Celebrity chefs can seem intimidating when you’re on a budget, but Rick Moonen’s rm seafood proves even the big stars in Las Vegas want to share great food with recession-bruised diners.
Cheap Eats usually reserves top restaurants here for Restaurant Week, the Labor Day event that gives diners access to haute cuisine at smaller prices, such as three-course dinners at the top spots for $20, $30 or $50 — with profits shared with Three Square Food Bank.
But every now and then, one wants to splurge and enjoy a really good meal prepared by top chefs.
So, on an especially busy day in this heat, we stopped at RM Seafood seeking quiet, cool, and healthy food.
Like many top restaurants in Vegas, prices on even the lunch menu can be daunting.
So here’s a Cheap Eats tip: Look past the menu.
Be bold. Ask for something off-menu. If they’re not amenable, they don’t need your business.
This is a test of a restaurant’s desire to woo new customers.
Moonen’s is known for its lobster rolls, so we were eager to try them.
But the $27 price tag was too steep (and we suspected two rolls would be too heavy for lunch), so we asked the server if it was possible just to have one.
This is the test: If the server rolls his eyes or raises his eyebrows, protests in any way — our favorite is that long, Vegas sigh — or denies your request immediately, you know you’re not coming back (or even staying).
This, by the way, is so typical of restaurants-with-attitude that many diners are too shy to try this in Las Vegas.
If the server is considerate; treats you with respect; and takes your request to the manager or chef or whomever without complaint, it shows this is a restaurant worthy of its acclaim.
Alfonzo returned, happy to report that the chef (Moonen was traveling) would be pleased to serve only one roll.
We whinged at the notion of fries included on the menu, and asked if it was possible to have greens instead.
(This is another Cheap Eats test: If salad can’t be substituted for fries, it’s not healthy enough for us to spend money there.)
The roll arrived as a generous portion of chilled lobster salad on a homemade roll, similar to an open-faced hot dog bun.
The lobster was fresh and light; the mayo was creamy with chopped tomatoes, herbs, and a little crunch from celery.
The white-flour bun was slightly toasted and tasted freshly baked. (It also had that sweet fragrance of fresh-baked bread.)
The greens were great: Curls of carrot and radish heaped on Bibb lettuce leaves with a light dressing that was so refreshing we would return here just for salad.
Service was kind and attentive (when we left the table for a moment, Alfonzo retrieved our napkin and refolded it, in an elegant, discreet gesture).
There are several levels for dining here: For lunch, we recommend the high-stooled tables near the bar if you’re dining alone; main-level booths if you’re in a group.
We’re big fans of Moonen, who is famed for his promotion of sustainable seafood.
If it’s not sustainable (i.e. the wild population is being depleted by over-fishing or ruinous fishing practices), Moonen won’t serve it.
And he urges us not to buy it either.
Diners at this Mandalay Bay restaurant get free, wallet-sized guides advising consumers about how best to “support ocean-friendly seafood.”
The guide gives best choices (U.S. spiny lobster being one); good alternatives (American, Maine lobster); and seafood to be avoided (Caribbean imported lobster).
Dozens of fish and shellfish are analyzed. The guides were printed before the Gulf Coast oil spill.
More: Rick Moonen’s rm seafood, Mandalay Bay Resort, 3930 Las Vegas Blvd. S., 702.632.9300; rmseafood.com.