Our household has a time honored Thanksgiving tradition of trying to do something completely different for the holiday every year. Two years ago we traveled to
Siberia Idaho to break bread with friends and family; last year I spent the day roasting a duck, and cooking my own version of Pilgrim food with a twist. This year, Luke wanted to introduce me to the Las Vegas tradition of eating Thanksgiving dinner in a casino. Since we both have a severe aversion of buffets- and standing in line for an hour to get to said buffet- we took the holiday as an excuse to try one of the celebrity restaurants we have had our eye on for quite some time: Gordon Ramsay Steak in the Paris Las Vegas Hotel and Casino.
Luke and I don’t generally enjoy the same television programming; he watches a lot of science fiction, while I learn more towards a mixture of trashy reality programming on the E! channel and dramas that appeal to women (I mean you Grey’s Anatomy). But early on in our relationship we discovered that we could both agree on shows that involved reality cooking. And so over the course of about a year, we scoured both Hulu and Netflix, to watch all of the available Kitchen Nightmares, Master Chef seasons 1 and 2, and the seriously underrated British show The F-word (check it out on Hulu). Pretty soon, Gordon Ramsay was our home boy, we referenced his opinions like we knew him personally, and we became self-proclaimed experts at all things restaurant related.
And then, seemingly overnight, Gordon Ramsay invaded Las Vegas. I can’t tell you the exact timeline for how everything opened, but one day we had no Gordon Ramsay restaurants, and the next we had three. There’s Gordon Ramsay Burgr at Planet Hollywood, Gordon Ramsay Pub & Grill at Caesars Palace, and Gordon Ramsay Steak at Paris. After knocking out Burgr last Halloween (fun atmosphere, clever food), and the Pub one random afternoon on the strip (overpriced for pub food, too pretentious) we set our sights on the Holy Grail of Ramsay dining and waited for the right opportunity to go to GR Steak. Our (hopefully) last Thanksgiving in Las Vegas seemed like the perfect oppotunity.
To prepare yourself for GR Steak, I think it is important to understand what the Las Vegas strip in general is all about. This is a city that requires a person to purchase a bottle of grocery store vodka for a hundred dollars just to have the honor of sitting down in a “nightclub” that would be called “a bar” anywhere else. This is where performers like Britney Spears and Celine Dion make big money to crank out their greatest hits 5 nights a week- without any expectation of writing new material. The Vegas Strip is about bigger, flashier, overindulgence. And so when a tourist comes to a celebrity restaurant on the Strip, they are expecting a show. It is a once in a lifetime experience- meaning they probably aren’t coming back again. These celebrity restaurants are about giving the people what they want- cranking out the signature dishes the chef is known for. It isn’t about pushing boundaries or trying something new, it is about giving the people what they expect.
And so, GR Steak does. The music is thumping, the ceilings are high. The hostesses are attractive twenty-somethings poured into tight black outfits, who will lead you through a futuristic, spaceship-like tunnel, into the grand dining room. If you are lucky enough to sit on the second level (as we were) you can people watch the other diners from the top of the sweeping staircase. The top level also offers a full view of the so-very-red and chrome decor, not to mention the enormous British flag that is part of the domed ceiling.
Once seated, guests are presented ipads on which to view the wine and beverage list (it is worth noting, the Ramsay uses ipads for the drink menu in all three of his Vegas properties). The effect is half cool, half annoying. It is actually much easier to simply read a paper menu, then to be forced to click on a picture of a cocktail to find out what is in it. Thankfully, the rest of the menu is easy to read; there is a “Hell’s Kitchen tasting menu” for the Ramsay super-fan crowd, complete with an optional wine pairing, and then your standard Steak House menu. As I mentioned in my review on Echo and Rig, I generally find Steak House menus a little bit boring. GR Steak falls somewhere in between; he offers a combination of classic cuts and typical sides- Bone-In Ribeye and creamed corn, New York Strip and spinach, and over the top indulgences- cavier menu, shellfish platter, foie gras.
