Celebrity Chef Rick Moonen has truly out-done himself with RM Seafood, his chic upscale restaurant located just inside the luxurious Mandalay Bay Hotel. Renowned for his passionate views on sustainable seafood, Chef Moonen creates a dining experience which incorporates a vast array of flavor combinations, designed to exemplify the natural qualities of fresh ingredients. Along with plentiful offerings from the sea, the menu features high quality Wagyu beef, lamb, fresh salads and several more unique items such as the Pan Roasted Rabbit or the Duo of Foie Gras. To maintain an air of elegance, diners are catered to by a full team of service professionals including waiters, food runners and bussers, ensuring that no detail goes overlooked during a meal. For those seeking a true fine dining experience and a fresh taste of Chef Rick Moonen's exquisite culinary creations, look no further than RM Seafood inside Mandalay Place at Mandalay Bay.Read More ...
Rick Moonen: a man, a chef, and a true advocate for sustainable seafood. After many great successes working for various restaurants throughout New York, this gifted chef opened a restaurant of his own. For those familiar with the name Rick Moonen, RM Seafood is a must on any trip to Vegas.
For those less familiar with this incredible chef, the restaurant is well worth looking into. Housed within The Shoppes, a large mall inside the luxurious Mandalay Bay Hotel, celebrity chef Rick Moonen offers dining like no other at RM Seafood. This multi-leveled restaurant features an elegant fine dining experience upstairs, and a lively, more casual affair downstairs, with two completely separate kitchens producing very unique menu options. The visionary behind the cutting-edge cuisine is well known and highly respected among culinary professionals for his fierce beliefs regarding sustainable seafood and his constant endeavors to share his philosophy of ocean conservation.
The original restaurant rose to fame in Chef Moonen’s native land, New York. It was not until 2005 that he decided to bring his innovative and daring concept to the ever-expanding fine dining scene of the Las Vegas Strip. This evening, a friend and I intend to experience the flavors behind this popular seafood destination first-hand. As we enter Mandalay Bay, a bar of expectation is set by the sheer elegance that surrounds us. Once inside the restaurant, our expectations are met and surpassed.
RM Seafood may as well be two restaurants. The lower level, just inside the entryway from the casino to The Shoppes, immerses us in a casual, up-scale bistro environment with an open kitchen at the back. Connected to the main kitchen, we see the large sushi bar, known for its extensive selection of both timeless classics and unique RM signature sushi concepts. The sleek, white marble sushi bar has available high-chair seating for up to eight, and just in front of the bar there are several high-top tables that are slightly secluded from the majority of the main dining space, creating a lounge area for those ordering sushi.
Immediately to the left of the entrance, there is an iced seafood station showcasing fresh lobster, clams, mussels, crab legs, and of course, oysters. This station is connected to the alcohol bar, which extends along the left wall and houses an impressive display featuring bottle after bottle of premium vodkas, gin, scotch, whiskey, tequila, rum and cognac, all resting on shimmering cherry-wood shelves. There are stools available at the bar itself, as well as a rather exceptional lounge with high, half-booth seating in the back corner and a group of several tables that are sectioned off by a practical partial wall. When we arrive, the lounge area is already bustling with walk-ins enjoying signature cocktails developed by a master mixologist in addition to assorted draft beers and tantalizing appetizers.
On our right, there is an enormous, floor-to-ceiling, sliding glass door leading to a quaint patio area and offering an open view of The Shoppes at Mandalay Place. In other words, anyone facing this opening will have the perfect opportunity for some good old-fashioned people watching. We are lead to our table by our cheerful hostess, who greeted us from the check-in stand just outside the front doors. As we stroll among the multitude of cherry-wood tables, each with a glowing candle lit in its center, I realize that every seat in the house is actually a half-booth. The tables are arranged and organized by a series of partial walls, serving double as the foundations for plush, white benches on one side of each table. To make the room appear even more spacious, each partial wall is adorned with a mirror border, situated just above the backs of each bench. This subtle touch is tremendously effective in adding a sense of wide open spaces that I find quite comforting. I also notice two rooms off to the far right that are sectioned off with thick, dark curtains for diners in need of private accommodations.
