Pechanga Resort _ Casino's

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Pechanga Resort & Casino’s

by AJ Naff

                                                                     Pierce, the designated painter for the property.
J   ust off the gaming floor at Pechanga Resort & Casino sits
    Great Oak Steakhouse, a fine dining experience that fuses
gourmet selections with those of the classic American steak-
                                                                        The private dining room, which has the capacity for approx-
                                                                     imately 30 guests, is ideal for presentation-style dinners, din-
house. A three-time recipient of the Gold Award from South-          ner parties and celebrations. The room features its own fire-
ern California Restaurant Writers Association, Great Oak             place, a domed cathedral ceiling, and the back wall is lined with
offers a diverse range of appetizers and entrees, including          presentation wine cabinets. A moving wall allows the private
numerous specialized steaks, in a soothing and                                         room to be divided into two separate rooms
unobtrusive atmosphere. “It's a fabulous restau-                                       and provides soundproofing, as well. The two
rant,” said Beresford Wall, director of food and                                       smaller rooms can each accommodate 12
beverage for Pechanga. “The staff does a                                               guests.
wonderful job. It's a restaurant that we're really                                        Guests of the restaurant can expect a level
proud of.”                                                                             service that befits the restaurant's sophisti-
    One of eight dining options at Pechanga, the                                       cated atmosphere. “The level of service is very
award-winning Great Oak Steakhouse is the                                              high, yet very subtle, unobtrusive and highly
only restaurant with closing doors to the casino,                                      personalized,” said Beresford Wall. “The
offering its patrons complete isolation from the                                       service is designed to make guests feel
busy gaming environment. Open five nights a                                             welcome so they can just relax and enjoy them-
week exclusively for dinner, the main dining                                           selves.” Servers address their guests by name
room has the capacity for approximately 110                                            upon greeting, after the meal is delivered, and
diners, with a private dining room available as                                        in wishing them farewell. “Our servers are
well. “It's a nice, peaceful, relaxing getaway                                         genuine and courteous, continuously winning
from the casino,” said Michael Lawrence, man-                                          over our guests.”
ager of Great Oak Steakhouse. “It's a place where guests can            There is more to Great Oak’s service than courtesy, however.
recharge their batteries and get ready for the next onslaught.”      “We provide our servers with daily on-the-job training,” said
    The ambiance in the restaurant is very calm. The main            Michael Lawrence. The servers are also subject to weekly train-
dining room features a double-sided fireplace, adding to the soft,    ing, including wine seminars and guest speakers, to ensure staff
romantic lighting; a bricked fountain alongside of the room adds     members possess an acute knowledge of the entire menu. “We
the relaxing sound of bubbling water; and soft background            then have weekly testing of the staff on everything from
music emanates throughout. “There are great acoustics in the         general knowledge of the casino to the menu and wine list. It's
room,” said Wall. “Even when it is filled to capacity, you can        really a continual process.”
still carry on a conversation.”                                         The style of service at Great Oak is modeled on French
    The restaurant's high ceiling glows a sharp red, compli-         tradition - guests are served from the right, cleared from
mented by the muted oranges and yellows of the room's many           the right, and women are served first. Also, instead of serv-
intricate stained-glass windows. The tables are set with fine Ital-   ing trays, the food comes out of the kitchen on food carts,
ian linens, adding another flare of elegance. The main dining         allowing for an entire table to be served at once. “This way
room is also decorated with many types of plants found through-      members of a party don't sit with their food in front of them
out the resort, as well as several beautiful paintings by Paul       while the other members continue to wait,” Wall added.

30 Indian Gaming       June 2006
“We really pride ourselves on our approach to service.”               list, aiming to include close to 1,000 selections. One of the
   Another feature that makes Great Oak stand out among               reasons behind this expansion is to demonstrate Great Oak's
other steakhouses is the level of control that it has over its        commitment to enhancing the customers' experience. In prepa-
fare. “We have our own butchery department on property as             ration for this expanded list, Pechanga invested heavily in a
well as our own dry aging room,” said Michael Lawrence. “So           temperature-controlled wine cellar that is roughly three times
we are able to control the finished product much more effec-          as large as the old cellar. “We're striving to get to the next level
tively than many other restaurants of this type.” Having              in Wine Spectator,” said Lawrence, “which is Wine List of
these facilities so close at hand also allows the butcher to talk     Distinction.”
to the staff about the various cuts of meat, helping to                   Great Oak is not your typical American steakhouse.
strengthen menu knowledge.                                            Though its meticulously crafted steaks remain its most pop-
   Brian Johnston, a graduate of the prestigious La Varenne           ular fare, the venue's stylish ambiance, personalized service,
Ecole de Cuisine in Paris, France, brings an inspired and             and wide-ranging menu distinguish it from mainstream
creative flare to the menu. The head chef at Pechanga Resort           steakhouses. “Everybody has a steakhouse,” added John-
& Casino, Johnston adds a unique variety of sauces and accom-         ston. “We try to do different things here that really set us aside
paniments to the steak selections and also ensures that the rest      from everybody else.” p
of the menu goes well beyond that of a typical steakhouse. “We
definitely carry fine quality steaks,” Johnston said, “but the rest     For more information on dining at Pechanga Resort & Casino,
of our menu is far beyond what you will find in a typical steak-       visit
   The menu includes seafood dishes with 100% Asian flavor-
ings, traditional French- and Italian-style options, and even
Mediterranean-style salads. The seafood dishes include Aus-
tralian lobster tails, local swordfish, and organic farm-raised
salmon flown in from Ireland. For its produce, the chef primar-
ily uses local growers to ensure the menu stays in season.
Johnston has a crew of seven in his kitchen and each member
is scheduled to begin preparations three hours before the
restaurant opens. Everything in Great Oak's kitchen is prepared
entirely from scratch, right down to its salad dressings.
    “I enjoy mixing and matching all varieties of cuisine in our
restaurant,” said Johnston. “We just kind of dabble and mix up
the menu, keeping it as creative as possible.” Even though the
menu is quite varied, according to Johnston the steak is still king
at Great Oak. “On a night when we serve 250 covers, we'll sell
anywhere from 120 to 140 steaks.” The most popular steak
selection is the filet mignon, which is served with a traditional
mushroom sauce.
   Great Oak presents an award-winning global wine list that
represents both new and old-world selections. There are
approximately 430 bottles on the wine list, including varietals
from Australia, New Zealand, France, Germany and Italy. Of
course, there is also a strong representation of California
wines. This expansive wine list has earned Great Oak the
Award of Excellence from Wine Spectator magazine for four
years in a row. “On a grand scale, we have a nice selection of
pretty much all the varietals that are on the market,” said
Wall. “We have a really broad representation from the major
wine producing countries.”
   Great Oak is also getting ready to expand the size of its wine

                                                                                                        June 2006   Indian Gaming 31

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