Rick Moonen’s Ode to the Ocean

When we went for our trip to Las Vegas this summer, we wanted to get away, but we also wanted to visit a particular restaurant; Rick Moonen’s RM Seafood. We wanted to go not just because it’s consistently recognized as being one of Las Vegas’ best restaurants, but also because of the principles and ideals it and its chef/owner Rick Moonen holds.

Last year I had the good fortune to attend one of Amazon.com’s Fishbowl events. Fishbowls are small gatherings where visiting authors chat about their books and do a signing. The Fishbowl I went to welcomed Rick Moonen to celebrate his book, Fish Without A Doubt. As a food nerd, I enjoyed the event because Chef Moonen talked about his history as a chef, the opportunities and challenges with writing a book, and also his personal responsibility to be mindful of the ocean and the catch that comes from it. Coming from what the Seafood Choices Alliance named in 2006 as the ‘Seafood Champion‘, his words hold much weight. He was engaging in that tough, yet amicable New York way. His enthusiasm for cooking and sharing what he knows was apparent. We chatted briefly about seafood and where he planned on dining while in Seattle. He said that Steelhead Diner was on the docket and I mentioned how I was a fan. Armed with his business card, he said to stay in touch. Cool.

Here are the three cool things about Rick Moonen and his RM Seafood:

  • A respect of the ocean

During the Fishbowl, a takeaway was that Chef Moonen wants to spread the word about the state of the ocean and what we can do for it. He told a story of visiting the Fulton Fish Market and noticing through the years that the size of swordfish became smaller and smaller. When he found out why (overfishing) he quickly removed swordfish from his menu. He’s taken this high regard for fish to his restaurant.

What I like about his respect for the ocean is that Chef Moonen has been an early advocate for it. From his restaurants in New York, to his RM Seafood in Las Vegas, he aims for being responsible and sharing what he knows about the state of seafood; to be mindful of where it comes from and only serving fish that is recommended by the Monterey Bay Aquarium. And the food at RM Seafood is delicious. A restaurant in Las Vegas that serves up good food, yet still has moral standards? Sounds like an oxymoron, but they strive for that ideal.

  • Fish Without A Doubt

The cool thing about Fish Without A Doubt is that it was the inaugural book for the Gourmet Book Club. If you like interesting cookbooks, this one stands out for being informative and showing how technique can be applied to different types of fish. Good stuff.

The book definitely fits into my estimation of a ‘cool food book’. It’s loaded with stuff from recipes to information about the ocean. The tone is conversational and peppered with Chef Moonen’s anecdotes. I like the form of the book because it’s broken down by cooking styles. Within those are the recipes which provide loose guidance into what fish to use. ‘Loose’ in that the recipes offer suggestions for the type of fish to use. For example, the butter-basted halibut mentions cod, snapper, black sea bass, or scallops as substitutes if the mood strikes.

  • RM Seafood

We’ve been wanting to take a trip to Vegas for some time, so when we finally made our plans, heading out to RM Seafood was one of our priorities for the weekend. The restaurant is located inside of Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino, part of an excellent lineup of restaurants in Mandalay Place. Amongst the massive wash of great restaurants in Las Vegas, our experience at RM Seafood was wonderful.

When we were seated we looked over our menu and took note of the choices. RM Seafood has a raw bar, sushi bar, and a entree menu. Armed and intrigued with the menu we went with the halibut nigiri, Maine lobster roll, and the beer-battered fish & chips. Solid lunch choices, a bit safe, but able to test the mettle of the place by going with the classics.

First off, the halibut sushi. In talking with our server, he mentioned that the chef team tries sushi from all sorts of different types of fish, and when they find one that works, they’ll feature it. Halibut as sushi stood out for it’s strong ocean flavor, distinctly halibut, with a firm texture. Will be interesting to see more sushi places try introducing this to their menus.

I loved the lobster roll. I’m a sucker for this New England staple. And the crew at RM Seafood do it well. The chunks of lobster are massive and cooked perfectly; still sweet and tender. A good lobster roll is a like a good crab cake; it needs to stand on it’s main ingredient, anything else is just filler. RM Seafood uses a ton of lobster. And what makes this dish even better are the homemade potato chips that come with it!

The fish & chips were exciting because of what they used for the beer batter; Anchor Steam! Hailing from San Francisco, Anchor Steam is one of my favorite beers. At RM Seafood they have it on draught. Beer me please. And the fact that they use it for the fish & chips made for a potentially tasty fried fish dish. And it was very good. Big massive pieces of halibut in the crisp, light batter. Good stuff.

In talking about RM Seafood, I must mention the decor and service. The place is the coolest, most modern of diners. Sleek surfaces, casual white leather, the place exudes this funky industrial vibe, yet still comfortable and warm. And a big thumbs up goes to the RM Seafood team. They provided great suggestions and pitch perfect service. Accommodating, but not at all over-bearing, they knew the menu and steered us properly. Well done.

There you have it. Amongst the glitz and glamour of Las Vegas lies Rick Moonen’s RM Seafood. A restaurant that has noble ideals that it executes deliciously. Led by chef who has a profound appreciation for the ocean.

RM Seafood (Mandalay Bay) on Urbanspoon

Photo courtesy of About.com
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