First impressions of British chef (and notorious perfectionist) Gordon
Ramsay’s splashy debut
“What’s a triffle?” my dinner date asked as he perused the dessert selections at the new Gordon Ramsay Steak inside Paris Las Vegas. Knowing his unfamiliarity with British cuisine, I laughed and corrected his botched pronunciation of the traditional English dish.
“You mean a trifle,” I said.
“Uh, no.” He pushed the menu towards me. There it was, between the banoffee tart and chocolate cake: Tea Triffle. Along with the chicken tikki (sic) masala — another U.K. staple — and the bar’s signature Antioxident (sic) cocktail, this was the third glaring typo on the restaurant’s menu.
Such oversights, normally forgivable in the case of a restaurant in its infancy, were embarrassing for two reasons: The first is that Caesars Entertainment had worked with Ramsay on this project for more than a year before its May debut. Second, anyone who has tuned into “Hell’s Kitchen,” “Kitchen Nightmares” or “Master Chef” would expect higher standards given the British chef’s carefully cultivated reputation as a short-fused perfectionist.
Nevertheless, Ramsay did not earn his Michelin stars with stellar spelling skills, and his latest restaurant’s success or failure will not be at the hands of nitpicking copywriters but tourists, pop culture fans and local epicures. So it’s fortunate that on a recent visit, there were fewer blunders on the plate than there were in print.
Gordon Ramsay Steak is simultaneously a modern steakhouse and a showcase for the namesake chef’s greatest hits. The something-for-everyone philosophy — a departure from Ramsay’s other concepts, which focus strictly on fine dining (Petrus) or casual service (Bread Street Kitchen) — is right for Vegas, if not a little mottled.
Once past the contrived, futuristic touches (of particular note are an army of hostesses dressed like Robert Palmer’s backup dancers and a hallway reminiscent of the Star Trek Enterprise), we were presented with a touchscreen beverage menu. The Sex Pistols blared from the speakers as we decided between cheap bottled beer, handcrafted cocktails and rare wines. This was followed by a shift back to paper menus with two prices for every dish: one for Caesars Total Rewards members, and a marginally costlier option for the common folk. A schizophrenic start, to say the least.
From the limited selection of libations, The Drifter (a mix of Knob Creek, ginger liqueur, falernum, lemon and bitters) was spicy but clean. It also acted as a palate cleanser between bites from the bread plate, which included savory walnut-blue cheese baguette slices and a buttery brioche with figs and pancetta.
Those first nibbles foreshadowed a meal that only grew more decadent with each course. First came Ramsay’s signature pressed pork belly, served with candied kumquats, cauliflower puree, and crunchy pork rinds. The perfect porcine rectangle was mild but tender enough to cut with a fork. A Maine lobster tail stuffed with chorizo was served lukewarm but packed more flavor, thanks to a tableside pour of saffron-hued lobster cream sauce. Equally hungry but less adventurous eaters might try the Kobe beef sliders, which my date cheerfully lauded as being identical in flavor to a McDonald’s Quarter Pounder.
Entrees run the gamut from casual pub fare (fish and chips, shepherd’s pie) to stuffy classics (beef Wellington for two), but steak is the star of the show. The only caveat is that carnivorous diners must earn their meal by sitting through a lengthy presentation. While waiting on drinks, our server wheeled out a shiny cart displaying each cut of meat on the menu, then proceeded with a tutorial on aging techniques (such pomp and circumstance was novel and informative, but please spare me on the next visit).
Tired of filet and New York strip? Consider ordering the American Kobe rib cap. The eight-ounce sheath of meat is shaved clean off the bone and needs none of the braising or slow cooking normally required of rib meat. Ours arrived charred with a medium-rare center, just as requested. A loaded baked potato on the side, filled with sour cream and smoked Gouda cheese sauce, looked ordinary on the surface but was redeemed by chewy chunks of bacon.
Both preparations represent what Ramsay seems to do best, which is to take simple, approachable dishes and turn them into flavor bombs. Even a plain chicken breast was elevated with Indian spices and a side of wild rice with foie gras (a highbrow play on Cajun dirty rice). A garnish of crispy, deep-fried chicken skin shattered between the teeth like potato chips made for the unabashed meat lover.
A sticky toffee pudding for dessert was perfectly executed. The moist cake, made with dates and napped with a buttery brown sugar sauce, had a toasty crust and moist crumb. Nutty brown butter ice cream on the side, shaped like an actual stick of butter, was a cool complement — in more ways than one.
And then, of course, there was the trifle. While the dish is traditionally a hodgepodge of cake, fruit and cream, all tumbled together in a glass, Ramsay’s version, made with rhubarb and strawberries, was constructed in neat cylinders and resembled miniature layer cakes. The addition of tea-infused ice cream was an interesting but just-safe-enough alternative to vanilla.
Sure, it was misspelled, but I suppose that detail is a trifle in itself. After all, it was still delicious.
Gordon Ramsay Steak, inside Paris Las Vegas