Friday, February 8, 2013

Wolfgang Puck American Grille: Tavern Review

After a wonderful weekend filled with big wins and getting to the semi-finals of a blackjack tournament I was invited to, the GF and I headed over to Wolfgang Puck's American Grille. It's located in the Borgata Hotel, which hosts other fine dining establishments such as Michael Mina's Sea Blue (now closed due to poor demand) and Bobby Flay's Bobby Flay Steak, where the GF and I had a poor dining experience. But we had high hopes for Wolfgang Puck, one of the first, if not the first, celebrity chefs. Having dined at Cut in both his Vegas and Beverly Hills outposts, I knew that he was not just a famous face on TV.

The American Grille offers both a fine dining and tavern atmosphere. The tavern doesn't require, and frankly doesn't take reservations. The fine dining menu offers a USDA prime sirloin, while the tavern offers a rib-eye cut. I wasn't sure if it was certified USDA prime, but I was willing to take my chances on the rib-eye, since it's my favorite cut of beef.

On a weekend, it took about 45 minutes at 7:30PM to get a table, but no matter. It was actually for the best since after couple of pulls on the adjacent slot machines to pass the time, both the GF and I had enough to pay for dinner a few times over. I tend to stay away from slots, but they sure are loose at the Borgata!

Bread Service

But our night started going downhill once we were seated for dinner. From start to finish, service was uneven. Bread service consisted of cold varieties - a caramelized onion, a multi-grain, a mini-baguette, and a saccharine potato roll perhaps? Butter did not accompany our bread, though other patrons received it. I asked for butter, and the server apologized and said he would bring it right away. It never came.

Pineapple Ginger Mojito [$12]

My mojito certainly had both elements of pineapple and ginger, but the minty saccharine nature typical of a mojito was not embodied in this tipple. Pretty lackluster.

Raspberry Lemon Drop [$12]

The GF's martini was warm and did not have any sour notes from the lemon. It tasted of artificial raspberry puree - certainly not a fan of high fructose corn syrup in a $12 martini. Added bonus? Our server dropped the accompanying lemon on the floor - it was never replaced. Doubt it would have made the drink much better though.

Truffled Potato Chips [$12]
Maytag bleu cheese and chives

The Yelp reviews of the American Grille are all over the place. However, quite a few of them promulgated the truffled chips as a great starter. Unfortunately, while these are perfect for a late night bender, the ones that were offered to us consisted of salty, thin kettle chips which were clearly not fresh. In fact, the dish came out just a few minutes after our initial order and some of the chips were chewy. Truffle notes were not apparent at all. While I enjoy Maytag blue cheese, the sauce overpowered the appetizer. Not by its innate funk, but just by the profuse pour over all the chips. The chives sprinkled on top were a nice touch, but again - overcome by the amount of sauce that pooled on the bottom of the dish. The salt alone from dish rendered us 'satiated.' In fact, we should have stopped right there.

Spicy Tuna Tartare [$22]
Avocado, cucumbers, and crisp wontons

I know that Wolfgang Puck offers a great tuna tartare. In fact, some would say he's known for his tuna tartare. The tuna tartare at the American Grille is not pictured above. Why? The one dish we were looking forward to was forgotten about. In fact, after a fairly quick apology, I had to call the server back to let him know to cancel the order since we had just received our mains.

Grilled Ribeye Steak [$49]
Peppercorn sauce, bleu cheese hollandaise, french fries

Before ordering the ribeye, I specifically asked if the steak was USDA prime. I figured at around a $50 price point, it had to be. But then again, we were in a casino. In any case, the waiter stuttered at first, then collected himself, and proclaimed that yes, they were the 'good kind - the prime kind.' I had my doubts, but went ahead with the order and requested it at a medium temperature.

If this steak was USDA prime, it was clearly of the lowest quality. In fact, I still have my doubts that it is truly prime certified as the tavern leaves 'Prime' off of the menu, while the fine dining menu clearly states 'Prime' for its sirloin. In any case, some parts of the steak were closer to medium-well than medium. And while the crust was decently seasoned with pepper, the accompanying peppercorn sauce brought the pepper notes over the top. There was also a blue cheese hollandaise which was completely cold. I also didn't taste any blue cheese notes in the sauce - perhaps all the blue cheese was used up on the truffled chips? The fries were merely passable.

Almond Crusted Salmon [$27]
Horseradish mashed potatoes and red wine reduction

The GF had the salmon, which was almond 'topped,' rather than crusted. In any case, the almonds didn't add much to the dish. The salmon was lukewarm at best and fishy in some parts. Clearly not fresh. The red wine reduction was tepid at best. The mashed potatoes were the best part of the dish - but only because they were edible, despite being a bit dry.

FYI - the prices for most dishes have risen about $1 to $5 than what is listed on the website menu. Still, the prices are reasonable at the American Grille, with the exception of the rib-eye (especially if it's not USDA Prime). However, that's only if the quality of the food is consistent with the price point. Unfortunately, the quality on this night was clearly off. No offense to Chef Wolfgang Puck, but clearly the quantity of his establishments has diluted some of the quality, especially out in AC. I loved Cut, so I had high expectations for the American Grille. However, the service and food were simply not up to the standards he would expect of his kitchen.

Wolfgang Puck American Grille on Urbanspoon

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