POSTED ON AUGUST 17, 2011:
A Grand Canyon
Service and well-seasoned eats make Redrock a sight worth seeing
As an outspoken proponent of shopping and eating "local," it's rare that I dine at a chain restaurant. So I ventured to Redrock Canyon Grill, which anchors the King's Landing shopping center at 9916 Riverside Parkway, with a healthy amount of skepticism. I was pleasantly surprised by what turned out to be a unique experience and delicious food.
On the outside, Redrock Canyon is pretty nondescript: a plain, white stucco structure in the center of a strip mall, adorned with huge letters that spell out its moniker -- practically identical to Michael Fusco's, another fine-dining restaurant next door with which it shares an outdoor patio overlooking the practically dry Arkansas River.
Inside, though, Redrock offers a luxurious ambiance, its booths and tables crafted from brown leather and rich, dark wood. Booths line the north, south and west walls, as well as the bar area, which is in the center of the restaurant. The north and west walls are all glass and the south boasts a large mural of the sun setting over Redrock Canyon, a National Conservation Area about 15 miles west of Las Vegas in Nevada.
The kitchen, situated on the north end of the restaurant, near the entrance, is open, allowing diners to watch the chefs ply the grill. Cacti of assorted variety dot the restaurant, and sculpted metal light fixtures add a rustic touch.
The restaurant stayed full for the duration of our two-hour, Monday-night visit, but we didn't -- nor, did it seem, did anyone else -- have to wait to be seated. Six of us, including my 3-year-old son, settled into a spacious booth, while our 8-month-old sat at the end of the table in a high chair. (I wouldn't necessarily call Redrock "kid-friendly," but they were very kind and accommodating to our children and us. It probably helped that our kids -- thank goodness -- were on their best behavior this night.)
Our server greeted us and gave us the lay of the land, explaining the restaurant's "team service" philosophy, meaning we would probably meet a lot of servers that night (though he attended to us most readily), and warned us of the restaurant's sunset toast, when the entire place would hoot and holler and ring cowbells as the sun began its evening descent.
We immediately ordered the Cibolo Ranch Calamari ($11) to munch on while we perused the short menu. It was delicious: tender and meaty -- not at all chewy or rubbery -- and crispy, but not over-breaded. Drizzled on top was a sweet garlic aioli and served beside it a roasted tomato salsa. The salsa was served cold and was spicy without being too hot. The fire-roasted tomatoes added a nice depth of flavor. The salsa tasted good on its own, but, when eaten in the same bite as the calamari and garlic aioli, it was magic. The flavors aren't obvious mates, but its unusualness contributed to its deliciousness.
Other appetizers, which range from $9 to $12, include a Stuffed Poblano pepper, House-Smoked Salmon and the Dip Duo, house-made pimento cheese spread and guacamole served with homemade tortilla chips.
The restaurant's signature dish is its Rotisserie Chicken, which is slow-roasted in a wood-fired oven. Two in our party ordered the Cluck-n-Moo ($28), the Rotisserie Chicken served with a beef tenderloin, mashed potatoes and glazed carrots. Another ordered the North Coast Salmon Caesar Salad ($17) and another the Bunkhouse St. Louis Ribs ($19), which were slathered with barbecue sauce and served with mashed potatoes and carrots. I ordered the Short Smoked North Coast Salmon ($19), which was served with couscous and, on this night, sautéed spinach, and a child-sized portion of the Persimmon Hill Meatloaf ($14 for the adult meal; $5 for the small version) for my toddler.
Each of us cleaned our plates; there was nothing we didn't like.
The Rotisserie Chicken had an almost smoky flavor. The skin was crusted with herbs and spices, and the meat was juicy and moist. The steak, flavored with the charcoal on which it was grilled, was cooked perfectly -- medium rare, just like we asked -- and was so tender it literally melted in the mouth. The mashed potatoes were creamy, the only lumps made by the potatoes' red skins, and perfectly seasoned. Normally I'm not a fan of glazed carrots, but these were subtly sweet. They weren't drowning in cinnamon and sugar; rather, these flavors were used to enhance the natural sweetness of the carrot. The carrots were soft, but not mushy.
My salmon was also cooked nicely. The waiter didn't ask what temperature I preferred, but when the fillet arrived, it was a perfect medium-well and not a bit dry. The fish itself was well seasoned, and it was topped with a mustard cream sauce that added a kick of spice. The couscous was served cold and tossed with raisins, peanuts, scallions, radishes, olive oil and mint. Each of these flavors stood out on the palate, and the mint left a refreshing aftertaste behind. The spinach was sautéed with onions and nicely wilted without being overdone.
Our friend enjoyed his rack of ribs so much that he left the bones stripped completely bare and said he would have eaten another plateful had they offered it to him. He said the barbecue sauce was slightly spicy but not too warm.
The Caesar salad tasted strongly of garlic, and a hint of lemon juice kept it from being too heavy. The anchovy, if it was there, was so downplayed that I didn't notice it at all.
The cornbread served with it (also offered as an appetizer for $5) tasted more like cake. It was moist and sweet and, though the flavor of the corn stood out, the grit of cornmeal hid shyly in the background.
My son's meatloaf was one of my favorite meals of the evening. Molded from tenderloin, pork sausage and mixed cheeses, the dish was smoky and slightly sweet. It had a flavor reminiscent of beef jerky, and trust me when I say that's a compliment. It was unlike any meatloaf I've ever tasted -- definitely not the greasy, ketchup-covered concoction your mother used to make -- and was just as good the next day, when I ate his leftovers for lunch. The decorated to-go box it was packaged in was a thoughtful touch.
For dessert we ordered Something Chocolate ($7), which was a towering square of ice cream sandwiched between two brownies, doused with chocolate sauce and topped with homemade whipped cream. The dessert was tasty -- as rich as it sounds -- and between the six of us we only finished half of it. The cream was everyone's favorite element, and I could have eaten a bowl of that by itself.
We lingered over our meal, staying at Redrock for well over two hours and outlasting most of the other patrons. The service at Redrock is exceptional, and the experience was exactly what a fine-dining establishment should offer.
The service is catered to the customers but it doesn't put any undue pressure on them. I wore a sundress on this evening, but I would have felt at ease in jeans and a T-shirt -- because fine dining isn't about dressing up to go to a restaurant and pay a high price for food you could get anywhere else. It's about taking the time to enjoy a well-crafted meal, and the folks at Redrock know this. They cater to it.
I racked my brain for something negative to say about our evening at Redrock, but I couldn't come up with anything. The food was incredible and the service attentive. The experience was so genuine and so unique that I completely forgot Redrock is a chain joint. I will definitely be back.
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