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MESA GRILL

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Caesars Palace

3570 Las Vegas Blvd. S.

Las Vegas, NV 89109

702-731-7731

website

$20-$50

Mon-Fri 11am-2:30pm

Sat-Sun 10:30am-3pm

Daily 5-11pm

Southwest

B+

AT A GLANCE

What is it?

Bobby Flay's signature restaurant is a wondeful surprise, better than most celebrity chef places.

Where is it?

At Caesars Palace on the Center Strip.

What kind of food is served?

A tantalizing selection of Southwestern and Tex-Mex style dishes.

What is the atmosphere like?

Lots of warm woods and colored glass give the room a comfy vibe.

How is the service?

Terrific.

What are the prices like?

More than I usually like to pay, but I felt it was totally worth it.

What else do I need to know?

They have their very own quesadilla oven. Okay, you probably didn't need to know that but you're glad I told you, right?

What's the bottom line?

I'm not usually a celebrity chef kinda guy but this one changed my mind.

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FULL REVIEW

Celebrity Chef restaurants are both the savior and the bane of Las Vegas dining. Sure, it took people like Emeril and Wolfgang to start the trend away from cheap prime rib specials toward epicurean feasts that have turned the city into one of the top dining destinations in the world. But at the same time it seems like anyone who has ever published a cookbook or gotten their face on the Food Network is opening yet another trendy eatery in town, often with less than stellar results since they rarely spend any real time in the places.

Enter Bobby Flay, Food Network staple with enough name recognition to fill his signature Mesa Grill restaurant at Caesars Palace to overflowing no matter how good or bad it is. The good news is this: it's good regardless of whether or not Flay himself is standing over the stove.

The first time I visited, I was impressed. The second time, I was bowled over by the flavors, the presentation, and the almost audacious sense of flair that has been put into the menu, turning what could be a fairly pedestrian Tex Mex snooze into an endlessly entertaining experience.

The space is a casual, vaguely retro stunner with soaring ceilings, warm woods, and comfortably mod furnishings all done in bold yet somehow understated primary colors. The amorphous layout contains not one single sharp edge or corner that I could find. It's a visual feast before the actual feast begins.

The menu is a wide-ranging affair of dishes, most with a southwestern flair, all with the typically extravagant touches and twists that set "fine dining" apart from just plain old dining. You want a chicken quesadilla? Fine. But you're going to get it with smoked chicken and black beans served with avocado and a toasted garlic crème fraiche. And you know what? You're gonna love it.

Created in the specially constructed onsite 20-foot tall rotisserie and quesadilla oven (who knew there were such things?), it is a delight, almost crispy but not crunchy, tangy without an overwhelming bite, and stuffed with enough recognizably fresh ingredients to make it its own meal.

Entrees run the gamut from seafood to poultry to beef to game and beyond, all run through that southwestern flavoring gauntlet. For lunch, consider the sixteen spice rotisserie chicken salad. The presentation, as expected, was audacious, with stacks of chicken and greens forming a tower between colorful corn tortillas, goat cheese, and equally colorful drizzlings of sauces including a green onion vinaigrette. The meat was verging on blackened but in a good way, substantial in both heft and not-too-spicy flavor mixing well with the cool greens, tangy cheese, and zesty sauces. The entire thing could have been overwhelming mélange of varying textures and tastes but it all worked brilliantly as a whole.

Other options include a New Mexican spiced pork tenderloin sandwich, cornmeal crusted chile relleno, a grilled swordfish club, and more sandwiches, salads, and lunch style entrées.

For dinner, your choices are similar but less in the sandwich style and more in the entrée style, for example the aforementioned tenderloin comes with a sweet potato tamale if you order it at night. We tried a couple of the steaks - a coffee rubbed filet and a bone in chipotle glazed ribeye, both of which simply fantastic, packed with bold flavor in both the meat and the things that spiced it up. Also sampled were the pan seared sea scallops, deemed one of the best examples of the dish by the person who ordered it.

A full bar specializes in tequila (with more than 250 bottles to choose from) and margaritas. This seemed like a good spot to socialize and maybe order some of those appetizers or dessert.

Prices are on the high side at least according to my wallet but not at all out of line for what you're getting and the neighborhood in which you're eating. Lunch will run $20-25 per person and dinner in the $50-75 range depending on how many margaritas you get.

Service was impeccable and I was impressed by how the staff remained attentive without being intrusive.

Stand up and cheer for a celebrity chef restaurant worth its celebrity status.

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