In what is turning into a tradition with our company during the annual Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas is a trip to Japonais in the Mirage. To read about my previous visits to Japonais, please click here and here.
Now, I don't like to continually talk about my visits to a very good place to eat, but this was a special night. I decided to order the Kobe beef rib eye - the same steak that two of my colleagues tried last year. Joining us for dinner that evening were our friends from Focal Loudspeakers, Gerard Chretian, Dominic Baker and Pierre (whose last name I can't remember). It was our last night in Las Vegas for the show and after we packed up our suites, we went down to have some great food at Japonais.
It was sort of funny in a weird way, we had the same waiter and waitress that we had last year when we had dinner at the restaurant. And they remembered us. They'd better - Dominic picked up the check and it was well over $2000 for the bill. Adding in a generous 18% tip for having a large party, they split nearly $200 for waiting on us.
We had our normal appetizers - sushi and, of course, the famous "Rock". The "Rock" is this very hot rock and is served with 10 thin slices of Kobe beef. You put the beef slices on the rock and it cooks right up. I like mine rare so I would put the slice on the rock with a pair of chop sticks, count to 5, then turn it over, count to five and then popped it in my mouth. Oh, man. It is literally a slice of heaven. I think we got seven or eight total for the table.
Dominic was seated next to me and he asked me what I was thinking about. I told him I wanted to try the Kobe beef rib eye. He said, "You know, when I had it last year I didn't think it was all that good."
I said, "I sort remember you thought it was great."
He said, "Well, compared to real Kobe beef, it's nowhere close. It's better than most rib eyes served here in the states, but I had a Kobe beef steak in Japan last spring that actually blew it away. Yeah, it's OK, but the more I got to think about it, it's not worth the price."
I told him, "Ahh, I'm still gonna give it a shot."
Dominic said, "OK, suit yourself."
I had the tuna steak last year that was just fabulous. I wanted to try the Kobe beef. All the Europeans from Focal got the Japonais filet, as did my colleague from Montreal, Simon. And we all ordered our steaks rare.
Simon's steak was the first one served to the table. He cut into it and it was nowhere close to rare. It was more medium-well. When my Kobe beef rib eye came out, I could immediately tell that it was way over-cooked. Sometimes you can just tell by the charring on the steak, as well as how stiff the meat was that it was way overcooked. When I cut into it, it was not even medium-well - it was well-done.
The same thing happened with the other guy's filets. They were all over-cooked. Severely over-cooked. This is where the evening went downhill...
We garnered the attention of our waitress, a little Asian lady who told us she grew up in Hong Kong. We each showed her our steaks and she ran off to get the other waiter. The other waiter shows up at the table and he takes a look at the steaks. "Yes, I would say those are not rare steaks," he said. And then off he went.
We didn't see anyone come back and we were wondering if they ran back to the kitchen to get the cooks to immediately re-make our steaks. Suddenly, the night manager came to our table and said, "Gentlemen, I understand there's a problem with your steaks." We each showed him our steaks and he said, "OK, I'll get you some replacement steaks right away."
My colleague, Ian, said, "I think for our friends inconvenience here, we should be entitled to a complementary bottle of wine for the table." The manager said he'd see what he could do and went away.
Dominic said, "I should have said, 'No, you won't see what you can do. Just do it!' "
Now, it was late - well after 11 p.m. The restaurant wasn't all that busy. The kitchen at Japonais is open, so you can see if they're busy or not. You would think that to cook a rare steak - especially a rib eye steak - wouldn't take that long. But for some reason, it was close to 15 minutes before our re-cooked steaks showed up to the table. During that time, we kept pestering our waiter and waitress for a free bottle of wine. It was like they weren't paying attention to us. In fact, the waitress was down at the other end of the table reading the palms of a couple of my colleagues. Completely weird.
Suddenly, Dominic flipped out on the waiter. He said, "It obvious from what we've ordered for our food, our wine and the appetizers that we're going to pay a substantial bill this evening. We're absolutely put out at the callousness you are showing to take care of a problem. Either we get a bottle of wine, or I will withhold my tip for the evening."
Whoa! That got the guy's attention. After our steaks were delivered to the table - all cooked perfectly rare, although my Kobe rib eye was a little more medium-rare, but at that point I didn't care - the waiter brought a bottle of wine to the table. It wasn't the same French wine that Gerard had been picking out for the table. It was an American blend that I wasn't familiar with. The waiter explained that the wine we had been drinking was no longer available. By that time, we were so exasperated, tired and hungry that our collective reaction was, "Yeah, all right..." The wine was nowhere as close to the taste and quality of the French wine that we had before. I had a sip and left the rest in my glass.
Service problems aside, I have to say that I wasn't overly impressed with the Kobe rib eye. It wasn't all that thick - I've had breakfast steaks that were thicker than the Kobe rib eye. Dominic said, "So, what do you think?"
I said, "It's OK, it's tender and all that, but I've had Iowa-raised beef that was just as flavorful and tender. And I'm guessing that the Iowa-beef is a helluva lot cheaper than what they're charging for this Kobe beef."
It turns out that they charged us $94 for the Kobe rib eye. It was up from $72 they charged for Dominic's and my colleague, Ian's, Kobe rib eye from last year. Ian said, "Yeah, I thought it was OK last year, but not worth $72 bucks."
The other guys at the table who got fish or sushi for their main entrees were overly happy once again. But the guys who got steaks were completely bummed out. The meal lost its buzz once the steaks were served. And then having to deal with getting them replaced seemed to be a major hassle. The consensus was that Japonais had a bad night, but in a city that has some very good restaurants, a place like Japonais can't afford to have a bad night.
The bad thing for me was that I went out for only two of the four nights we were in Vegas. And both experiences sucked. If Japonais is brought up as a possible place to have dinner next year when were in Vegas, I may have to stop and think about that.