Soft Pretzels and Provolone Fondue
Fried Chicken – Honey Biscuit, Potatoes, Gravy
Burratta – Pears, Walnuts, Balsamic, Grilled Bread
Cap’n Crunch Crusted French Toast – Cereal Milk Custard, Fresh Raspberries
Baked to Order Monkey Bread – Cinnamon Apple Brioche, Vanilla Ice Cream
Salted Caramel Custard – Caramel Corn
Arriving at The Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in the midst of Rehab with my mother and aunt in tow as Springsteen played overhead one can only call the scene en route to brunch part of the show, a five minute walk from Paradise parking to Fox Concepts’ “Culinary Dropout” bespecked with the scantily clad and already drunken while the restaurant itself proved a comparative sea of tranquility matched to good food and unexpectedly stunning service. Sprawling in size with garage-style doors open to the cool morning breeze of a picturesque patio it was close to the rounded bar with a full view of both stage and kitchen that our trio found itself located mere moments after entry and with coffee kept brimming from seating to finale a six-piece order was crafted, each item arriving individually with smooth pacing and beautiful presentation. Largely focusing on signatures but equally willing to explore seasonal preps and brunch-only items it was with the restaurant’s oft raved pretzel bites that the meal began and with rich fondue gilding golden soft nuggets we all agreed that rare has a pretzel impressed so much, a similar praise heaped on the house burrata with seasonal accoutrements drizzled with aged balsamic. Moving next to things more substantial it was admittedly with some disappointment that neither the $11 French Toast nor the $21 ‘worth the wait’ fried chicken proved nearly as memorable as their respective milk jam or biscuit plate-mates, but with the former too bready and the later far from crispy there are simply better versions to be found elsewhere, particularly at such a cost. At this point sated but certainly not full, the kitchen would quickly rally back with a duo of desserts and while the piping hot monkey bread certainly deserves the attention it has garnered it was the caramel-corn studded budino that stole the show for me, a dense pudding both salty and sweet with crunch and cream taken perfectly with another cup of coffee as Chris Cornell crooned overhead.
THREE STARS: Having now visited Culinary Dropout and 24/7 Mr. Lucky’s next-door I’m comfortable saying that the Hard Rock is more than just a place for concerts, debauchery, and inked up visitors from Los Angeles though all three are abundant for those who choose to indulge. Clearly crafted to the hotel’s clientele but equally suited for families and those seeking local-seasonal ingredients in good hands I rather wish I’d have checked out the original during my 16 months in Phoenix to compare and contrast – perhaps my morning meals there would not have been quite so disappointing if I had.
RECOMMENDED: Pretzel bites, caramel pudding, and the signature monkey bread.
AVOID: The $21 fried chicken tastes closer to a brined and roasted bird than a fried one and French Toast was particularly underwhelming compared to the larger, better version offered at Wynn’s Terrace Point Café.
TIP: Neither dessert menus nor charcuterie selections are offered up front with brunch though both are certainly available on request. Additionally, seating begins at ten o’clock despite being listed as 9:00am on The Hard Rock website.
WHAT THE STARS MEAN: 5 World Class, 4 Excellent, 3 Good, 2 Fair, 1 Poor