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It's not the most enthralling story, but at least my experiences there weren't the trips to culinary hell that I've endured in other area casinos. The Journey doesn't pretend to be glamorous or swanky. Still, little details give it some class: The uncloaked tables are spacious and comfortable; the napkins are brick-colored linen (and they match the walls); the bartenders know how to mix a potent martini; and dinner prices include baskets of warm, fragrant sourdough bread -- as well as salads, a vegetable and a baked potato, steak fries or white-cheddar mashed potatoes.
The menu is limited, but we felt as if we'd hit the jackpot, particularly with two generous appetizers: a heaping plate of golden, crunchy fried calamari, artichoke hearts and zucchini slices (four of us couldn't finish it), and an interesting variation on escargot -- the plump, garlicky snails were wrapped in a pale sheath of marinated chicken breast and came with wedges of toasted baguette.
However, I much preferred the house salad to the Caesar, which I found soggy and tasteless both times I sampled it. For its part, the house was a crunchy jumble of cold iceberg lettuce with the usual accompaniments on a salad plate that was too small.
In fact, the plates in general are all wrong. The faux Fiestaware platters should be kept heated, because the kitchen struggles with making sure that the beef and spuds stay hot before they arrive at the table. I wasn't surprised that the mashed potatoes were lukewarm; that's a recurring problem in most restaurants. But they tasted more like glue than like cheddar cheese. And am I the only one hoping that the vogue for flavored mashed potatoes is almost over? Now that I've sampled everything from curry to wasabi mixed with my mashers, I just want to eat them naked, hot and drenched in butter.
On the night that Bob and I dined at The Journey, he ordered the 10-ounce Padrone sirloin, fascinated by its Italian name. "What does it mean?" he inquired of our server, who didn't know. She asked the chef, who -- surprise! -- didn't know, either. I knew that the root word, padre, meant father, but it wasn't until later, when I asked my bilingual Aunt Josephine, that I discovered padrone's negative connotation. "A padrone was a landlord or a boss," she snapped. "Or a con artist!" But the rich sirloin was no hoax. "It's not as tender as a fillet, but it's a lot more flavorful," Bob said. Meanwhile, I enjoyed a beautifully prepared, supple salmon.
On another visit, we brought Ned and Betsy. This time, Bob ordered the 8-ounce Bulgaro fillet, which was exceedingly tender but not in the same league as Ned's luscious 18-ounce ribeye. Betsy ordered a 12-ounce strip, but was too polite to tell me until days later that it had been overcooked. "But I think the timing of the kitchen was off that night," she said diplomatically. "I was really pleasantly surprised by the restaurant, since that type of place is really not my style." Unfortunately, the half-chicken that I'd ordered wasn't my style, either -- it had been smoked slowly until the skin had turned a rich, mahogany brown, but alas, it was too dry.
Although none of the desserts are made on the premises, Personalli says that will change when the casino completes a bakery planned for its mezzanine. "We do have catered desserts," our server informed us as he brought a wedge of fudgy triple-chocolate cake for us to share. It was pure sugar, but Ned liked it.