Now seated, our server introduces himself as Paul and welcomes us to dinner. He is confident and obviously enjoys working here, which allows me to feel confident that we are in for quite a treat this evening. Paul first offers us a choice of sparkling or still water and hands us a list of specialty drinks to choose from. Both of us decide on still water, but being unfamiliar with the several original creations found on the drink menu, we look to Paul for a little bit of guidance. I tell him I like just about anything as long as it is strong and my friend shares his preference for good whiskey. So, Paul takes our menus and heads away, assuring us that he has just the thing to get this meal started.
The lower level of the restaurant is open for business seven days a week serving both lunch and dinner. From 11:00 a.m. until 3:00 p.m. options like Chef Moonen’s famous Catfish Sloppy Joe, the unique BBQ Pork Mac ‘N Cheese, Maine Lobster Rolls and three different RM specialty hamburgers accompany a great assortment of hot appetizers and fresh Raw Bar delicacies. For those in need of a sure-fire shellfish delight, there are several different samplers available for market price. The most extravagant among them is known as The Kitchen Sink, and it includes 2 lobsters, 18 fresh shucked oysters, 12 clams, 12 large gulf shrimp, assorted mussels, Dungeness crab and RM escabeche (Rick Moonen’s interpretation of ceviche). With an additional handful of soups and salads like Rick’s White Clam Chowder and the intriguing Thai Green Papaya Salad, the lunch menu is very well-rounded and offers plenty of diverse dishes to satisfy any mid-day seafood craving.
Dinner service picks up at 5:00 p.m. and with it a bounty of larger entrees and side dishes are offered in addition to many of the same hot starters, raw bar selections, and soup or salad choices available during lunch. The entrees are divided among three separate specifications: From the Sea, Vegas Marriage, and From the Land. The first features state-of-the-art sustainable seafood creations utilizing less common products like the Arctic Char with curry spiced white lentils, braised kale and cucumbers or the Barramundi with Moroccan-spiced potato gnocchi, spicy tomato sauce, squash and toasted pumpkin seeds. Vegas Marriage entrees are much as they sound; each brings two or more signature items together to create one special dish. The Surf And Turf unites half a lobster poached in shell and a 9-ounce prime filet mignon, while the Crab Ménage A Trois captures my attention with the ultimate crustacean-lover’s trio of half a Dungeness crab, a half-pound of steamed Alaskan king crab, and a signature jumbo lump crab cake. While there is definitely a very heavy bias on behalf of seafood, RM does include a several terrestrial staples like Roasted Free Range Chicken, a 24-ounce Tomahawk Cut Rib-Eye, 14-ounce New York Strip steak and 9-ounce Prime Beef Filet, all with optional “Enhancements” like Foie Gras, Half Lobster, Three Scallops, King Crab or Three Jumbo Shrimp that can be added to any entree as well as six traditional side dishes.
Paul returns with our drinks, offering me the Tangerine Honey, a drink named after the hit song by Frankie Moreno and for my friend, he presents the Man About Town that is made with tangerine vodka, aperol, honey and lemon then garnished with a fresh tangerine slice. The concoction is bright orange, served in a small, stemmed glass, and to my surprise, it is quite strong. The natural citrus flavor is just enough to diminish the after burn of the generously poured cocktail, making it smooth and enjoyable. As I admire the composition of my drink, I suddenly realize that immediately to my right stands Rick Moonen himself. It is a pleasure to actually meet him and listen to his descriptions of the spectacular tasting we are about to enjoy. He asks us a few questions to make sure we don’t have any allergies and to check that we are both okay with a little bit of heat, because there will be a course in our meal tonight that really packs a spicy punch. We are up for anything, and with zero food allergies between us, we are ready to get this show on the road. With that said, Chef Moonen disappears back into the kitchen, and before we know it, out comes our first taste.
We have in front of us samples of two different oysters from the raw bar, served on a crystal dish. The Mattaki Oyster is on the left, topped with diced green cucumbers, a hint of ginger, and a soy-mignonette all over a bed of crushed ice. The cucumbers provide a crisp clean finish to the salty oyster, and the hint of ginger cleanses the palate before my next. The Kushi Oyster, on the right, is sprinkled with coconut-phytoplankton granite and has a slight citrus flavor; it’s not overly salty, and goes down smoothly leaving just a hint of coconut aftertaste. Both are presented well and prep us for more to come.
While we patiently wait, our server Paul insists that we try the house corn bread, and although I feel inclined to skip bread in light of the feast ahead, I oblige. