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!
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.”
“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.