Ottavia Bourdain Has a Beef with Someone’s Meat

ELV update: Well the mystery meat mystery has been solved folks! Susan Stapleton reported earlier today that Charlie Palmer, he of Charlie Palmer Steak fessed up and issued a public apology to Anthony and Ottavia Bourdain for the steak he served them 12 days ago.  And Bourdain graciously accepted. For the record ELV regrets his mistake in identifying the hotel the Bourdains were staying in. Had he been a more diligent reporter, he would’ve sought confirmation of the information he received.

Geez Louise! What a tempest in a teapot!

Anthony Bourdain and Ottavia Busia - 8th Annual Can-Do Awards Dinner

Ottavia Bourdain, whom Grub Street New York describes as “foodie  royalty” was in Las Vegas two weeks ago to take in a UFC match, shoot machine guns and drink a lot of Amaretto with her husband Tony. Apparently the royal couple (with four friends) decided to hit up (fill in the blank)  _____________ for a steak dinner on their first night(s) here, and were less than impressed with the food at (at least) one venue. Here is her account as reported by Grub Street:

We take a nap and wake up at 9 p.m. with no dinner plans. Husband doesn’t want to order room service like I suggest, so we decide to head downstairs to the celebrity-chef-branded hotel steakhouse for a quick dinner. We are tired, we are not in the mood for anything special, and a steak always sounds good. I’ve heard of some chefs calling restaurants ahead to make sure no extra food will be served, but we don’t want to be assholes. We sit down and I tell our server we are not hungry; we don’t need to look at the menu — we only want a steak, no appetizers, no sides, no nothing. After the unfortunate lunch experience, we are really trying to avoid getting any extra special courses, what somebody brilliantly described as getting “food fucked.”

Right away, extra plates start coming. Our server immediately notices our discomfort, and after a couple of minutes and a few bites, he takes the plates away. But we are not safe yet. More courses come. The poor server looks apologetic. He knows. Husband dutifully eats as much as he can. The steak arrives and it has no char. It looks boiled. I cut into it and it’s hard, and gray inside; it’s well done. It also tastes like cheap supermarket meat that was quickly defrosted under hot water in the kitchen sink. And it smells — not dry-aged funk, but some disturbing livery odor. Now, this is a reputable steakhouse, with a famous and respected name on the door, but it was the worst steak I’ve ever had in my life, an abomination. We eat our steaks unhappily, tell the server to charge our room, and slink away, miserable.”

“No char”?

“Looks boiled”?

“Hard and gray inside”?

“Tastes like cheap, supermarket meat….with a cheap, livery odor?”

In a top flight Vegas steakhouse?

Where, oh where, Ottavia, could you be talking about?

Since Mrs. Bourdain tried to be discreet — but in fact, was about as discreet as a torpedo — ELV thought he’d do some sleuthing and share what he knows of the Bourdains’ doings and (try to) put an answer (or at least some logic) to her dinner defamation.

We knew “Mr. No Reservations” was in town two weeks ago, when text messages started showing up from diners who saw them. On the evening of July 5th they dined at Carnevino. Tony ordered a “riserva” rib-eye and the rest of his party (including his wife) took some bone-in filets and lots of Negronis (although she was pounding Amarettos, as is her wont). Our spies told us they didn’t order much (like Ottavia said), and seemed to be enjoying themselves. The bill was presented (what, no comp for food royalty?) and paid without comment or complaint.

ELV knows from experience that no one, no one, orders the “riserva” steaks here without a complete recitation of the aging process, the funky flavor characteristics (exquisite, to our buds), and the cooking technique (not grilled at high temp or charred because the broken-down proteins can’t take it).

The saga continues.

Mrs. Bourdain’s post with Grub Street seems to be describing a meal on Friday July 6th. We know she was staying at the Venetian/Palazzo (having signed their Carnevino check to their room the night before). (ELV was apparently given wrong information in this regard.)

