beef

You got to love Las Vegas. As much as you can find the high end of things, you can equally find the lower end. When I say lower end, I don’t mean cheap as in quality — I am talking about bargains. Lost a lot of money on one of those rigged slot machines? Highly unlikely. Nobody in their 70′s reads my blog. You probably lost money on the Black Jack tables — maybe in a rough game of Hold’em? Either way, just because you lost al of your money, doesn’t mean you can eat like you won big. Ellis Island Casino and Brewery is a small casino just barely off the strip on Koval Lane. The casino isn’t much, but the restaurant and brewery inside is another story. Filled with cheap, yet quality food and beer, it is a Vegas-er’s must for those on a tight budget.

I had the king cut prime rib. With a side of green beans and baked potato, the dish was a great balance of protein, carb, and greens. The prime rib was bloody red and fatty. This made for a juicy cut of beef and made me happy. With the fat running down the middle and the side of ajus, this was definately a juicy everything. Topping it all off with their horseradish made everything perfect. The name “King Cut” suggests that this was a uber thick cut — it wasn’t. I mean, it’s no Diamond Jim Brady Cut from Lawry’s. Don’t get me wrong, it was still pretty thick. At then end of it all, it was a large piece of meat that had a lot of flavor. For the ridiculous price of something like $12. Considering the price, I’d say the prime rib was pretty dang thick. Just get two and you have your thicker than thick prime rib right there, for 24 bucks! Did I mention the prime rib comes with a beer? I opted for something light — the Hefe Weiss ale was perfect. What more can I ask for than a huge prime rib and beer?

Ellis Island Casino and Brewery also has steak and eggs on the cheap too. For 6 bucks, you get an 8oz new york strip steak, eggs, toast, and your side of potato. The home fries were great with the eggs and toast, but the steak was the star. Of course, a lot less juicy than the prime rib, this was a true steak nonetheless. Cooked to a perfect medium rare, the lean cut of beef was at its purest. Did I dare ask for some A-1 sauce? I don’t care what you say, that stuff is liquid gold. Not like we are at a fancy shmancy place. But really, for 6 bucks you get all this? Only in Vegas.

I guess you can lose all your money in Vegas and still come out on top. Imagine if this same establishment, minus the casino came to Los Angeles, That would be nut! The same thing at a Denny’s or Sizzler would be double the price. You just can’t have this anywhere else but in Las Vegas. Ellis Island Casino as a casino is pretty run down. If you don’t want to play bingo here, you can always play online. I don’t really play bingo. I’m not my mother-in-law, you know, but when I’m in the mood and to find the best bingo sites, I use ballsupbingo.com. All in all though, the food and the beer was excellent. Just lose everything on black, but keep $20. Restaurants on the strip is most likely not worth it anyways.

Ellis Island Brewery on Urbanspoon

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Mastro’s to me is just another steak house. Just like Fleming’s or Morton’s and Ruth’s Chris, Morton’s offers a very classic steak restaurant. Visiting Vegas, I made a decision I shouldn’t have made. Not to say that going to Matro’s Ocean Club inside the Shops At Crystals was a mistake or a bad experience. I just have a dining out rule when I’m in Vegas. “If there’s one in LA or OC, don’t go there.” Well, I broke my rule, but it was all for a birthday celebration. I figured, I probably won’t be going to Mastro’s anytime soon, so might as well. And the bird’s nest really attracted me. I was really happy with my decision for the most part.

We started things of with bread service. They offered pretzel, crouton, baguette, dinner roll, and wheat bread. The breadbasket had variety all were quite good. My favorite was the pretzel — it was soft and airy.

I had some of the Caesar salad to start. I needed some kind of greens to soak up all that meat juice. Their Caesar salad was near perfect. The dressing was nice and creamy. The addition of parmesan cheese and cracked pepper made everything better.

