Sunday, January 11, 2009

FOOD CZAR ROAD TRIP 8, PART III: YOLO'S MEXICAN GRILL, PLANET HOLLYWOOD RESORT, LAS VEGAS, NEVADA

Planet Hollywood may be familiar to travelers in either one of its two incarnations. First, came the ill-fated restaurant chain in 1991, opened with the backing of famous Hollywood stars and modeled so closely on the Hard Rock formula that lawsuits soon ensued. Once boasting more than 100 locations, there are now fewer than 20 worldwide, including one in the Forum Shops at Caesars Palace. But like the Phoenix, Planet Hollywood has risen from the ashes of the Aladdin Hotel in the form of a state-of-the-art casino resort and pleasure palace. This incarnation seems much more thoughtfully put together than the previous one, and will hopefully attain success. Since my lovely wife the Rock Star and myself are pure born-and-bred Texans, we desire nothing more than to dine on some form of Mexican cuisine at least once a week, and noticing that Yolo's Mexican Grill was nearby, we proceeded to stroll down the strip one cold and rainy winter's day for lunch.

ATMOSPHERE

Restaurant designers, like many others, tend to follow trends, and Yolos copies the casual-sophisticate concept currently in vogue for most West Coast restaurants. Support columns with horizontal bars of light, a theme repeated throughout the entire casino. Festive colors, such as hot pinks, peaches, and stripes. The now-ubiquitious central bar. In fact, the whole restaurant comes across as one very contemporary South-of-the-border bar, and if you like bars (and we do), then you'll love Yolos design. We were seated and attended to almost immediately, always a plus in my book.

FOOD

When dining at Yolos, you must first realize that unlike in most Tex-Mex establishments, you must pay for your chips and salsa. In this case, it's worth it, for the chef will craft a trio of different sweet and savory salsas every day of the week. Accordingly, we began our repast with the salsa trio, which on this day featured a rather mild green creation which tasted of avocado, a medim-sweet number with peach overtones, and a full-on barrelhouse red with definite touches of habanero. Both of us agreed this latter sauce was the best, paticularly when joined with the escabeche (think hot pico de gallo) that was on the side. Scanning the menu, my wife and I noticed the Street Tacos and having enjoyed them so much at our hometown Taco Diner, decided to partake once again. She chose char-grilled chicken breast, served with really good, fresh corn tortillas (these days, they are almost an endangered species) and marinated with guajillo chile. My test of great street tacos is to take a couple of bites of the naked meat; if the meat can stand alone, it is a truly successful dish. Hers passed the test with flying colors, as did my pork carnitas tacos, braised in a broth of the same guajillo chile and onions. Of course, our entrees were served with rice and black beans, however the cilantro rice my wife was presented with was rather bland and lifeless. My Mexican rice was much more flavorful, tasting distinctly of pork, and the smoky black beans hit the spot as well. No dessert necessary.

SERVICE & WEBSITE

Service moved with relaxed briskness, a perfect pace for lunch, and managers stopped by to ensure all was well. Yolos web pages can be accessed through the Planet Hollywood site at
http://www.planethollywoodresort.com/.

OVERALL

Yolo's Mexican Grill is a shining dining example of the delights to be found inside the Planet Hollywood Resort. Next time you're in Vegas, discover your own planet, and remember:

LIFE IS TOO SHORT FOR MEDIOCRE FOOD!!!

2 comments:

Margie said...

I never thought someone would actually make me want to go back to Las Vegas...

Food Czar said...

Margie, when were you in Las Vegas? We have always loved it, because we remember to enjoy Vegas as a great food, sightseeing, and gambling town. These days, you can gamble in Oklahoma, Louisiana, or even on-line in your own home, so why go to Vegas? Answer: The great food AND great sightseeing, as well as the shows and gambling!