EATING LAS VEGAS – The 50 Essential Restaurants
The best thing about the meal was the waitress.
She was tall, and none too young, and spoke with a middle European accent. But she was also fast and funny and not too friendly. When you needed something, it appeared quickly, and when you needed her, she always seemed to show up a moment before the thought occurred to you.
Would that the food had measured up to the service.
Why had we come? Why, for the oysters, of course! (See above)
Eighteen of them. A dozen mixed from the Pacific Northwest and half-dozen Bluepoints, just for comparison.
What showed up were eighteen blands that barely tasted of bivalve.
Seventy bucks of Crassostrea gigas bivalve to be exact. Tasting of nothing but old, over-chilled, mollusks.
See those fancy descriptions beside each of the varieties in the picture? Taste-tempting indeed they were, with promises of deep, clean brininess and top notes of fondue, sweet cream and cucumber.
Know what showed up? None of the above. Just eighteen slimy balls of stale seafood that were indistinguishable from each other. We at ELV know not from where those taste descriptors came from, but dollars to doughnuts it wasn’t from anyone associated with the restaurant.
Here’s an idea: If you’re going to use florid language to describe your food, perhaps someone in the restaurant should taste something sometime to make sure the menu matches the merchandise.
Someone should also taste the faux butter here, it having the texture, taste and tensile strength of whipped air.
The biscuits and muffins are fresh baked and addictively good, but what good is that if you’re spreading them with something that really believes it is not butter?
Placing these disappointments behind us, we soldiered on through the rest of the meal, “soldiering on” being the appropriate verb for having to dig through a dry, stringy crab cake, and having to use a hand grenade to soften up the hard-as-a-rock lardons that accompanied a fortress-like, inedible endive salad:
On the plus side, the tomatoes tasted like exactly what you’d expect February tomatoes to taste like, which is too say, hard, mealy and nothing at all.
Here’s an idea #2: If you’re going to serve raw endive, at least learn to dress it properly, and bring a bayonet to the table for the guests to use against it.
The meal was redeemed somewhat by a beautiful cioppino:
…it being full of chunks of well-chosen seafood, and dense, delicious noodles, in a piquant, rich broth. As good as it was (and it was tremendous), we were so shell-shocked by our first four courses that the breach of confidence in this kitchen could not be repaired.
We don’t know what Rick Moonen is up to these days, but from the look of things, he’s not overseeing the cooking in the restaurant that bears his name.
From the taste of things, I doubt anybody is.
Which is a pity.
Almost as pitiful as those oysters, butter, crab cake and salad.
Our dinner for two, with a single glass of wine, $70 worth of oysters and a $41 tip, came to $220.53.
Mandalay Bay Hotel and Casino
P.S. Some of you will no doubt notice that RM Seafood is included in our Top 50 of EATING LAS VEGAS – The 50 Essential Restaurants 2017. You might also notice that it was written about in the book by my co-authors, not me. Which was the reason for my visit last week — to see if it warrants such status in future editions. I think you can guess the answer.
And it just-hit-the-shelves. like yesterday: The 5th edition of EATING LAS VEGAS – The 50 Essential Restaurants – a concise, literate, irreverent, honest, meticulously researched tome that tells you where you should be eating and drinking in Las Vegas right now….and for the next year.
Everything you’ve come to know and love about Las Vegas’s only definitive dining guide is here:
- The Top 10 (with several surprises in store)
- The Rest of the Best (with 13 new entries added just since last Spring)
- Chinatown (Updated and expanded with almost 20 pages of recommendations of where to get your Asian on.)
- Steakhouses (Why we’re becoming the center of the steakhouse universe + our top 10 + shout outs to all the usual suspects.)
- A new “French” section (Did you know there were 16 great French places in town? Neither did I until I wrote the darn thing.)
- 17 Mexican joints rate a wave; 28 Italian ones do.
- Expanded “Desserts” section
- “Sushi” now merits its own chapter.
- A fun and fascinating foreword by fantastic foodie Barbara “Babs” Fairchild.
- 8 full pages of “Cheap Eats” (Done under duress by yours truly; thank god for Mitchell Wilburn and Greg Thilmont.)
- “Drinking Las Vegas” now gets a serious section, with Thilmont and young Wilburn weighing in on everything from coffee culture, to brewpubs to dive bars. (Cooler, more sober heads prevailed and they left the wine recommendations to me.)
- And my favorite section of all, soon to become a fan favorite: “JOHN CURTAS’ BOTTOM 10”! Rather than give away too much, we’ll just quote our introduction to the chapter and let you find out for yourself who won this race to the bottom.
Do you enjoy overpriced tourist traps? Tired food? Dated decor? Giving hard earned dollars to celebrity chefs who are phoning it in? Then Las Vegas has you covered too! Not only does Sin City boast dozens of the world’s greatest restaurants, it also hosts more htan a few half-baked concepts, licensing deals with “name” chefs, and sad old warhorses, all of which exist to separate the gullible from their cash. Proceed to any of these at your own risk, and don’t say I didn’t warn you.
We at ELV are warning you:
….or BY SIMPLY CLICKING ON THE PICTURE TO YOUR LEFT!
How simple can it be?
Do it now….to avoid that most dreaded of all eating-out fates: dining in Tourist Trap or Celebrity Chef Hell.
Don’t say we didn’t warn you!
P.S. They make great stocking stuffers for the restaurant goer in your life….which is like everybody these days, isn’t it?
This is shaping up like a big week. Or maybe just a Big Night.
But you need to be paying attention, especially if you’re a chef or restaurant owner.
Because through timing, sheer luck and/or mere coincidence, both the newest edition of EATING LAS VEGAS – The 50 Essential Restaurants and the 2016 Desert Companion Restaurant Awards are set to hit the newsstands sometime in the next few days.
Needless to say, there are a few surprises in store. From who’s in to who’s out, to who made the Top 10 to who rates the top toque as Chef of the Year, these are our highly vetted, contumaciously chosen, carefully conceived categorical champions.
We at ELV are sworn to secrecy until they officially get published, so until that happens, we intend to maintain radio silence.
That is all.