I was ready for the main event, the 22oz bone in rib eye. The rib eye is one of my favorite cuts because of the even fat marbling and soft texture. Mine was cooked perfectly medium rare, though a bit more on the rare side. This actually caused the meat to be a bit tough. This cut did have some nice fat running through the steak. This helped with the tenderness and mouth feel of the meat. Even though this wasn’t the best steak I have had, the help of the amazing sides made it all better.

The real reason I came here wasn’t the steak. Well it is, and it isn’t. The real reason I came here was for the lobster mashed potatoes. I mean. It is Mastro’s Ocean Club — Ocean, meaning seafood is in order. This side dish was rich as can be — full of butter. I believe the potato to butter ratio is near 1 to 1. With a whole lobster tail carefully chopped up and placed in a pool of butter, the potatoes were creamy and flavorful. The pure essence of the sea was encased in butter, and mixed with potatoes. Eating this with steak was pure bliss. The kid in me wanted to order the mac and cheese. made with gorgonzola, the flavor was very rich. Another cream heavy and dairy heavy dish, the mac and cheese was delicious. My favorite was the layer of melted cheese on top.

My favorite was dessert. We were celebrating a birthday, so they gave us a chocolate birthday cake. The cake was rich in chocolate and eating just a few bites was enough for me. The best thing about this dessert was their home made whipped cream. Served on the side in a bowl, the homemade whipped cream was so dense and fluffy. The cold cream and the chocolate cake was a perfect mixture. Honestly though, the whipped cream was the best thing ever. I wanted to take it all home.

Eating at Mastro’s Ocean Club was a great experience. The location is a bit awkward. As you are enjoying your expensive meal inside an amazingly architectured “bird’s nest,” you look out and you see people shopping. That is cool and all, but you can’t help but think you are inside of a mall — Well, you are inside of a mall, and this Mastro’s makes sure you know that. I couldn’t help but think I was at a very glorified food court at a mall. When I eat at a nice establishment, I want to feel secluded from the world. I just didn’t get the at from here. The food is great, though as far as steakhouses go in Las Vegas, you can do a lot better. I guess I can only break my rule once. Never eat at Las Vegas where you can at home.

Mastro's Ocean Club on Urbanspoon

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We all know Gordon Ramsey. The ill tempered celebrity chef from England made a name for himself. When I think of him, he isn’t smiling or laughing. I think of angry eyes, wrinkles on the forehead, and fire coming out of his mouth. That imagery to me, is more laughable than scary. But truly, Gordon Ramsey did make a name for himself, literally. The guy names his restaurants after his name. Gordon Ramsey at The London, and this blog post, Gordon Ramsey Steak at Paris. You must be pretty full of yourself if you name your restaurants after your first name. If Gordon Ramsey has the audacity to put him name (again, literally) on his restaurants, he must be pretty confident in it. With that kind of thinking, I expect top notch flavors and cuisine.

Ramsey’s vision to transport you to the U.K. is accomplished through the “English Channel.” This is exactly what it does. You are transformed from Paris to the UK, just like the real thing! The inside really does transport you to England. The red accents and obviously, the U.K. flag gave it that ambiance.

Another thing that was cool was the beverage selection. The menu is on an iPad and guests can swipe through craft beers, wines, and cocktails. The price and drink description are all available. This was an experience in itself, which probably pushed me to order the Primm’s Cup.

The night started with a cocktail. The Primm’s Cup was the cocktail of choice. It had Primm’s No. 1 and sparkling lemonade. It had a complex flavor and wasn’t too sweet. It was spicy and had a fruity citric flavor. I wanted something with a little bite so that it went well with a steak. The Primm’s Cup wouldn’t be my first choice if it was enjoyed alone. For a meal though, I think this was a successful choice.