We also know Molto Mario asked Mr. Bourdain (via text message) if it was his steakhouse to which Mr. Bourdain’s wife was referring, and Mr. Bourdain denied that it was.

This leaves ELV with the following conundrum and questions:

If it wasn’t Carnevino, where was it?

And if Mr. and Mrs. Bourdain had a perfectly fine steak dinner at Carnevino on Thursday night, and then an atrocious one at another celebrity chef steakhouse* the very next night, why wasn’t this mentioned in her article? (She talks about everything else she eats — and drinks — in minute detail fer chrissakes…)

And if you had a good steak dinner on Thursday night, why would you head to another steakhouse 24 hours later? Who in the hell eats like that (besides me)? Certainly not well-traveled chefs (famous or otherwise) who generally look for interest and variety in their meals.

Our conclusion (more of an educated guess, really) is that Ottavia wrote about her Thursday night experience on Friday, hated the taste of the steak because she posted her thoughts** without considering the fallout it might have for her husband.

Mr. Bourdain, defending his wife as any good husband should, simply did a quick cover-up to save both his and Mario’s face. (Plausible deniability the Nixon White House called it.)

And who can blame him? The “riserva” steaks are the only meat we know of that could elicit that sort of visceral, negative response in someone unused to them. They are an acquired taste that Mrs. Bourdain obviously didn’t acquire.

But the worst steak ever? An abomination? No, simply something very different she wasn’t used to.

Because you can’t get a regular steak as bad as the one she described, in Las Vegas, if you tried.****


* The only two they could’ve possibly gone to are CUT and Delmonico, neither of which serves well-done, supermarket, boiled, livery beef.

** Especially after a few Amaretto di Saronnos, after which she describes herself as, “completely incoherent after my third…and picking fights with strangers after the fourth.” ***

*** She had more than three Amarettos on the night of July 5th.

**** Or maybe you can.

46 thoughts on “Ottavia Bourdain Has a Beef with Someone’s Meat

  1. Well done too? Hard to believe a riserva would come out any more than medium rare, especially for this group.

  2. Who eats like that ???
    People who don’t eat any or few carbs .. I am sure you have seen them at casual or cocktail parties .. picking out the proteins and leaving the rest behind on pre-made sammies’ .. stuffing mini buns in plants as the scarf down the interiors of sliders ..

  3. Ok, kind readers, take a long and I mean long look at the picture of this broad. Got it? Now you know that the only “meat” this diva eats aint of the bovine variety!

  4. I have actually had steaks of this sort at places like Michael Mina (could not believe it), Stripsteak, and Del Frisco’s.

  5. Yet another tale of an extraordinarily self-absorbed woman whose only real claim to fame is dining on the “meat” of her celeb spouse and indulging her copious free-time grappling on the mat with her MMA trainers. Really now, anyone with breeding or respect for their spouse would resist such snarky commentary. Maybe she was having an off day? Maybe it was the booze? But I’m betting she makes a habit of dining on the flesh of restauranteers in a pathetic attempt to get attention like a 2 year-old having a tantrum–“Look at me! Look at me!” Of course, she’s barely in her 30’s, so maybe she just needs more time to mature and realize it’s the sun we orbit and not this narcissistic Renee Richards look-alike.

  6. “And if you had a good steak dinner on Thursday night, why would you head to another steakhouse 24 hours later? Who in the hell eats like that? Certainly not well-traveled chefs”

    Perhaps you forgot that Tony was the former chef at Les Halles, a steak house? Steak was Tony’s bread and butter before becoming a writer, it is possible he was interested in trying multiple venues to explore the differences in preparation back to back. This is just a theory which could be easily disproved once someone knows where they ate on the 6th, but it is possible – I know because I have done this myself… back to back meals of the same meaty variety just to compare the differences in preparations (and abuse my intestines in the process).

  7. ELV responds: @InTheCards makes a valid point, but if that’s what they did, it would’ve been written about, right? By anyone….and everyone.

