Monday, November 12, 2012

Escape from Douchebaggery, Part 32: Culinary Dropout

The Hard Rock Hotel and Casino is a contradiction, a giant corporate, profit driven Resort themed around the rebel yell of rock music. While most locations of the somehow still popular Hard Rock Cafe chain do not come close to pulling off the trick of serving up rock n' roll attitude along with their mediocre Chicken Wings, with hermetically sealed costumes and props from rock heroes becoming kitsch in the new contexts, the Casino version in Las Vegas actually has a little bit of rock n' roll in its soul.

This may just be because Las Vegas as an entire city encourages debaucherous behavior more than other locations of a restaurant chain that attracts overweight tourists in ill-fitting T-shirts and families with young children (though the casino attracts its fair share of said demographic). Las Vegas is a town built upon the profits of gambling, with loose open container laws and bars that never close. Of course it's the ultimate city for a link in the internationally ubiquitous Hard Rock chain to actually rock, and to do so in at least a semi-hard manner.

Culinary Dropout, the hip new gastropub that recently opened as part of The Hard Rock's new redesign, lends some considerable cool cred to the resort. Gastropubs have become pretty ubiquitous as of late, in Las Vegas and many other cities. High end pubs with fancy versions of burgers and other bar-food staples are cropping up everywhere, but Culinary Dropout definitely brings something new to the table.
The staff at the ultra-casual restaurant is not required to wear uniforms, instead dressing up in their own clothes. Once you get past the initial confusion of which people flitting past your table work for  the restaurant and which are just trying to find a bathroom between drinks, it really does give the place a more relaxed and unique vibe. Relaxed bordering on non-existent dress code for the staff is just the beginning, as many of the tatted and mo-hawked servers and cooks look like they got done knocking back Ass-Juice shots and listening to The Germs and The Stooges on the jukebox at The Double Down Saloon across the street.

Adding to the atmosphere are exposed piping hanging from the ceilings, colorful chandeliers, chrome and wood walls, mismatched furniture, and a patio area with views of Hard Rock's bustling pool scene. Unsurprisingly, the restaurant's soundtrack  is heavy on the rock, with some good and semi-obscure tunes playing in the background at levels that weren't too high, making actual conversation was possible. But all of the cool design elements would mean nothing if the food didn't rock... and the food does indeed rock quite hard.

The menu was created by Executive Chef Eric Suniga, who has worked under foodie heavyweights Thomas Keller and Michael Mina, so you know there is love and care going into the cuisine. My friends and I sampled some fresh Oysters from their Raw Bar and shared a Cheese and Meat Anitpasit plate before moving on to the main course. I ordered the Fried Chicken with the Honey Biscuit, Potatoes, and Gravy, because Fried Chicken is my favorite food (and also because I'm a disgusting person with no shame who refuses to learn how to eat right). It was one of the best Fried Chicken meals I'd had in a long time... just crispy awesome delicious goodness. I also sampled my friend's 36 Hour Pork Ribs, which were tangy, spicy, and awesome, and my other buddy's Jambalaya.  Both of their selections were good, but I handily "won" dinner with my order.

Un-schockingly but also very pleasingly, as is the case with most restaurants in the loosely defined "gastropub" genre, the place has a very well curated Craft Beer selection, with offerings from excellent Breweries like Dogfish Head, Rogue, Lagunitas, Green Flash, and Goose Island. I enjoyed a hearty and strong Squatter's IPA from Utah, proving that they can make high octane Beer in a state where much of the population isn't allowed to drink any.
So yes, Culinary Dropout is a restaurant that has jumped on a recent culinary trend located in a resort that's part of a corporate tourist attracting international chain of cafes and hotels... yet despite all that, the place is still pretty darn rock n' roll. Plus, and most importantly... the food is really good.

No comments:

Post a Comment