And then of course, the Ramsay signature dishes- the menu items that, let’s be serious, most people are showing up specifically to sample. Mainly, the Beef Wellington. And I am no different- beef wellington is the whole reason I wanted to come.
Let’s talk about the food! Overall the quality was impeccable. From the beginning it was clear that while Ramsay may be stretched thin as far as his ability to be a hand’s on owner, his high standards continue to be met. The bread basket offered a freshly baked variety of rolls and bread with herbed butter. So good.
When in Rome, (or Paris as the case may be) you might as well go with the super glutinous flow. In that spirit, we decided to order the Seared Hudson Valley Foie Gras, with herbed goat cheese pop overs for our appetizer. Is foie gras on the menu because it is fancy, decadent and a sure best seller? Probably. But it also tasty. Who doesn’t like Foie Gras? (Besides animal rights activists, obviously).
The popovers were light and flaky. But the best part of this appetizer was the sauce; I licked the plate clean, using the left over bread from the bread basket. Yum. Foie Gras is one of those impossibly decadent dishes that are only to be eaten on special and rare occasions. This was totally worth it.
Finally, the main event. The dish I waited two years to eat. My beef wellington arrived.
And it was everything I dreamed it would be. The puff pastry was flaky, the meat was tender and cooked the promised medium rare. The potato puree was a creamy addition, and the red wine demi glaze was yummy. Ahhhh, I can cross this off my bucket list now.
Since there is no good reason to order one dish, when you can order two, Luke got the duet of lamb- a mini shepard’s pie and a lamb chop.
Again, points for perfect medium rare cook on the lamb. And the sauce….never let it be said, that Gordon can’t make a good meat sauce.
Since no trip to a Steak House is complete without sampling the mac & cheese, we got an order of that as well.
And here is my only minor complaint; the mac & cheese is truffled. With truffle oil. Which is SUCH a freaking gimmick. For those of you who don’t know, let’s have a little truffle lesson. Truffles are technically a fungus that are most commonly used in French cooking. They are expensive due to the fact that they only grow in certain regions, under certain conditions, during certain times of the year. And on top of all of that, they are a pain in the ass to harvest. They are used sparingly, due to their price and rareness. Truffle oil doesn’t actually contain truffles at all; it is usually an olive oil that is flavored with synthetic chemicals. Basically it is olive oil flavored with perfume. Chefs started using truffle oil in things like mac & cheese when they realized people want the prestige of ordering truffles without actually having to pay the price of what they cost. And it actually worked! Truffled foods started becoming a trend, and people are actually willing to pay more for a food with the word “truffle” attached to it, even though the oil is almost unbearable in taste. Not to mention it takes what is otherwise lovingly prepared food made out of high quality ingredients, and then dumps a synthetic chemical all over it. I wish I could say I expect more out of Gordon Ramsay, but the thing is, this is Vegas, and the people want to feel like they are eating high priced truffles. His Burgr restaurant also offers truffled french fries. And so while I’m sure Gordon knows that using truffle oil is a huge sham, for now it is on the menu, and people are stuck with truffled macaroni.
We also got dessert; unfortunately, I don’t have a picture of it because I was so stuffed with
wine food by the end of the meal, that I started to feel a little queasy, and spent half of dessert recovering in the restroom. However, it was a chocolate mouse with brownie bites, that must have been fantastic, because Luke had eaten the whole thing by the time I got back to the table. In the name of digestion, I also tried the French press coffee, which comes out with three chocolate lolly pops- each containing a different liquor in the center. Word to the wise- don’t eat so much truffled macaroni that you have to sacrifice the dessert course. It isn’t worth it. Or at least eat a sensible salad for lunch before your dinner, instead of spending all day eating potato chips and cheese balls, because it is a HOLIDAY gosh darn it, and I’ll each junk food it I want to. You will be sorry.
So that was our Thanksgiving. It was every bit the over the top, hyper indulgent meal I hoped it would be. It was cool, and trendy, and a sight to see. With all that said, would I go back? Probably not, unless a friend was in town who really wanted to go. That’s the thing about Vegas shows- once you’ve gone once, you feel like you’ve gotten your experience, and it’s on to the next spectacle.