On August 5th, Bradley Ogden, the seminal Las Vegas farm-to-table restaurant, will close its doors forever, to make way for a gastropub by British chef Gordon Ramsay. Over a ten-year span, only our two Robuchon restaurants rivaled this restaurant for its excellence, and how I wish I could undo fate in this case.
But Ogden, involved with several other enterprises, is moving on, and so is the resort. Ogden has formed a company with his son, Bryan, who cooked in this kitchen a long stretch, and who consulted on and opened Munchbar, a casual Caesars Palace venue owned by entrepreneur Robert Frey. Ogden trained dozens of top chefs in his spotless kitchen, among them Adam Sobel, the G-Man, Gerald Chin and countless others. He’s been a stalwart of American comfort foods since himself training at Joe Baum’s famous American Restaurant in Kansas City. His like won’t be seen again in Vegas.
Ogden was really the first chef to bring what I like to call a Northern California aesthetic to Vegas, even though he is a salt of the earth Midwesterner from Traverse City, Mich. I know he was the first restaurateur in this town to put in an all-American wine list, even if it later morphed into an international one, and he was certainly the chef who inspired an entire generation of local chefs to list the provenance of their ingredients, from Marshall Farms honeycombs to Duroc pork to various artisan American cheeses. Need I add that Ogden had a personal relationship with virtually all his suppliers?
Because I’ve been such a big fan of the restaurant, Caesars PR Queen Celena Haas, a recent bride soon to change her handle, invited my wife, myself and Hugh Fogel for one last dinner at the restaurant, as her guests. Chef Michael Gill was manning the stoves, a longtime Ogden vet, with Patty Beck, the restaurant’s equally longtime sommelier, doing the wines. The meal was as good as any I’ve had here over the years, totally ‘da bomb.
Here’s how it unfolded.
First, tiny amuses of tuna tartare oddly seasoned with Pop Rocks and seaweed arrived, just after the trademark hot blue corn muffins. I’d like to add that these muffins were the single greatest thing I’ve eaten during my thirteen years in Vegas. They will be missed.
A round of appetizers arrived; perhaps the best Caesar salad in the city, delicious irony given the location of the restaurant, and my wife’s choice, PEI mussels laced with butter and Portuguese linguica, in a savory broth hiding oyster mushrooms. Ms. Haas chose a lighter starter, summer corn soup, a sweet puree of grilled baby corn and red peppers in a shallow bowl, topped with blue corn croutons.
I had Sonoma foie gras two ways; one way the duck liver sautéed on pistachio bread, the other way in a terrine topped with Rainer cherries. As an added indulgence, perhaps for nostalgia’s sake, we added an Ogden signature, Twice Baked Maytag Blue Cheese Souffle, for all of us to share. Everything was spot on; as it has always been here.
Main courses were not anticlimactic. Ms. Haas again chose light, the moist, juicy farm chicken from Petaluma in California’s Sonoma County, embellished by chanterelles and market peaches. We all went the greedy route and ordered steaks, two Oak Grilled Rib Eyes, and one Beef Tenderloin. Both meats were uncommonly tender and flavorful, but I’d have to give the Rib Eye the nod as the superior dish.
During this feast, Ms. Beck brought various wines; Pahlmeyer’s Jayson Chardonnay, a deliciously lean white with mineral overtones, and a surprising Zinfandel from Chateau Montelena, a Napa Valley institution better known for Cabs.
For dessert, we all pigged out on the best butterscotch pudding known to man, served in shot glasses, topped with whipped cream and pumpkin seeds.
You’ve got approximately one more week to enjoy this restaurant, and, if the dinner is a bit beyond your budget this summer, one more week to eat the best hamburger in town, from the bar menu. Read it and weep. Gordo, you’ve got big shoes to follow.
At Caesars Palace. Open for dinner only. Reservations at 731-7110.
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