We’ll say this for Rick Moonen, Adam Sobel and Gerald Chin— they’ve set a mighty high bar at a mighty reasonable price with their $65 – five course menu at RM Upstairs.
It might be the perfect coming out menu for this reincarnation of this sleek and sweet space at Mandalay Place.
Or it might be food that, we fear, is too hip for the room.
Technically, the Grand Re-opening of RM Upstairs is next Weds. between 6-9pm, when there will also be a viewing party for Moonen’s debut on Top Chef Masters.
Practically speaking, these three amigos have been test driving menu items and ideas on their customers for months — searching for the right blend of taste, value and dazzle factor for their prix fixe dinner. If you judge the success of such things by plate pirouettes, then you’ll find no fault with their marinated tuna atop a pineapple confit, octopus with paper thin bacon and an Andraki egg (so named for uber-egg farmer and M.D. Steven Andraki), foie gras a la Japonne with sea urchin croquant (whatever that is), or the walu (aka escolar) in an earthy-yet-tangy white soy emulsion, topped with a crispy shitake in panko crumbs. They also hit us with some perfect lamb in a nicely intense jus.
We thought the urchin with foie might be trying too hard, but somehow it worked (mainly because the urchin was as urchin-y as it can be), and the Utah lamb came with a combination of fresh and wasabi peas, spring ‘shrooms and ramps that was a garden-fresh and crunchy delight.
The issue we have with this food isn’t with its technical conception, flavors or flawless execution, it’s with whether or not the dining out public needs food this inventive and challenging. Because no matter how much a fussy critic (or foodie) may swoon over foie gras and sea urchin, “spider” crab with sunchokes and grapefruit or California squab with stuffed pasta, ultimately, there’s something fussy about these preparations, and maybe, just maybe, Vegas has enough restaurants doing food of this kind.
But let’s give credit where credit is due. No one is doing 5 courses of food this exacting, ingenious and lip-smacking for a tariff this small. Forget our fussiness. If there’s one thing we can say unequivocally it is this: RM Upstairs is, by far, the best deal in fine dining on the Las Vegas Strip.
Our dinner for two, with wine pairings ($55 each) came to $297 + a $65 tip.
In the Mandalay Place Shoppes
3930 Las Vegas Blvd. South
Las Vegas, NV 89119-1010
p.s. Can you pick out the famous chefs (only rising stars at the time) from Rick Moonen’s late ’80’s photo album?