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David Ross

BLT Burger Opening at The Mirage

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The party invitation came in the form of an e-mail from the Public Relations Department at MGM-Mirage Resorts. It promised “Lettuce, Tomato, a Lifetime of Culinary Achievement—and Cheese.”

That catchy header was followed by this profound menu description-“Bodacious burgers, sassy sides and spiked milkshakes.”

I suppose that a Food Writer can claim they have reached a certain level of success, or excess, once they receive their first invitation to the opening of a restaurant.

I wondered what kind of party it would be-somehow the respect for a lifetime spent in the culinary arts seemed to be lost when I read the words “bodacious burger” on the invitation. (A word more-suited to the name of a bucking bull in a rodeo).

I sent my RSVP back to The Mirage letting them know that I would fly the 1,238 miles from Seattle to Las Vegas for the Grand Opening of Chef Laurent Tourondel’s BLT Burger.

Since I had never been to the grand opening of a restaurant, I didn’t know what to expect, but my thoughts of it being a conclave of serious Food Writers reporting on the delicious creations of Chef Tourondel quickly faded once I got to the party.

I would discover that the guest list at restaurant openings in Las Vegas are often stacked with beautiful, rich, influential people whose appearances stimulate the gossip pages of the Review-Journal.

This stacking of the deck, so to speak, is intended to generate a buzz with the public that if someone of importance or celebrity dines at the restaurant, then the food must be good.

BLT Burger is housed in the former home of Siegfried and Roy’s white tiger display just off the main lobby at The Mirage.

Yes, that same cave-like structure of cement formed to look like natural stone, (the home of “un-natural” white tigers), has been transformed into a hip burger joint.

As the saying goes, nothing lasts forever in Las Vegas-anything out of fashion just gets changed into something else. In this case, after a white tiger chomped down on Roy during a magic show a few years back, the tigers were sent to the “Secret Garden” out back and the display out front became a restaurant where diners chomp down on burgers.

When I arrived at BLT Burger, the beautiful people were already in high-spirits, imbibing spirits.

Young, beautiful people at the bar-

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The sprinkling of celebrities throughout the guest list are key to the debut of a new restaurant or bar in Las Vegas.

The “celebrity” quotient at the party was limited to former NBA stars Doc Rivers and Bill Walton. They were in town for a basketball camp, and had been herded to BLT Burger for free beer and grub. (They hunkered down at tables in the corner-roped off to the minions in the restaurant proper, never once mingling with the common folk).

Then there were the really out-of-place guests.

Witness the very odd couple seated at a booth in a far corner of the restaurant. They did not appear to fit in the aforementioned categories of beautiful people or retired basketball players.

I have it on good authority, (one of my friends was seated next to her), that the woman complained loudly and constantly about the items on the menu. She apparently didn’t realize that being invited to the opening of a hamburger restaurant would mean that the focus of the food, (the hamburgers), would be on burgers made with meat. Red meat.

She crowed that she was a member of the vegan community, and when she was served Chef Tourondel’s “Veggie Falafel” burger (a “medley of organic grains”), it wasn’t good enough.

Nothing was good enough for her. So there she sat with her depressed husband, upset at the staff of a hamburger restaurant for not serving her a glass of wheatgrass juice.

Hamburger Diner, circa 2008-

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There were, in fact, only two serious Food Writers in attendance, yours truly, and my good friend and the dean of Las Vegas Food Writers, John Curtas, aka KLAS, KNPR, James Beard Foundation and EatingLV.com.

Another thing I learned about a Las Vegas restaurant opening is that the regular staff is supplemented with “for-hire” help. The young women parading around the dining room with trays of “American” Kobe beef sliders were not actually employed as servers at the restaurant during normal business hours.

I sheepishly remarked to Chef Tourondel that the young ladies in the tight, black, “BLT” t-shirts would certainly assure him of a high profit margin at his new venture at The Mirage.

Mr. Curtas overheard my conversation with Chef and quickly came to the rescue-letting me know that appearances in Las Vegas are often, not in fact, the truth.

While they presented a beautiful image at the event, these ladies were actually “models” employed for just one night to impress the guests. I suppose in Las Vegas you could call them “ladies of the evening.”

The now infamous photo of yours truly, currently posted on EatingLV.com-

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The food served at the grand opening was a sampling of items off the BLT menu. It was good-not great.

The “Mozzarella Sticks” tasted like they came out of the same frozen stock that gets delivered to Applebee’s. I didn’t ask if it was true buffalo mozzarella. (Remember, the invitation promised “cheese,” they didn’t specify if it was “artisanal” or “commercial” cheese).

The Mini-Strawberry Shake was quite good, no doubt helped by a large shot of Maker’s Mark bourbon.

Strawberry Milkshake-

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Speaking of cocktails, “The Showgirl,” (you always have to have silly names for cocktails in Las Vegas), was a delicious mix of Skyy Citrus Vodka, Lime Juice and Guava Nectar garnished with a slice of Kiwi fruit. I am not sure how this heady concoction relates to a Las Vegas showgirl.

