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Tom Colicchio talks steer massages and steak with the Weekly

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Tom Colicchio will add a new meat-centric restaurant at the Mirage to his Las Vegas stable next year. He already has Craftsteak and ‘Wichcraft at MGM Grand.
Photo: Bill Bettencourt

He’s one of the country’s favorite food authorities. You can’t stop watching him on Top Chef. And his Craftsteak is one of our top 10 steak spots in Vegas. In short, Tom Colicchio is the man, and he’s even cool enough to chat with the Weekly about beef and his all-new restaurant coming to the Mirage next year.

On the allure of beef: “For the majority of people, a fancy meal doesn’t mean four courses of crazy food you can’t understand. Think of a bunch of guys going to Vegas for a guy’s weekend—what do they want? Steak. I don’t think that’s ever going to change.”

On what makes a great steakhouse: “No. 1 is the atmosphere. It’s more boisterous, more of a party than going to a serious restaurant where you’re going to get hushed by the waiters. Chefs like me and Charlie Palmer and Mario Batali are adding different things to the menu, but it’s still really about the steak. People know what they’re going to order: great meat and certain sides—creamed spinach, roasted potatoes, onion rings. You have to deliver that. You can add a twist, put truffles on the spinach, but people want that familiarity. You know what you’re in for, a nicely charred strip or porterhouse or ribeye, and God forbid you mess with that.”

On Japanese beef: “It’s hard not to tell the difference. You can see it. It looks different, it eats different, and you can’t cook it like a regular steak. You almost need to cut it into smaller pieces and sear it quickly. To get that extra fat melting the right way, it needs to be treated differently, even with American or Australian Wagyu. As soon as you bite into it you get this ooze of fat, this rush of warm liquid. It’s not like the exterior chewy fat; it’s almost like eating foie gras. And it’s more expensive, because this breed of cow, Wagyu, has a larger frame and a greater capacity to carry weight, so you’re feeding it corn and grain for maybe two years. It gets huge. It costs more money, because you’re feeding the animal a lot longer. It’s got nothing to do with virgin girls massaging the beef or feeding it beer. Trust me, nobody wants to get near a steer and massage it.”

On American beef: “We used to produce much better beef in this country—something like 40 percent was prime. Now, it’s all about making those muscles big, which is being done with hormones—just like a baseball player, we’re doing the same thing to cattle. So you don’t have to feed it as much or as well, but it won’t get that intramuscular fat, so it won’t grade out. Only about 4 percent of beef in the States is prime, with the exception of a few places like Niman Ranch. We’re not going to get that back as long as people are trying to produce beef cheaper.”

On the new Vegas restaurant: “The concept is finished, but the name isn’t. It will be very much about meat—different things including pork, duck and some game—but the biggest difference will be that everything will be cooked over wood or charcoal, and most will be marinated. What I’ve been about conceptually is taking great beef and just putting salt and pepper on it, simplifying. But when you’re at home barbecuing in the summer, you’re using charcoal, you’re using marinades, and it’s very delicious. It doesn’t have to be either/or. You can’t be so dogmatic in your cooking that you’re always sticking to one principle.

Tags: Dining
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Brock Radke is Las Vegas Weekly's food editor and author of the Strip-focused column The Incidental Tourist. He has written ...

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