Sunday, September 28, 2008

Craftsteak, Las Vegas Nevada

A fan of Chef Colicchio's simple approach to locally grown high end ingredients and a general appreciation of great food and "vegas-y" steakhouses I was very much looking forward to our experience at Craftsteak - so much so that we left the Los Angeles Kings game (my favorite team since age 5 and the reason we came to Vegas in the fist place) with 10 minutes to go in order to arrive for our 9:30 reservation. I must say, in a weekend that included meals featuring the vision of Stratta, Keller, and Ducasse it was only Colicchio who failed to impress.

Dressed in hockey jerseys and jeans, much like 50% of the MGM that evening, my friend and I arrived approximately five minutes early and checked in. While our reservations were clearly listed on the sheet, the hostess gave us an odd look and suggested our table would be ready "in 15-20 minutes." While I realize Craftsteak tries to be "fine dining," I doubt we were under dressed given the multiple persons inside wearing lounge shirts and jeans, but regardless her attitude was less than enthusiastic. Given the wait, I wished I'd have stayed for the end of the game.

After approximately 10 minutes our table was ready and we were led through the surprisingly huge and equally dark restaurant. While there is certainly something to be said about mood lighting, I much prefer "soft" light like Alex or Spago Beverley Hills compared to darkness like Lola or Mastro's. Seating was comfortable and the table was huge. The decor was heavy with lots of dark woods and the noise level was excessive, but certainly not annoyingly so. As we sat,
water was filled and menus were delivered. All was well so far and then things decidedly went down hill. While the food was certainly good and ample in portion, the service, feel, and attitude left A LOT to be desired.

First off, our waiter (Team #6, Cashier JR T) did not introduce himself for 15 minutes, actively avoiding eye contact when it was sought. Thankfully the water and bread servers were on the ball. When the waiter did introduce himself it was as though it was an epic hassle for him to explain the family style menu. Additionally, though the MGM site lists $100 and $110 menus with chefs vs. personal selection, the waiter acted unaware of these entirely. When he finally
did concede that the site had these options, only the chefs choice was offered.....and stuck to.....without question.

While the online menu suggests three mains, three salads, three appetizers, three sides, and three desserts we were only offered the option of two appetizers with all other items to be selected for us. When I attempted to order the scallops and the foie we were informed that both were out of stock. Fair enough, the place was busy and my buddy already ordered his 10oz Filet cooked rare so I opted for the Yellowtail Tuna with olive and tomato cooked as rare as possible. These choices made our waiter disappeared and we were brought the much hyped bread and butter. While the bread was good, it certainly wasn't on par with the similar version
served at Table 10 or Delmonico and the butter was rather cold.

Salads arrived in a matter of minutes and consisted of the Butter Poached Diver Scallops with Fennel (I thought they were out?,) Satur Farm Mixed Lettuces with Olive Oil and Vinegar, Heirloom Tomatoes, and Prosciutto San Daniele. Admittedly all dishes were good with the scallops and Heirloom tomatoes being particularly excellent. The scallops were butter braised and lightly poached with a perfect sashimi-style inside and lightly crisp exterior. The tomatoes were amongst the best I've ever tasted with a mild olive oil and balsamic marinade bringing out the acidic and sweet flavor of each of the 5+ my buddy does not like tomatoes I was given the bulk of these lovely items and was grateful to oblige.

Soon after the arrival of salads and appetizers we were brought our mains and sides which consisted of the aforementioned 10oz Fillet and Yellowfin Tuna with Olive and Tomato tapanade, Whipped Yukon gold potatoes, Mixed Mushooms (Lobster, Hen of Woods, Shiitake, Chanterelle) in Garlic, and Sweet White Corn. As was the case last year in Vegas my buddy got me to try a piece of steak which he claimed was better than the Grade 12 A5 Waygu at tasted merely like beef to me but he claimed it to be the best steak he'd ever tasted. My tuna was quite excellent and cooked flawlessly with the interesting contrast of sweet tomatoes and bitter/briny olives forming an excellent medley of flavors. Not the best yellowtail I've experienced, but certainly fantastic.

Like the mains and appetizers, the sides were delectable and featured a stockpile of woodsy mushrooms simply presented and delectable in taste - I was particularly thrilled to get such a large lobster mushroom as it lags behind only a morel as my favorite fungi. The corn and potatoes were equally simple yet wonderful with the corn almost 'sugar-sweet' and the potatoes velvety, buttery, and wonderful.

The meal was slightly sabotaged here, once again, by our server who committed multiple mistakes.
Number one: My friend ordered a half bottle of wine for $65. Once again in his avoidance of us the waiter forgot (admitting this and apologizing later) until after appetizers were consumed and mains/sides delivered....and considering we were essentially rushed out the door by 11:15 (we received mains at 10:25) wine consumption was anything but leisurely.
Number two: More bread was was never delivered. When sides were given and we were asked "is there anything else you would like?" I stated we'd like to try the Sweet Potatoes.....they were never delivered.
Number three: Well, read on...

Dessert was next and given my love for bread pudding and souffle (and the rave reviews I'd read of each) I specifically explained to my waiter, in great detail, that these were my favorites and that I'd heard good things about the versions at Craftsteak. In response to my accolades the waiter simply noted "we do lots of great things" and proceeded to serve us NO bread pudding or Soufflé. Admittedly the desserts that were served were quite good and consisted of melon and fresh strawberries with grape and raspberry sorbet, Cinnamon Monkey Bread with Pecan
Toffee and Caramel Ice Cream, and Chocolate Lava Cake with Espresso Ice Cream. While the melon and grape sorbet were misses for both of us, the Monkey Bread was sublime and tasted like a more natural and more delicious cinnamon roll while the chocolate cake simply oozed with delicious filling when poked and was quickly devoured by my friend who ate past the point of satiety just to finish the cake. Sure, these were good, but to rub salt in a wound the neighboring table received the souffle which looked amazing and I got a glimpse of the bread pudding being
enjoyed by a diner at the bar on the way out. All told, the food was excellent, though not any better than steakhouses like Nero's and Mastro's where I can get what I ask for.

From a chef that demands perfection, I felt Craftsteak was anything but perfect and in a city with hundreds of hundred-plus-dollar meal options it would be very difficult for me to justify a return visit. While I certainly didn't expect the exquisite service of Le Cirque or Alex, I do expect my server to treat me with respect and do his/her best to make my experience memorable.

While I'm not the sort to complain after a meal, my disappointment and hope that this wouldn't happen to future visitors led me to E-mail the restaurant my opinions. Two days later I was contacted by the General Manager with an apology and an offer to refund our entire meal cost. Feeling uncomfortable with this I politely rejected and simply told him I would very much appreciate if my thoughts could be forwarded to Colicchio himself as not to taint his beautiful concepts and cooking. The manager agreed to this and invited me back for "special" experience
on my next visit to Vegas and promised to make amends...I'll consider it, but honestly with all the options in Vegas and my living in Ohio I don't even know that I'd return for free.


Rich said...

do you remember if your friend had ordered the A5 Japanese Wagyu at craftsteak?

uhockey said...

He did not - we, as noted, ordered nothing - even the things we asked for weren't given! :)

It was a Nebraska Corn-Fed variety and he liked it much more than the Japanese A5 at Alex the day before.