Our staff had better things to do last week, so we were left to our own devices. And by “own devices,” we mean we were forced to dine alone.
In the most godforsaken place for good food in all of urban America.
And by “godforsaken place” we mean Fremont Street. That testament to our City Council’s stupidity that has haunted ELV since 1991.
Making the best of a bad situation, we got ourselves oiled up with a few first class cocktails from Alicia at the Downtown Cocktail Room, and then stumbled down the street looking for someplace, anyplace, that might put out a good plate o’ grub.
Needless to say, we stumbled for quite a while, because on Fremont Street (and all around it), the pickins are slim indeed.
But stumble we did until we found ourselves smack dab in front of the shitty and shopworn Four Queens, and staring straight at a big ole sign that said: HUGO’S CELLAR.
So we let gravity do its thing and fell down the steps and into a seat way in the back of this “institution.” (We didn’t want to stumble all the way to Siberia, that’s just where they put us.)
And that’s how we ended up dining at a place that hasn’t changed its concept, menu, cooking or plastic flowers since this guy was President.
Unfortunately, its prices are very much Las Vegas 2007, and no one is the better for it.
So we sobered up, and tucked into a standard-issue Hugo’s meal — shrimp in wine/butter sauce, compose-your-own-salad, lamb chops, sorbet (in one of those tasteless, edible cups that get handed out at kid’s cheapo birthday parties), and a “free” dessert — two chocolate-dipped strawberries with whipped cream accompanied by a forlorn dried apricot — likewise-dipped.
The four shrimp were large, overcooked, but adequately sweet and shrimp-y, the salad an abomination (only partly the restaurant’s fault — see below), and the lamb chops, roasted properly, but as tasteless as New Zealand lamb usually is. That being said, the peanut butter/cumin-based “Indonesian” sauce that came with them was salty, but surprisingly tasty.
As for that salad, it is a “choose-your-ingredients-and-I’ll-toss-it” affair wheeled over to the table by your solicitous waiter. Going for the gusto, and a little tipsy, we slurred and pointed our way to some romaine, with viscous, industrial, “Caesar” dressing, anchovies, unfrozen “bay” shrimp that truly were, chopped egg, onion, stale croutons-from-a-box, and some artichoke hearts. It was an unmitigated disaster of salad composition that ELV has (mostly) himself to blame for.
The ingredients, however, we blame on the restaurant. As we will the wine steward who ignored us even after we asked for him, and while we spent half the meal gazing at the wine list. (That list, btw, is short, moderately priced, and unimaginative in the extreme. Nevertheless, it has garnered an “excellence” award from the Wine Spectator — which just goes to show how worthless those awards are.)
That wine guy did, however, make a big deal of opening and tasting the Steele ‘o7 pinot noir ordered by the table next to us.
The thing about Hugo’s is, it’s been trotting out the same, dated, boring, barely competent fare for so long, it’s built up a loyal cadre of customers who consider it the real deal in gourmet dining. And if they’re happy with a Wendy’s-level salad bar and a sommelier who parades around tasting $20 bottles of wine from a silver tastevin, who are we to tell them any different?
Our meal for one came to $98 (food + two glasses of wine) + a $20 tip.
In the Four Queens Hotel and Casino
202 Fremont Street
Las Vegas, NV 89101