We’ve never asked Rick Moonen what the secret is to his taramasalata. In fact, there isn’t any big secret to the fish roe dip — you make it by blending grey mullet (or carp or cod) roe with stale, soaked bread, lemon juice, garlic, onion and oil — but that doesn’t explain how or why his tastes better than any other one we’ve ever had. But it just does. There’s something about the silky/coarse/creamy consistency, with just a hint of fishiness and a definite tang, that separates this Olympian offering from plebian, plagiaristic provisions. Regardless of pedigree, his version pummels all others, and is worth a special trip.
But what say you, ELV about Moonen’s and Chef de Cuisine Anthony Fusco’s new menu at this venerable and respected seafood-er? As everyone knows, he took over after the departure of Adam Sobel earlier this year. Of his revamped and revised cuisine, we can lavish high praise, for not only the flavors, but also the technique and the generally minimalist presentation, which tires out neither the eye nor the palate.
That minimalism carries over to the menu as a whole: only nine starters and seven mains are listed, meaning the upstairs is a leaner and meaner operation than it’s been in a long time. All of this gets served in what remains, after five+ years, one of the sleekest, sexiest dining rooms in the city.
Fusco, a veteran of Mesa Grill, Guy Savoy and DJT, is not shy with his combinations, mixing small, sweet, Peruvian lantern scallops with pork confit, mustard greens and polenta on one plate, or marinated octopus with prosciutto and melon on another. His dishes seem to work best when he concentrates on one or two flavors: like gorgeous, rich lamb belly or rolled stuffed, pan-roasted rabbit, rather than letting his larder get the best of him, e.g. the aforementioned scallops, whose briny, ocean sweetness was overwhelmed by all the earthy attention they were getting. We also thought the octopus melange didn’t really work — our notes read: “not as good as they want it to be-more like prosciutto and melon with some cephalopod thrown in” — but, to be fair, we only sampled six of his sixteen dishes, so such a judgment might be premature until a few other combo platters are partaken of.
No desserts were partook of either, as our meal was one of those invited-media-events where service is stretched by trying to keep so many journalists and editors happy at once. As a result, we begged off early, but liked enough of what we tasted that we are eager for a re-match, without the distraction of so many jaded food writers in our midst.
In the Mandalay Bay Hotel and Casino
3930 Las Vegas Blvd. South
Las Vegas, NV 89119