Against the Grain

Three venerable properties revamp their meateries to wonderful effect

Tender Steaks & Seafood at Luxor got the ball rolling in 2009. R Steak & Seafood at the Riviera followed suit last year. And last month, Center Cut opened at the Flamingo, for a total of three do-overs, turning venerable rooms into new-generation steak houses. Since we have a glut of them, what I look for—beyond good beef—is reasonable pricing and interesting side dishes. All three of these qualify in at least one of those two categories.

Tender Steak & Seafood

This sprawling, clubby space is cherry-wood paneled and fairly plush, with leather booths and chandeliers made of antlers. Chef K.C. Fazel, an alum of Craftsteak with Top Chef’s Tom Colicchio, gets creative, even daring at times. Appetizers aren’t the same-old, same-olds. Instead, charcuterie, such as wild-boar sausage and antelope pastrami, is very tasty. A terrific soup tasting offers your choice of three out of four. I had silky lobster bisque, creamy wild mushroom and a delicious chili.

Meats are sourced from a wide variety of farms and producers. My 16-ounce bone-in strip loin was from Niman Ranch in California—Black Angus beef with a nice beefy finish. Idaho, New Zealand and Wyoming beef is also featured, as is an Anderson Ranch lamb shank from Oregon. There are excellent American artisan cheeses for dessert, two being Purple Moon Cheddar and San Andreas sheep’s milk cheese. There are chocolate desserts, too, and though Grandma’s Old Fashioned Chocolate Cake has a catchy name, my slice was as dry as the Mojave in July. In Luxor, 262-4852. Dinner, 5-11 p.m. nightly. Dinner for two, $95-$165.

Max’s Menu Picks

Tender Steak & Seafood

Soup tasting trio, $10.

Charcuterie and deli meats, $14.

Niman Ranch bone-in strip loin, $45.

R Steak & Seafood

Grilled, sautéed or blackened swordfish, $23.

18-ounce bone-in rib eye, $26.

Warm strawberry waffle shortcake, $6.

Center Cut Steakhouse

Aspen Ranch center cut bone-in rib eye, $52.

Jalapeño-bacon creamed corn, $8.

Carrot cake, $10.

R Steak & Seafood

Formerly Christopher’s, this place offers excellent bang for the buck. When the new restaurant opened last August, the rib eye was an astonishing $18, and even now is only $26 for a 16-ounce bone-in beauty. Granted, this is choice, not prime, but is still the best steak value on the Strip by my lights. I was amazed by my steak, ordered with a nice blackened rub. The meat comes from a local purveyor and had a deep, beefy flavor and firm texture. For a second entrée, we chose swordfish, as meaty as a steak, terrifically fresh and less than $25. Couple that with similar prices for other items on the menu, and the fact that talented chef Jason Bradley is at the stoves, and you’ve got a real winner.

Décor is basic but comfortable, with leather upholstered floor-to-ceiling columns providing a classical elegance. I’d like the ambience more were the lighting softer. But, in the kitchen, Bradley cooks with confidence. Chicken wings are dressed with honey and a spicy chipotle rub. Caesar salad, served in a giant bowl, isn’t overdressed, with a flurry of delicious house-made croutons and crisp mixed greens. My side dishes of broccolini and creamed corn were well executed, although priced a la carte, and the bread basket came stocked with three types of bread. Dessert was a strawberry and whipped cream-topped Belgian waffle, something I had at the 1964 World’s Fair. At $6, it isn’t that much pricier today. At the Riviera, 734-5110. Dinner only, 5-10 nightly. Dinner for two, $60-95.

Center Cut Steakhouse

And that brings us to the Flamingo’s new meaterie, a circular room filled with black-and-white TVs and large booths. The side dishes really impressed me here, such as Trio Bacon Satay—Nueske’s cayenne-pepper, blue cheese-cured and natural bacon, served on a slab. (Sorry, no wooden skewers.) There is a terrific crab cake appetizer, as well. The beef is wonderful, from Aspen Ridge, a farm in Colorado that offers hormone-free, 100 percent vegetarian-fed beef that I’d put up against almost any of the competitors on the Strip.

The Center Cut bone-in rib eye is a thing of beauty, and so is a fresh herb and horseradish-crusted prime rib, although I can eat more than a 12-ounce portion, which is all you’ll get here. Among the sides, don’t miss the spicy, addictive jalapeño-bacon creamed corn, and for dessert, the restaurant has one of the tallest—and best—carrot cakes in the city. In the Flamingo, 784-8821. 5:30-10:30 nightly. Dinner for two, $90-$145.

Suggested Next Read

Sneaky Hot


Sneaky Hot

By Max Jacobson

If Penn’s Thai House weren’t east of Sunset Station in an obscure suburban mini-mall, it would enjoy wide acclaim by now. Perhaps the comely Thai chef, Penn Amarapayark, prefers it this way. Penn, as she insists on being called, is a modest sort who comes to work in jeans, with her hair pulled back. She’s ill-equipped for big crowds, anyway, since she does all the cooking herself.