John Curtas is …

The Trouble with Vegas

The trouble with Las Vegas is, people (tourists and conventioneers mostly) are clamoring for this, basically raw, green bean salad:

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…and these used-to-be-yeasty-but-now-over-baked Parker House rolls:

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….and this good-but-not-great-steak:

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….and some metallic-tasting artichokes:

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…at this restaurant:

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…and pay $172 (including three shrimp, a tip, and a glass of the cheapest wine on the list) for the privilege.

The trouble with Vegas is, its tourist-driven, conventioneer-centered dining scene is so consumed with soaking folks, that the economies of good food at a good price are all but abandoned by our hotel/casino corporations.

The trouble with Vegas is, numbers crunching and a “what the traffic will bear” mentality is so ingrained in the game that no one bothers to step back and wonder what kind of message we’re sending to the food world.

In other words, the trouble with Vegas is the bean counters are running the restaurants.

The trouble with Vegas is, its food and beverage executives have short memories.

The trouble with Vegas is, quality control is the first thing to go when the money starts pouring in…and when the size of your brand exceeds the size of your talent.

The trouble with Vegas is, its corporate meretriciousness causes serious food journalists not to take it as seriously as its food deserves.

The trouble with Vegas is, with a few exceptions, no Strip restaurant really gives a shit about locals.

The trouble with Vegas is, most locals know (or sense) these things, and thus avoid the Strip like Adam Sandler does comedy, or Nick Cage does paying his taxes.

The trouble with Vegas is, people ought to be lining up at the door to eat healthful, flavor-packed, hand-tooled and delicious food like the sort found at I-Naba:

….and I-Naba:

…or Mashisoyo:

…instead of lining up for the diabetes/obesity-inducing menus of their favorite franchises.

A great thing about Sin City is we have a plethora of great Asian eats, at sinfully cheap prices, to provide the perfect antidote to all that hosing that goes on up and down Las Vegas Boulevard South.

Another great thing about Las Vegas is, with a few exceptions, the people running these delicious Japanese, Korean, Chinese, Vietnamese, and Thai restaurants are more than happy to help you navigate the menus and teach you something about their food (if you are willing to learn).

The greatest thing about Las Vegas is, you have this website to help you do the same.

TOM COLICCHIO’S CRAFTSTEAK

In the MGM Hotel and Casino

3799 Las Vegas Blvd. South

Las Vegas, NV 89109

702.891.7318

http://www.mgmgrand.com/restaurants/craftsteak-steak-house.aspx

I-NABA

3120 South Decatur Boulevard

Las Vegas, Nevada 89146

702.220.6060

MASHISOYO TOFU HOUSE

5035 South Fort Apache Road #106

Las Vegas, NV 89148

702.684.7263

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Postscript: Our last meal (pour trois) at I-Naba came to $67 (including a $13 tip) and our dinner for two at Mashisoyo was $33 (including a $7 tip).

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16 Responses to The Trouble with Vegas

  • Never been impressed with Craftsteak. Very overrated. The only good news is eating there made me set a new policy- Never eat at a steakhouse where the staff cuts the steak for you! That is just rude crude and socially unacceptable!

  • I’m confused. I thought you were excited about Gordon Ramsay coming to Vegas.

  • Ha so true about Craftsteak. I went there over superbowl weekend. We had a large party. Food was good but service was dismal. We arrived well before our 8pm reservation and were told we would have to wait a bit. It was a Friday on a busy weekend so we understood. After over an hour at the bar we were finally seated. We ordered our meals within 15 minutes of being sat down. Our food was not delivered until an hour and 15 minutes after our order. I was literally standing up to leave when my food was delivered. Food was good, sides were cold, and finishing Dinner at 11:30 at night to start off our weekend was a bummer.

    To top things off, one of their wine glasses broke and cut my friends hand. They offered us a basket of french fries to offset his cuts… weak at best.

    We are a pretty forgiving crowd, if we were communicated with we would’ve understood a bit more but basically our waitress was gone for that entire 1:15 between ordering and the delivering of food.

    The previous year we went to CUT, the experience there far exceeded this experience at craftsteak.

