Nobody visits a casino without being prepared to take some chances. But taking a chance on eating at the Casino Queen’s top-flight restaurant seems to provide odds more in the diner’s favor than even the "loosest slots," that the boat boasts about. The re-making of the Casino Queen has drawn good crowds, no question about it; for example, on a recent Friday night, there were almost no open slots except the penny ones. But the food? We looked at the buffet and found much of the same choices as at buffets everywhere, so we visited the Prime Steakhouse to raise the bar a little.
The room is quiet and pleasant, a door separating it from nearly all the clamor of the casino floor, and the crowd, while not subdued, was controlled enough to make this a good spot for conversation. It feels like a hotel dining room, which, of course, it is, although it would never qualify as one in Las Vegas or Monte Carlo or Macao. Service is eager and un-stuffy, of course, something else that is a given in casinos.
What did we eat, from a menu that’s a little wider-ranging than the usual steakhouse choices? A salad topped with seared tuna showed off some first-rate greens, better than those we’ve had in some of the Queen’s rivals. The tuna wasn’t quite sashimi-grade, despite the menu, but it was mild and tender. The greens wore just a little, very tasty, gingery dressing, not enough to overwhelm and certainly not enough to puddle under the greens, which made it a success by our standards. The stuffing in some largish white mushroom caps was a good take on crab Rangoon, creamy and reasonably crabby in a generous serving.
Ann, in particular, is not much on bread crumbs. They get soggy, they’re bland, they add calories without much taste–nope, not a favorite. The strip steak at Prime comes topped with then, and The Suspicious One was won over. Not only was it an excellent steak, but the bread crumbs had apparently been basted with steak juices, leaving them tasty and, thanks to the smart person running the broiler, not burnt, just crispy. But even the un-crisp parts were delicious.
One of our few quibbles about the meal involved the accompaniments to the steak; Israeli couscous was stuck together, meaning it had been standing on the plate a good while, and a half-artichoke created a mystery. It’s difficult to explain about the artichoke. Nearly all the outer leaves seemed to have been detached, the edible portion removed and the leaves then re-assembled to look like a proper half of an artichoke cut in half from top to bottom. We have no idea where the edible parts of the leaves went. The fuzzy choke had been removed, which was proper, but it was impossible to get at the heart with a knife and fork, so it became finger food, like artichokes around the world, and we managed two bites of the heart. Tasty, but not worth the effort.
It’s nice to see duck on a menu, and we took advantage of it. Half a duck is roasted, none of this nouvelle-rare nonsense, and basted with the chef’s take on plum sauce. Pretty darn good, we’d say. Even the vegetables underneath weren’t the cliche, with onions, sweet red pepper strips and carrot batons stirfried and happily lolling in the duck juices, a seasoning that could probably make old newspapers taste good.
We shared a slice of Italian cream cake for dessert. Fresh and moist and tender, the cake, with filling and frosting just lightly sweet, was just right after a fairly rich meal.
Interestingly, the only vintages given on the wine list are for the extremely high-end wines, but there are nightly specials of wine by the glass, which are explained by the server, and those do include the vintage.
All in all, good enough to face the casino odds with good humor. In truth, if casino losses were as palatable as casino dinner, we’d have a very good humor.
200 S. Front St., East St. Louis
Credit Cards: Yes
Wheelchair access: Good