Holy Glasnost Batman! KGB Has Built a Better Burger!

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We at ELV love burgermeister Hubert Keller, and steak hache impressario¬† Laurent Tourondel is one of our best friends. So consternation and contumaciousness confounds our conscience as we contemplate crowing about Comrade Kerry’s comestibles.

One thing we love about Kerry Simon is we’re always giving him a hard time about being a high brow, classically-trained chef cooking such low brow food. But he takes it like the good sport he is, and is never less than gracious about any criticism he receives.

Truth be told, we give our good buddy LT the same shite, and both of them shrug it off with the same insouciance. Neither has anything left to prove as a chef, and both enjoy running restaurants that don’t require endless, critic-pleasing cartwheels to keep their reputations afloat.

All three of these uber-chefs have burger restaurants in our humble burg, and a ground beef patty at either BLT Burger, Burger Bar, or KGB: Kerry’s Gourmet Burgers, is so full of roasted, juicy, beefy goodness that you are reminded why ground steak seduced the American post-war palate, and what the de-nuded, fast food versions have done to its former magnificence.

One of our favorite hamburger anecdotes is that, on the original Delmonico’s menu in mid-19th Century New York, ground beef was as expensive as regular cuts of steak, chops, etc.. In fact, it was one of the more expensive things on the menu due to its having to be ground, seasoned, shaped, etc. before it was cooked. Hamburger, a luxury item? Go figure.

If that old tidbit is one of our favorites, it comes in right beside another, brand new favorite: KGB’s Classic American — a simple, Creekstone Farms, all-natural, beef burger, lightly packed, properly seasoned, and expertly grilled, nestled in a large, house-made, impeccably fresh, glazed bun. It may the best burger in town. It is certainly the best cheeseburger we’ve had this year. Great burgers are all about proportions — from the bread to beef ratio to the amount of cheese and condiments, everything must be in perfect balance so each accent surrounding the beef compliments, instead of detracts from, the goodness within.

And since ELV is all about proportionality in all things, he thinks it only fair to dub KGB, Burger Bar and BLT Burger the blond, brunette and redhead(s) of ultimate, burger satisfaction.

One thing that sets KGB’s beauty apart is its $11 price tag — quite a bargain for Creekstone Farms beef. Another plus is Simon doesn’t overwhelm you with choices — you can build your own here, but it won’t take you a half hour to mix and match dozens of ingredients, as only a handful of top quality choices are offered in each category. Combine that with a foot long, garlicky Nathan’s Famous tube steak (served on a superior hot dog roll with house-made, spicy relish), some sweet potato tater tots, and a malted milkshake sample platter, and you have the perfect all-American meal.

The super-cool, retro-Soviet decor is also a plus — even if it’s way too hip for the room — the room in this case being the hotel housing Harrah’s slack-jawed hordes.

Is it the best burger in town? Probably too early to early to tell, but we will harp that the next time we get a hankerin’ for a hamburger, we’re headin’ to Harrah’s.

KGB: Kerry’s Gourmet Burgers

In Harrah’s Hotel and Casino

3475 Las Vegas Blvd. South

Las Vegas, NV 89109

702.285.7694

8 thoughts on “Holy Glasnost Batman! KGB Has Built a Better Burger!

  1. JC. Love the site, consult it daily….but(and isn’t there always one) not sure about kgb. Went today and old fries, stale bun, and what seemed to be a pre-formed patty, well-seasoned and cooked correctly though to be fair. In short, not up to Burger Bar or BLT, not to mention the walk through Harrahs, a real treat. I must ask: (a) did they know who you were when you ate there and (b) is there a little Iron Chef love extended for Kerry? Also, while the pre-set burgers are reasonable (let’s not forget KGB is in Harrahs), the BYB is expensive-75 cents for lettuce? I fashioned a similar burger as the classic, addition-wise, and it was about 18 bucks(let’s not forget KGB is in Harrahs). Maybe we caught an off day?

  2. We were there last Sat evening (10/9) at 6:30pm. The food was just ok – my husbands burger was cold. The service was appalling – a bunch of kids running the place, totally oblivious to customer service.
    DH ordered a Tanqueray martini on the rocks – waiter brings it in an up glass, then when we said “on the rocks” – he said “oh is that what you said?” Goes away, obviously pours it into a glass with ice and brings it back – totally watered down.
    They brought out my nieces dinner at least 10 minutes before the others , she sat and waited for the rest of us to get ours, we told her to go ahead but she is too polite.
    My nephew ordered another beer, a waitress brought it, then a while later, another waitress brought another beer and when we pointed out he already had one – she said “well now you have two”.
    I asked for the check “I would like the check please”. She gave it to my nephew who graciously tried to pay until I threatened him with bodily harm.
    I like Kerry Simon – loved his food at the Hard Rock – roast chicken out of this world. I did not think this place was up to his standards.
    Ellen

