If you’re like most people, you like your restaurants thematically uncomplicated and easily pigeonholed. You go out seeking a good meal, not allegories, metaphors and metaphysical puzzles, and the less you have to decipher what kind of restaurant it is (or what type of cooking is going on) the better.
That’s why so many successful restaurants (and restaurant chains) present their themes in such obvious ways. You wanna meataballs anda sauce? Then Mamma Mia’s Sicilian Kitchen makes sure all the signifiers are there — from the kitschy graphics to the predictable color scheme — to assure you the noodles are copious and the cheesiness never stops. Sushi joints are usually more demure, but no less obvious, and from the steers on the wall at steakhouses to the not egg-actly egg-citing puns at breakfast house — some egg-cellent, some not — you know what you’re in for when you walk in.
Not so at Other Mama. Does the name give you a clue? Hardly, it sounds like a blues bar. The signage? It’s retro-louche sexiness suggests an updated take on one of those down-on-their-heels absinthe joints you find tucked into alleyways in New Orleans. Or a bordello, take your pick. The location is so bad calling it simply shitty is an understatement. Not since Raku tucked itself into a blind corner of Spring Mountain Road has a restaurant been in a less visible spot.
Even when you walk in things are bit confusing. It’s obviously a restaurant — modestly appointed with seating for around 50 folks — but the far wall is dominated by a long L-shaped cocktail bar that looks directly into a (too) brightly lit open kitchen. The bar looks simple, but also serious, which is a good sign. But even as you’re being led to your table, you won’t have a clue what kind of food they serve.
Then, you notice the hot hot hostesses and a large (and we mean large) menu board (apparently de rigueur in hip places these days):
….and things start falling in place.
Because what Other Mama is is an American/izakaya/sushi/cocktail/bar/gastro/fish house/pub. Got it?
I know, I know. Not another one, right?
Seriously, you’re probably thinking to yourself: why didn’t I think of that? And the answer to that question is easy. You didn’t think of it, pilgrim, because you don’t have the chops to pull it off. Chef/owner Daniel Krohmer has those skills in spades, and what he’s done is bring serious seafood to the ‘burbs like Vegas has never seen before.
Before we get to his drop-your-chopsticks-delicious-fish, a small digression is in order. It is an established fact that locating fresh, high quality seafood off the Strip is about as likely as finding a stripper who works on credit. It’s a true fact that ELV — the man, the myth, the lover of all things that swim — never, ever orders seafood in one of our neighborhood restaurants. And that’s for one simple reason: up until a couple of years ago (with the opening of Kabuto) you couldn’t get anything even approaching good fish. People (i.e. locals) won’t pay for the good stuff, so all you ever get, once you wander half a mile in any direction from Las Vegas Boulevard South, is cheap, frozen, pre-cut, farm-raised, no-taste cuts of salmon, tuna or (if you’re lucky) halibut. People (read: no-taste, no-breeding American white people) don’t like the taste of good fish and wouldn’t recognize it if it jumped straight from the ocean onto their plate. So what’s a restaurant to do? Serve them shit is what they do, and nobody notices or cares. So I say F*CK the shitty seafood in this town, and F*CK the American middle class, and F*UCK you know-nothing dolts who are always telling me how great the toxic shock Asian shit show is at Hot N Juicy Crawfish — which isn’t exactly seafood, but you get the point. Call me an elitist, condescending snob all you want, but the only places to eat fish in Las Vegas are high end Japanese restaurants, Bartolotta Ristorante di Mare and Milos.
Because what Krohmer is doing on Durango near Twain is bringing a Japanese-like sensibility to choosing his fish (learned, no doubt from a stint at Morimoto), and combining that with a very American love of playing with his food. Throw in his love of strong flavors and you have….what do we call it children? That’s right: an American/izakaya/sushi/cocktail/bar/gastro/fish house/pub.
If that’s too much to swallow, try tucking into his Penn Cove mussels:
….every bit the equal of what you get at Bouchon.
Still can’t wrap your head around so many sensational swimmers and mixed metaphors in one place? Then try wrapping your mouth around awesomely fresh and briny Long Island Blue Points:
….or shishito peppers with roasted cauliflower and pistachios:
…that even beat Sen of Japan‘s (where Krohmer also worked) for tasty inventiveness.
The amberjack crudo:
….is first rate, as is a wonderful octopus “carpaccio”:
…each bringing interest and integrity to the protein by way of well-proportioned, judicious use of sweet, salty, sour and herbal accents.
As much as we’d like to rave from top to bottom about this place, and few discordant notes must be mentioned.
For one, the tiny cubes of caviar French toast:
…are damn tasty, but some might balk at the $19 tariff.
Secondly, without dissecting ever dish in the joint (and we’ve had most of the menu), let’s just leave it at this: get the seafood. Get anything offered that comes from an ocean or tidal pool, and you will think you’re in a much swankier looking joint, on the Strip, paying twice the price. Order the wings or the rib eye or the pork belly fried rice and you’ll get a reality check in how neighborhood chefs fight to do more with less, and never rise above their ingredients or the pitiful parsimoniousness of their customers.
And before we leave you, we must mention David English’s craft cocktail program:
….that is as damn tasty as assistant bartender/mixologist Lauren:
…is cute and charming and passionate about her shaking and stirring vocation.
Lauren is now, officially, ELV’s favorite bartender — an honor that is thoughtfully bestowed and proudly worn by its honoree…until someone else makes us a drink that blows our socks off.
Sock blowing off is precisely what Krohmer is doing to his patrons these days. In a little over a month, he has made Other Mama and essential stop for battle-weary industry food folks:
(like Alex Taylor and Carlos Buscaglia )
…on their way home from work.
Do what the pros do: get a cocktail or two, and then the oysters and then the fish. Any fish.
And then try to get comfortable with the thought that maybe our neighborhoods don’t have to be second rate, dumbed down purveyors of putrid pisces after all.
3655 S. Durango Dr. Unit 6
Las Vegas, NV 89147