  • We went yesterday to see the spring display at Bellaggio ..
    I remembered someone mentioning a 3rd anniversary of a place we had not been to .. as we approached the hostess stand there was a window with donuts … I had trouble believing what I saw and went in closer .. yup a donut the size of a stadium cushion .. then my spousal unit remembered seeing their table at an event and that the fude was huge .. so we got in the car and left in search of food ..
    I have eaten some nice meals on the strip and some not so nice and have seen or been subject to some really bad service .. there was a restaurant where it became an issue when we asked to have the fude scraps wiped off the seats .. and the magnum of Dom that was being choked like a chicken .. after 10 minutes of that we got bored. And I won’t even start on the banquet “service” .. I have seen this before .. the mindset that there are more behind these folk .. in a place that eventually went under ..

  • Man, that’s depressing. I ate at Craftsteak about two years ago and found the produce (especially hen-of-the-woods mushrooms) to be exceptional and the steak very good. The wine list was brutally expensive, but I kind of expect that in Las Vegas.

    Thanks for continuing to let once-or-twice-a-year visitors like me know where to head for great food, i.e. Picasso, Twist, Sage, B&B, Noodle #9, L’Atelier, etc.*

    * Only exception being Border Grill, which has been worse than strip-mall mediocre on both my visits.

  • Never cared for CRAFTSTEAK. Maybe COLICCHIO should go on Top Chef Masters and see how he does. Roy Yamaguchi didnt do well on the show either, and his shops arent very good either. Goes to show you…

  • The reason the artichokes tasted metallic is because they came out of a can. Call me crazy, but those don’t look like “hand-trimmed baby artichokes” to me.

  • Doc C – You couldn’t be more wrong, a perfect steak is frequently cut for the customer. If cutting is your guide, then your going to miss out on some of the best steaks in the world.

  • Dear John,

    you are right about our great off the Strip Asian Restaurants, however they need to be carful too..

    After yours and Max Jacob’s reviews, I have been going almost every week for dinner to Weera Thai.
    I love the food and family atmosphere
    Saturday a very unpleasant surprise: all prices increased by around 30%
    The Crispy Duck Salad you wrote about on April 3rd for $13.95 is now $17.95!
    And so on for all items on the menu. Also the wine list used to have some very well priced bottles and now they are gone substituted by more expensive bottles (not better quality though)

    What happened? Is this your fault? Do good reviews justify such price increases?

    I don’t feel like going back. At those prices next week I might as well go to Lotus of Siam.

  • Thank you John for saying what I have posted here ove the years in response to this local’s experience with many, but not all, of these celebrity resturants. It is very sad really, that they fail to realize that not all patrons of their establishments are ignorant of good food, nor dumb bunnies when it comes to wanting value for the buck! While some people may have more money than brains, I for one urge the serious foodie to get or give a copy of your book to family and visiting friends so they can frequent those eatting establishments where what the pay for is truly a great dining experience. I enjoy your column and comments. Read most everyday and learned a great deal about the local scene. Some of your observations and human interest comments and observations are quite hilarious and insightful also. Thanks for being you!

  • A kitchen that cuts prime beef into steaks that thin might as well be working at I-Hop.

  • Peter Luger slices its steaks.

  • A)-A steak should be hand-cut off the larger roast to a thickness of no less than 1 1/2″. 2″ + is better. Home cooks should do it and it should be required of restaurant cooks. Based on ELV’s photo, Collichio isn’t taking the time to educate his staff at Craftsteak on the finer points of beef butchery.

    B)-It doesn’t matter if Peter Luger or Oscar Mayer cuts your beef. A steak should be brought to the table unadorned and uncut–and the only person that should have the pleasure of making the first, bloody, moist, virgin cut of meat is the customer.

  • I sympathize with AndyA. My experience at Craftsteak Vegas was from 3 years ago now. It was when MGM Grand was promoting its restaurants with prix fixe menus.

    I went with a couple buddies and both the meal and service was exemplary. In particular a couple of the appetizers were memorable (quail, fennel salad) and we were happy with the entrees (skirt steak, scallops, and a second cut of beef I don’t recall as clearly). The sugar snap peas and mashed potato sides were also solid. Plus dessert that we were too stuffed to completely finish.

    All for a decent price of $60 plus $30 for the wine pairing.

    That seems a far cry from what is available now.

  • Green bean salad? I’m continually an eatinglv student. Thanks Mr. eLV!

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