>> Monday, February 21, 2011
According to Rick Moonen, founder of RM Seafood, these five fish will be extinct by 2048 if we don't change what we're doing now:
Salmon * Tuna * Cod * Snapper * Bass
Rick is a huge proponent of sustainable fishing, and his restaurant is a living example of a place that aims to practice what it preaches. Rick believe that most Americans tend to gravitate towards what he calls "The Big Five," (the five fish types listed above) thus contributing to the depletion of these fish in the oceans.
Rick Moonen's goal is to give these Big Five fish "a break." He has added lesser known fish to his restaurant's menu in an effort to show diners that these fish taste good too.
Rick is not only a proponent of sustainable fishing, of course. He's also a very well known chef. Rick was a finalist in last season's Top Chef Masters. He also trained at several New York restaurants, including Le Cirque, La Côte Basque, and Oceana, before opening RM on his own in New York.
In 2005, he was given an offer he could not refuse. Mandalay Bay had built a gorgeous 7 million dollar restaurant space and they asked if he wanted to "slap his name on it."
Not wanting to destroy his reputation with a mediocre second-class imitation of his NYC restaurant in Vegas, he instead decided to close his New York restaurant, pack his bags, and move to Las Vegas to run RM Seafood full time.
The restaurant is two stories, with a fancier upstairs section and a more casual downstairs section. The upstairs section has various prix fixe menus, such as a $135 7-course dinner or an $85 3-course dinner. The downstairs section is much more casual, and also serves lunch.
The space is definitely huge and beautiful. Surprisingly, business was slow on a Monday lunch, with mostly empty tables. Despite the shortage of customers, service was spotty, and it took a long time before our server finally asked us what we wanted to order.
Ahi Tuna Duo seared & tartare, haas avocado, yuzu-soy sauce 16
Thankfully, the food came out reasonably promptly after we ordered. Because I was not super hungry, I ordered the Ahi Tuna Duo (typically an appetizer), which I really enjoyed. The delicate flavors came together quite nicely, the yuzu-soy sauce bringing together the tuna, avocados, and cucumbers in a light and refreshing way. I do find it somewhat ironic that this is one of the "Big Five," but it's probably not financially feasible for a seafood restaurant to completely abandon the Big Five without going bankrupt.
Rick's White Clam Chowder potatoes, littleneck clams, bacon lardon 9
Bryan and I shared a bowl of clam chowder, which was generously filled with large chunks of littleneck clams. We were very impressed with the knife work in general. The perfect, tiny little cubes of carrots, celery, and potatoes inside the soup were all cut with supreme precision, every piece virtually the same size. Despite all that, the flavor of the chowder itself was not nearly as robust and full of clam flavor as my personal favorite clam chowder in the world - the New England clam chowder from Legal Sea Foods in Boston.
RM Soba Ponzu truffle vinaigrette, Albacore tataki 14
The RM soba was ordinary and "bland" according to my friend who ordered it. She said she could not really taste the truffle portion of the vinaigrette, and she thought the dish was undersalted.
Red Hake 24
This special was solidly prepared. Rick Moonen definitely knows how to cook fish properly, and this fish was no exception. Hake is an example of a more unusual "non-Big Five" fish that Rick is trying to promote on his menu.
Fish Tacos Pico de gallo, Shredded Cabbage, Chipotle Cream 17
Bryan got the fish tacos, Rick Moonen's own creative interpretation of the Baja fish taco. Unlike a traditional Baja fish taco, the fish here is grilled instead of fried. Rick adds back the "crunch" component by putting a hard taco inside of a soft taco shell.
Bryan thought it was quite enjoyable (he loves fish tacos), though he still prefers the traditional Baja fish taco (which is much cheaper!) he can get in LA.
This was one of our first meals in Las Vegas, so I was still suffering quite a bit from sticker shock. Las Vegas dining is very expensive on the Strip. You will most likely feel that everything is overpriced. One pleasant surprise: the house sparking water is only $5, and it seems to include unlimited refills. Other than that, however, be prepared for high prices. On the lunch menu, starters run in the $9-$16 range, while entrees run from $13-$29. On the sushi menu, nigiri costs about $4-$5 a piece, while rolls average around $20 each. Of course, dinner prices are even higher, with entrees averaging around the $40 range.
Overall, most of the food we tried was solid and enjoyable. I do understand and appreciate that sustainable fish (or any fresh seafood, for that matter) is probably really expensive to transport to Las Vegas. I'm sure part of the high prices reflect that inherent cost. However, I'm still not sure if the food itself is good enough to make me come back again, especially at those prices. Perhaps I would have a different view had I eaten upstairs, where the higher prices could justify the uniqueness, creativity, and quality of the dishes.
I notice that RM Seafood has been doing a lot of promotions lately, either through Restaurant.com or at those half priced tickets booths on the Strip. I think with a discount, a meal here is perfectly enjoyable and will seem like a reasonable value. Otherwise, if I only had a few days in Vegas, this would not be my top choice destination.
This post is part of a larger Las Vegas series. Posts in this series:
Beijing Noodle No. 9
Joel Robuchon (The Mansion)
Enoteca San Marco
3930 Las Vegas Blvd S
Las Vegas, NV 89119