About a month ago I was invited to the soft open of Jack Binion Steak at the Horseshoe casino. They invited a bunch of media and bloggers to come and check out the food and drinks before they officially opened yesterday, the 16th. Casinos aren’t usually my thing, but food and drink is, and free food and drink is actually enough to make me drive 45 minutes to the casino from my downtown apartment.
I invited my friend Sarah to come along with me, so after waiting for her to finish somehow getting lost between Arkansas and downtown Memphis, we jumped in my car and headed south.
I haven’t actually been to the casinos in years. The drive hasn’t changed much, take a quick ghetto tour down south third street for half of the trip, then look at massive fields for the second half. It always seemed to take a lot longer than 40 or so minutes, but every other time I’ve gone I’ve been an intoxicated passenger, not a sober driver having a conversation.
We got there a bit early so we would have some time to shower and get ready in our hotel room. I’ve never gotten a room at Horseshoe before, and they put us in a deluxe king. Really nice room, nice comfy couch, king size bed, two TV’s in the main area and one in the bathroom. The rooms were super clean and well kept. Overall very nice. I probably should have taken a few pictures of the room but I was too busy getting ready.
Sarah changed into a dress and I made myself halfway presentable, and we headed downstairs.
For the first half hour or so we sat in the bar area and had cocktails and hors d’oeuvres. The bar is nicely appointed and comfy with a bar, cocktail tables, and some booths along the way. It’s toward the casino floor but a bit around a corner so it’s not unbearably noisy. Anyway, it looks a lot like this:
I had a beer first, because I was dying of thirst, then we decided to try a few of the “Signature Cocktails”. Most of them are just their take on already established drinks, which isn’t a bad thing. Most drinks have already been invented and a lot of people will want something somewhat familiar. I got the “Category Five”
As the name hints, it’s a hurricane. It was actually really good though, as far as hurricanes go. All top shelf liquor and fresh fruit garnish. Definitely a few steps above the bucket variety you find on Beale and Bourbon. I don’t remember what Sarah ordered, but it was blue.
They also brought out some hors d’oeuvres. The corn fritter was pretty damn good, Sarah had like three. The chicken drumstick was probably my favorite, wrapped in bacon and with a spicy bbq sauce. The shrimp wasn’t that great to me, seemed overcooked. The mango salsa that came with it was tasty though, tasty enough to sway my choice of entreé, but more on that later.
After hors d’oeuvres everyone started moving into the main dining room. We were seated toward the very back, which is probably where you want to be if you’re looking for a reasonably quiet meal. The restaurant is just off the casino floor so the tables closer to the entrance can be a little noisy. Not the end of the world, but if you would like a quiet reprieve from casino noise while you eat, ask for a booth in the back.
Since the tables were set up at four tops, we were paired with Chris McRae from Foodie Memphis and his friend Darcy. We couldn’t have asked for better dinner company, and since Chris is on a vegan diet we got to see how the chef adapted to something out of the ordinary (for a steak house).
Before the first course they send out an appetizer sampler that consisted of short rib, duck breast, and pork belly.
The duck and short rib were both tasty, but the pork belly, oh man, the pork belly. It’s on the regular menu as an appetizer and you really, really need to try it. It’s some of the best I’ve had. It was really done. Perfectly seasoned and fall apart tender. We easily cut it with a spoon. I could have eaten at least a pound of it. If you’re going to get an appetizer, make it the pork belly.
Sarah and I skipped the first course as I planned to try their desserts and didn’t want to be too full to eat them. Chris went with a salad that he said was pretty solid and Darcy got a crab cake.
For mains I did the pan seared grouper with mango salsa and coconut rice. Sarah got the seared scallops with a side of asparagus. We also got some scalloped potatoes to split. Darcy did a steak and crab legs and Chris got a stuffed tomato dish that the head chef improvised. Everyone except Sarah had multiple glasses of Malbec, she had the Sauvignon Blanc. I definitely liked the Malbec more, I wish I had drank maybe 3 or 4 fewer glasses so I remembered the name. I’ll make sure I check next time I’m there so I can update this post.
My grouper was awesome, and came with the same mango salsa that accompanied the shrimp hor d’oeuvre. The coconut basmati was especially nice, it complemented the light, sweet salsa very well. The scallops were also really well done, nice sear and super tender inside. Naturally, in reviewing a steak house, I forgot to get a picture of the steak. I never said I was good at this.
I very rarely order dessert, but I felt I had to this time, you know, in the interest of thorough journalism. Chris got a marinated berries dish, that was honestly overpowered by ginger. I mean I like ginger as much as the next guy but it was damn near painful. I could swear I took a picture of it, but I can’t find it now. I’m probably still a little loopy from all the ginger.
Darcy and I both ordered the Creme Brulee sampler, which proved to be an amazingly good choice. It consisted of four different kinds of creme brulee served on cute little spoons. There was Saffron, Mocha, Chocolate, and Coconut. We both picked the coconut as our favorite, I don’t know if it will be offered as a full size dessert by itself, but if it is, order it Then order another to take back to your room and bathe in. Then maybe a third to take home for dessert the next day. It’s that good. The Saffron was nice and subtle, but maybe a little too subtle. I’m a big saffron fan but I would have had a very hard time picking out the flavor had I not been told up front what it was. The chocolate was chocolate, hard to fuck up but not particularly special just because it’s really hard to do something amazing with chocolate creme brulee. Mocha was my least favorite, but that’s more a matter of person taste than anything, I’m not a big coffee fan. Sarah is and she liked it a lot.
Sarah got the cheese cake with berries. Well done, nice consistency, fresh fruit, and the portion size was fucking huge.
We stayed super late, we were basically the last table there when we finally left at close to 11pm, so I’d very much like to thank our server, Jing, for putting up with us for multiple hours and dozens of glasses of wine.
And the Head Chef Bruce ford was also amazing, not only for coming up with the menu and catering to special dietary concerns but also for spending probably half an hour fielding questions from us, early in the night logical food based questions and then a few dozen glasses of wine later some slurred nonsensical ones. Also, I inadvertently threw fruit at him.
Overall I had a very nice time. All of the food was at least very solid, and some of the dishes were real home runs. In particular the pork belly appetizer and the coconut creme brulee. I’m going to go back in a few weeks, and this time I’ll make a point to actually have a steak. I wouldn’t say it’s destination dining, I doubt I’ll be driving down to the casinos on a weeknight just to eat there, but I will say for sure that if I’m going to the casinos, I will make sure I take the opportunity to eat there. I think I’ll start with the pork belly appetizer and finish with one gallon of the coconut creme brulee.