How to Survive at Mesa Grill
I don't think the food at Mesa Grill is very good. My boss does not share this opinion, so he generously treats me to dinner there once every week or two. He has no interest in trying new restaurants.
Since I have yet to some across any dish that is worth ordering repeatedly, I find myself in the unique position of being able to work through the menu. I have tried almost everything on it.
I hope this post can provide some guidance to any 'hound unfortunate enough to find him or herself eating at Mr. Flay's flagship restaurant.
One of the most important things to remember is, when you order a dish, ask if it comes with the special Bobby Flay sauce. Many of the dishes on the menu do. If so, ask for the sauce on the side. Now, I seldom ask for any kind of substitutions at restaurants, I'm a strong believer in leaving myself in the hands of the chef. The problem is, the proteins at Mesa grill tend to be of good quality, and cooked quite well. Then they're drowned in a cloyingly sweet semi-spicy Mexicanish barbecue candy sauce that completely masks the flavor.
Here are some of the better dishes I've had:
-Shrimp & Roasted Garlic Corn Tamale
Sweet and creamy. While a bit heavy, this is not a bad dish at all. And the usual barbecue sauce is absent, replaced with a creamy corn cilantro sauce.
-Mango & Spice Crusted Tuna Steak
A big hunk of tuna, cooked medium rare with a not-too-overwhelming spice rub. It comes with decent couscous.
-Chipotle Glazed Rib Eye, sauce on the side
This is a pretty nice boneless rib eye, and they cook it perfectly. It's quite flavorful, perhaps too much so (the sauces, not the meat).
-Sticky Toffee Pudding
This is a pretty straightforward, but pretty solid example of a sticky toffee pudding. Even though most of the savory dishes on the menu are too sweet, this dessert is not.
Haven't been to Mesa Grill since the mid-1990's. And then, it was just once for dinner (excellent) and once for brunch (meh).
I'm a sticky toffee pudding fanatic, so I will have to try it there.
I prefer lamb to steak. I see there's a lamb porterhouse chop on the dinner menu. Also, the chili relleno sounds good. It's stuffed with eggplant, which I love. Have you tried these?
You'll probably get there before I do, so I look forward to hearing what you think of the lamb. And I'll definitely let you know about the sticky toffee pudding. But in case you want to try it elsewhere and make comparisons yourself, two places that have excellent versions are Blue Smoke and North End Grill.
Photo of Sticky Toffee at Blue Smoke: http://www.flickr.com/photos/11863391...
and at North End Grill: http://www.flickr.com/photos/11863391...
So, I tried the lamb.
It's a good amount of lamb, and mine was cooked to a perfect medium rare. But there were two large problems with it. The first is, the lamb itself was pretty bland. The second is, it was smothered in thin slices of hot (I believe Serrano) peppers and mint. Unfortunately, it managed to be quite spicy but with very little flavor. Not a great combo, imho.
Stick with the steak. Its a good cut of meat and doubtful they will screw it up.
Of course, sauce on the side.
DH LOVES, I mean LOVES Mesa Grill. Me, not so much. I am so glad to know I am not the only one who is not a fan. We live in CT and he wanted to take a trip down to have dinner there one night. So far I have successfully talked him out of it. Thanks for your advice Lexi in the event I am over-ridden some day :) . And, yes- prickly pear margaritas will help!
I don't think Mesa Grill is horrible. Do we have better in NYC? Of course. But for their price point, they're not bad. I do agree the ubiquitous sauce tends to be a bit cloying, though. He does gravitate towards sweet flavors quite often, in general.
I find Bar Americain far better, and were I to recommend a BF restaurant to anyone that'd be the one - the menu options are more varied, for one, and the price:value ratio is pretty decent. The portions a bit large, which is a rarity these days - probably why it appeals to tourists, who expect everything in NYC to be miniscule. But for the $$, you get a decent amount of well-enough-prepared (if not exactly creative) food. The kind of place you could just get apps and then split an entree between two people, and not leave feeling ripped off. I wouldn't recommend it to a local or a "foodie" though.
I was actually quite surprised one time visiting my folks (in Southeast CT, land of casinos) - we had dinner one night at the Foxwoods BA, and everything was excellent across the board. Don't know who's running the kitchen there, but they did a bang-up job that night.
Granted, it's been probably two years since I last foot in Mesa Grill, and BA I might only find myself in once a year or so, and never by my own choice. But I'm not opposed to it when it's suggested.
Never thought it was good when it opened. Too much heat in the early days. You could not taste anything but heat.
Went recently with a friend that was curious after watching Flay on TV forever. The food is not just bland and uninteresting.
I never understood the big deal about this place.
The last time I was in there was almost 16 years ago when I was 8 months pregnant. My tamale was meh. Husband's cornmeal-crusted soft-shell crab was eh.
What I remember the most was the "skanky ho"-stess who completely ogled my husband as we left, arm in arm. Yeah, pissing off the pregnant wife who makes the restaurant choices is never a good idea. I called them later and told them so.
Went once and had the whole fried fish, snapper maybe? I enjoyed it. Never gone back as there are other places I like better.