The House of Blues Las Vegas is unique in that it is the only House of Blues located inside a resort casino. Executive Chef Richard Hawthorne and his talented team of sous chefs serve up tantalizing Southern cuisine proven to satisfy such diverse patrons as celebrities, business travelers, and families with children. The House of Blues is located on the main casino floor of the Mandalay Bay Casino. Amidst the ringing of slot machines, you can escape to a funky world where the soulful sounds of rhythm and blues and the smell of dishes like Pan Seared Voodoo Shrimp and Louisiana Shrimp Creole await to tempt your senses. The venue also features a concert hall which boasts big name blues, jazz, zydeco, rock, and gospel groups nightly. On Sunday, there's even a Gospel Brunch that will have you longing for your choir robe.
Isaac Tigrett founded the House of Blues in 1992. If you think his name sounds familiar, you're right. He's the man behind the successful Hard Rock Cafe chain. When Tigrett came up with the idea for the House of Blues, he called on his friend Dan Aykroyd to be an investor. The duo opened a successful chain of blues-inspired restaurants and concert halls from the East coast to the West, with the Las Vegas venue opening its doors in August of 1999. The House of Blues is designed as a home for live music and Southern-inspired cuisine, whose venues celebrate African-American culture, specifically blues music and folk art.
When you enter the Las Vegas restaurant, you walk up a short set of wooden steps that lead to a set of big iron gates. A separate entrance is available for guests in wheelchairs. A hostess greets you and your journey through musical history begins. As you walk to your table, your senses are awakened with the smell of burning incense, the sounds of late great and current blues performers playing over the sound system and the smell of Blackened Jumbo Shrimp coming from the kitchen. The hostess seats you in one of three dining areas. Cozy booths line the outside of the main dining area. Across the back wall, you notice a full bar stocked and ready to quench your thirst. In the lower seating level, you notice quaint tables which can easily be brought together for serving larger groups. A separate dining area features a small stage surrounded by tables. This part of the restaurant is more open, with higher ceilings and is where live bands perform on Friday and Saturday nights.
The evening of our visit, we are seated in a booth in the main dining hall. Our friendly and casual server greets us and takes our drink order with a smile. We are handed a large paper menu with a back and a front. On one side, we find the appetizers or "Opening Acts" as they're called, along with the Signature Items and "Headliners" or main courses. On the flip side, color pictures of five mouth-watering desserts are featured including: Sinful Triple Layer Chocolate Cake, Succulent Chocolate Mousse Cheesecake, Raspberry and Granny Smith Apple Bread Pudding, Warm Apple Tart and Fresh Baked Chocolate Chip Cookie Ice Cream Sandwich. As my eyes glance over the desserts, I am tempted to skip directly to the last course of the meal. Below the dessert pictures, there is a wine, beer and soda menu, which includes wines by the glass and bottle.
When the server returns with our glasses of Parducci Pinot Noir, we place our order. From the "Opening Acts" section, we select the Delta Red Beans and Rice with Andouille Sausage and Rosemary Cornbread. From the "Signature Items" we select the Louisiana Shrimp Creole served over a Pan Seared Catfish Fillet with White Rice and Sautéed Green Beans. From the "Headliners" we choose a Grilled Flatiron Steak Sandwich with Roasted Tomatoes, Arugula, Garlic Aoli and Ciabatta Bread served with French Fries. As the kitchen gets to work on our order, we take a look at the plates on other tables and see that the portions are generous.
As we wait for our "Opening Act", we look around the restaurant, noticing the African folk art and blues memorabilia on the walls. The ornate decor is interesting yet soothing. What many people don't know is that the House of Blues is actually famous for the art collection inside its restaurants. It's a museum of sorts featuring what's known as "outsider art". This means that the artwork is done outside of professional art schools by intuitive artists using materials found in their own backyard. Many, but not all, of the artists are African American from the Delta region of the rural South. Much of the work is religiously inspired and features materials such as beaded collage, woodcarvings, and even paintings done on metal. All of the artwork is raw giving a true sense of emotion through the use of color. As we walk along, drinks in hand, we notice a small gift shop tucked to the side of the dining area. We peak inside and notice an assortment of t-shirts and souvenirs inscribed with the famous HOB logo, even CD's of favorite blues and jazz performers.
As we wander back to our seats, we see our server heading towards us. We see the steam rising from the hot bowl of Delta Beans and Rice in her hand. When the bowl is placed in front of us, we notice the phrase "In Blues We Trust" inscribed around the edge. The aroma makes our mouths water. As I take that first bite, I take a deep breath and appreciate the spicy andouille sausage. The beans are soft and make a smooth gravy over the bed of rice. As we finish up our "Opening Act," our main courses are brought out.
Chef Hawthorne has a generous hand when it comes to serving up Louisiana Shrimp Creole. There's no shortage of shrimp in this meal. The shrimp creole is served over a pan-seared catfish fillet that just breaks apart when our forks touch it. When I take a bite of the catfish, it literally melts in my mouth. I can tell this fish has been slowly cooked all the way through. As my fork makes its way past the shrimp and catfish, I’m treated to a bed of white rice and succulent green beans.
As we sample our "Headliner" dish, the Grilled Flatiron Steak Sandwich, we are taken back by its large size. A plump cut of steak, cooked to our liking, sits on a piece of ciabatta bread smeared with garlic aioli sauce. I can taste the finely chopped tarragon in the sauce. The garlic doesn't overpower the meal; it mixes nicely with the roasted tomatoes. If the Steak isn't filling enough, the side of French Fries that accompanies this dish surely will be.
As we loosen our belts and ask our server to package up our leftovers, we make room for the much-anticipated dessert. We choose the Sinful Triple Layer Chocolate Cake and Fresh Baked Chocolate Chip Cookie Ice Cream Sandwich. When our desserts are brought out to us, they too are big. Our Triple Layer Chocolate Cake is accompanied by a heaping scoop of vanilla ice cream. The cake is moist and chocolately and melts in my mouth. The chocolate icing is rich, yet smooth. A slight chocolate drizzle adds to the artistic look of the large white plate.
The Fresh Baked Chocolate Chip Cookie breaks apart as my spoon touches it. Rich vanilla ice cream is squeezed between two cookies. Powdered sugar is sprinkled lightly on top with chocolate drizzled all over the plate. A top the cookie sits two Maraschino cherries and a spray of mint. As I bite into this mouth-watering dessert, I feel like my meal is complete and that we have selected just the right finishing touch to this sensual meal.
As we settle our tab with our server and send our compliments to the chef, we leave the restaurant with a sense of peace and anticipation for our next visit with rhythm and blues.