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Mar 20, 2014 08:04 PM

3/15/14 Eating Report: Stewart + Ogden, Max Brenner, Gordon Ramsay Pub & Grill, Brooklyn Bowl

Back from Texas, back to digesting Las Vegas:

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  1. Stewart + Ogden:

    Located in the Downtown Grand and named in homage to immigrants Archibald Stewart and Peter Ogden, the appropriately named “Stewart + Ogden” Café has been the source of decidedly mixed reactions since its 2013 opening but having recently retooled the concept and the menu under the direction of Michel Richard protégé Todd Harrington I finally decided to see the restaurant for myself, an old friend in town coming along for a five plate jaunt through the restaurant’s sweet breakfast selections plus a pair of desserts. Served by Scott as trendy tunes floated overhead amidst a deluge of chandeliers it was to great coffee and friendly service that we were greeted just after the restaurant’s 7am opening and seated close to the bar the it was with a simple request that courses were paced out in decadent progression, none less than good and a few truly exemplary over the course of an hour with coffee never less than half-full. Beginning with a single savory before for moving to sweets, homemade biscuits would prove fluffy yet well-buttered beneath thick spiced gravy and although perhaps an odd pairing with a slice of “The Best” carrot cake, I actually preferred the biscuits as the cake itself was excellent while the frosting was just a bit too sweet. Moving next to a far better use of the carrot cake batter, cast-iron skilled pancakes with light cream cheese drizzle would prove light and every bit on par with those at MTO Café while the similarly topped Red Velvet stack would prove the best I’ve had to date with light cocoa tones filling the a fluffy batter bronzed by the griddle. At this point already impressed but expecting great things from what would follow given Harrington’s Crème Brulee French toast at Central it was with a trio that the meal wrapped up and with the waffles truly harkening a crunchy yeasted cinnamon roll it was the nearly molten bread-pudding and complex, custard style French toast impressed most – the later begging for a little umbrella given its island influence and crispy coconut topping juxtaposing creamy cookie butter and bursting berries.

    1. Max Brenner:

      Having experienced “The Bald Man’s” chocolates in New York many years back and quite familiar with The Forum Shops at Caesars I really cannot explain why my substantial sweet tooth had never indulged at Max Brenner’s eponymous Las Vegas restaurant, but a chance mention by a friend of the space’s pending closure or relocation quickly set me to mend the oversight. Two stories in size and featuring many things chocolate plus a collection of overpriced comfort foods it was just after 10:00am when we sat down at a cozy two top near the base of the stairs and treated to pleasant “everything is good” service typical to such places a five part order was hatched as the restaurant bustled, leaving one to ponder the reasons for any pending change. With service swift it was only a matter of minutes before selections began to arrive, the first a superlative $8 milkshake thick with caramel and rife with vanilla but topped with copious whipped cream to mask what I’d guess to be an 8oz serving, a trend carried over to each plate that followed as large prices met small portions thankfully bolstered by bold flavors. Starting sweet and following with savory due to a kitchen miscalculation it should be noted that each of Brenner’s pure chocolates are well sourced, smooth, and complex by the bar and as such both white and milk versions only served to improve the Custard French toast and Soft Cookie, the later on par with that of New York’s fabled Levain Bakery in terms of taste and texture (though at 2.5x the price) and while I think everyone would have been happier to see the Croquettes first I’d be lying if I didn’t say they were my favorite bite of the meal – the paprika and manchego working smoky, savory magic on the lightly fried kernels.

      2 Replies
      1. re: uhockey

        It was recently reported in the Review-Journal that the Las Vegas location is closing very soon when their lease expires.

        1. re: Eric

          I mentioned that in my review.

