OSCAR’S – Impolitic Eating

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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



16 thoughts on “OSCAR’S – Impolitic Eating

  1. Binions should be the flag ship downtown and it’s almost there except for bland, limp veg & horrid coffee. The prime rib rarely misses.
    However the best steak I had downtown was Porcini crusted rib eye at Triple George. Even better than my 1 time at Vic & Anthony’s
    I don’t know if downtown needs Oscar’s to be great as much as it needs it to bring in the $$$ and the wannabes. It while likely succeed there.

  2. John, I know you’ll think I’m crazy, but I liked my dinner there. I had a rather thick chicken soup, which I liked, and a terrific skirt steak for $26. Yes, the “latkes” are just hash brown patties, and the steak isn’t up to what you’d get on the Strip, but it is half the price. And the girls are cute here, you gotta admit.

  3. @swolfla
    Very stupid comment.. What are you in charge of the new Station Casino commercials.. I am not an Union employee but it sounds like either you didn’t make the cut at a union establishment or did and got fired and they didn’t back you.. How do you put all the people from Vegas in a union house in that category.. So tired of people like you making horrible comments like that. There are good and bad employees in every house in town, maybe you are just a little jealous of the insurance they are provided or the wages they receive. I know I wish I had them but I sure wouldn’t judge someone for having the job.. So get educated on the subject or get a union job ! If you want to put down the unions, hotels or corporations I get it, corporations like Harrah’s have destroyed Vegas and God knows the unions are corrupt in many cases. Leave the people who are lucky enough to have any type of job alone with the smart ass comments..

  4. Disappointing, albeit, unsurprising to hear!

    I so wanted them to “do The Plaza right”! But so far, it really sounds like lipstick on a pig. The setting for Oscars is as unique as you can get. And love or hate the whole Fremont Street Experience, this space had the potential to really make an impact.

    Too bad it sounds like all they’ve gone for here is living out the cliche and catering to a fairly low common denominator!

  5. This one was disappointing to read, not so much of the hopes of something good happening downtown, but should any review of a restaurant begin with those opening two paragraphs? Or would a proper review have included those second-hand quotes in the final graph? You are usually above this, John.

    As for the heart of the matter, we have to agree with Max on the skirt steak – stuffed with 4 cloves of garlic on our visit, and with plenty of crushed red pepper crusted on top, it brought a more daring level of seasoning than we are accustomed to finding. But the biggest disappointment was the labeling of the “Alpine Village Chicken Supreme” soup. There was a hope that it would be a re-creation of what we used to get in those pewter tourines back in the day. but it did not resemble the old Alpine Village product at all.

  6. ELV responds:

    As to @Quincy A.’s point: OSCAR’S entire raison d’etre is Goodman’s gin-swilling, ex-mob lawyer, bombastic “Happiest Mayor On Earth” persona. That is what they are selling (indeed, all they are selling), and, as such, is fair game for comment.

    When Oscar’s gets serious about its food (doubtful), so will we.

    As to @Max’s point: We doubt he would be so gracious if he had paid for a bowl of that gummy, tasteless slop with his own $$$.

    What all of you see in that skirt steak is unfathomable to us. Ours was an under-seasoned slab of leather. It is painfully obvious that Oscar’s is scrimping both on ingredients and kitchen talent…neither of which is surprising since all Goodman is doing is cashing a check for the use of his name and not giving a shit.

  7. Looking at the photo of “one friendly broad” and then the photo of the filet mignon, some interesting comparisons come to mind. Both seemingly appear attractive at first glance, but once you get past the cow botulism injected face and silicone enhanced bodice, you dig into the meat of the matter. Alas, you’re left with anything but a memorable experience. As I once said after a trip to Las Vegas, “I paid for what?”…

  8. John, I did pay, and have the receipt to prove it. But I did eat a free meal there on press night, though I didn’t have soup until my review dinner, which I did pay for. I am, however, reimbursed, and it’s hard to know how I would have felt if it were truly my nickel. (I’m sure I’d be eating pad Thai at Le Thai instead.)

  9. Six of us (locals) just ate at Oscars at the Plaza Hotel. The waiter was abrupt & sarcastic. The skirt steak was like shoe leather.When making the reservation we were asked if we were celebrating anything & I said 2 b-days & an anniversary. She said she would note that on the reservation. Upon completing the meal we were told they do nothing for any celebration unless you pay for it. Why ask what the celebration was? How tacky.

  10. Oscar’s is a A Las Vegas embarrassment … Worst dining experience ever!!

    Horrible all the way around – indeed we feel like we have been ripped off – and thoroughly disrespected by the Management and paid for the experience to boot! I am sorry to say, avoid this place like the plague.

  11. Even the phone calls from Adam, the manager, (after our appeals for someone to give a darn) were rude and completely uncaring. We spend a lot of money in Vegas – but won’t spend another penny at Oscar’s. Maybe he’s just looking for a tax write-off when it closes!

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