Founded in London in 1971 by Americans Isaac Tigrett and Peter Morton, the Hard Rock Cafe brand will be celebrating its 43rd year of operation this weekend with a three-day birthday bash showcasing their love for music and food. Owned by the Seminole Tribe of Florida since 2007, Hard Rock continues to focus its legacy through music and memorabilia, operating 175 locations in 53 countries, with the newest addition opening next week in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.
Four decades in the business do not come without hardships and Hard Rock has managed its viability by adapting through the years without going the radical route of other companies or following culinary trends. Through the great American export of rock and roll, the brand has always maintained an association with "Americana" and as such, big, bold flavors pair with comfort in a setting worthy of inducing Fred Flintstone into one of his legendary brontosaurus rib comas.
Ahead of their celebratory weekend, Chef and General Manager Scott Jacobs made a majority of his new menu available for sampling and it was hard not to fall under the hypnotic joviality of his excitement for the product. A twenty-one year veteran of Hard Rock, Chef Jacobs is a tall man with an easy smile that is backed by the wonderment of culinary possibility usually seen in newbies joining their first kitchen line.
Here are some highlights of the tasting dinner.
See also: Hard Rock Cafe Celebrates Birthday With Live Music; Burger Badge Bash; Free Burgers for Dad
There's no better way to get started than with alcohol. The Air Mexico sampler of three miniature margaritas is accompanied by chips and salsa and imbibers can choose from wild berry, pomegranate, watermelon, mango, cucumber and blue curaçao built with Avión Silver Tequila and Cointreau for a balanced hit of fruit that does not delve fully into cloying sweetness.
The Watermelon Cooler is another refreshing starter though it suffers from the foils of masking the alcohol a little too well, which could be problematic to fast drinkers. Limit yourself to one then. The strawberry mojito suffers a similar fate but errs more on the side of sweet than minty fresh.
The appetizer menu retains its familiarity but where the song could've remained the same, the kitchen team has kicked it up a notch by revitalizing the back end notes of traditional fare like the Tupelo chicken tenders, a fine homage to Elvis that does not involve peanut butter and/or bananas. The breading is light and rife with old world spices and it crisps well while retaining that little greasy juiciness that feels right. The Spinach Artichoke Dip is fairly standard though it benefits from a healthy helping of Romano cheese that pairs well with the Parmesan flatbread.
The revelation of the appetizer round was the Bruschetta; the traditional mix of basil, Roma tomatoes and shaved Parmesan get a flavor augmenting kick with basil oil and a tangy herb cream cheese. The chicken wings have also benefitted from a reworking of their prep. Three sauces compliment them but in all honesty, they are quite good on their own for the almost floral hint it imparts.