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Mesa Grill by Bobby Flay

November 9, 2012

Back in July, my husband and I had gone to Las Vegas for a weekend getaway.  It was a bit of an unplanned trip in that we hadn’t intended to go, except that my husband received an offer in the mail for a 2 night stay at the Encore Resort that we just couldn’t pass up.  Even the front desk personnel were blown away by how good of a deal we received.  During our stay, we ate like kings and had such a good time, we  didn’t want to leave.  Shortly after we returned home, I received the same offer for the Encore in the mail that was good through the end of November.  We took this as a sign that we should go for it and take another trip — this time, instead of driving to Las Vegas, we’d be flying, and we’d have an entire extra day in the city since we were taking some time off of work for this trip.  As were more familiar with what the city had to offer this time around, we decided to make the most of our time in Las Vegas and take advantage of some of the good eats the city has to offer.

Approximately 2 years ago, when my husband visited Las Vegas for the first time, we had stopped by Caesar’s Palace at the very end of our trip because we wanted to get some dessert at Serendipity III that sits out front of Caesar’s Palace.  While we were in the casino, my husband spotted a restaurant that he knew he’d have to come back and try one day in the future, Mesa Grill.  Mesa Grill is the brainchild of celebrity chef Bobby Flay as a way to bring together the flavors of the southwest with his love of grilling.  The original Mesa Grill opened in Manhattan in 1991, and the Las Vegas branch opened at Caesar’s Palace in 2004.

The restaurant, which is situated inside the casino, next to the Sport’s Book, does a great job at bringing the casino and the restaurant together, but yet keeping them as two distinct areas.  The restaurant is half-glass to the exterior, so as you sit in the restaurant, you can see out the windows to the casino and the sport’s book, but you can’t really hear the casino noise outside.  Same thing when you’re standing outside in the casino, you can look into the restaurant and see the activity, but you can’t hear anything from inside the restaurant.  The restaurant has a very open feel to it.  There’s an open kitchen that you can look into and see the chef’s grilling the yummy steaks and pork tenderloins and other grilled dishes.  The ceilings are high and the atmosphere is fun and energetic.

The restaurant also has a fully-stocked bar right near the front entrance.  According to the restaurant’s website, it states that Las Vegas’ proximity to Mexico affords the restaurant access to some of Mexico’s highest-quality tequila and mezcal offerings.  The restaurant did have an extensive tequila selection, but unfortunately, we didn’t partake in any of it.

Each table is given a bread bowl and butter to start the evening with.  But, unlike other restaurants where the bread is generic, this is Mesa Grill where even the bread exudes the qualities and flavors of the southwest.  The bread basket included blue and yellown corn muffins as well as jalapeno sourdough bread among others.  I tried the jalapeno sourdough and thought that even with so little jalapeno in it, you could really taste the flavor of the jalapeno in the dish.  Not sure how I felt about this.  You need to remember that I’m a complete wimp when it comes to spices and spicy things.  I don’t do spice, so eating at a southwestern-Tex Mex restaurant where everything is sauced with Habanero and ancho chilies, etc. is not really my cup of tea.

For an appetizer, my husband ordered one of the more popular dishes at the restaurant, the tiger shrimp and roasted garlic corn tamale.  My husband enjoyed the dish, and he is not a huge shrimp lover.  The roasted garlic corn tamale was flavorful and delicious, though I’m not sure I tasted the roasted garlic in it.  The shrimp was well cooked and the sauce was flavorful, with just a little bit of chili oil drizzled over the top of the dish.  Serving the tamale in a half-opened corn husk with the tamale and tiger shrimp spilling out of the dish made it visually stunning.  (Apologies in advance for the uneven quality and lighting in the photos – the food looked much more appetizing at the restaurant than these photos portray.)

I was having trouble deciding on an appetizer until the waiter mentioned a special appetizer for the day that wasn’t found on the menu, a crab cake.  Made with chunks, and I literally mean chunks, rather than the shredded crab meat you normally find in crab cakes, of blue crab meat and deep-fried to a golden brown, this was mouth-wateringly good.  The crab cake had no fillers, no miscellaneous vegetables and bread crumbs, it was straight up crab meat.  The crab cake was served a top a green chile sauce and drizzled with a red chile sauce.  A mango relish topped the entire dish.  The mango relish was sweet, cool and refreshing, no doubt meant to cool down your taste buds from the spicy green chile sauce.  The red chile sauce was actually tasty and flavorful and not packed with heat.  As I said, I am not one for spicy foods and sauces, so once I took one taste of the green chile sauce that had my tongue running for cover, I actually had to take the crab cake out of the sauce so that I wouldn’t have any more of the green chile sauce.  In contrast, my husband tried the green chile sauce and thought it was amazing and full of rich, vibrant flavor.  To each his/her own, I guess.