  3. ELV responds (especially to Theirry): We are of like mind on Harrah’s – one of the most jumbled, and least appealing places to walk into on the entire Strip. Why they blew up the DI and Sands and left this cheapo joint to have 9 lives is a question only accountants can answer.
    As to being recognized: We know Simon well (about as well as a critic can know a subject), and have had a prickly relationship with him over the years — but still like him and admire (if not always having a lot of respect for what he does with) his immense talent. So we never dine anonymously in any of his restaurants and only pay about half the time. We should’ve mentioned this in the piece, but talking about $$$ is so declasse don’t you think. ;-}
    Regarding the food: our burger was anything but hard-packed (look at the extreme close-up!), and the bun tasted like it was no more than an hour old.
    Ellen’s complaints seem more service and cocktail-oriented, and no offense intended, but we always scratch our heads at statements like: “my husband’s burger was cold,” as it should’ve been sent back (and I can’t imagine KGB not whisking it off the table and replacing it). If any restaurant doesn’t offer or refuses to do so, THEN you have a huge and valid complaint.

    Thanks to both of you for reading and caring enough to write,
    ELV

  4. John, totally agree, it was only when we were in the car on the way home that DH complained to me about his burger (after my extended rant), had it been mine – it would have been “whisked away immediately”.
    I too admire KS, and have met him on a few occasions and believe he cares about his customers; that is why the service at KGB was so surprising. Because they are in Harrah’s they are allowed to slack off? I don’t think so!
    Ellen

  5. I enjoy Eating LV, reviews by John Curtas, and Chef Simon’s work, but this take on KGB is baffling. Here’s my long-winded review from last month:

    Normally I adhere to a rule about not reviewing meals during Restaurant Week, since these restaurants are helping out our local charity organization, Three Square. But KGB: Kerry’s Gourmet Burgers was such an alarmingly bad lunch experience, I feel compelled to break my own rule.

    The crummy name for this self-proclaimed “burger and vodka bar” should have been a tip-off, but I made my way into Harrah’s to find that the Soviet theme had been pushed to wretched excess. Murals like this one were painted all over the walls, sort of a comic book version of sketches on a 15 year-old’s Pee Chee folder. At the entrance, there was picture of chef Kerry Simon, dressed in military garb, with a caption under it which read “Celebrity Chef” (I am not making this up.) Is this supposed to make the diner feel better about eating $13 burgers?

    Also, do they really have to decorate with emblems of one of history’s most oppressive regimes? Seeing this picture, Anne wryly observed, “Oh, it’s just like the Confederate flag- harmless kitsch now!” They even had the waitresses dressed up in these skimpy military uniforms, but they looked poorly tailored and kind of cheap. Sorry to go all Project Runway on you, but at this point I was really getting nervous about my lunch.

    Here’s a picture of the first course:

    Yep, a salad, and one you’ve eaten hundreds of times. I didn’t bother to take a picture of the actual main course, burger and fries, since the burger was shrouded with mounds of iceberg lettuce. It had American cheese, onion, mayo, and a white bread bun, and it looked about as exciting as it sounds! But check out the dessert:

    Cotton candy. It’s on the menu for $5. Really. Special flavors? Twist on technique? Artful presentation? NO. $5. At this point, I felt like the joke was on me. KGB gets a solid D, the quality of the meat itself being the sole salvation for this disaster of concept and execution.

    I think there are effective alternatives to some of the ideas at KGB, and here’s a list of places you should run to instead of setting foot in KGB:

    Simon (Palms Place) – executive chef Kerry Simon, same guy, same kind of “comfort food” concept, but convincingly rendered here.

    Munch Bar (Caesar’s Palace) – Bryan Ogden’s casual fare place. If you can overlook the gaudy graphics on the wall and the stupid appeals to the energy-drink crowd, the food is actually pretty good. It is just across the street from KGB.

    Le Burger Brasserie (Paris) – Scantily clad theme waitresses who appear much happier and more comfortable in their ridiculous outfits.

    Red Square (Mandalay Bay) – If you really need a Soviet theme to accompany your meal, at least Red Square has its Lenin statue decapitated, which at least gives you hope that they possess awareness of Soviet brutality, and the problem with using it as your decor.

    Happy eating, comrades!

  6. went to KGB yesterday for lunch and it was HORRIBLE!!!
    ELV what were you smoking when you wrote this review!had 3 apps, mac n cheese sticks, no flavor and totally devoid of seasoning, the buffalo chicken spring roll, dry chopped chicken, overstuffed in a soggy wrapper that was split. the fried pickles were the only thing that was half way decent, but again, not seasoned and the pickle was too big, and the tempura was not crisp, but the dipping sauce was pretty tasty.
    2 of us had the braised short rib sloppy joe, which was probaly the worst thing i have ever eaten. the fries were frozen fries, which is ok, but they were cold and soggy. the other person in the group had the turkey, which was the worst quality frozen turkey patty i have ever seen, the stuffing was mushy with no taste, the cranberry tasted like ocean spray canned sauce.
    service was terrible, the girl waiting on our table could not answer questions about the food, and struggled to even speak english.
    another lack luster Kerry Simon spot, ohhh great!!

  7. John, I just love you! You crack me up! Thanks for the review! Feeling like a chesseburglar tonight!

    ….I ordered your book today…I would love to do some sort of food challenge with you at the market….It could be a heck of a lot of fun!

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