As luck would have it, ELV ran into three notable restaurant people this past weekend. Each had been to Central at Caesars and each had a definite opinion about it. Here are tidbits of some of the conversations:
Well Known Executive Chef at Famous Restaurant Group (WKECAFRG): “I love the concept. If I had it (right off the Caesars check-in lobby), I’d do 15 mil a year…(but) some of my food was in-ed-ible. The deviled eggs were spoiled and the shrimp cocktail was cheap, frozen shrimp with a mostly Heinz ketchup sauce.”
Executive Chef at Famous Steakhouse (ECAFS): “I liked the lamb shank, but the fish (halibut with mushroom and baby arugula) was just a little square of fish on the plate and our waiter didn’t have a clue about the menu.”
General Manager at Famous Seafood Restaurant (GMAFSR): “Most of our meal was disappointing. Did you have the Caesar? It was too cold…straight from the refrigerator…and a round of lettuce smothered in some kind of dressing. I’m a purist, and I know everyone has their take on these things, but it looked like a mess.”
As a matter of fact, ELV did have the goat cheese Caesar, and even though it was as far from a traditional one as chicken and waffles are from beef Wellington, actually liked its tang and creaminess. (Ours wasn’t too cold.)
We didn’t have the halibut, in keeping with our core belief that seafood in the middle of the desert (and 250 miles away from an ocean) is best consumed at a seafood restaurant, or some other one specializing in fine fish cookery. But the lamb shank was just as good as ECAFS said, and the shrimp cocktail just as atrocious as WKECAFRG found it. Our deviled eggs weren’t spoiled, and because they know us here, our service (from the finely fetching Brittany) was top notch.
One thing concerning GMAFSR was, most of the (union) service staff, seemed to have been plopped into the restaurant without proper instruction about the chef or the menu, but we agreed this is a growing pain that can quickly disappear if upper management is doing their jobs.
When it comes to the pork loin with flageolet beans, hangar steak with onion carbonara (something GMAFSR found good but gimmicky, coming as it does in a separate vessel), salad nicoise, steak tartare, french fries and rotisserie chicken, the kitchen is doing its job splendidly. The fried chicken and bacon and onion tarte were good, but not as life changing as we expected them to be, but the gougères could keep us at the bar all day long nibbling on them. Big, light, puffy and cheesy, they are worthy of 3 Michelin stars all by themselves.
As is the napoleon — a six inch high rectangle of wispy mille-feuille pasty sandwiching almost preternaturally pure pastry crème. Michel Richard has obviously spent some serious time with his cooks showing them his serious pastry chops, and it shows from your first, flaky, fabulous destruction of this impressive composition.
The issue, as all three restaurant pros pointed out, isn’t how everything tastes right now, when the place is slowly cranking into gear (and doing a few hundred covers), but rather, how will it maintain quality control when 1,200 diners are passing through its (non-existent) doors, 24 hours a day. All expressed admiration for Richard as one of the few chefs to open fabulous restaurants over thirty years on both coasts, but all wondered if the sheers numbers might overwhelm the pristine nature of his cooking and make this just another casino food factory (and money machine).
As will we.
In Caesars Palace Hotel and Casino
3570 Las Vegas Blvd. South
Las Vegas, NV 89109