A Vegas Highlight: Craftsteak

It’s a terrible thing to have to admit, but it’s not often that I get giddy with enthusiasm about a dinner out. Part of the reason is the simple reality that I’ve eaten out so many times for so many years–particularly while I was editor of the Seattle Zagat guide and food editor of Seattle Magazine–that eating out is not, in itself, particularly special. And so often we’re returning to a favorite restaurant for a reliably enjoyable, engaging meal but, by nature of familiarity, one that doesn’t hold a lot of surprise (places like Restaurant Zoë, Saito’s, Palace Kitchen, Rover’s).

Or it’s a highly rated restaurant that so seldom lives up to the hype, the attitude and/or the price. Which is the case with most of the “name” spots in Las Vegas. And which is why this recent meal stands out as such a notable one.

We’d walked by Craftsteak in the MGM Grand casino a few times in recent visits and a glance at the menu put it at least on my ‘places of interest’ list for a future trip. This past weekend we had been to see Zumanity at New York New York (so-so, I think the Teatro Zinzanni shows in Seattle and San Francisco deliver more interesting, if PG-rated, entertainment) and were in the market for a late dinner. Craftsteak won the draw.

We were seated in a matter of minutes, the large dining room surprisingly full so close to final seating. We’d seen their set menu posted out front, which would have been $60 each, 6 or 7 dishes served family style, including salad, grilled quail, steak, side dishes, dessert. The couple next to us ordered that and it was a generous amount of food that would have filled the bill. But we opted to go à la carte and spent just a little more than that.

After a generous Boodles martini with blue cheese stuffed olives (an optional extra I was happy to see), I started off with a “salad” of chilled braised baby artichokes in a creamy type of dressing with tarragon, really simple and perfectly delicious. I’m picky about artichokes, particularly when they’re poorly trimmed, leaving tough, stringy parts intact. These were among the best I’ve ever had, tender and wonderful. Bob began with the heirloom tomato salad, a colorful array of different shapes and sizes left to shine with little adulteration.

For entrees, red meat dominates the menu. They don’t just have wagyu beef, but wagyu beef from your choice of provenances: domestic, Australian and Japanese. Plus a number of more mainstream steak choices. Bison got Bob’s attention, the NY strip cut flavorful, juicy, perfectly cooked. I opted for a favorite standby, braised shortribs. Oooh baby, these were some special shortribs, off the bone, a slab of deeply marbled, rich beef that nearly fell apart on my tongue. Heaven. Our side dishes of choice were the roasted sunchokes (a+) and potato gratin with leeks and roasted garlic (wonderful, though the leek and garlic a bit subtle for my taste). That’s the best I can do for a critique of anything we tasted all evening.

No room for dessert. And no need for it. As we left, Bob noted that next time we see Tom Colicchio on an episode of Top Chef (which we don’t really watch, too close to home, subject for another post), at least we’ll know that the guy really knows what he’s doing in the kitchen. We’ll surely be back to Craftsteak on another Vegas visit, which is about the best review we can give any place in that town.

Craftsteak (MGM Grand) on Urbanspoon

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