Mesa Grill

The Bar at Mesa Grill

A while back I sought advice on where to eat in Las Vegas during my visit there. All of you responded with pensive and thoughtful comments.

Unfortunately, my trip to Vegas went entirely unplanned. Because a family reunion brought me to Las Vegas in the first place, and didn’t know where I would be staying, what we would be doing and what familial obligations I’d have. For this reason, I didn’t bother to book any reservations in advance, and as a result, there were limited places where I could go.

A slew of disappointing phone calls and one last-minute reservation later, we found ourselves at the Mesa Grill, Bobby Flay’s Southwestern standby. It was the only place where we were able to secure a reservation on Christmas Eve.

After beginning our night with a tequila sunrise at the bar (pictured above), we began our meal with a warm bread basket filled with sweet jalapeno cornbread and soft butter. Our waiter recommended an appetizer for us: the tiger shrimp and roasted corn tamale, one of the original restaurant’s menu items. I felt the presentation was a little messy, however: While the tamale itself looked like a plentiful cornucopia of shrimp, it sat in a messy pool of with cilantro oil running off the sides. I’m pretty sure that was not the intention.

Tamale

Tiger Shrimp & Roasted Garlic Corn Tamale

The salmon, albeit flavorful and tender, wasn’t particularly exciting. I could have easily recreated this dish at home, with the exception of the multitude of different sauces drizzled underneath. I enjoyed the colorful assembly of the dish, although I can’t help but wonder: What’s with the asymmetrical sauce presentations?

Ancho Chile-Honey Glazed Salmon

Ancho Chile Honey Glazed Salmon, Spicy Black Bean Sauce and Jalapeno Crema

I was positively drooling when my New Mexican Spice Rubbed Pork Tenderloin (below) arrived. I loved the trio of tenderloins and thought they looked delicious, although this is probably just because I can always appreciate a nice hunk of meat. The tenderloin is one of the kitchen’s most requested dishes, and was the favorite amongst those that we ordered this night. The rub was truly spicy, in a multitude of ways — the cumin to make it smoky, the chile to give the pork actual heat — and the precisely medium preparation was consistent throughout the cut, making every bite a memorably tender one. The bourbon ancho chile sauce added sweetness, balancing the flavors. The perfect foil to the heat? A sweet potato tamale, topped with rapidly melting pecan butter.

New Mexican Spice Rubbed Pork Tenderloin

Overall, the meal was enjoyable and met my (not particularly high) expectations. Our server was knowledgeable and accommodating, our food consistent and flavorful. Even our neighbors’ dishes looked appetizing — one of them had cornmeal crusted oysters that looked divine.

Was it mind-blowing? Not by any means. The tamales and salmon were good, and the pork tenderloin great, but nothing was phenomenal. With the exception of a “Southwestern-style Cioppino” that I spotted on the menu, there were no innovative dishes by today’s standards.  It then occurred to me that when the restaurant opened in New York’s Union Square neighborhood in 1991, the incorporation of Southwest flavors must have been groundbreaking.

As this thought flashed through my mind, I relished all of the culinary advancements that have been made in the fifteen years since then.

Mesa Grill, Caesars Palace, 3570 Las Vegas Blvd. South, Las Vegas, Nev. 702.731.7731

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3 Responses to “Mesa Grill”

  1. Have you seen the No Reservations episode where Anthony Bourdain and Michael Ruhlman go to Mesa Grill despite Bourdain’s disdain for Bobby Flay?

    Their take…

    On the same tamale you ordered:
    Ruhlman: If my next door neighbor in Cleveland comes to Vegas and eats at Mesa Grill, I want her to have a realistic sense of what made the guy important in the first place. This is decent food. It’s exactlly what it says it’s going to be. It’s not a lie…

    The shrimp are cooked really nicely. If the food sucked, you know, if the shrimp were rubbery and overcooked…
    Bourdain: We’d be all over it like a bad rash.
    Ruhlman: Absolutely. This is decent food so far.
    Bourdain: I’ve had a lot of authentic tamales. If I had this in Mexico, on the street, I’d be saying, “Holy Shit, this is one king hell of a tamale.

    On the smoked chicken and black bean quesadilla:
    Ruhlman: It’s good Super Bowl food.
    Bourdain: I hate it like poison. Is this better than a regular quesadilla?

    Their overall take:
    Bourdain: If I just dropped $1000 out there at Keno and I walked in here and I sat down, I’d be very very happy with this. I would say you know, I had a really good meal at Bobby’s. I had a nice piece of steak.
    Ruhlman: It’s needs more salt in the potatoes though, but again we’re nitpicking here on basically a decent dish.
    Bourdain: We are miserable, rotten, evil people…
    Ruhlman: It take a certain powerful, workhorse, visionary chef to pull off a restaurant in Vegas.
    Bourdain: So this is not the elephant graveyard for chefs?
    Ruhlman: No, I think it’s a great line and a lovely idea, but it’s not bearing out. In fact, they’re doing good food in Vegas.

    I have no idea why I decided to transcribe this for you :-), but you can watch it on Youtube (skip to the 4:53 mark):

  2. Thanks…I really love the recap. Thanks for transcribing. It seems that they hold mostly the same opinions that I do of the place–and although I know their opinion is just that, it’s secretly validating to me as well.

  3. Hey Susannah – Aubrey and I pretty much stuck to steak, baked potatoe, etc. if we ate out when we lived there. We worked in the Hotel showrooms, so we were happier going home and cooking. You ARE so adventurous!

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