We told Chef Tom Moloney we were embarrassed for having taken so long to re-visit Aqua Knox. It had been at least four years since last we indulged in the superior swimmers they cook here, and our memories were nothing but good. In fact, it was a definitive Dover sole that cemented this place’s reputation in our minds as a first class fish cookery, but inexplicably, we had strolled past at least a hundred times on our way to David Burke, Valentino, B & B, Delmonico or Bouchon without stopping in for at least a nibble.
Because Moloney and his crew know seafood, know how to dress it up (without losing its character) and know how to cook it.
The pirouettes on the plate may not be as extreme as RM Upstairs, and the presentation not as elaborate (or expensive) as Bartolotta, but the food here is refined, thoughtful, and a lesson in how a good chef knows how to respect good ingredients.
He does that, of course, by letting them speak for themselves — with just an accent or two to set them in relief — a good example of which would be Moloney’s scallop with spring pea orzotto, snap peas and a lobster-carrot nage (sauce). A rich, sweet scallop doesn’t need much to accompany it, but a dappling of sauce, and a few pieces of pasta and peas will do quite rightly, thank you.
The mesquite grilled prawns (not pictured), are another example of this less-is-more cooking — the big shrimp (ain’t that an oxymoron?) standing atop some big, pearly couscous that blends with the lobster/scampi sauce into a nice side dish that could stand on its own.
About the only dish we weren’t crazy about was the white king salmon — a beautiful block of fish that, for all its uniqueness of color (or lack of same), lacked the salmon-ness we expected.
But once Moloney’s Signature Fish Soup appeared, all was forgiven. So many soups, bouillabaisses, cauccucios, cioppinos, etc. threaten to be highly seasoned, but almost universally (okay, almost everywhere in America) they end up being a pile of fish and shellfish is some kind of unmemorable, seafood-y broth.
Fear not spice fans. You will remember Moloney’s version — rich with saffron and tomato and possessing a real kick. If it were a bit more garlicky (and served with a side of Provencal aioli), it would be the perfect bouillabaisse.
Wash all of this down with wine from a modest, but surprisingly well-priced list. Unlike most restaurants in our humble burg, they feature an entire page of half bottles — perfect for single diners or those who consort with others who may not have similar thirst-quenching requirements. Even better, on Monday and Tuesdays the entire list is half price.
Apps go from $18-$24; mains $32-36. ELV’s meal was comped, but he left a $60 tip.
In the Venetian Hotel and Casino
3355 Las Vegas Blvd. South
Las Vegas, NV 89109-8941