We were given complimentary bread. This was a good start — it was some of the best and most flavorful of restaurant complimentary breads. There was walnut bread; lemon, thyme, and olive focacia; and pancetta and mushroom truffle bread roll. This was accompanied with and English Devonshire butter with sea salt. If not the bread, this butter was amazing. It had a cheese like consistency and flavor. My ultimate goal now was to find English Devonshire butter back in L.A. A “shmeer” of this stuff on the bread was purely exceptional. The pop of the sea salt and the creamy butter was purely eventful in my mouth. Sometimes, all a man needs is good butter and good bread. This was surely a great start.

Another item I wanted to start off with was the bone marrow. A personal favorite at any restaurant, I was happy to see it on the menu. The fatty bone marrow on the crostini was delightful. The chimichurri was zesty and added the acidity to the dish. It was a perfect flavor meld of fat and fat.

The waiter came to our table with a display of steaks. All of the steaks were real, and displayed to show texture, and marbling. This was nearly useless to me as I was going to order the beef Wellington, but useful to others not knowing what to order. Table side presentation of steaks, as Wolfgang Puck’s CUT does it is an added wow factor. It is cool to see your steak as is before its cooked off.

My main dish of course, was the roasted Beef Wellington. Being Gordon Ramsey’s signature dish, I was overly excited to try it. Seeing up and coming, “red team, blue team” contestants mess this up time and time again, it was almost like a super star. The beef was cooked perfectly to a medium rare, and soft as ever can be. The beefy flavor was enhanced by the duxelles (mixture of minced mushrooms, onions, shallots, herbs, and butter) inside the flaky crust. Sitting on aside some root vegetables, potato puree, and a red wine demi glace, the entire dish was savory to a great degree. Steakhouses are one of many in Vegas, and the typical bone in ribeye was getting boring. I am glad I ordered and tried the Beef Wellington. Surprisingly, I liked it. Beef Wellington form Gordon Ramsey can now be checked off from the bucket list.

A perfect side dish was the mac and cheese. This may be one of my favorite mac and cheeses of all time! The combination of cheddar, blue cheese, parmesan, and truffle made this perfectly balanced taste. The cheese blend was unctuous and the noodles had a perfect texture. I normally prefer the southern style man and cheese — the one that is custardy and cheddar molested. Gordon Ramsey Steak’s mac and cheese impressed me a lot. I would take this over any other mac and cheese out there.

Another dish I couldn’t pass up was the Maine lobster. The chorizo stuffed Maine lobster was poached in butter. To top it all off, it sat in a pool of brandied lobster cream sauce. The lobster was cooked perfectly and had a nice chew to it. The chorizo wasn’t overpowering, and the lobster just shined. The rich butter and cream sauce was decadent and flavorful. I as expecting a small lobster piece of a tail, but it was quite large. Screw the steak! I’ll just eat this for protein.

And awesome dinner ended with an even more awesome dessert. From chocolate layer cake, to spiced caramel apple cake, it was a hard decision to make. I went with the sticky toffee pudding and never looked back. The waiter poured the brown sugar toffee over the sweet pudding cake. Glazed all over, the dessert was so sweet! The cake was moist and fluffy. What stood out was the brown sugar toffee. It was simple and devilishly addicting. I wanted to just pour that spout of toffee in my mouth. It was warm and gooey, and went perfectly with the brown butter ice cream. A bite of the warm sweet toffee pudding cake and then a bite of the creamy, not too sweet ice cream to wash it all down was so perfect. The end.

I was honestly expecting great things from Gordon Ramsey and his steak restaurant — for the most part, I got what I expected. The cuisine was top notch and the Beef Wellington was finally off my to do list. The atmosphere here is quite hip and loud. You aren’t going to get that quiet and mellow steak house with slow classical music playing in the background. You aren’t going to get neutral colors and very boring waiters. What you do get is a very fast paced, in your face experience. The loud red colors and people chatting and laughing fills the air. That’s just the vibe you get here. Gordon Ramsey’s steak house inside the Paris Resort is a destination. The Paris Resort was lacking in the quality restaurant department, and this one just set it to the top.

