Vegas Grub Gang Goes Gaga For Gordo
Celebrity Chef Gordon Ramsay returned to Las Vegas on January 27 to "present" his new upscale burger concept BurGR (Planet Hollywood resort) and upscale Pub and Grill (Caesars Palace) to the gathered Vegas food mafia, and a few semi-locals like myself.
BurGR is a slick, large-scale room with an open kitchen, oversized booths and a huge pic of Ramsay almost-smiling. Although it hasn't been activated yet, there's meant to be a huge enclosed 60 foot wall of flame at the entrance. At both this and the later Pub presentation, almost as much attention was given to the restaurant design and to the uniforms, by Hollywood costume designer Allison Leach. Hey, this is Vegas. Image is important. And hey, I'm not mad at them.
Already the spot has apparently sold some 30,000 burgers in the five weeks it has been open, so it's likely not all flash. In fact, as Ramsay said of his Executive Chef Eric Mickle, "he bastes those burgers like he's caressing a woman's breasts." A way with words must come with growing up in Stratford-Upon-Avon, I suppose.
To his credit, Ramsay acknowledged the already stiff competition in the realm of gourmet burgers on the Strip, tipping his toque to BLT, KGB, Fukuburger truck and Holstein's in particular, and admitted that the British aren't particularly known for good burgers, before describing some of BurGR's distinctions--a rotating grill using apple and alder woods, a relatively small but creative menu.
We were all given a small sample--one slider, an onion ring and a mini pudding shake before being trotted off on a London double-decker bus (the roof cut off for tourists) to Caesars. I won't yet go as far as one fawning attendee who declared it the best burger on the Strip, but I will say it's strongly in the running, with about maybe six others.
There, Ramsay again paid unexpected homage to the previous restaurant in the spot now housing Pub & Grill, Bradley Ogden (for those resto nerds out there, while the front has been radically transformed, the kitchen is virtually unchanged). He also noted the pleasure of being under the same roof as his former mentor Guy Savoy:
"One of my biggest tellings off came from Chef Savoy when I won my third Michelin Star before he did."
Here the design is dominated by a big painting of Ramsay's bulldog (as well as bulldogs on the chair backs and cute little bulldog lamps), while the uniforms here play with Mod and Punk motifs, the newspaper dress actually a collection of negative reviews of Ramsay from the British tabloids. Cute.
There are 300 seats, which might be more than there are in the pubs of some entire neighborhoods of London.
We got a sampling of nibbles and beers (they offer 24 on tap, 63 in bottle, a moderate sized list on the Strip) before being sat for a traditional "Sunday Roast," that as it turns out isn't actually being offered yet. It was a nice meal, but possibly not representative.
Then Ramsay along with his EC Jeremy Berlin (ex GR at the London West Hollywood abnd Church & State) gave a bit of a cooking demo in the kitchen for one TV crew and a few of us others who snuck in.
Can't wait to sneak back in again, and try more of the menus.