Monday, February 21, 2011

My First Take on PJ Clarke's

Bar food. We hate to admit it, but we absolutely love it. And I was finally able to stop at a bar with some exemplary bar food that... Well, let's say they're raising the bar.

For quite some time, I've been hearing about this place. But last week, I finally had a chance to taste the magic of PJ Clarke's for myself. I was at a special event, and I had a very special opportunity to sample all sorts of goodies for dinner.

Before dinner, I tried a few appetizers. (Disclaimer: I couldn't snap photos of these.) The bacon wrapped dates had the perfect marriage of sweet, savory, and salty. The mini sliders were quite beefy, which should satisfy just about everyone who enjoys the flavor of that ever elusive "All American Beef Burger". And I don't think I've had so much fun with tater tots as I did with PJ Clarke's!

From there, it was onto dinner... And all the kitchen mayhem! For some reason, the servers were having a hard time serving dishes where they needed to be, leading to a bit of mass confusion. Some dishes were served out of order, and at one point it was quite difficult to order a drink. Maybe this was just because of the event? Maybe it was just a super busy night and the restaurant was overwhelmed?

Well, at least the food itself provided no confusion or consternation!

The salads weren't bad, though they weren't phenomenal either. My friends and I were served a spring salad with standard raspberry vinaigrette, and some sort of "chicken salad" with dandelion greens and shaved parmesan. I guess John Curtas was right in that regard.

However, from there onward, I was in for some amazing grub. We were served two giant buckets full of steamed mussels, and my goodness did they taste fresh! And by fresh, I mean these tasted direct from the ocean. I have a feeling I need not worry about being served nasty, "freezer burned" seafood here.

The mac and cheese followed, and then I knew I was in LOVE! At first, I didn't quite know what to think. I'm used to stick-to-one's-ribs thick mac and cheese, so I was surprised when I saw this mac & cheese with more of a soupy sauce. However as soon as I tasted it, I was smiling. The sauce may have been loose, but it was still quite rich and full of fresh, sweet peas and fatty bacon.

Following the mac and cheese, I was surprised by the crab cake. It was full of sweet crab meat, but not too heavy or bogged down by too much mayonnaise. I've usually not been into crab cake, but I was actually liking this!

And then, dessert arrived. Oh jeez, where do I start! The chocolate pudding was quite divine, as it had just the right amount of sweet, a rich and deep chocolate flavor, and a lovely house made whipped cream topping. The bourbon bread pudding was quite hearty, and dazzled with its hearty custard and "bejeweled" raisins. Oh, and the apple cobbler just screamed, "America, F*ck Yeah!" to me... And yes, that's a compliment. ;-)

Were there some bumps in the road on my journey to great American Bar Food at PJ Clarke's? Honestly, yes. Hopefully, the service kinks will be worked out and the salads will be more interesting. Otherwise, the (rest of the) food was quite solid... Enough to catapult it to the best of the bunch. And perhaps as PJ Clarke's grows into its new digs at The Forum Shops, it will become as much of a Vegas landmark as it already is a New York legend.

Style: Gastropub
Price: $$$
Open: Lunch & Dinner

The Rating

Food: 4.7 (out of 5)
Service: 2.4 (out of 3)
Ambiance: 2.0 (out of 2)
Overall: 9.1 (out of 10)
Good Eats, Worth the Trip

P.J. Clarke's on Urbanspoon

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