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Gordon Ramsay Came, Saw and Conquered Vegas (And Us)

Where: 3655 South Las Vegas Boulevard [map], 89109
May 14, 2012 at 9:53 PM | by | Comment (1)

Moments before Chef Gordon Ramsay arrived to meet a press pack in his new Paris casino restaurant, there was a palpable wave of excited anticipation. For a known phenomena in the culinary and showbiz world, this was an unknown situation.

How bold, brash or forceful would Gordon Ramsay crash into this very crowded and very competitive dining arena? He choose to arrive as himself, talk with passion and won us over. It was masterpiece of publicity theater. But, also a genuine insight into the combination of pure charisma and calculated persona that creates a brand. And, a brand that sells.

He's a double digit Michelin Star chef, but with a familiarity that reaches to the flip-flop crowd steps away from his kitchen. His tutelage under Vegas neighbors Guy Savoy and JoŽl Robuchon could have prompted a push to a restaurant of light subtlety and finesse, but we arrived into an immersive environment of steel, reds and branded Gordon all around us. And there, in front of us, the real brash, free talking and highly opinionated Ramsay. But, with a frequent humbleness in his vocal admiration for his past mentors and peers. He had something to prove to the culinary profession. And, to prove something to himself. It was evident that Las Vegas needed to be conquered by Gordon. And, he has come in strong.

We met an animated, intensely proud and enthused businessman who had been working and calculating for two years on how to precisely bring a restaurant to Vegas. In his other role as a chef, he can now safely claim to hold the preeminent restaurant on the East side of the Strip all the way from MGM as far down as the Venetian. It is not merely a destination restaurant, for those punters who want to see that bloke from the telly, but for food lovers looking for something new and inspired.

Gordon Ramsay Steak (we heard him call it GR Steak more than once) is now open for business. The journey begins with the gaggle of hostesses that float around the entrance. Their station is just far enough into the casino proper to act as magnet for the curious. The much-heralded Chunnel, the architectural metaphor of crossing from France to England, is a ruby beacon.

There's also a huge wall of kitchen, virtually shouting nothing to hide here. On the ceiling, a Union Jack flag. He's not American, if you hadnít gotten the memo. A kinetic neon sculpture smack in the middle. While preparing his signature dish for this project, the Beef Wellington, the blur of Ramsay's hands were recorded as he created, and this was translated into a light sculpture. This motif is on the menu, and in an overly attentive addition to detail, on the glassware.

There's thought at every turn. Even if it is extravagant. A fine portrait of the man himself. Ramsay proudly demonstrates a trolley that is brought round to each diner's table. The various cut of meat on offer are brashly displayed. Behind each slab, a mirror, almost an exaggerated dental appliance, to amplify the marbling. Again, no hiding.

This writer, in addition to attending the press conference and trying a couple of dishes, was graciously invited to another night's tasting, featuring frequent visits by Chef Ramsay to our table. We've tried multiple items and it wouldn't be fair of us to review a normal dining experience based on that night, but certain constants are worth noting.

The staff are quite extraordinary in their collective skills, eagerness to deliver, and the minutiae of each dish. Only a week open and this is already a precision operation. The bravado of the meat trolley is equally matched by the metal octopus that holds the shellfish platter. Its ostentatious, detail intensive and, yet, practical. There's a trend here. Bigger than life, and yet with a base line of good sense. He may have told us that he "wasn't trying to show off" with the room. It feels like he did, but it works, nonetheless.

On the night we were there, out of earshot and vision sight of journalists, we saw Chef Ramsay going table to table, sitting and chatting and fully engaging with his customers. It was a true pleasure to spy upon such charming behavior.

He now has a home in L.A. and promises to be here at least twice a month. He should be. The worst kept secret in Vegas was leaked this week, when word got out about his second venture, a gastro-pub, that will eventually move into the Bradley Ogden space at Caesars Palace.

At the Grand Tasting evening of Vegas Uncork'd, over 2,400 attendees had a limited opportunity to line up as Ramsay stood behind his booth and cooked, took orders and handed out dishes. We saw Rock Star attention and adulation, as he ground out orders of Beef Wellington for the guests.

It will take a while for the buzz on this place to die down. The restaurant and the reservation desk are hopping. We watched the walk ups and listened to the hostesses patiently explain how busy it is to disappointed customers. Gordon Ramsay Steak should ultimately live and die by its menu and its food. This VegasChatter writer has formed his opinion. And, can't wait to go back.

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@ Richard Lane

Great story. . .lots of info. . .but did you like the steak?

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