Ahh…the arrogance that only our former mayor seems to be able to get away with. His schtick has worn well with the clown-loving, back-slappers who’ve kept him in office over the the years, and he wears his brazenness like a gaudy necktie, hoping the hoi polloi won’t ask to see what’s behind the bombast and the Bombay. Until now, no one has asked any hard questions of him — no personal ones anyway — as the Smith Center has gotten built, Tony Hsieh has saved Fremont Street(?), and downtown, at its best, is slightly less of a dump than it was when he took office twelve years ago.
But now he’s asking us for money — support for something much more personal than a simple political career. He’s asking the public to throw their hard-earned lucre down for something he’s put his name on. Something with much more visceral and victual impact on his fans than a simple vote. Elections are one thing, but we’re talking about dinner, and fans who “love Oscar” because he’s a loveable buffoon — who’s as easy to like as a well-stocked happy hour — are now being asked to spend money on a meal with his brand on it. And it’s going to be a tougher sell. As tough as the skirt steak he serves, in fact. So tough that we’re betting you will agree that, as a restaurateur, Oscar Goodman makes a great politician.
A giant picture of the big guy greets you as you make your way to the second floor of the Plaza to the famous rotunda now housing Oscar’s — the point of which is to make hizzoner seem larger than life (get it?). Subtlety has never been Oscar’s strong suit, so the ham-handedness seems more than appropriate. A long wall filled with pictures leads you to the hostess desk, where the helpful gals will seat you right away (with or without reservations) if there’s an opening. The rotunda has been redone in what can only be called hotel post-modern — sleek chairs and dark booths sharing space with antique chandeliers and big lamps. Those booths are problematical as they are somewhat cramped with four average adults in them, as are the tables trying to hold all your food.
Service is spotty — it takes too long to get just about everything: water, menus, the wine, a check — but well meaning. The hostesses (“broads” in the tag line for the place) circulate and are charming to all tables — lingering for conversation if asked, wishing you a good time if not. In all, even with Oscar’s visage seared in your brain, the decor has to rate two big thumbs up, and certainly be given props for being the best looking restaurant to open in downtown since Lillie Langtry’s was at the Golden Nugget in the 80s.
Unfortunately, you can’t eat ambiance. The bread is your first clue: thin-crusted, airy and insubstantial, it wouldn’t pass muster on a second rate sandwich. Then come the soups: so thick, gummy and tasteless they suggest something one of Goodman’s former clients would complain about in the hoosegow. The only way we even knew which was lobster bisque and which one was chicken was the shunt of lobster meat sticking up in one. Close your eyes and you couldn’t taste them apart.
Next, the Caesar salad. An abomination for which there is no excuse. A lettuce melange (radicchio, leaf, and arugula) smothered in some sort of soft, bland, grated cheese without the slightest acquaintance to Parmesan. Lemony? Nope. Garlicky? Not a bit. Napped in olive oil and anchovies? Fuggidabadit. Just a mass of salad under a white pile of tepid cheese mush.
Oh yes, and then there were the steaks: a filet that was under-seasoned but still okay, and a skirt steak that was unchewable. The corn souffle tasted fine, once you got past the grainy gruel holding it together, and the crab cake was serviceable — more crab than filler — and cooked right. None of the dishes however, showed even a cooking school-level of craftsmanship in the way it was plated.
The desserts were good enough (get the cheesecake if you go) but tasted like they were made off-premises. Add it all up and you have food of astounding mediocrity that doesn’t rise to the level of even Palm, Morton’s or Fleming’s. Is this is going to be the flagship for a downtown dining renaissance? Not even in Goodman’s gin-soaked dreams.
Two journalists — one food, the other political — have recently told ELV they’ve asked Goodman about the quality of the food at the restaurant and have gotten the same answer. “He told me he doesn’t really care about it, and just wants a speakeasy with hot women,” said the respected scribe.
After we both stopped laughing at the hubris behind such a callous remark, he then chimed in: “That’s like opening a casino and not caring about the gambling.”
Our dinner for two with a single glass of wine and two desserts came to $153. Ron’s in Arizona Charlie’s was twice as satisfying at half the price.
In the Plaza Hotel and Casino
1 South Main Street
Las Vegas, NV 89101