"Be forewarned. Most experiences make you older. This one makes you wider."
In 1967, The Jimi Hendrix Experience released Are You Experienced?, the classic rock album that capped the revolution taking place in music at the time. All rock music, and indeed most music period, is judged as pre-Experience and post-Experience. Why? Because Jimi Hendrix literally stood music on its ear and introduced sounds, concepts, tone paintings, and feelings no one had thought possible. Music was the drug of choice to many people back then, the high that they couldn't get enough of, much as television was to their parents and computers/video games would be to their children.
Today, many people obsess over food, and the great chefs are literally worshipped as the Guitar Gods of the culinary universe. Fueled by the Food Network, a new generation is packing the great restaurants of today much as their forebears packed the concert halls, bars, and stadiums in search of music a decade ago, making superstars of Mario Batali, Emeril Lagassi, Gordon Ramsey, and perhaps most of all, Bobby Flay. I believe even the most jaded food aficionado must acknowledge that he has helped raised the bar and elevated fine dining to undreamed-of levels, along the way setting the example for such Dallas gastronomic icons as Stephen Pyles, the Rathbun Brothers, and Scott and Gina Gottlich. My own lovely wife the Rock Star adores Bobby Flay and has longed to dine at one of his restaurants, so when opportunity knocked for us to revisit Las Vegas at an affordable price, we answered with alacrity, and in due course made our way to Caesars Palace and Bobby Flay's Mesa Grill therein one chilly noon.
Mesa Grill is smaller than expected, semi-circular in shape, and boasts a color scheme dominated by toasty shades of burnt umber and raw sienna. Large open kitchen, Chihuly light sculptures, and seemingly endless shelves full of brightly colored jars dominate the scene. Decidedly unstuffy for the lair of a chef of Bobby's caliber, and rather fun and festive. After a very short wait in the bar, we were led to our table and steeled ourselves for the transcendental dining experience soon to follow.
Bobby Flay, like all great chefs, treats every dish that comes out of his kitchen with loving care and flavorful reverence, be it lunch or dinner. We were somewhat disappointed to learn that the $29 prix fixe lunch was unavailable on this particular day, due to the kitchen being shortstaffed, but since all of Mesa Grill's appetizers and entrees are fairly priced at noontime, we plunged right in and split a starter, then ordered individual entrees. Wine is usually our tipple of choice, but when we noticed that Bobby's signature margaritas were featured on the menu, we each decided on one. Mesa Grill's margarita recipe was invented by Billy Steel, who first learned how to pour the tart concoctions at New York's famed 21 Club, so they came with some serious pedigree. Featuring Cabo Wabo white tequila, Cointreau, lime juice, and fresh limes, these babies mopped the floor with all would-be competitors, so much so that the Rock Star vowed to get her own bottles and barware and become a mixologist. But wait, that was only the beginning. The Wild Mushroom Quesadilla, with white bean hummus and white truffle oil, must surely rank as the best starter I've ever encountered, and one of the greatest dishes I've ever eaten, bar none. Every bite was sheer silken poetry, every ingredient in total, perfect string-quartet harmony, truly a Hendrix-like Experience to be savored. After these two overtures, the main body of the symphony would hopefully not disappoint, and it didn't. Cornmeal-crusted chili relleno deftly wove roasted eggplant, manchengo cheese, sweet red pepper sauce, and balsamic vinegar into a tapestry of delight, Southwestern rather than south of the border. Despite a slightly fishy taste, my wife really enjoyed her Ancho-crusted sea scallop, the crawfish-green onion sauce nicely tempering the scallop's bite. We ended our heavenly repast at this point, since Mesa Grill does not offer dessert at lunch, and indeed, none is needed.
SERVICE & WEBSITE
Warm, gracious, and consummately professional, Bobby's court attendants are obviously some of the best in the business, and worthy of his and Mesa Grill's stature. Website is http://www.mesagrill.com/, where you can purchase Bobby's cookbooks, sauces, rubs, and other products.
Bobby Flay's Mesa Grill Las Vegas branch is a fitting shrine to a man who has literally thrown down the culinary gauntlet to the rest of his profession and food fanatics everywhere. Become Experienced yourself soon, and remember:
LIFE IS TOO SHORT FOR MEDIOCRE FOOD!!!