Peter and I have been watching the Gordon Ramsay shows for years, and we enjoy them. They’re reality shows, so you know they’re edited for maximum drama. But I always wonder if everyone else’s food is really as bad as Gordon Ramsay thinks it is. Sure, sometimes it is obviously bad, like when a cake has mold on the bottom (ugh), or the refrigerator’s gone off, and no one realized it. But almost every single episode of Kitchen Nightmares has restauranteurs swearing that whatever may be remiss with their restaurant, it’s not their food. Whereupon Ramsay takes no-thank-you bites of 3 or 4 of their dishes and exclaims them all inedible.
So on our last visit to Las Vegas, we decided to check out one of the Gordon Ramsay themed restaurants there, and late Wednesday night, got a seat at BurGR in the Planet Hollywood casino. I will note that this is not my style in restaurants. First of all, I think the whole gourmet burger thing is overblown — every celebrity chef and celebrity restauranteur has a place which specializes in serving up $8, $15, $25 burgers (see Kerry Simon, Bobby Flay, Emeril Lagasse, Wahlburgers, etc. etc.) And Las Vegas already has plenty of colorful burger joints already, like the Heart Attack Grill and Holsteins Shakes and Buns. It’s definitely a competitive space, and I don’t even care that much for burgers, much less $15 ones.
Plus, the Gordon Ramsay restaurants are phenomenally popular in a town which has hundreds of great restaurants to choose from. We first tried to get into Pub at Caesar’s Palace on Monday night, and at 8 pm, the expected wait was 1-1/2 hours. I try to avoid restaurants that make me wait, because I know there’s typically an equally good competitor happy to find me a seat (even if it’s on a card table they have to bring out from the back.) But we had to sate our curiously, so we went to Planet Hollywood earlier on Wednesday night, and went to the magic shop during our 45 minute wait for a table.
To my huge — and pleasant — surprise, it was worth the wait and the money. Between the four of us, we ordered three different kinds of (beef) burgers. Peter got the Uber Cheese Burger (no umlaut), Neil got the Hell’s Kitchen Burger, and I got the Chantarelle Burger. Kelly ordered the truffle Parmesan fries and couldn’t eat them all. Both kids ordered an Oreo cookie shake with creme brulee pudding; I had a banana shake with butterscotch pudding; and Peter had the chocolate shake with caramel pudding.
BurGR delivered up to Gordon Ramsay’s standards, as shown on TV. Peter carefully examined the cook and consistency of all our burgers, and they were all cooked exactly as ordered, and carefully assembled. We’re still trying to reconstruct exactly what was in the burgers, but they were delicious and did not taste like standard grilled ground chuck. One part was that they were grilled over hardwood, but there were other flavorings, and probably alternate ground cuts (yet, not pork) involved. Peter and Neil are notoriously picky eaters, in different ways. Neil, who mostly doesn’t eat, loved his burger so much he was moved to write a review of it — again, mind that this is the kid who generally picks at his food and leaves most of it behind. Peter hates for anything except cheese to touch his meat, but he much enjoyed his taste of my burger, which had arugula, mushroom and figgy jam; as well as of Neil’s, which had spicy sauce, jalapeno peppers, and pickles. The shakes were all amazing, too. You could tell both the thick milkshake at the bottom and the pudding at the top were freshly made, and the pudding and milkshake worked well together. Kelly is open-minded about food so she’s tasted a lot, but she raved her milkshake was the best thing she’s ever tasted in her life.
I also watched the wait-staff. They not only had cute matching uniforms, even their sneakers matched. And the food came out quickly enough. That shouldn’t be a surprise for a restaurant with a small, specialized menu and a consistently full dining room, but I’ve eaten at other restaurants in Las Vegas with a smaller menu, and inexplicably long waits for decidedly rank food.
The only downside was that the restaurant was very noisy, and it was hard to hear each other, even at a small table. It’s the downside of having a restaurant in a casino, because they are notoriously noisy places.
So, yes, the reality here does match up to the hype and reputation. Until and unless I can make burgers like that (and I will try to get close, because I can’t afford $15 burgers every week), Gordon Ramsay is free to critique my cooking. And, no, I don’t have aspirations to be a chef, or run a restaurant, so it’s unlikely to happen.