      2. Gordon Ramsay Pub & Grill:

        Having come away from a late-2013 visit to Chef Gordon Ramsay’s Steakhouse at The Paris quite impressed by both the quality and the brand I knew a visit to casual sibling “Pub & Grill” was only a matter of time – friends and fans of chef’s shows and celebrity frequent to visit Sin City. Housed in Caesars in a sizable space renovated from Bradley Ogden featuring plenty of wood, kegs, television, and Brit-kitsch it was just after noon when I sat down with two old friends and greeted by friendly, though pushy, service orders were expedited to the tune of an appetizer, a side, three mains, and two desserts – high prices and small portions tempered by a Total Rewards card…at least slightly. Focusing mostly on signatures and favorites present since the menu’s inception dining began with three small but lovely seasoned pretzels paired with cheese and mustard for $8 and progressing to plates proper another trio arrived in the $21 trio of small ramekin-pies, all well prepared but only the lamb loaded Shepherd living up to the high standards set by the exemplary golden cod selected by my friend, soggy ‘chips’ notwithstanding. Ignoring the shortrib and what I’m told were vastly overseasoned potatoes while wishing some form of seasoning had graced the flavorless mushrooms it was with sweet redemption that desserts both shined, the rustic Sticky Toffee Pudding every bit as good as the fancy version at Steak and the “DIC” a bowl of buttery custard hefty with raisins and aromatics that I’d gladly return for along with a cup of coffee – breakfast, lunch, or dinner.

        1. Brooklyn Bowl:

          Knowing full well that testing a restaurant during its early days is always a risky proposition the visit from three friends, all music fans and two vegetarians, made Brooklyn Bowl an irresistible destination for Saturday Night; a night not without mistakes – but not a single one of them involving the food. Over 80,000 square feet and opening nearly 20 minutes late as staff scrambled and soundcheck overran it must be said that the new Linq locale is beautiful, the dining area, stage, and lanes all up a gleaming escalator and with clever bowling-hip décor used to divide but not occlude each area from the next both the energy and the volume were high, even with the lanes not opened for “unexpected” reasons. Settling into our seats, five of us in total, and provided the Blue Ribbon crafted menu service was decidedly rough around the edges – dishes misdescribed, crib notes clearly used, tickets incorrect, and delays plus dropped plates common – but with grace and humor plus a good environment most was forgivable…at least for now. Moving on to food and beverage, a total of four beers and two milkshakes complimented six plates plus two desserts and with the Bourbon Street Shake and Cookie Dough disguised as French Toast “bread pudding” shining brightly amongst the sweets it was the savories that all wowed; ‘bar’ or ‘bowling-alley’ food only in spirit. Beginning first with toasty pizzas featuring immaculate produce over thick toasted bread and moving on to smoked chicken wings so moist as to fall off the bone without a hint of grease it was what followed that most diners will come for, and with good reason. Considered by some to be the “best” fried chicken they’ve ever tasted an 8 piece mixed plate was ordered and delivered alongside breadcrumb crusted macaroni that could certainly generate similar praise the matzo-crusted, brined bird truly was remarkable – just enough spice and salinity in the golden coat plus a chicharone-esque crunch to each bite bringing the quality of the moist bird to the fore. Already running an impressive kitchen in a venue primed to make a big impact in the local music scene it should only be assumed that service and timing will improve and while the ‘best’ debates will surely continue I know for a fact this was not my last visit to Brooklyn Bowl – gutter-balls and Black Label Society followed by a Banana Split and Molten Chocolate Brownie anyone?

          4 Replies
          1. re: uhockey

            Interesting...I'll be coming to town for a week next month and my first night I'll be at Brooklyn Bowl for a concert. Hadn't considered eating there as well, until now. Looks like I have some more thinking and figuring out to do.

            1. re: LongIslandChef

              Who are you seeing? The food is quite good for the venue.

              1. re: uhockey

                I'll be seeing Phil Lesh & Friends on the 20th. I'm not a huge Grateful Dead guy, don't dislike them though, I like some of their stuff. He's travelling with some really talented musicians, so it should be a great show.
                Was thinking about going to the Cosmo after for something to eat since their restaurants are open late.

                1. re: LongIslandChef

                  DOCG is excellent, and Secret Pizza is good. I'd just eat at BB though, if possible.