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Look at that guy. So smug. You just want to punch him, don’t you? Holding that spatula like he’s the bambino. What, is he going to bat a cheeseburger out of the park?
I don’t really hate Bobby Flay, but I can see why some people do. He comes off as a bit arrogant, self-important, and is a little too sure of himself sometimes. Remember when he was on the original Iron Chef and pulled the “I’m an egotistical American” routine? So yeah, I get it. But I actually like the guy despite his attitude and despite the fact that he seems to be the Food Network’s favorite son. Seriously, that guy is on every show on that station. He’s on Iron Chef America, Throwdown!, The Next Food Network Star, and a whole host of others. Ok…I watch too much Food Network.
On our last day in Vegas, my wife and I were trying to decide where we wanted to eat when we remembered that Mesa Grill, Bobby Flay’s restaurant, was located next door in Caesar’s Palace. Now, I mentioned that I’m not a Bobby Flay hater. The guy obviously knows his shit, and his shows are generally entertaining. My wife, on the other hand, loathes the guy. She even has a nickname for him that I can’t mention on this website…it’s that vulgar. Nevertheless, when I suggested eating at his restaurant she expressed curiosity and relented. How could she not be curious when he’s on television nearly twenty-four hours a day? And by the end of our lunch, she changed her tune and was full of nothing but praise. She even resolved to retire the nickname, the food was that good.
Flay specializes in southwestern cooking, and that is portrayed immediately when entering his restaurant. The colors and decor foreshadow the menu in a way that by the time you’re at your seat, you have an idea of what sort of food you’re in for.
Speaking of menu, the lunch prices were actually quite reasonable, especially considering the quality of food and the experience of being in the restaurant. The average lunch entre rang up about about $18 – $22, with appetizers in the $10 – $14 range. For appetizers, we went with the Blue Corn Pancake and the Smoked Chicken + Black Bean Quesadilla. The Blue Corn Pancake included Barbecued Duck, Habanero Chile, and Star Anise Sauce wrapped in a soft, blue corn tortilla shell. The duck was incredibly sweet, which mixed well with the chile. The Quesadilla included Avocado and Toasted Garlic Creme Fraiche, and while it wasn’t quite as distinct as the Blue Corn Pancake, it was absolutely delicious.
For lunch, we both decided to go with the tacos. My wife chose the Grilled Mahi Mahi Tacos while I went with the Yucatan Chicken Tacos. Here are a couple shots that don’t quite do justice to the plating:
Both dishes were incredibly [magically?] delicious and afterward we were both dying for more. Instead, we went with some dessert. We chose the Banana-Hazelnut Crunch Sundae, which I would have taken a picture of, but we ate it before I had a chance. It was that good. Served in a large soda fountain glass, the Banana-Hazelnut Crunch Sundae included warm fig-caramel sauce, and on top of the glass were two mini-bananas covered in some sort of crunchy coating. It was amazing.
What I really need to mention is the service. As good as the food was (and it was fantastic), the service was equally first-rate. I don’t know how much Bobby Flay is involved with the hiring of the waitstaff, but whomever is in charge of that task deserves to be applauded. From the hostess to the waiter to the busboy, the people serving us were outstanding. Our waiter, Miguel, went above and beyond by not only attending to our eating needs, but also making sure that we were completely comfortable. He noticed that my wife seemed a little chilly, but when he asked her if she was comfortable she played it off, saying, “Oh, I’m fine. It’s ok.” A minute later, Miguel returned with a red shawl and covered her with it, telling her not to be shy and to let him know if she needed anything else. Phenomenal.
I’m always hesitant to eat at these so-called “celebrity chef” restaurants because I’m not sure if I’m stepping into a gimmicky marketing cash-in. But everything at Mesa Grill was class. Granted, the front desk had a display of Bobby Flay cookbooks and sauces for sale, but it didn’t come off as gaudy or tacky. As I mentioned, I don’t know how much involvement Bobby Flay has with the Vegas Mesa Grill. There are two other Mesa Grills, one in New York and one in The Bahamas, and surely a guy as obviously busy as Bobby Flay can’t have his eye on each of them at once. Nevertheless, it’s apparent from watching his shows and now dining in his restaurant that his food and dining philosophy – or the philosophy that he exudes through his television persona – is exemplified quite convincingly in his restaurant. Out of all the great food I’ve eaten and restaurants I’ve dined at on this vacation and over the past several years, Mesa Grill stands up there with the best of them.