Pondering the Peripatetic Perplexities of PUB 1842
Something for everyone generally means nothing for any one. - ELV
The above photo is also there as proof positive that ELV loves Michael Mina – the chef and his restaurants. We like the guy, too, and consider the “Egyptian Wolfgang Puck” to be something of a genius in being able to pull off multiple concepts, in multiple locales, and keeping the quality of his product very high.
When you think about it, only Puck does it better, and Mina, now with 19 restaurants, is nipping at his heels.
ELV considers Michael Mina in San Francisco to be one of our country’s greatest restaurants. The one in the Bellagio is no slouch either, and no conversation about great Las Vegas restaurants is complete without mentioning American Fish.
Mina does such a great job because he hires great people. Lincoln Carson, David Varley, Adam Sobel (not pictured) and Gary Fx LaMorte would be all-stars on anyone’s culinary team…
….but Mina had the good sense to draft and keep them on his own.
With talent like that, you know the final product is always going to be good.
The problem with Pub 1842 is, we’re probably never going to go there again.
And that’s because IT’S IN THE F*CKING MGM!
How do we hate the MGM Hotel and Casino? Let us count the ways:
> It has the worst parking in town.
> It has the worst valet in town.
> No matter where you park, every decent restaurant is a solid 15-25 minute walk.
> Hakkasan (that waste of $15,ooo,ooo) is even worse. If you’re going to Hakkasan, you might as well pack for an Alpine hike and take a Sherpa guide. Hakkasan could be giving away food and there would still be no reason for anyone to schlep there.
> The crowds, and the floor plan, and the walk and the piped in, smelly air are the worst of any any upper-middle hotel on the Strip.
> There’s not one good, f*cking bar in the whole, humongous, annoying, 5,000 stupid room hotel.
> The restaurants are so inaccessible, there’s no reason for anyone to go there who isn’t staying at this bathetic behemoth.
Which brings us back to our point.
Pub 1842 is the latest incarnation in the old Sea Blue space, and is tucked so far around a far corner of the hotel that no one who isn’t staying at the hotel is ever going to eat there. That’s just fine with Mina and his bean counters, since 5,000 rooms means lots of bodies to feed day and night, and this joint will certainly fill that bill most profitably.
But here’s the rub: No locals are ever going to go there. Indeed, no tourists who aren’t staying on property are ever going to inconvenience themselves just for a bunch of gastropub-like fare that’s now available in similar guises all over town.
So ELV is left with the conundrum of writing this article for posterity’s sake, or for the few hundred folks who might be staying at the MGM at any time and actually care about the quality of what they’re eating, or simply to burnish Mina’s reputation — which is already about as estimable as it can get.
ELV will tell you that some of the food is top drawer and interesting, some of it a noble failure, and some should have been left on the test kitchen floor.
To cut to the chase: the Peanut Butter Crunch burger — slathered with pimento cheese, bacon jam and….wait for it….potato chips — is the dumbest thing we’ve put in our mouth’s in a coon’s age. The lobster corn dogs are basically corn-dog-like receptacles for some kind of lobster mush inside that was neither appetizing to look at nor bite into. (The flavor was just fine.) Ditto the “2 Pound” lobster roll, which is neither filled with 2lbs. of lobster chunks or anything close to that weight. If ELV were a customer being asked to pay $29 for this mediocre mess (topped with popcorn!), he would demand a refund.
Continuing the theme, the tempura Maitake mushrooms weren’t anything close to a good tempura — they being greasy and soggy — and the crab Louie deviled eggs weren’t anything you couldn’t find at a church picnic.
With those failures out of the way, you should know that the basic burger here is fantastic, the fish and chips a good rendition (although RM Cafe’s is much better….as is Central’s), the Ahi tuna “poke” as good as any Hawaiian could want, and the mac and cheese (and the Chinese pork “Chop Salad”) about the best we’ve ever eaten. And save room for dessert, because Carson’s cakey-milk-shakey desserts are out of this world, as were most of Carlo Splendorini’s* cocktails and infusions we tried at the bar.
If you haven’t gotten the drift by now, this is an all-over-the-map menu which shamelessly places Japanese tempura beside New England specialties beside Italian pastas — hoping that the tourists won’t know or care enough to compare these renditions to the real thing. (Hint: They won’t.)
None of this will matter to the hotel — which asked Mina to provide a something-for-everyone restaurant similar to the one Puck is doing across the casino floor — but it should matter to you gastronomes and foodies out there.
If you want to taste the best of Michael Mina, he has three other tremendous restaurants in Las Vegas. If you want to see a money machine in action, with (mostly) above average fare (and don’t mind the hike), then this is just the place for you.
ELV hasn’t paid for a meal in a MM restaurant in years. Lunch will run you around $50-$75 for two, with dinner roughly twice that much….depending on what you spend on the great booze, beer and wine they have here.
In the MGM Grand Hotel and Casino (ugh!)
3799 Las Vegas Blvd. South
Las Vegas, NV 89109
* “Carlo Splendorini” might just be the world’s best name for a mixologist.