  8. The BEST steak I’ve had in Vegas was Carne Vino. The WORST steak I’ve had in Vegas was also at Carne Vino. Same with service and over all experience. We went twice and had night and day experiences. And yet had the same bill!

  9. Posts like this are why Vegas loves you, Mr. Curtas. Myself included. You’re awesome!

  10. ELV responds: Since Bourdain isn’t saying….and we’re trying to read between the tea leaves….it’s looking more and more that @JohnD may be right…and they weren’t staying at Venetian/Palazzo — although AB continues to hide behind his wife’s skirt and not come clean.

  11. Wow, ELV! You have always said that AB was a douchebag. I guess his wife has become one, by injection…

  12. Wish I could give a crap about this. Why does this matter? If they had a bad meal they had a bad meal. I had a terrible meal at Carnevino with a very notable food critic. We sent one steak back for a second chance. Oversalted, badly prepared dreck. Everything was sodium hell. Next time I had the burger at the bar. Look, shit happens. Tony, sorry you had a bad experience. Better luck next time. Curtas, leave the mofo alone. Doesn’t Paris Hilton need some tweets? And craftsteak is also on my oh, shit!list. Even the dogs didn’t like it much. And no, I’m not kidding. In that case the steak was bad. Twice. Not a case of someone being too liberal with the NaCl

  13. MEN out there, NEVER let your wife, mistress, escort speak about your business in public or private, period.

    They say exagerrated bull$hit, use unnecessary tone and just F everything up.

    this is a prime example

    AB has no BALLS… and if they were getting sent out courses after saying they want nothing but steak, why didnt they be straight forward and stop the dog and pony show? Once again AB has no balls.

  14. I’m glad you deleted the (quite personal) comment about Bourdain’s past drug problems. That was utterly classless, John. If you’re going to maintain the high ground, try not rip a guy for a since-rectified personal mistake in his PAST.

  15. Seems the only wrong is the reporting done here.

    On countless other blogs…

    Now John Curtas did his own “sleuthing” and posted that the Bourdains ate at Carnevino at the Palazzo. So wrong.

  16. Why should he have to come clean? It would be embarrassing for the restaurant he dined at for someone as well-known as Anthony Bourdain (and his wife) claim it was the worst steak of their lives.

    Also @Must be a lady tonight (comment 18).. wouldn’t it be kind of rude of Bourdain to send back complimentary food??? I would also imagine quite insulting to the chef at whatever restaurant they were at.

  17. ELV responds: To @E — your point would be well-taken IF Mrs. Bourdain didn’t go out of her way to publicly trash the place and then not name it. If they don’t want to embarrass restaurants about what they eat there, they shouldn’t accept paid gigs on national Web sites to write about their meals.

  18. Look BIG E, its all about coming clean or just plain shutting the F up in the first place. That good ol philosophy still works in this age.

    And No, it wouldnt be rude to send shit back. YOu make yourself clear. If the chef cant respect that, then he is the one with the issues.
    Who wrote in the dining books that high profile people want to be fed endless calories of food they didnt feel like eating.

    Honesty is not insulting. Did the chef de cuisine on that shift truely believe that “that” was going to be his night to shine.

    Just another person that just doesnt quite get it.

  19. One more food for thought, try Mandalay Bay and the steakhouse that I mentioned earlier.

  20. if they were simply eating and not reviewing for a site, why are they not entitled to an opinion without revealing the place? since it was a “casual” meal, why should they reveal where it was? you are not paying them to find out! everyone has their personal opinion about food, and she has the right to have hers. some criticize her for being “obvious,” but she’s obviously not THAT obvious or people would know for sure where she was. so, I don’t see how her voicing her opinion hurts her husband’s job or reputation or friendships.

    for the record, I had a WAY overcooked, tough $90 steak in Vegas, too. I couldn’t believe it after my friend raved about them. they apologized and said with that particular cut, you don’t know until it’s cooked. they replaced it and the second was only marginally better. the service was AMAZING so I didn’t complain again. they kept bringing us free dishes to make up for it even though we insisted that it wasn’t necessary. one of the worst steaks I’ve ever had, but I’d give it a try again in the future so I don’t feel the need to knock them by name. maybe she feels the same way.

