Hell’s Kitchen in Harveys opens

The pan seared scallops with butternut squash puree, braised bacon lardons, and pickled green apples, one of Gordon Ramsey’s signature appetizers. | Kayla Anderson

The highly anticipated Gordon Ramsay Hell’s Kitchen recently opened at Harveys Lake Tahoe in Stateline, Nev., and I was fortunate enough to have brunch there with my friend Casey Meddock.

On this particularly chilly, midwinter afternoon, Casey and I showed up at Harveys; the new restaurant is located on the main casino floor where the Sage Room used to be. A friendly employee directed were to go.

When it was announced that Hell’s Kitchen Lake Tahoe was opening, 8,000 reservations were taken in 48 hours.

“Have you eaten there, yet?” we asked him.

Lobster risotto: butter poached lobster tail on top of truffle risotto with crispy onions. | Kayla Anderson

“Oh, yes,” he said. “They brought some French fries to us and I don’t even like French fries, but these were made in an air dryer and had some seasonings on them. I tried one and ended up eating the whole basket.”

Soon enough, we saw the stark white Hell’s Kitchen exterior with a small dark alcove. Inside, hostesses in red, quarter-length dresses complemented with small silver HK pitchfork necklaces greeted us.

We were led into a dimly lit, contemporary dining room with 44 tables in dark gray undertones spread throughout the restaurant and along the walls. A half-moon bar in the front gave the bartenders the ability to serve diners, as well as accept drink orders from the casino floor. The bright reddish-orange and blue chef’s counter in the back was reminiscent of the TV show’s studio set and invoked in my mind dueling chefs at each other’s throats.

Braised short rib with creamy polenta and glazed root vegetables. | Kayla Anderson

Our professional and courteous server Elaine gave us a four-page menu of American fare and drinks with a bit of a spin on them; they were no doubt borrowed and revised experiments performed over the last 18 seasons of the hit television show. Elaine had just undergone three weeks of training, which included studying 500-page textbooks on food and drinks. She said she envisions a long future at Hell’s Kitchen, but whatever happens the education that she received will help her in any kind of food industry job.

Elaine suggested that we try the popular pan-seared scallops that are featured on practically every show. Out of everything we tried, it was for sure one of their best dishes — the five meaty scallops had a perfectly seared, crispy outer layer. Each was bathed in a tiny pool of butternut squash puree. The scallops’ subtle aroma carried across the floor. I overheard a guy at the table next to us say, “I smell scallops.”

Jidori chicken scallopini with roasted pee wee potatoes, artichokes, Tuscan kale and truffle chicken jus. | Kayla Anderson

Coincidingly, my Beelzebub Sour — a play on the South American favorite Pisco Sour —was bursting with flavor thanks to the Machu Pisco, blood orange, lemon, egg white and housemade chai.

After our plates were cleared, bartender Amanda gave us a Secret Cove to try. The drink has Plantation pineapple rum, Aperol and passionfruit, which reminded me of sitting poolside on a hot summer day.

We sipped our drinks and caught up on life before our Braised Short Rib and Jidori Chicken Scaloppini was served. Since I equate any kind of ribs with messy fingers, I was surprised at how organized the short rib looked: It was a perfectly braised cube of meat lightly drizzled in beef jus atop brussels sprouts, warm cherry tomatoes and creamy polenta.

My Jidori chicken had roasted veggies and big chunks of artichoke in a subtle demiglace. Even though the portions looked quaint served on a big plate, we were both full after about seven bites.

However, that didn’t stop us from peeking at the dessert menu. Elaine quickly sold me on the chocolate mousse, since I am a big chocolate fan and I opted for an Osmanthus tea to go along with it. The tea is a kind of sweet olive tea served in a transparent teapot so you can see when the bloom sinks to the bottom. I was pleasantly surprised by the fragrant blend that released strong floral notes and tasted of honeysuckle.

The chocolate mousse came out and it looked positively decadent with its caramel kettle corn adorning it and — my favorite part — the dollop of passionfruit gelato on top. A red milk-chocolate-flavored pitchfork rested on top.

Waddling out of there with a to-go box, we noticed Hell’s Kitchen starting to fill up with the dinner crowd. When Hell’s Kitchen announced its opening, 8,000 reservations were taken in 48 hours. We were grateful for having the opportunity to dine at Tahoe’s newest hot spot and will be looking to return soon. | caesars.com/harveys-tahoe