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MGM Grand: Some Notes Of Underwhelming Dining, Including Emeril’s & A Mini-bar Report


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MGM Grand: Some Notes Of Underwhelming Dining, Including Emeril’s & A Mini-bar Report

Chino Wayne | Sep 16, 2005 01:19 AM

Maybelline, our Detroit iron delivered us under the porte cochère at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas at about 7:30 P.M. after a very pleasant, traffic free drive up the I-15 Sunday afternoon. Since I have been adhering to The Liquid Diet we had not made our usual stop at In-N-Out in Barstow; the Mrs. made do with a cup of coffee and a bag of potato chips from the Chevron mini-mart straddling the onramp to the 60 in Chino, while I resigned myself to a small package of beef jerky and a bottle of water.

We got situated in our room at about 8:30, desperate for food and drink. Since I knew our room would be equipped with a wet-bar I had initially acquired a 1.75 liter bottle of vodka, and 8, 1 liter bottles of diet tonic water and assorted snacks, which I planned to pack and bring. Prior to packing and departure, though, I thought, “You don’t need that much booze, you can make do with a couple of those mini-bottles of vodka and some tonic from the mini-bar and then supplement that with free drinks in the casino, let’s not go overboard.”

On reflection I wished I had “gone overboard”. Here we are ensconced in our sitting room desperate for libations and I go to the wet-bar, open the bottom cupboard and sure enough, one of those mini-bar refrigerators is there. I open that little cube up, anticipating some chilled beverages and some subsequent chillin’ for the Mrs. and I, and what do I find? A cold, empty chasm. Apparently the MGM Grand does not provide mini-bar service in their luxurious rooms.

It was now desperation time, so a call to room service for an order of penne with sausage and sun dried tomatoes for the Mrs., a shrimp Ceasar salad for me, and a 1.0 liter bottle of Absolut Citron and six 12 ounce bottles of tonic water for our cocktails.

So in terms of logistics and the economics of the situation for cocktails Sunday and Tuesday (Monday we drank “out”) we had to use Plan C.

Plan A (abandoned): 1.75 liters of Smirnoff + 4 liters of diet tonic = $22.00

Plan B (unavailable): 2 mini-bar bottles of vodka + 1-12 ounce bottle tonic + 2 free vodka tonics in the casino = $18.50 (including tip).

Plan C (ultimate fallback): 1.0 liter of Absolut Citron + 6-12 ounce bottles tonic = $89.50 (excluding tip.).

Needless to say, this was a lesson well learned, our luggage will never travel “dry” again.

The Mrs. enjoyed a cocktail and her pasta, except that she said it was greasy. I enjoyed a number of cocktails accompanied by some corn nuts I had packed, the total number of cocktails escapes me as I was by then in a medicated condition. I did enjoy my shrimp Ceasar salad, what there was of it. This was a not overly large bowl of torn Romaine with precisely six cold boiled medium to large sized shrimp in it. The shrimp were mixed in the salad, tail-on, which I found kind of strange, after all this was not a shrimp cocktail, and “handles” were unnecessary. Regardless, I ate it all, tails and all (I am also not adverse to eating shrimp shells). A creamy Ceasar dressing (real authentic, huh) was served on the side as was some grated parmesan. Oddly there were no croutons, which was fine, because I would have forgone them. There was also some bread and butter that the Mrs. scored (I almost never eat grain based foods these days). The total tab for this in-room dining and imbibing extravaganza came to $127.61 ($89.50 for the booze, $41.11 for the food and a $5.00 room service fee) excluding tip. More or less a typical room service meal, adequate, and the booze had the desired effect.

After pulling an all-nighter in slot machine Heaven for the Mrs. we slept in all day and took our one meal in the early evening Monday with some friends at Emeril’s New Orleans Fish House in the MGM. Of the four diners in our party one is a Chowhound, one is slowly becoming Chowhound-like and the other two are definitely civilians. As we were being seated one of the civilians in our party mentioned that her favorite restaurant is Claim Jumper, which did not surprise me in the least, what did surprise me was our server then interjected and advised us that Claim Jumper was her favorite restaurant also. Horror of horrors, what did this portend? Of course I advised the server that she was being blasphemous in Emeril’s house.

I settled on a vodka tonic and the Mrs. asked for a glass of wine and our two dining companions asked for water. So while the trio of un-houndly diners perused the menu, I perused the wine list. Noting that a single glass of wine was going to run about $10.00 a pop, I wisely made the decision to order a bottle of wine. Since this was not really a ‘houndly gathering I did not make any notes of my exact wine selection. (DISCLAIMER: The Mrs. and Yours Truly are admitted and unabashed wine hicks, we make no pretenses to any knowledge let alone expertise in the art of producing wine or in the ability to distinguish between and appreciate fine wines, we are, however, eminently qualified in judging the wines we consume and determining if they are to our own personal liking.) I ordered a German Riesling of the Kabinett style. I do not know the name on the label, but damn, that was good stuff. The best part of the entire meal. Cool, sweet but not sugary, crisp but not astringent. Very, very pleasing to our palates. I ended up ordering two bottles for the table, and I probably consumed at least 2/3’s if not more of this nectar.

