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May 5, 2008 12:02 PM

A game of high steaks at the Bellagio- Prime, Las Vegas

The drone of hopeful millionaires waned as the six of us dipped into the paneled honeycomb of Bellagio’s steakhouse, Prime. We had drifted away from the hoots and hollers of night owls and seemingly onto the set of a high budget film that hadn’t decided whether its focus was Old Hollywood, Gone with the Wind or French Victorian. Blue, velvet drapes careened from ceiling to floor, busting from a girdle of gold chords that could easily fashion Scarlett’s next dress. Fountains flitted outside the window like children intent on a game of tag and added just enough Disneyland amusement to complete this abstract portrait.

Despite swiveled heads and rubber necks, we arrived at our table unscathed and dwarfed by an immense painting resembling Venus’s sister (staring wide-eyed at our plates to ensure we ate all our vegetables). An ocean of carpet, thick enough to swallow any signs of dropped silverware, necessitated “Alice in Wonderland-like” gold knockers on the back of each chair for easy towing.

Auditioning for the stereotypical role of “Jeeves”, our waiter ascended with a raised nostril of disgust (Scene 1: sniffing dirty sweat sock) and upon ordering drinks (Scene 2: serving a stiff cocktail of contention), one of my culinary colleagues murmured, “I feel like the waiter thinks he’s better than me.”

We laughed, but the apparent exasperation wasn’t funny. Jeeves’s superiority was stifling from the first wrinkle of his nose to his wafting stench of arrogance, and not only did it lessen our experience, but lowered the overall standard of the restaurant. A true upscale establishment ensures the customer’s comfort at all costs and Jeeves couldn’t even spare a dime.

Our annoyance was overridden by a dining cart bearing silver orbs of secrecy, each cover lifted and replaced in the edible version of “find the queen”. My fork first tore at symbiotic landmarks of top grade tuna and avocado wading in ginger/ soy with its light, rejuvenating effects similar to a Fountain of Youth (for the palate). The salad set posed an ordinary looking Caesar like a diminutive wallflower, but beneath his classic cover laid a defined body and final punch of citrus that lifted his status to “crowd pleaser Caesar”.

Unfortunately, the crispy goat cheese fondue did not rival Caesar for top billing and was a disappointment in concept and taste. This tomb of fondue bandaged goat cheese (head to toe) in a fried, phyllo sarcophagus that trapped the necessary tart-n-creamy catalyst. “The curse of teeth rotting sweetness” attacked an unassuming frisee salad with grapes and pear vinaigrette (its pungent antidote only inches away).

The “meat and greet” came next with the promise of the protein packed main course that had led us here. My lamb chops, encrusted with chili crumbs, were ordered at medium rare, but arrived closer to rare. Still delectable, I ravaged them, dipping sporadically in the bevy of sauces accompanying the meal (béarnaise, spicy pepper, etc.) The steak au poivre was paved with a thick asphalt of peppercorns (not a pothole of naked meat to be seen) with a potency that could remove tar. The tearing and coughing induced by this dish might be used as protection in a dark alley- the original pepper spray.

Two of our other carnivorous constituents ordered the porterhouse- one requesting medium rare and the other medium. A couple bites into the meal, the medium rare “requestee” found himself in the middle of medium man’s steak. Medium man had already manhandled the “mis-steak” placed before him (cooked almost exactly like the other) and munched happily on what he thought to be his order. This was inexcusable- not only did these prices demand perfection (around $50 a steak), but the moniker of “steakhouse" insists on the chefs’ aptitude for mastering meat temperatures. This was a blunder that couldn’t be overlooked as easily as Jeeves’s snippy quips and would be the resounding memory of the meal (though thoughts of their lumpy, heavily salted mashed potatoes would be reminisced of fondly).

I could now empathize with Dr. Malfi’s attraction to Tony Soprano. I was immediately enamored with this piece of work’s over-the-top and muddled alter egos, but inconsistency and a mafia sized payoff eventually marred my fond feelings. As Prime puckered for its “kiss of death” in my final farewell, I still admired its larger than life character, but couldn’t trust Prime’s rep enough to invest that type of dough.

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    1. OK, I'll try this, hopefully no one will get offended:

      Did you complain? Did you send back the food? If not, why not?

      3 Replies
      1. re: The Old Man

        I didn't complain (usually I don't have a problem with that- I'm not a pain, but if it's wrong I usually ask for the change) and it was only because we were with a larger group. We were already halfway through the meal and it was edible, just not the temperatures we ordered (ridiculous for a steakhouse).

        As far as Jeeves, I wish I did complain b/c he reallly had a negative effect on the meal- we were a little happy when he broke a wine glass at a neighboring table.

        1. re: popandkate

          Do you know "Jeeves's" name? The servers at Prime all wear name tags. It would be nice to be able to warn 'hounds away from certain servers since they do account for a part of the experience. Just curious to know if you caught his/her real name and could warn 'hounds' for future visits.

          1. re: azbirdiemaker

            Ah- I only wish! Again, I am usually a bit more observant, but this was Sun. evening after much Vegas debauchery (a wedding and my 30th b-day) so I was not on my A- game. I'm sorry that I don't have that valuable piece of info- I know it's needed!

      2. I hope you post more on the SW board. Your writing style is both informative and entertaining. Bummer about your experience at Prime. I guess I'll bump Prime down on my hit list. I'm looking to try Cut and N9NE as my next conquests. I have been intrigued by the famed N9NE ribeye that is so highly touted on this very site.

        3 Replies
        1. re: climberdoc

          Doc, you might also consider Craftsteak, it's very good. I like N9NE a lot (have been several times) and haven't tried Cut. We decided to try Cut at its original location in Beverly Hills and have a reservation for later this month. Friends who I trust implicitly in all food-related matters had a truly terrible experience at Prime within the last year or so, some issues were consistent with what the OP on this thread experienced.

          1. re: climberdoc

            Thanks for your kind words! I will be posting again soon!

            1. re: climberdoc

              Never been there so this opinion is not based on my own experience but I have spoken to many local people in Las Vegas and they have all had bad experiences at N9NE, several with the food not great and others felt the service was not up to par.

            2. I a local and I liked N9Ne...but I really enjoy Craft