An ode to Tom Colicchio & craftsteak, vegas.

Despite my love affair with all things food & cupcakes, I could never really answer the question, What is your favorite restaurant?/ What is the best meal you’ve ever eaten? I always pondered the question, thinking back to the artichoke appetizer at Bandera’s or the BBQ burger at DMK Burger Bar, but I could never really answer the question fully. I never had that one defining moment where I knew, where I remembered, where that flash of light went off in my head, bringing back all the memories of all the great food I’ve eaten over the years. Now, after my weekend in Vegas I can say, without a doubt in my mind, the best restaurant I’ve ever eaten at and had hands down, the greatest food of my life was served to me at Tom Colicchio’s restaurant, craftsteak in the MGM Grand Hotel. So Tom, here is my ode to you. My love letter, per say. If you’re reading this, holy crap that’s awesome, but if not … hell, who am I kidding? He should be reading this – so anyone, help me out here.

I may have slipped this in with our final bill. Our amazing waiter, Francisco (Franci, for short) told me he would deliver this promptly. I'm taking his word.

Dear Tom,

Thank you for the greatest meal of my life. I’m not sure how you’ve done it, but please, keep doin’ it. Where do I even begin? Oh yes, I remember. It’s a little fuzzy, thanks to your bartender & the fact that he really knows what he’s doing with a drink, but I do remember. The raspberry martini. I knew immediately I had to have it. First, let me compliment you on the presentation. Padma would absolutely be proud.

Inside that little copper shaker, is a whole 'nother drink! So really, it's 2 for 1! Honestly Tom, genius.

When I took that first sip, it was euphoric. Seriously, the heavens rang. You have to know, I’m not a big martini drinker. I’m not a huge fan of very strong tasting drinks, odd for a 23 year old foodie, but true. I wish I could be so cool as to order a straight up vodka with a twist and three bleu cheese olives, but I can’t swing it. My mom can, but I can’t. So, when I tasted that first sip of tart raspberries, mixed with a slight sugary-chambord-esque liquor, I just about died. It was the perfect combination of everything I could have ever asked for in a drink. The texture was smooth, almost a bit thicker than one’s normal martini, probably, I’m assuming, because of the raspberries. It wasn’t too sweet, but it wasn’t too strong – until I truly felt the weight of about six martini’s later on the dance floor. But that’s another story. I honestly didn’t think things could get any better.

That was before we ordered the artichoke appetizer, which I currently cannot locate on your menu for craftsteak vegas online. Perhaps that is because it is a seasonal dish, which you don’t keep around all year because lets face it, artichokes aren’t fresh all year long. This makes me admire you even more. Suffice to say, I could’ve made a meal of the raspberry martini, the artichokes with a hint of lemon and light aioli & the warm frisee salad with bacon & egg. But of course, we came hungry & we came for the steak.

I could eat this every day of my life.

I am no photographer, I’ll admit that straightaway, so forgive me if the photos do not do your food justice. Before I move on to the steak – let me confess that your bread, those warm, flaky, sea-salt crusted dinner rolls were absolutely addicting. My fingertips felt slightly buttery when I attempted to perfectly tear one roll apart – but it was a good thing. Because who doesn’t like warm, buttery, soft bread? And it was limitless! The server’s knew right away when to bring more. How they read my mind – that’s also another story, but I’d be more than willing to discuss your techniques sometime at dinner.

I apologize for my awful photo taking skills. I swear people, the food is UNREAL. Now, onto the good stuff. I probably could’ve ordered ten more things from the menu, but as my Mom always tells me, “you don’t need to order everything. you can always go back to the restaurant.” Well guess what Mom, we’re on vacation. There’s no coming back … yet. So, we indulged. Asparagus with lemon zest, yukon gold potato puree with chives (perhaps the greatest mashed potatoes of my entire life. smooth, creamy, buttery, a bit spicy with the chives – my stomach is currently growling like crazy) & three different steaks. All the food comes served a’la carte- which is brilliant. As someone who works in a small plates, tapas restaurant, I’ve come to understand the importance of sharing food – and you Tom, have exemplified it here again. It took some major decision making but we finally decided on the roasted 10 oz. filet mignon, grilled 16 oz. dry-aged new york strip & hands down, the most flavorful meat I’ve ever had, the grilled 16 oz ribeye. The filet was cooked as it should be, soft and tender with melt-in-your-mouth flavor. The nyc strip was divine, especially dipped in the juices and sauces it arrived with. But my god, that ribeye. Each one of us at dinner declared instantly it was “the best thing we’ve ever eaten,” and that, is a big deal.

We gushed over and over to our waiter Francisco, who was as pleasant and charming as waiter’s come. Curious, but unobtrusive. Honest, but not rude. Soft-spoken but not quiet. Keep that guy around, Tom – he was fantastic. After stuffing our faces to the absolute brim, I could hardly glance at the dessert menu – but I could, somehow, order another martini. I’m pretty sure, at this point, I was on my third – but really, sixth glass, thanks to that copper shaker from heaven. With a buzz from the alcohol and pure joy from the food, we were absolutely floored when Franci brought us a small dessert sampler, just enough for the four of us. Three pieces of chocolate hazelnut brittle, a teeny almond cookie with an apricot puree in the middle & a small candied orange. Just enough flavor to reveal how honest and simple small desserts can be, but filling enough not to push us over the edge. Bravo, Tom, Bravo.

The only, teeny, tiny problem I had with this otherwise perfect night was my after-dinner trip to the bathroom, where in my slightly buzzed state, I ripped a massive hole in my tights with the heel of my shoe, tights that I had just bought two hours earlier, seeing as I wanted to stay “warm”, at the Elvis Cirque show. So, there was that.

So now, 1,111-ish words later, Tom, everyone, I think you get the point. A huge thanks goes out to the entire staff of craftsteak, vegas. Everything was perfect, and it was truly the best meal of my life. It’s truly rare that I continue to think about a dish after I eat it – revel in its marvels, how it made me feel, the pure joy I got from simply eating. But now, three days later, I’m still stuck on that meal. Still in shock of how wonderful the food was. Now, it seems the only way I’ll ever be able to re-pay you, to thank you again, is to return to Vegas and return to craftsteak to try absolutely everything else I was dying to on Saturday, but simply, could not. So, you could always mail me a plane ticket, or just set up a reservation for me, because let’s be real, I need to revisit this spot sometime soon.

But for now, let me say thank you again. And for anyone else reading this, if you’re headed to Vegas, go to craftsteak. Don’t argue, just go. Tom, if you’re reading this, seriously – thanks. Also, GO CARLA.

All my love,

Allana Mortell, aka : allanabytes, lover of all things cupcakes & celebrities.

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