The food, in my opinion, was underwhelming. Of course I had made the choice to dine at Emeril’s because I wanted fish due to my own dietary needs and preferences, and I had never experienced Mr. Legasse’s cuisine. So what did my three dining companions order in this “fish house”, roasted chicken, roasted chicken and a pork chop off the fixed menu. I, keeping my eye one the ball, ordered off the specials an appetizer which consisted of two diver scallops, pan seared and served on some sort of flattened flaky pastry (that resembled in shape a fish filet), and that appears on my receipt as “turnover”, there seemed to be some melted cheese under this and some vegetable matter that I could not identify, (and do not remember from the menu description, fault my lack of note keeping, vodka tonic and two bottles of wine for the lack of detail) and a bit of a white sauce. None of it had any stand-out flavor and the two scallops seemed over-cooked and a bit rubbery. My entrée was a piece of grilled sea bass, or maybe black sea bass (again, the memory is impaired) in a bowl on top of a bit of lobster risotto with a watery sauce. I could not discern much taste from the fish, and I have had sea bass before that has been truly flavorful and full bodied, this was neither. The risotto with a few small chunks of lobster was good, there was very little of it though. I did not “get” the sauce or “pan juice”, it did not seem to add any flavor, and simply watered everything down.

Each diner was served one very small mini corn muffin and two small (about an inch long, and 3/8ths of an inch in diameter) ”baton” of bread, that might have had some herbs in it. The corn muffin was a corn muffin, maybe it would have been useful as a vehicle for some honey. I did use the bread by breaking it, exposing the inner, “spongy” surface and used that as an implement to sop up the juice in my bowl of fish (bowl, not dinner plate, which I found kind of strange, but maybe not so, given the amount of “juice” in it).

I did score a bit of the Mrs.’ Grilled & Roasted Double Cut (butterflied) Pork Chop with Caramelized Sweet Potatoes, Green Chile Mole and Tamarind Glaze. Since the Mrs. likes her meat cooked to hockey puck consistency, this had no taste. The tamarind glaze seemed to lack any flavor, and if there was some sort of mole, I was not aware of it. The sweet potatoes were serviceable, if I were eating that type of food I would have put them all away, the Mrs. did not care for them as they were not sufficiently “candied” to her liking.

I also was the recipient of some of the Roasted Half Chicken on Tasso Ham Mashed Potatoes, Sautéed Haricot Vert and Natural Reduction. The roasted chicken was lovely to look at, but was dried out, the pan reduction helped, but not that much. I did not taste the green beans. The mashed potatoes with the added ham were tasty, and I could tell might be addicting to some.

One of our dining companions opted for dessert, the Bananas Foster Bread Pudding with Cinnamon Ice Cream & Walnut Caramel Rum Sauce, which also had a dollop of whipped cream on it. I had a very small taste of the “bread pudding”, this was not like any bread pudding I have ever had, it was not pudding-like in the least, more like a somewhat dry poundcake.

The food was appealing to the eye, I did not discern any aromas, and I certainly did not experience any “Bam!” moments eating any of it. I was hungry and it did the job in that respect. I definitely saw Emeril’s style in the precious breads, the lobster risotto, the potatoes loaded with ham and the piling on of the ice cream, sauce, whipped cream and some caramelized banana slices on a simple bread pudding dish. When we arrived for our early dinner at 5:30 there were very few diners seated, by the time we left at 7:30 the place was packed, so I guess on ongoing large presence on FoodTV does bring in the masses.

Total tab for one cocktail, two bottles of wine, one appetizer and four entrees was $264.31, exclusive of tip. (Scroll down to see photos of Emeril's food.)

Tuesday evening found the Mrs. and I in the Studio Café, the 24 hour dining room/coffee shop in the hotel, in preparation for a long night investing the family fortune in the casino. The Mrs. had unremarkable bacon and eggs, sourdough toast, coffee and orange juice. I had as a starter some totally inauthentic Asian style lettuce wraps. The filling which was some chicken, peanuts, some indeterminate other vegetable matter, all finely diced with about four individual leaves of cilantro and about a tablespoon of alfalfa sprouts accompanied by a dark, thick, sweetish sauce. The lettuce that was provided was about a half a head of iceberg lettuce, for crying out loud. Not some pleasing looking, pliable green leaf, red leaf or butter lettuce, but the cheap stuff, that breaks before it wraps around anything.

My entrée was roasted halibut. A decent piece of fish, decently cooked on top of some mashed potatoes, with chunks of about two medium shrimp, if that much, in the potatoes. No vegetables accompanied the entrée except for about four little pieces of warm, diced tomato. No bread was offered (I didn’t ask for it though, since I am not eating bread.)

The total for this underwhelming repast came to $56.14, excluding tip.

After another night of the Mrs. pulling a shift at the slots, we checked out of the hotel on Wednesday at Noon and repaired to the Studio Café once again for breakfast. The Mrs. had, I believe it was called, the Studio Special Breakfast, scrambled eggs, ham, hash browns, toast, pancakes, juice and coffee. I had an omelet with lox and sautéed diced onions, rye toast and coffee. This was probably the best meal I had during the three and a half days (it figures, keep it simple). I did not taste any of the Mrs.’ food, the pancakes did not seem to be buttermilk, not sure what they were, the ham looked like a piece of cheap, processed, boneless ham. The total for breakfast came to about $40 something (it was comped and I don’t have a receipt, by my recollection is that it was $40 something based on the tip I left.

While the rooms are nice at the MGM, on our next and probably subsequent visits to Las Vegas we will sleep, dine and drink at the MGM’s sister property, the Mirage. I don’t recall who was originally behind developing the MGM Grand, it and the Mirage are now both controlled by Kirk Kirkorian, a very astute financier, but the Mirage still seems to have some of Steve Wynn’s touch on it, in terms of the basic, hotel food and service (but don’t get me started on that sad excuse for a steakhouse, Kokomo’s, I just know that I like the room service and the 24 hour dining room in the Mirage better than MmmmmmmGummmmmmmmm.)


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