I am a lover of beef, but I believe it does great harm to my wit. – Shakespeare
Once called the Spanish Steps, a steakhouse has been located on this corner of the sprawling Caesars casino as long as ELV can remember. For some reason (mainly having to do with his abhorrence of mediocrity), he had always avoided eating here.
But then he started hearing (first from uber-pr guy Ken Langdon, then from others), that this in-house operation was actually dry-aging its beef on the premises. “Really?” he thought to himself. “Actually hanging sides of beef and steaks in a refrigerated locker for weeks to allow natural evaporation and enzymes to work their magic on the meat, turning it from flabby steer muscle, into funky fabulousness?”
When these questions were confirmed in the affirmative, and all doubts quelled, he was in faster than you can say postmortem myofibrils proteolysis.
The reason ELV goes on and on about dry-aged beef is because it just tastes better. Good chefs and meat men know this, but many of them would like you not to pay attention, and settle for the serumy/bloody/metallic tasting cryovac’d stuff that makes them more money because it doesn’t shrink an ounce or two while it’s in the fridge. But by valuing size over substance, those same purveyors of mediocrity fail to deliver a product that has naturally tenderized and developed that luscious, brown-roasted, beefy flavor that true carnivores crave.
ELV can forgive corpulent corporate cravenness in a chain steakhouse, but when pretensions to greatness are advertised, with prices to boot, it is the height of mendacity to foist a big, fat, $50 steak on the credulous public and brag about it being “wet-aged.”
The cool thing about Nero’s is that it serves some of the best, dry-aged steaks in town — better by far than more well known places — and no one is bragging about it (although they should be). Perhaps that will change soon, and when it does, expect a meat eaters stampede to this under-the-radar place. For while the beef here doesn’t come cheap (all steaks are in the $45-$52 range), at least you get what you pay for.
Both the classic New York strip and the chateaubriand we tried were perfectly cooked and deeply satisfying, and the last time we had a bearnaise this good, we were at Jacques Lameloise‘s joint in Chagny, France, where they practically invented the stuff. (This saucy superiority is no surprise since Corporate Executive Chef Eric Damidot is currently caressing the kitchen.)
On the negative side of the ledger (Hey, we’re a critic, we gotta criticize something!), whoever decorated the joint obviously learned their trade from this guy. The tables and chairs are plenty comfortable, but the art on the walls looks like something you buy at a roadside stand, and the whole joint has a dark, cheesy, 70’s vibe to it that belies the fact that it is only a few years into its present incarnation.
We weren’t especially keen on the huge and tasteless scallops either, but sommelier Scott Kaplan chose an elegant King Estate pinot gris to go with them and the nice, crabby crabcakes, so all was forgiven. The onion soup was also a worthwhile version, but would have benefited from a dollop of cognac, the way they serve it in Gay* Paree.
Within two bites, Nero’s 14 oz. New York strip entered ELV’s pantheon of great, dry-aged, Vegas steaks. With a bit more char on the crust it would’ve perfect, but as it is, you’d be hard pressed to find a more mineral-rich, umami-laden sirloin. The veal chop is nothing to shake a stick at either.
As for the rest in our exalted pantheon of protein, here they are:
Delmonico: Bone-in rib-eye or New York strip;
David Burke: They call it a New York strip, but it’s really the old-fashioned, Kansas City cut;
Botero: Bone-in rib-eye;
Craftsteak: Corn-fed, New York strip;
CUT: Corn-fed, Nebraska-raised, New York strip;
Carnevino: Cote de boeuf (double rib-eye) for two.
Stip Steak: For its butter-basted, New York strip that we’d prefer wasn’t butter-basted (the meat doesn’t need it);
Strip House: New York (not dry-aged) strip — if only for the delicious char they get on the meat’s surface;
Prime: For its six-peppercorn encrusted New York strip;
Craftsteak: Wagyu skirt steak (not dry-aged, but so beefy it’ll take your breath away).
We may have missed one or two, but these should give ELV’s faithful readers something to chew on for a while.
For another take on Vegas steaks, albeit one with overwrought prose and dubious choices (way too much wagyu, then trips to Robuchon, Savoy,** Flay and SeaBlue for steaks?), click here.
* As in: fraught with merrymaking and mirth.
** Having Guy Savoy or Joel Robuchon cook you a steak is like getting Picasso to paint your house.
In Caesars Palace Hotel and Casino
3570 Las Vegas Blvd. South
Las Vegas, NV 89109
702.731.7560 – Direct Line
877.346.4642 or 702.731.7731 – 24 hours Caesars Reservation Line