At this stage, Bobby Flay is best known as the smug New York chef who’s featured on every third Food Network show. In the ’90s, he was more recognizable for his modern interpretations of Southwestern cooking. He debuted Mesa Grill in 1991 near Union Square in Manhattan. In 2004, he expanded his concept to Las Vegas, opening a stylish outpost inside Caesars Palace. Based on our appetizers and desserts, it’s clear his food is still substantial.
The contemporary space featured molded wood and plenty of color, including the rainbow-colored jugs that mimic the pottery found at New Mexico cliff dwellings like Mesa Verde.
Partida Margarita ($16) is Mesa Grill’s latest addition to the Mesa Grill cocktail list, combining Partida Blanco Tequila, Partida Organic Agave Nectar and fresh squeezed lime, served straight up so there’s no dilution. It was certainly an upper-tier margarita.
A cast-iron dish of Goat Cheese “Queso Fundido” ($14) was topped with rajas (roasted pepper strips) and blue corn tortilla chips to scoop up the tangy cheese.
One of Flay’s signature dishes: Tiger Shrimp + Roasted Garlic Corn Tamale ($16) housed plump shrimp and garlicky corn kernels in a creamy corn-cilantro sauce.
A supple Blue Corn Pancake ($15) was folded around rich barbecued duck and streaked with Habanero Chile-Star Anise Sauce.
CHICKEN + BLACK BEAN QUESADILLA ($14) was terrific, topped with chunky guacamole and sprinkled with Toasted Garlic Creme Fraiche that blistered under high heat. In too many quesadillas, the chicken is dry, but here it was as juicy as possible.
Warm Cornbread Pudding ($11) was excellent, moist, surrounded by a moat of pear-apple compote and pear butter sauce and topped with a scoop of ginger-molasses ice cream.
Chocolate Espresso Layer Cake ($12) was even better, a rich chocolate cake layered with espresso butter cream, surrounded by espresso toffee sauce and flecked with crunchy Kahlua toffee pieces.
Apparently Flay still has some bows left in his culinary quiver.
Note: This meal was part of a media trip hosted by Caesars Palace for Los Angeles food writers.