Gordon Ramsay Steak on Urbanspoon

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It was a clear black night, a clear white moon. Warren G was on the streets, trying to consume. Some skirts for the eve, so I can get some funk. Just rollin’ in my ride, chillin’ all alone. That was some regulators action for you. I always feel like the OC can use some more gangster rap. Anyways, before you think I’m getting all randon, it really was a clear black late night, and I was trying to consume…some food. For some reason, no Del Taco run or even In-n-Out would have quenched my craving. I was feeling like a sit down — something like bar food, but better. I wanted something clean, yet greasy, and maybe a nice drink to go with it. A gastropub was the perfect solution for this late night craving. Haven Gastropub in Orange, I was headed.



For the drink, I probably chose the most girly “beer” there was. The Woodchuck hard cider was the drink of the night. It really did taste like hard cider with a hint of apples and cinamon. The alcohol was barely present, yet it was such an interesting drink. I don’t know how that decision was made, but it was late. I was tired, hungry, and excited at the same time. Alcoholic hard cider? Why not?

We started things off with the fried pig ears. It seems like almost all gastropubs are doing it these days. The cartilagey, disgusting pig ear was cut up thin, fried to a crisp and glazed with a tangerine and fresno chili glaze. The once soft flesh now was a sweet and crispy mound of deliciousness. It was crispy, crunchy, and chewy all at the same time. The sweetness of the glaze and the heat from the fresno chilies was a perfect balance. Though some might get turned off by the pig ears part, eatings these were a joy. Just think of it as fried pig skin, which it is, and you will be just fine.

Every gastropub has to have a great burger. If the burger sucks, the whole menu fails in because of it. I was happy to have the Haven Burger perfectly cooked with the perfect ingredients. My favorite was the pickled red onions. It played the role of the crunch as well as the acidity of the burger. Biting into the fatty meat, the pickling of the onions helped cleanse the grease. It seems like arugula is a must on all gourmet burgers, and I can see why. The earthy tones and the somewhat neutral, yet bitter taste of the wild arugula helps counter the richness of the dish. The cheese was my favorite — blue cheese. It wasn’t just any blue cheese — this was Saint Agur blue cheese, from France — the fancy stuff. I mean, blue cheese, arugula, and pickled onions on a burger? Thats a recipe for success. the patty was thick and succulent, the bread was a perfect choice

Have you ever had a salad and was like “Snap, this is freaking bomb!”? No? Me neither. Who eats salads anyways? Well, my burger came with a salad and i was bomb! Probably one of my favorite salads to date, not that I have a lot of salads to compare it to. The radicchio and frisee were bitter which was a perfect vessel to soak up all the truffle vinnagerrete. The pop of the cherry tomatoes and the chevre made a good combination. The chevre had an awesomely smooth texture that gave the salad a nice silkiness. My favorite in this salad was the twice smoked bacon lardons and the poached cage free egg on top. Who doesn’t like eggs and bacon, especially when the bacons are twice smoked lardons? The fatty salty bacon mixed with the creaminess of the chevre and acidity of the vinnegarrete made a perfect balance in flavors. This is the best salad I had in a while. And it sure has been a while.

The duck confit poutine pomme frites — a lot of gastropubs are doing it, and it seems like a simple dish to make, but I never had one that was amazing. I am a guy who likes the simplicity of just thick french fries dipped in brown gravy, like the ones from The Hat. The duck gravy in this dish was nice, but it was too thick, and didn’t taste like much of anything. The duck confit was nicely cooked, but some pieces of the meat were left overcooked and dry. The pomme frites were nice and crunchy, and salted to a perfection. I thnk if the gravy was more savory, it would have been a home run.

