Sunday, April 29, 2012

Idol Worship

What do I do when I find myself with a break from my busy schedule? Food Network. While I eat lunch? Food Network. While I cook? Food Network. Ok you get it and my favorite chef is the none other than the Food Network star extraordinaire, Bobby Flay. Flay owns several restaurants around the country, including Bobby's Burgers in DC (I'm obviously a regular). One of his first and most famous restaurants though is Mesa Grill. Originally in NY, Mesa has a location at Caesar's in Las Vegas, where I was for a wedding this weekend. Flay is most well-known for his creative and modern twists on southwestern food and Mesa specializes in these types of dishes. As soon as I realized I got to choose the lunch locale for Saturday, I instantly jumped on going to Flay's culinary creation since I'm a huge fan! I don't want to give my experience away too soon but, since Vegas is the place for happy endings, Mesa lived up to both the Vegas reputation and Flay's.

The restaurant is tucked along the casino floor just behind the sports screen and area to bet on sports. The restaurant's exterior is decorated in multi-colored glass panels with big, colored block letters spelling out the name. The restaurant winds around a bend and guests enter through an opening in the glass panes. We were then directed to wait in the lounge, sets of oversized couches looking at the semi-open kitchen, while our table was prepared. Like many places in Vegas, the lunch menu is not available on Saturdays and is replaced by weekend brunch. The brunch menu contained about 12 entrees and a handful of starters. Our waiter told us about the special of the day and encouraged us to try the house margaritas. Craving something sweeter, I ordered the white pear margarita while someone else at my table ordered the traditional. Mine was sweet but not sickly so and well blended, as was the traditional. Making decisions among the succulent sounding choices was far too challenging of a task for me so I mentioned a few things that sounded good and let my parents choose. We decided to order 3 main courses and split all of them three ways. While we waited for our food, we were brought an incredibly varied and unique bread basket. The basket contained several types of breads, scones and biscuits each of which was beyond flavorful. The jalapeño biscuits were about the size of a corkscrew, crumbly, and full of peppery jalapeño flavor without being spicy. The scones was moist almost more like a pound cake or a cookie than a traditional scone. The blueberry cake was to die for! It was made up of a generous layer of powdered sugar, crunchy brown sugar, blueberries, and a beyond moist coffee cake on the bottom. It was sweet, the perfect texture and full of flavor; I easily could have eaten a basket of these. But my favorite item in the bread basket was the cornbread-type item. It was corn based for sure but nothing like a traditional cornbread with its intense corn meal flavor, hints of pepper and pieces of whole corn. It was almost like a tamale bread. Then, our entrees came.

I'll start with the most breakfasty dish first: chicken hash with sweet potatoes. For starters, this dish was beautiful (as they all were). It was served as two compotes of the hash topped with a poached egg, green chile hollandaise and a pepper sauce. The thing that initially struck me was the color! The eggs' yellow shone underneath the green and red sauces while the compote was a rainbow of reds, yellows and oranges. Both eggs were perfectly poached so as I poked them with my fork, the yolk oozed into the hash and blended with the sauces. My mouth is watering just thinking about it! The hash was a blend of succulent chicken, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, peppers, and cilantro, among other spices. The hash was flavorful enough to eat on its own but mixed with the oozey egg, the tangy and creamy hollandaise and the spicy red sauce it was to die for! I'm not even joking when I say I would eat this for breakfast, lunch, and dinner everyday. Our next dish was technically a starter: tuna nachos. This plate was just as breathtakingly colorful with bright red cubes of tuna surrounded by a brilliant orange mango salsa, red habanero sauce and a green avocado crema sauce. The tortilla chips were served on the side making the dish almost like a tartar accompanied by chips. The tuna was PERFECT! It was fresh, tender, cut into perfect bite size pieces, and AMAZING with the sauces. Something in the sweet mango salsa brought out the tuna's natural sweetness giving the dish an initially very sweet flavor. Diners should not be fooled though, about a second after dwelling on the sweetness, the habanero kicked in for a real kick in the mouth. Finally, the avocado crema took over mitigating the spice and sweetness with its mild creamy flavorful leaving the diner wanting more. It's one of the few dishes I've had where I felt like each bite was truly an experience among itself. Wow. Lastly, and perhaps least adventurously, we ordered a cheeseburger. I mean, we saw a few go past our table and they all looked bomb, as they were. The bun was golden and topped a well-cooked, well-season burger. It was garnished with grilled onions that were great and tasted almost as if they'd been pickled before being grilled. My favorite thing about the burger though, was the homemade mustard that came on the side. It had a traditional mustard seed flavor followed by a fierce hit of horseradish. The horseradish was a unique twist on a traditional mustard and worked well; I couldn't get enough on my seasoned fries. I looked at the dessert menu but the only thing that really stood out to me, churros with a chocolate sauce and a coconut sauce, wasn't available so I opted to skip dessert.

This was one of the most flavorful meals and complete culinary experiences I've ever had. And in the middle of a casino! I highly recommend checking out Mesa Grill if you're in Las Vegas or NY. I have not lost my amazement for or obsession with Bobby Flay and it has instead been solidified by his creative blending of ingredients, mingling of favors and use or vibrant color. I can't wait to try other Flay restaurants now too! Bar Americain, watch out next time I'm in New York. I know some say avoid the celebrity restaurants in Vegas because they charge a premium for the celeb name but Flay is trusted in food and hey, I like to gamble on the slots not my meals!

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