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A new adventure in cuisine: food with no flavor

Grand Café
Green Valley Ranch Station Casino
2300 Paseo Verde Parkway
Henderson, Nevada 89052

Mrs. Vargas and I are huge fans of the Green Valley Ranch Station Casino. We live nearby, so it’s easy to get to. The gaming is always fun (I’m partial the to Monopoly slot machines) and we have enjoyed many great meals at “The Feast” buffet.

Last time we went there, the line at “The Feast” was longer than our tolerance for lines, so we decided to try a different venue. The Grand Café is a short walk from The Feast, so we went there. Plus there was no line.

Despite the lack of a line, there was a ten to fifteen minute wait for a table. I found this odd, since at least a third of the tables visible were empty. It wasn’t like a section wasn’t being used. That I understand. This was simply not a full restaurant, yet we had to wait for a table.

I’m not sure if some restaurants force you to wait simply because the table seems that much more valuable when you are seated. Here’s some free advice: if that’s your angle, it doesn’t work. If I’m at a restaurant, it’s time to bring on the chow. Conversing with the lovely Mrs. Vargas is always fun, but doing it on an empty tummy makes for an irritable Lars. If you have empty seats, put me in one. I’d rather be sitting at the table while sucking down a diet cola beverage than standing in the hall outside waiting for a table. I’m a big man. My feets get tired.

We were seated about ten minutes later so at least the predicted wait time was accurate. Unnecessary, but accurate.

The wait for our server to come by and say hello, take the drink orders, etc. was longer than I care for. I like acknowledgement within 3 minutes or less. Preferably under 60 seconds. Something was clearly up tonight. After a quick and quiet conference with Mrs. Vargas, we let morbid curiosity take over and were in this one for the long haul.

When our server did arrive, she seemed both harried and disinterested at the same time. She got our drink orders and started to run off before I could even let her know which appetizer we wanted. She didn’t even ask, which is surprising in today’s “up-sell” saturated environment.

The drinks arrived just ahead of our calamari appetizer. One bite and we got our first hint that we had stepped into a world with a new type of cuisine: bland. We had entered the Flavor-Free Zone. The breading was greasy and had no flavor, and the squid pieces were chewy. The sauces were the only thing on the plate with anything resembling personality. I think the best word to describe it is “edible”. It won’t make you sick, but you’re not going to want seconds.

Our entrees came next. Mrs. Vargas had a chicken sandwich and I ordered the Southern Fried Chicken.

The Southern Fried Chicken was anything but Southern. I lived in the South for a good long time and know real Southern Fried chicken. This was chicken. It was fried. But don’t drag the South into this one.

It was two breaded boneless breast halves with the “nub” part of the wing still attached with the bone. The breading was the same greasy dark stuff that the calamari was wrapped in. There was a pittance of brown gravy on the meat and it was all served over some mashed potatoes with more gravy. Next to this were some assorted baby squashes.

The Grand Café must have purchased some special genetically engineered chickens. It’s not that the meat didn’t have flavor. It didn’t. But it actually went beyond that and seemed to absorb the flavor of anything that came near it. Salt only helped a tiny bit. And with my blood pressure, salt is a no-no.

The assorted baby squashes had more flavor than anything else. They were actually quite good. Too bad there wasn’t a baby squash platter. I would have traded up.

The chicken was dry, and the potatoes, apparently afraid of something, had congealed into a cold lump of starch within 3 minutes of delivery. They hid under the chicken, cowering under gravy for protection.

I ate one of the breasts and about three bites of potato before calling it a night. I did finish all of the baby squashes, though. Before this I have never, ever enjoyed the veggies more than the meat. We were viewing new culinary vistas. And the view wasn’t pretty.

Mrs. Vargas fared no better. The chicken on her sandwich came from the same laboratory as mine, and was equally dry and without flavor. Hers wasn’t breaded, but it didn’t matter. The breading was not a culprit in the flavor extraction ring. Her fries were merely OK, but needed a lot of salt to help out. I think the chicken absorbed quite a bit of that flavor, too. We tried some ketchup. That helped. Some ingredient in ketchup prevented the chicken form absorbing too much flavor. Maybe it’s that lycopene stuff they talk about.

You might be thinking I’m being too tough on the Grand Café. I don’t think so. Yes, we should have sent the food back, or complained, but after the wait, the haughtiness and indifference of the staff, and the general demeanor of the entire experience, I wasn’t in the mood. I wanted a full belly and to get the hell out of there.

That turned out to be a bit of a challenge, too. Our server apparently had a PhD in indifference, because she was nowhere to be found. A friendly manager got us the check and took our payment. She was friendly enough to take care of taking our money, but smart enough not to ask about the meal. If she had, she would have gotten a verbal copy of this review that night.

As we were leaving, Mrs. Vargas and I were both laughing at how much flavor was missing form the food. It really was unusually bland. And it wasn’t up to the standards of the Green Valley Ranch.

For now, I’m going to assume that it was simply a “bad night”. At their prices they shouldn’t have any bad nights, but that’s a different issue. We will eventually return to the Grand Café for another try. I will write up what happens when it does, but it could be a while.

In the meantime, I’d have to recommend you approach the Grand Café only with a sense of adventure. The service is OK but a bit slow. The food is uninspired and without flavor. The menu has lots of traditional-sounding stuff, but the execution is anything but traditional. Order what you want, but expect something slightly different. If you’re into that kind of thing, you’ll be pleasantly surprised. If not, go to the Feast Buffet instead.

Published Fri 11/18/05 at 8:50pm

Categorized in Food & Drink, Full Service Restaurants

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