Fine dining, hold the slots

On a recent Saturday night, we decided to leave town. Heading west, we came to Verdi, home of Cassidy’s Steak House at the Boomtown Hotel-Casino. Eating at casinos is always a toss-up, but we found some satisfying dining amid the jingling slots and neon.

Earlier that day, we had attempted to make reservations, but were told to call back after 2 p.m. Our second call left us with an answering machine that never picked up. So we arrived without reservations—and faced an hour-long wait once we arrived. Since Cassidy’s small bar was full, we settled in at a video poker bar, ordered some cocktails and began losing money. When the hour was up, we were promptly seated.

The large, two-level room provided a surprisingly quiet atmosphere away from the weekend casino crowd and cigarette haze. With the exception of one television in the corner tracking Keno numbers, we might have forgotten that we were at Boomtown. Before ordering anything, we were served three warm, soft rolls with whipped butter, olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

The pace inside was calming, and our waiter was attentive without being intrusive. The wine list featured a manager’s pick from Francis Ford Coppola vineyards. We accepted the free samples and found Coppola’s Cabernet and Claret tasteless and watery. For dinner, we selected a Rutherford Ranch Cabernet ($19) that matched our entrées perfectly.

Stuffed mushrooms with a “sweet and spicy horseradish sauce” ($7) caught our eye, and we chose them over the roasted garlic and gulf prawn cocktail appetizers. The mushrooms were lightly fried and delicious, but the sauce was bland and seemed to lack horseradish. We also decided snails would go well with fried fungus. Cooked in cognac and garlic butter, the escargots bourguignonne ($8) were tender and savory.

Throughout dinner, we noticed that Cassidy’s didn’t really present the “authentic, Western atmosphere” the casino’s Web site promises. Sure, framed prints cover the walls, showing a mix of pottery, landscapes and cowboys and Indians. But the soft lighting, beveled glass and wall-length wine case conveyed a much more urban feeling. Dressed in evening wear—or jeans and T-shirts—the folks dining kept the atmosphere from being stuffy.

The menu offers something for everyone, and lots of it. Soup or salad accompanied each entrée, along with a side dish such as sweet-potato French fries, garlic mashed potatoes or rice pilaf. We went with the Caesar salad, which was good though not exceptional, and tried the shrimp bisque. It was flavorful and creamy, though a bit salty.

Vegetarians have many good options among the pastas ($13-$16). Flesh eaters can choose from nine meat and four seafood entrées ($12-$35). Despite all of the tempting items, we ordered steaks—the 12-ounce New York strip, well done, topped with gorgonzola ($20), and the 10-ounce filet mignon, medium rare, prepared with a portabella cabernet glaze ($25). The delicious steaks were both cooked perfectly. We sampled the sweet potato fries and the garlic mashed potatoes. While the fries were rich and tasty, we wanted more garlic in the mashed potatoes.

Even though we couldn’t finish everything, our server enticed us with the dessert tray. It worked. We tried the berry swirl cheesecake ($6), which seemed pretty run-of-the-mill. We also got the almond cake, a dense, gooey torte layered with almond slivers, honey, marzipan and a chocolate-dipped crust ($6); it was quite impressive.

Knowing we’d have to brave the crowd again to head home, we lingered over good coffee. Cassidy’s orchestrates a wonderful dining experience, and we were all too happy to have leftovers for later.