Caesars Palace (last visit: September 2011).
Michel Richard is a big name chef in whatever book it is where they print big names. Based in Washington, D.C., this is Richard's first foray in the desert. Central (pronounced sen-TRAL) is a near copy of the D.C. restaurant; it serves as Caesars' 24 hour café.
Breakfast offerings are pretty standard - eggs, waffles, pancakes - with the occasional surprise, such as a full English breakfast. The same can be said about lunch and dinner, although there are a few more surprises (such as faux gras, which never saw the inside of a goose).
Central has huge glass windows. During the day, the restaurant is cheery and bright. It's a large, informal space, with light colored furniture. Music is moderate to loud; I noticed a lot of vocals during my visits.
Service was cheerful but inexpert, perhaps due to the restaurant's recent opening. Some examples:
"You mean, you want to eat here?" I arrived at lunch time, but ropes barred the entrance. I got the attention of some hostesses, and asked "are you closed?" They looked confused and said "no." After a pause, they removed the ropes. No wonder the restaurant had so few people in it.
Mistaken identity. The wrong breakfast was delivered to me.
Timing is everything. In one instance, my entrée arrived on the heels of my appetizer; in another, my dessert took a long time to appear.
"You want to do what?" Presented with the bill, I said I'd like to charge it to my room. The server seemed flustered; he said he'd have to ask about it. On return, he said that was fine - but didn't have the charge form. He came back, I filled it out, he returned with thanks - but no receipt.
I had four meals at Central: two breakfasts and two lunches. There were some hits, but also far too many misses. The hits:
Faux gras. Actually made from chicken liver, it was light and mousse-like, with a pleasingly strong liver flavor.
Michel's Napoleon. A huge offering, with apricot sauce and crème anglaise. It was very flaky, and the layers of cream were delicious.
Chocolate Bar. This pedestrian sounding dessert was anything but. It had a strong chocolate flavor, with a crunchy bottom layer. A pool of tasty chocolate hazelnut sauce gilded the lily, but I'm not complaining.
Fried chicken with mashed potatoes. This is one of Richard's signature dishes. Two large boneless pieces were cold, hard and dry. I had difficultly even cutting the chicken with the serrated butter knife (no other knife was provided). Whether this was the fault of the kitchen or the server (letting it sit too long) doesn't matter; it was lousy.
English Breakfast. Scrambled eggs, sausage, ham, bacon, and hash browns; what could go wrong with that? Well, other than the fact that baked beans and tomato were missing, the eggs were the worst I can ever remember getting in a restaurant. They were hard and rubbery. I mean: better-get-a-knife hard.
Lobster burger. Richard is known for using potato tuiles in his various burgers; that definitely enhanced the texture of my lobster burger. Unfortunately, the burger itself was bland.
In between the hits and misses were: gougères that were good enough but not worth ordering again; French toast crème brûlée that was decent but no better than that.
It should be noted that I ate at Central shortly after it opened. Restaurants sometimes suffer growing pains during this period. Having said that, I was very disappointed. Service was poor, which might be explained due to the restaurant's recent opening. However, the food was too frequently bad as well. If a restaurant's owner were to say that was due to the recent opening, my response would be that a restaurant shouldn't open until the food is right.
Breakfasts ran about $20 - $25. Lunches were $30 - $40. To this, add tax and tip.
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