviting look about it. Of course you have Bobby Flay swag for sale right in your face as you approach the hostess stand. I get why it's there, but it upped the tacky level more than I'd usually like (even in Vegas). There were a fair number of people waiting, but we had reservations and our wait was less than 10 minutes. Seating is a mix of tables and booths. We had a party of seven and were given a booth with a couple of chairs added.
Our server was fairly prompt to the table to take appetizer orders, but I had to tell him we needed a drink menu and the wine list first (sorry, this is something that should be noticed by a server). The wine list was decent, but nothing exceptional. Prices ranged from 2.0x - 3.0x retail. The Sommelier stopped by the table to offer advice and she was very pleasant to deal with. I usually like to pick my own wines, but I still appreciate a sommelier's advice at times. We opted to do two bottles: one was a Joel Gott Zinfandel and the other was a central coast Syrah that carries the restaurant's private label. Both were about $60 each. The Zin was lovely, with a deep color, soft tannins, and all the mouthfeel you'd expect from a nice zinfandel. The syrah had nice flavor, but was a tad tight on its own. I figured it would shine with some of the meat dishes and it did pair very well with the entrees.
Noise levels in the dining area were pretty loud, but it was also a Friday night in Vegas and the place was busy. As for the service after we ordered, well it can be summed up with one word: s-l-o-w. Our apps took a while to appear and the entrees took even longer after that. Close to 30 mins between app plates being removed and entree plates being brought. Seemed way too long for everyone involved. The server really wasn't checking in very often either and was pretty much invisible after our entrees came.
The menu is all about showcasing Bobby's flair for all things southwestern and you won't find much that doesn't have at least some corn, chile, salsa, and/or spice. Appetizers were all in the $10 - 16 range and entrees started at about $30 with most meat dishes over $40. Sides are separate (of course) and they're $8 a pop. We ordered a lot of food for seven people, so I will only get into the highlights and lowlights of the dinner:
- Spanish Chorizo Quesadilla - This was by far the best thing on the appetizer menu (and arguably on the whole menu). It is served up with grilled green onions, artichokes and a smoky salsa. A fried egg adorns the top of the totrilla to complete the package. This was awesome. The flavors all work together and the chorizo had nice bite without overpowering the dish.
- Coffee Rubbed Filet Mignon - This was a nice sized filet, cooked perfectly to the requested medium rare. It came with a mushroom reduction sauced spiked with ancho chile. It was very tasty and the coffee rub added a nice nuance to the dish. The person eating it was kind enough to share some of it with us. I knew by the size of the smile on his face that it was a winner before I even tried any of it.
- Roasted Corn - Yes, this is a side dish, but it ranks as one of the better options on the menu. The corn kernels were crisp-tender and then tossed with cactus & lime. Some cotija cheese is sprinkled on top for good measure, too. Very tasty and worth the $8 for a bowl.
- Tiger Shrimp & Roasted Garlic Tamale - I figured this dish was a no-brainer in this restaurant, maybe that's why it was such a huge disappointment. The shrimp were a nice size, but overcooked and the textured of the tamale itself seemed way too dry. This went mostly uneaten.
- Green Chile Ciopinno - Flay is known for award winning ciopinno, but let's say that this was not the finest example. Most of the seafood was overcooked, which was such a downer because the green chile broth was amazing (I'd order a bowl of the broth by itself if I could).
- Salmon with Ancho-Honey Glaze - This was a nice sized piece of salmon and fairly thick and, as opposed to the other seafood dishes, it was cooked perfectly. It was served with a spicy black bean sauce and a jalapeno crema. It all sounded like it would go well together, but it really amounted to just too much going on. On top of that, it was extremely salty. It all added up to a dish I wanted to forget about after a few bites.
Mesa Grill was kind of a mixed bag for us. It did some things really well, but there were a lot of things that were 'meh', too. When you're talking about a place that was easily $100+ per person, I expect a bit more in the food and service department. If I had to do it over, I'd probably stick with having a drink and an app at the bar, then go get dinner elsewhere. My apologies to Bobby, but this is one throwdown that he lost because this foodie feels you can do far better on the Strip at this price point.
Overall Grade = C+ (Average)
The EV Foodie