It’s Hollywood – Dining At Final Cut

| June 6, 2017 | 0 Comments

The outdoor seating provides spectacular views of the countryside.

If you haven’t seen the television and print ads for Hollywood Casino, you’ve been living under a rock. It is the newest casino in San Diego County, joining a relatively large number of operations that include familiar names such as Barona, Viejas and Pala. Hollywood Casino opened in October 2016 and, as the new kid on the block, is pushing to build its own identity by running a major marketing push.

Hollywood Casino is operated by Penn National Gaming, which made a deal with the Jamul Indian Village tribe. PNG operates casinos all over the country, many under the “Hollywood” name. It also runs the venerable Tropicana in Las Vegas.

The “Hollywood” refers to movie memorabilia that are displayed. Final Cut Steakhouse features a number of movie costumes, including an original Superman costume.

The ads say that the Casino is located a short 20-minute drive from downtown San Diego. That’s true…. sometimes. Don’t expect that speed during traffic hours. But the ride is a nice one, particularly when you approach the end of Highway 94. Be careful not to take the wrong fork and end up on Highway 125.

Also, don’t look for billboards as guides. There is only one, a small one. But it isn’t hard to find the Casino. Simply take Hi 94 to the end, keep going straight to Campo Road, then turn right and proceed past hallmarks of civilization like Edwards Cinema, past delightful “country stores” until you arrive at the building. It is only a few miles down the road.

The exterior of Hollywood Casino is very futuristic. Someday, I’d expect a space station to look like it. But the entrance is easy to find and free valet parking is available. The restaurants and casino are on the second floor.

Being somewhat new, the Casino has a “fresh” feel. The machines and tables glisten and there is a notable absence of the stale smoke smell that seemingly pervades older gaming establishments. There is even a designated non-smoking section. Slot machines of all kinds are everywhere and the gaming tables offer a wide choice of games, including roulette, craps and the popular Pai Gow Poker.

Dining opportunities include Emerald’s Chinese Cuisine, familiar to San Diegans who frequent the Convoy location, Ruby’s Dinette, and a popular tribute location to Tony Gwynn. But the flagship restaurant is Final Cut Steakhouse.

The entrance is on the casino floor, close to the elevators. A large, clear glass display of wine bottles stands at the entrance of the restaurant. A small bar is on the left. Dining rooms are to the right. There are two dining rooms, with a lovely small private dining room leading off the second.
The initial impressive element is the sheer grandeur of the dining rooms. Ceilings are very high, creating a sense of broad space. Lighting is subdued and comfortable. Tables and booths are spaced for privacy. Walls are paneled in dark wood. Huge glass display cases divide the rooms, showing authentic movie costumes. The rooms are elegant.

One of the best features of the location is the view. Come during daylight and gaze out the huge windows onto rolling hills, where the grass is green, the distant mountains are purple and the sky is mostly blue. Visit around sunset and you’re likely to see a small herd of cattle meander down the hillside as they graze before nightfall. It is really fun.

Final Cut has a resident sommelier, who will happily assist with wine choices during dinner. He presents a good selection of California and foreign labels, with a greater emphasis on reds.
Oysters are offered on the half shell, as well as shrimp cocktail. Other starters include Point Vincente calamari, lightly breaded and deep fried, with a sweet and spicy kick that creates a delightful afterglow. Braised pork bell and crab cake are delicious alternates.
T

he wedge salad was a nice size, served with cherry tomato, blue cheese crumbles and buttermilk dressing instead of a blue cheese dressing. The flavor was tasty, but the salad was warm and was not served with a chilled fork on a chilled plate – surprising for a venue of this quality. Other choices include a traditional Caesar and an heirloom tomato dish.

Seafood entrees include a sockeye salmon, served skin on, with fennel. It was perfectly prepared and served, moist and flavorful. Alaskan halibut and whole Maine lobster are also on the menu.
Steaks are “From The Grill” and are listed by cut and size. Lamb chop and pork chop are also available. The bone-in rib eye I enjoyed was prepared perfectly, a large and beautifully marbled piece of meat that filled my plate and delighted my palate.

Desserts include beignets, served as “coffee and donuts” and a popular vanilla bean cheesecake. Dessert cheeses and wines round out the menu

Everything is a la carte. So, is it expensive? Yes. Is it on par with local favorites such as Donovan’s and Ruth’s Chris? Yes. Is it worth the drive? Absolutely.

If you’re a winner at the casino, prices don’t matter. If you’re down on your luck, the dining experience may offer cheer, despite the cost. And even if you drive there just to dine, the drive is fun, the food is excellent and the prices are comparable. One is always a winner at Final Cut.

Hollywood Casino is located at 14145 Campo Road in Jamul. Reservations can be made through the Open Table website or by calling (619) 315-2433.

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