I love a good mac and cheese. The gooey factor alone can leave me feenin’ for this stuff after a bad day. I sure was happy to have ordered the mac and cheese here. The black truffles alone were a nice touch. It gave such a depth of flavor unattainable without it. A perfect mix of gruyere, fontina, and parmesan, interlaced between each noodle had perfect consistency and flavor. The crust of panko on top wasn’t my favorite, but nothing with panko really is. This dish of mac and cheese was good, but I felt like something was missing. I couldn’t quite put my finger on it, but I felt it needed some kind of spiciness or textural difference. At the end of the day, it was a pretty standard bowl, saved by the little truffles that it did have.

My time at Haven Gastropub was awesome. The atmosphere was relaxing and fun, and having a drink, eating good food was just what I needed. Things that stood out the most was their selection in craft beers. I’m no beer officionato, but their beer list was unique and diverse — any beer lover would enjoy it here. Opening in 2009, Haven in Orange received some great accolades — OC Weekly named it the best new restaurant in 2009. Still a pup, the restaurant expanded to Pasadena as well. Whether you are in the OC or in LA, chillin’ with a beer and good food is covered.

Haven Gastropub on Urbanspoon

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K’ya Bistro was an experience. Located inside the La Casa del Camino Hotel, I was excited to eat here after exploring Victoria Beach. Opening at 1929, at first glance, the hotel seemed like a classic. The Historic Mediterranean style hotel is located in the southern pocket on Laguna Beach. Being right next to the water, this was a beautiful location. Inside this Historic hotel was K’ya Bistro, a Mediterranean / Small Plates Tapas restaurant. In a word, the inside was elegant, but the prices were affordable.

We started off with the wild hawaiian ahi poke. A mixture of onion, seaweed, avocado, spicy soy, and ahi tuna was a fresh dip for the fried wonton chips. Though the wonton chips were greasy, the dip was bearable. The avocados were creamy and the acidity of the ingredients helped with the greasy chips. The ingredients melded well together, but the fish could have been fresher. But stating these things would be nitpicking. This was a great start to our dinner at K’ya Bistro.

The lobster macaroni and cheese was a surprise. It didn’t have all that much lobster in it — not a lobster chunk in sight. The noodles were elbow, pretty standard. The cheese sauce was a cognac cream sauce — tasty. Even though this was a standard mac and cheese, I loved it. The fact that it was pretty much like the Kraft Blue Box mac and cheese helped a lot. As a kid, I lived off of that stuff. The noodles in this were actually al dente — the cognac cream was a nice touch and the parmasean crust gave it the crunch factor. Though the lobster was scant, the little that it had was nice.

When I saw filet minon for 10 bucks, I was shocked. It must taste like crap, and it must be small is what I thought to myself. I was totally wrong. Well, half wrong. It didn’t taste like crap, but it was small, as expected. The side of organic polenta was a delight and the side spinach made sure I had my greens for the day. The large wedge of blue cheese made for a creamy, pungent “sauce” for the filet. The filet was cooked perfectly and was butter soft. All this for 10 bucks? I should have ordered 2!

We ended things with the creme brulee. Is it weird that I am writing this while enjoying a Caramel Brulee Frap at Starbucks? The creme brulee was a great finish of a tasty dinner. The fresh fruit on top was a nice touch — it kind of makes this cream on sugar on fat dessert more of a healthy dessert. It was custardy and sweet with a nice crunch of the brulee.

K’ya Bistro Bar in La Casa Del Camino was surprisingly affordable. The small plates allowed us to have a lot of variety and didn’t hurt the wallet. I mean, where else can you get filet mignon for 10 bucks? I don’t even think Vegas can do that. The beautiful scenery, close proximity to the beach, and small prices makes K’ya one of my favorites in Orange County. Depending on how hungry you are, or what you are in the mood for, they got it covered. Expect a wait though, it gets pretty busy during dinner. The hotel also has a rooftop lounge. That would be perfect for a nice lunch in the sun or a nice view of the sunset during dinner. I guess La Casa Del Camino has everything covered.

k'ya Bistro Bar on Urbanspoon

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