Alan Richman once gave us the best piece of food writing advice we’ve ever received. “When it’s really bad,” he said, “just report the facts.”
So here goes.
We entered a vacant restaurant around 6:15 on a Tuesday night. (Truly, there was maybe one other table occupied and no one was at the bar.)
We sat at the bar.
We ordered a cocktail. Then another. (It was that kind of week.)
Nothing wrong with the drinks, so we’ll leave it at that.
Hunger pangs struck.
We perused the dinner menu. It’s a relatively short one, which gave us (momentary, misplaced) confidence in the kitchen.
The pork cheek sounded interesting. So did pasta “Bolognese.”
“Maryland-style” crab cakes didn’t (sound interesting), but sometimes, in the name of research, you take one for the team and order something boring just to see how the cooks do it.
The same thinking informed our reason for ordering the steamed Spring vegetables. (pictured above)
First the crab cake arrived:
It was by-the-numbers and unremarkable, but sufficiently crabby to hold both our attention and hope for the rest of the meal.
Then, a few minutes later, the other three dishes hit the table: the aforementioned “steamed” vegetables (more on them in a minute), the pork cheeks:
…and finally, the pasta “Bolognese.” (The quotes are ELV’s, not the restaurant’s.)
First, let’s consider the vegetables.
They were raw, lukewarm, and entirely unseasoned. They were neither glazed with fat nor sprinkled with anything that might enhance their natural character. By taste and texture, one could only conclude that they perhaps passed by a steamer for no more than 30 seconds before making their way to the dining room.
We mentioned that they are raw to the bartender/waitron, and he mumbled something along the lines of: “Well, they’re supposed to be steamed and I’ll take them back to the kitchen if you want?” but we told him not to bother.
We told him not to bother because by that time, we had been confronted by the pork and pasta.
That pork consisted of two grey, golf-ball-sized nuggets of sufficiently tender meat that, once again, were unfamiliar with the art of seasoning. The tannish-yellow broth it sat in (which reminded us of unseasoned chicken stock) provided neither relief nor interest from this tedious state of affairs, and the poached egg on top(?) didn’t help either — it being equally unacquainted with salt, pepper or the reason for its placement thereon.
ELV was left wondering if he had ever seen an uglier restaurant dish, and wishing for the blessed relief of a hospital meal.
Then, things got worse.
The pasta was served un-tossed with sauce. Instead, a mass of cavatelli gemelli had a thick, tomato puree of intense, sugary sweetness plopped upon it. So dense and cloying was it, we were thinking of canned tomato paste with every bite. Instead of the meat being incorporated into the sauce, as in a true Bolognese, someone had folded chunks of steak into the mix at the last minute. It was to a real Bolognese sauce what Yanni is to Rossini – a crass, cheap imitation for the masses.
But wait, there’s more!
The whole enchilada of Kerry Simon’s “Bolognese” was topped with….wait for it….huge, oily, deep-fried croutons!
Have you ever heard of pasta being topped with croutons? We haven’t. But if this is some sort of culinary trend we’ve missed, please inform Eating Las Vegas immediately…so we can look forward to having our al dente pastas adorned with fried bread as a way of further ensuring that our bowels never move.
In the croutons defense, they provided the perfect capper for the meal. Greasy, flavorless filigree forced upon fatuous food fallacies.
Which pretty much summed up our feelings about this forlorn failure.
The bill for the food portion of the meal came to $85. It was paid.
SIMON KITCHEN & BAR
In the Palms Place Hotel and Casino
4381 West Flamingo Road
Las Vegas, NV 89103