The silly menu descriptions continue with “The Stripper” Burger-“No Bun.” A “topless” burger at BLT includes Angus beef, lettuce, tomato, onion, bell pepper and avocado.

The mini “Jasper Hill Blue” Burgers that we tasted were topped with bleu (the proper spelling) cheese. (Maybe they intentionally typed “blue” rather than “bleu” on the menu?).

The Jasper Hill burger is billed as “7oz. of CAB.” CAB being the descriptor for “Certified Angus Beef.” Personally, I don’t think the breed of cattle in a burger matters a whole lot. The little burger "sliders" we tasted could have come from Hereford, Holstein or Pinzgauer and I wouldn’t have tasted the difference.

The best dish of the evening was presented by the Pastry Chef-little “Macaroon Ice Cream Sandwiches” filled with “Strawberry-Vanilla” or “Chocolate-Hazelnut” ice creams. I just knew Chef Tourondel would hide a bit of France somewhere in his “sassy” menu.

Chef Tourondel with some of the beautiful people-

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The cachet of being invited to the grand opening of BLT wasn’t exactly what I expected, but in the end, the evening was a success for the restaurant and it was great fun.

The company was interesting, in some cases quite good-looking, and I gained a better perspective into this exciting, exclusive club where one is made to feel special just by getting on the guest list.

For me, the highlight of the opening of BLT Burger was the time I spent huddled with John Curtas and Chef Tourondel.

We reminisced about Chef Tourondel’s earlier tenure in Las Vegas at the stoves of the highly-regarded “Palace Court” at Caesar’s Palace. (Sadly, this temple of “continental” cuisine is no more). We talked about a French Chef cooking burgers in Las Vegas.

The return of Chef Tourondel to the heat of the Las Vegas dining scene is a gift. Fancy burgers are just the start. I expect Chef Tourondel has bigger things in store for Las Vegas.

After three hours at the BLT grand opening, I headed back to Treasure Island, my hotel of choice on this visit.

Before I went up to my room on the 27th floor, I stopped by Canter’s Deli, a good Jewish place on the casino floor.

The evening began with the grand opening of a chi-chi hamburger place. It ended with a picnic in my room overlooking the Strip.

Sometimes a “mini” hamburger on a cute little bun leaves you hungry for a nice hot Reuben, a side of coleslaw and a crisp dill pickle.


Edited by David Ross (log)

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I was at BLT Burger less then a month ago.. I found the burger to be average, on par with the BLT Burger in NYC.. The burger was cooked to order, the bacon was crispy, the special sauce is kind of bland and boring.. But the burger wasnt anything memorable.. I can't see what would distinguish it from a burger they would be serving at the diner there.. I also tried the regular fries and the waffle fries.. Waffle fries were my favorite of the two.Actually pepped up the burger by placing a waffle fry in the burger.

On my latest trip to Vegas I went to three different burger places at different times of day.. I went to Fatburger at 2 in the morning and had a horrible bun. I went to BLT Burger in the morning and was the first person to be seated.. Here I found the bun to be good but, wondered what it would be like later on in the day.. I wonder if they have to take special measures to ensure the desert heat doesnt destroy the bread..

The best part about BLT Burger for me was the milkshakes.. I tried a twinkie which was incredibly too sweet and sugary.. However, the berry shake was awesome.

All in all, I am not a fan of this classy "burger bar" trend.. It ends up being expensive and often disappointing.. For 20 plus dollars for a burger,fries and a shake, you would expect a better experience.. Room is nice and the waitresses are cute.


Edited by Daniel (log)

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All in all, I am not a fan of this classy "burger bar" trend.. It ends up being expensive and often disappointing.. For 20 plus dollars for a burger,fries and a shake, you would expect a better experience.. Room is nice and the waitresses are cute.

Daniel-I couldn't agree with you more.

The milkshakes at BLT average $7.00. That's the shakes without booze. The "spiked" shakes and cocktails run $12.00.

A burger combo including burger, shake and fries goes for $19.00. If you want appetizers, basically bar snacks, they run $8.00.

A glass of draft beer runs $7.00.

The desserts, the highlight of the dishes I sampled, are what I would call a bargain at $6.00 for the Macaroon Ice Cream Sandwiches. The Valrhona Chocolate Cake is $8.00.

Two combo burgers, two beers and two desserts, plus tip, would run-up a tab in the neighborhood of $75.00. That's a lot of money to eat burgers while watching the beautiful people.

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I found this photo of the guys cooking:

2835652454_17e4380af6.jpg

Burger:

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Shakes: They were really good..

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Edited by Daniel (log)

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I wish that I would've red this before I went to BLT at the end of September. David & Daniel, I couldn't agree more. The milkshakes were kick butt, but the burgers were average. I'd much rather spend my burger money at the Wynn Country club, Morels or the Burger Bar.


Think before you drink.......I think I'll have another!

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