About once a week, a friend or a friend-of-a-friend asks me where to eat at the new Graton Resort and Casino in Rohnert Park.
It can indeed seem overwhelming, with the facility spanning 320,000 square feet and boasting 13 restaurants with choices ranging from a $1.75 pork pastor taco at La Fondita, to a $130 Jumbo Jackpot seafood platter at 630 Park Steakhouse.
Yet there is no generic buffet, or $5.99 prime rib dinner special. Some of the best restaurants are destinations in their own right, dress-up-worthy, and brimming with big city cuisine. Often, I’m happy as can be with that $1.75 taco, but on days I’m feeling more flush, here’s where you’ll find me, digging into a guaranteed jackpot dining experience.
If you’re lucky, celebrity chef Martin Yan might actually be in the kitchen on any given evening, since he’s very much hands-on with his concept that’s an offshoot of enormously popular San Francisco destination. Either way, you’ll see the chefs at work, since this glamorous salon features an exhibition kitchen with wok dishes, hand-pulled noodles and dim sum.
Cocktails make a grand welcome, at a sleek wood bar where mixologists shake up sips like the East Meets West of baby chrysanthemum infused Tito’s Vodka, orange blossom honey and lemon juice ($11), or a Singapore Sling of Blue Coat Gin, Benedictine, Cherry Heering, orange liqueur, pineapple gum, lime juice, grenadine and Angostura bitters ($13).
Set over two stories, the second floor dining loft is accented by a huge dragon mural, and offers a birds’ eye view of the action. And there’s action aplenty. Mixing entertainment with world class food, the professional “noodle pullers” offer dizzying theatrics like the famous Dragon Beard la mien, somehow coaxing 16,000 strands pulled angel-hair thin from one long twist of dough.
One don’t miss dish is the Juicy Dumpling Trio brimming with two dumplings each stuffed with wild boar, pork and crab, and pork and black truffle, all soaking in rich broth ($18). Squid Ink Snap Noodles are another dramatic dish, the black stained pasta tossed with shrimp, scallops, calamari and Shaoxing wine ($18), while wok-flamed Five Spice Pork Ribs get a punch from cinnamon bark, star anise and Thai basil ($18).
Believe it or not, one of the best dishes here is a burger ($15), crafted of Snake River Farms Kobe and topped in choices like caramelized onions, burrata and arugula; prosciutto, fig compote, frisee, Gorgonzola and balsamic; or calabrese peppers, house barbecue sauce, bacon, mozzarella and fried caramelized onions.
The spotlight is on the pizzas, though, since chef-owner Tony Gemignani is an 11-time World Championships of Pizza Makers winner. He offers eight kinds of pizzas made in three different kinds of ovens, including Napoletana (baked in a 900° wood-fired oven), classic Italian/Americana (like a pepperoni, salami, sausage, bacon, linguisa, mushroom combo, $20), 16-inch New York style, thick and rectangular Sicilian style, cracker crust (650° in a brick oven), or California style. There is also Roman style, as a trio of separate pies all joined together on a giant wood cutting board. Don’t miss the gluten free pies, either, including a vegetarian model ($18).
For other appetites, there are family-style pasta dinners, giant meatball subs, and big salads. The meatballs are particularly marvelous, dense and moist in tennis ball size rounds and swimming in rich tomato sauce.
630 Park Steakhouse
Can you say glittery, grand, and yes, expensive? Owned by the casino, this posh place brings the high style of Las Vegas, featuring a backlit bar in the front room and a wall of fire in the back. Gently hovering servers don classic uniforms, tables are draped in white cloth, and it’s impossible to believe there’s a field of dairy cows just outside. Yet there’s plenty of local flair inside, too, like Sonoma County milk, cheeses, chicken, lamb, produce and of course, wines.
The meat is Prime grade Midwest and California raised, and wet/dry aged for a minimum of 28 days. For opulence, it’s hard to beat the 12 oz. California Wagyu ($48) slathered in gorgonzola crust ($8), alongside au gratin potatoes decorated with Hobbs bacon ($10) and roasted wild mushrooms ($12). Even the most basic meat, a queen cut prime rib ($35) brings an explosion of flavor and mouthwatering texture.
But first, start with a seafood platter, feeding up to six people and brimming with Maine lobster, jumbo shrimp, oysters, Dungeness crab and Jonah crab claw ($130). A lavish Kitchen Sink Caesar is another great option, tossed with shrimp, avocado, tomato, hearts of palm and spicy horseradish dressing ($16).
Details: Graton Resort & Casino, 288 Golf Course Drive West, Rohnert Park, 707-588-7100, gratonresortcasino.com.
Tip: Pack all your winnings out in a sleek, shiny limo or Town Car from Pure Luxury Transportation.