Emeril Lagasse is one of the great guys of food.
A true mensch.
He can be single-handedly credited with popularizing food with the post baby-boom generation, inventing the Food Network, and making gastronomic passion, the honing of kitchen skills, and the ability to wax poetic about chanterelles and farmstead cheeses, popular with heterosexual men.
Yeah, that’s what we credit Lagasse with the most: Making gastronomy safe for straight guys.
Not that it always hasn’t been so. Going back to Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin, the horn dog in search of a corn dog has always been around. But in the eighties and even into the nineties, there wasn’t exactly a river of testosterone flowing through the food world.
Then Emeril came along to put the “man” back in mayonnaise. He brought macho back to braising and baking, and revolutionized the way lots of people (especially ham-fisted, American hetero dudes) looked at food and cooking.
So we have mountains of respect for the guy, have met him, and always found him to be friendly and charming to everyone — even prickly critics.
We just wish we liked his namesake restaurant more.
Because at two lunches there in the past year, the food has been plainly conceived (at best) to downright crude in execution.
Who knows when standards got lowered here, but methinks the moving of chef Sean Roe over to Delmonico (still the best Emeril venue in town), may have had something to do with it.
Regardless, our lobster bisque was non-too-lobster-y, way too thick, and devoid of charm. The cedar-planked mahi mahi was overwhelmed by the smoky scent of the wood (although our dining companion liked it), and pistachio-crusted redfish — not even in the same league as this version –
– crusted with pecans and served to us at Marche Bacchus a few days later.
The latter was a good piece of fish, against a backdrop of bitter vegetables and a buttery, smoky emulsion sauce; the former, a piece of fish with a bunch of ground nuts on top.
All of this could have been saved by a killer dessert, but the “beignets” were thick, bread-like, and heavy enough to use as German food. They were not worthy of the name, and the founders of the Cafe du Monde must be rolling over in whatever muffuletta they’re buried in.
Topping it all off was slow, inattentive, amateurish service that exemplified this craft at its worst: Lots of people moving around and acting busy, but nothing getting done.
You know it had to be bad, ‘cuz ELV is famous for not caring (and barely mentioning) service in his reviews — so inured to it (good or bad) has he gotten over the years.
So Emeril, we love you. Straight or gay, the men of America salute you and all you have done to raise our culinary consciousness.
We just wish the restaurant named after you performed at a level befitting your legacy.
EMERIL’S FISH HOUSE
In the MGM Hotel and Casino
3799 Las Vegas Blvd. South
Las Vegas, NV 89109