I was nervous about the entrée because I wasn’t quite sure what I could order that wouldn’t make my mouth catch fire with spices.  After perusing through the menu several times, I finally settled on the mango and spice crusted tuna steak served with green peppercorn-green chile sauce and toasted pine nut cous cous.  I ordered my tuna steak medium rare because I just couldn’t do rare.  The tuna steak was perfectly cooked.  A nice cooked, and crusted outside with a rare and delicate inside.  The mango and spice crust seared on the outside of the tuna steak was flavorful, but subtle, exactly what I was looking for.  The green peppercorn-green chile sauce was perfect as it wasn’t full of heat and didn’t overpower the flavor of the tuna.  This is exactly what I was looking for, something low in heat and high in flavor.  I think I found the right combo.  And it’s a good thing I did because I’m not sure what else on this menu I would have enjoyed.

When we were first seated at our table and the waiter had come by to explain the menu, he had mentioned that there were 2 particular dishes on their menu that exemplified the spices and flavors that Bobby Flay is known for.  However, he did warn us that both dishes would hit 7 out of 10 on the heat scale.  I knew I wasn’t touching those dishes.  I think though that having heard the waiter make this declaration, it made my husband curious enough to check out both dishes.  Ultimately, he ended up ordering one of the dishes that the waiter had pointed out; the coffee rubbed filet mignon served with mushroom-ancho chile sauce.  Cooked to a beautiful medium rare, the filet appeared at the table already partially sliced and sitting at top the mushroom-ancho chile sauce and topped with a little bit of a Habanero sauce.  After the first bite, I had asked my husband if it really was a 7 out of 10 and he had initially said that it was more of a 2 out of 10 because the mushroom-ancho chile sauce didn’t really pack a punch.  I left it at that and continued to let him eat without really paying attention.  Then, all of a sudden, I heard him exclaim, “whoa!”  He had tried the Habanero sauce that was drizzled over the top and absolutely loved it.  He said that the Habanero sauce really packed a punch and was outstanding.  That really made the dish come together, and in the end, he said the spice level really was at a 7 out of 10.  All that mattered to me was that he loved his dish, especially since he had been wanting to try the restaurant for a while.

For dessert, we each opted to order our own.  After all, this is vacation, and we had wanted to try different items.  I chose the deep dish banana cream pie.  Ironically, before we ordered our desserts, the waiter had made 2 suggestions as to what their signature desserts in the restaurant were, one was the deep dish banana cream pie, and the other dessert was the one my husband ended up ordering.  The dessert was more of a deconstructed banana cream pie.  Served in a deep bowl, hence the deep dish portion of the name, the banana cream was layered on the bottom of the bowl, it was then topped with Frangelico whipped cream, which I found out meant hazelnut flavored whipped cream, and then topped off with a thin praline wafer.  This was unlike any banana cream pie I had ever had before.  The banana cream was rich, and smooth and creamy, almost like having a thick banana mousse.  The whipped cream on top really was hazelnut flavor, but in a subtle way.  And the praline wafer atop the dish was super thin and airy and crisp.  The combination together was delicious, though I still feel more like I had a banana mousse or pudding rather than a banana cream pie, so the name was a bit of a misnomer to me.  (It’s a terrible picture of the dessert, I know.)

My husband ordered the toasted coconut layer cake with coconut creme anglaise.  The cake that came out to the table was huge!  Absolutely enormous.  It’s hard to believe it was only 4 layers, it seemed more like 20 layers.  And the entire slice was topped with the coconut creme anglaise.  The top and outside of the cake was coated with toasted coconut.  My husband said that the cake was flavorful and moist.  Generally speaking, my husband doesn’t like cake because often times it turns out dry and crumbly.  But he said this cake was the opposite of that.  He actually liked the cake.  He was stuffed from dinner, but the cake was so good that he had to finish the whole thing.

We walked away from the restaurant more than full, having experienced a wonderful meal, with great service as well.  I think that my husband would go back to Mesa Grill in a heartbeat.  And though I liked the food I ordered, I think I’d be more hesitant about going back in the future, just because I felt like I was struggling to find things I liked and not that much on the menu appealed to me.  But, I am happy that I did go and try the restaurant and got to experience what Bobby Flay’s food actually tastes like.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. November 9, 2012 9:50 am

    Good review…Ducky. I have thought about eating at Mesa Grill but ended up going elsewhere when visiting Vegas. There are so many good restaurants it is hard deciding which ones to put at the top of your list.

    • November 9, 2012 12:08 pm

      If not for my husband, I don’t think we would have ever gone. But, I’m glad now that I’ve experienced it.

  2. Amanda permalink
    November 15, 2012 1:29 pm

    It sounds really good to me!


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