The Rivers Casino on the North Shore isn't as glitzy as the shrines to excess that line the Las Vegas Strip, but when you pull that winning slot (or soon draw a winning hand), the money is just as green. And in the grand tradition of casinos everywhere, the Rivers Casino provides plenty of opportunities for lucky visitors to dispose of their gains right on site, including eight restaurants and bars.
Big winners will surely be directed to the casino's glitziest option, Andrew's Steak & Seafood, and the restaurant has some attractive qualities. In a city that loves dining with a view, Andrew's expansive windows overlooking the Ohio River offer a spectacular option. There's a large patio for summer dining, and if you reserve the private dining room, you can choose to have drinks and hors d'oeuvres on the terrace before sitting down to eat.
Still, those looking for a dining jackpot may want to think twice.
The understated decor may be designed to shift focus toward the windows, but the atmosphere would benefit from a touch more pizzazz. The beige and brown color scheme and the central bar with glass walled wine storage as the primary decorative element evoke an upscale airport lounge.
At the moment, service is the restaurant's strongest selling point. Staff members were enthusiastic and well-trained, executing tableside preparations with panache. Unfortunately, even the world's best service could not entirely make up for the inconsistent quality of the food.
Drinks: List includes "signature martinis," made with some fresh ingredients, as well as a short list of more classic "signature cocktails," all $11 to $35. Beer selection consist exclusively of mass-market beers with no local or craft beer options. The focus is clearly on the lengthy international wine list. By-the-glass options include 16 white and sparkling, 17 red and two dessert wines, starting at $7, $9 and $18 respectively. The wine list is focused on more expensive bottles, with only 19 whites and 25 reds (out of hundreds of selections) marked at $50 or less. Wines under $100 a bottle are typically marked up 300 percent, while wines that cost $100 or more are marked up about 200 percent. The most expensive bottles are attractively priced at just over retail.
Summary: Wheelchair accessible; credit cards accepted; reservations encouraged; no BYOB.
Noise level: Low to medium-loud.
Andrew's menu attempts to combine the old-fashioned sophistication of a classic steakhouse with someone's notions of cutting edge trends. The result is confusion.
Creamed spinach ($8), the king of side dishes, was gloppy and greasy, topped with a layer of unnecessary cheese. A beet salad ($7) was badly in need of reconstruction. Chunks of red and gold beets were arranged in a line on a rectangular plate, alternating with little coins of goat cheese, each topped with a spiced, slightly burnt piece of walnut (purportedly "candied"). A little pile of spinach leaves and streaks of beet juice and beet powder finished the plate. Just because you can turn something into a powder doesn't mean you should.
Bigger is better seems to be a secondary motto. The bread baskets are paragons of excess, piled with multiple types of Breadworks' bread, rolls and crackers, almost a dozen varieties in all. Try even half and you'll probably find you're no longer quite as excited about your steak.
Towering platters of seafood ($48) made an impression as they were carried across the dining room, but a more limited taste of the chilled seafood offerings suggested the platters weren't worth the splurge.
Flavorless chilled shrimp ($3.50) were somehow both watery and dry at the same time. Oysters on the half shell (six for $13) weren't consistently separated from their shells, forcing the eater to scrape away at the hinge muscle with a fork, spilling tasty liquor and partially mangling the meat. This problem persisted with roasted oysters (six for $14), topped with an overwhelming mixture of cream, bacon and cheese with just enough spinach to tint it green.
There were some better choices. Despite mediocre teardrop tomatoes, the steakhouse blues ($9) was a tasty salad. The baby lettuces were crisp and fresh, and the portion was generous enough to stand up to a wedge of the spectacular Roaring Forties Blue cheese from Australia's King Island Dairy.
The crispy hoisin duck breast ($11) wasn't exceptionally crispy, but the crunchy cabbage slaw and the spicy cherry pepper tapenade partnered well with the rich meatiness of duck.
There's a fairly standard selection of steaks from Creekstone Farms in Colorado, all of which are certified Black Angus and raised on a strictly vegetarian diet without hormones or antibiotics.
The Tomahawk ribeye for two ($70) makes a grand entrance, a giant bone jutting out at an angle. Unfortunately, by the time it had been delivered, carved and served, it had cooled down quite a bit. Once the meat was on the plate, the taste didn't live up to the presentation. The 14-ounce, dry-aged New York strip steak ($38) is a better option, with richer flavor than standard wet-aged meat and an impressively tender texture.
Fish entrees showcased a bit more creativity. Fennel and panko-crusted swordfish ($27) sat in a brothy mix of braised Napa cabbage and shiitake mushrooms, an interesting mix of flavors and textures. Unfortunately, one edge of the swordfish was so overcooked it had the texture of leather and a distinctively fishy taste. Roasted organic Scottish salmon ($25) got a lovely Mediterranean twist from a bed of cannellini beans and chopped sun-dried tomatoes.
Sloppy execution also marred a number of side dishes, resulting in mushy, bitter broccoli rabe ($8) and dry mashed potatoes ($6). Excellent hand-cut fries ($6) were a memorable exception.
Desserts also were inconsistent. The crust of a deep-dish apple pie ($8) had an unappetizing sandy texture, and ice cream flavors tasted artificial. Meyer lemon meringue torte ($8), however, was nice and tart, with a beautifully bruleed meringue. Miniature desserts ($2), though painfully trendy, managed to be fun. An assortment of bonbons, including chocolate-covered strawberries and frosted petits fours, was served on individual silver spoons, while tiny portions of parfait came in skinny glasses stored in a silver rack.
Casino management may be aware that their flagship restaurant isn't as impressive as it might be. Less than two weeks ago, they brought in a new executive chef to oversee all of the casino's restaurants.
Richard Marmion, originally from Pittsburgh, has spent the past few years as executive chef at the Rio Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas. Mr. Marmion plans to introduce a new menu in the spring and change it seasonally thereafter. He's hoping to bring in more local products from the Strip District, and to "bring in a little of that Vegas kick."