  21. A few other clues were the Sushi with ‘gobs of mayonaise’ on a previous encounter, as it reads, in the same hotel they were staying. Doesn’t sound like Sushi-Samba, the only applicable place in the Venetian compound.

    I’ve eaten at Carnevino 4 times (and I live on the East Coast – go figure) and I have to say although the best steak I have EVER eaten was there (second by the way is S&W Vegas, third S&W NY) my last visit was less than stellar – I sent it back!

    Anyways, the lack of char gives it away, she was F’d up. Know that it’s not prime, plausible, boiled – not. No kitchen is that stupid or incompetent

  22. Let me guess…Tom Colicchio’s Craftsteak at MGM? She doesn’t want to embarrass absentee chef Tom and doesn’t want Bourdain banned from future Top Chef appearances. You better watch out John, Ottavia Bourdain does MMA training. She might try to put you in a “rear naked choke”!

  23. How does one give clues (“in my LV hotel”, “celebrity chef”, “steakhouse”) about the restaurant she publicly trashes on a well-read website, and then get upset when someone tries to figure out which restaurant? Is OB that naive? Is AB that thin-skinned?

  24. Obviously Bourdain (or someone who works for him) Googles himself daily to see if there is any “Bourdain” chatter on the web. Complaining about a steak in a steakhouse in Las Vegas without naming the culprit lends itself to sullying all steakhouses in Las Vegas (at least the ones with named chefs attached to them – and there are only four or five of those in Las Vegas, really)

  25. @NoReservations Should be allowed to EAT,Drink ,even in #lasvegas & say how they feel just like anyone !In this day and age everyone , even a trained Chef , TV Host , and Author as a right to speak their minds. ( even after a few cocktails ) Cheers !

  26. BTW…a bit of “ironical hypocracy” if there is such a thing.
    Isn’t the one thing that drives AB totally 100% bat-shit is foodie pretenders commenting or offering their ‘professional opinion’ on food / restaurants. He even hates established people whom HE thinks to be unqualified commenting.

    I’m sorry, I didn’t quite catch Ottavia’s qualifications

  27. The only “fuck nuts” is Mr. Bourdain’s! Served warm and altittle on the “tender” side! LOL!

  28. If it’s not Venetian or MGM, it either has to be PRIME or StripSteak. I can’t think of any other steakhouses with a Celebrity Chef’s name on them.

    It is quite odd that AB won’t say where it was. Usually, he doesn’t care about voicing his opinions on TV or in print form (most of the time, I happen to agree with his point of view).

    It’ll come out sooner or later.

  29. VegasFoodie says they stayed at Four Seasons. Charlie Palmer Steak? Sounds reasonable…

  30. Well at least you succeeded in getting a boost in traffic to your site, which obviously didn’t happen with your last pervy old man post about hot hostesses. Kinda feel the self-loathing after wasting 3 minutes of my time reading this.

  31. Congrats John for getting Bourdain’s attention and pissing him off, I couldn’t be prouder. I doubt he’ll hold it against you, after all Bourdain has dissed The Chew publically and he’s still friends with Mario.

  32. I daresay this will also be the last time Mrs. Bourdain hastily trashes an anonymous restaurant in a well-read foodie blog. Lesson learned all around perhaps???

  33. When tourist’s come into this non-cultured town, they eat shit, and rave about it. Sorta like, ELV, eating at all the dumps on Spring Mountain. She has a right to bitch.

  34. I don’t have anything to add, just enjoying the thread, lol….

    Although, like some, I’ve had one or two pretty crappy steaks at supposedly high end places in Vegas.

  35. Of course it was Charlie Palmer steak. The steak was probably pre-marked from the previous night service. Way to go champs. I wonder if AB got an amuse bouche of the truffle oil soaked twice baked potato

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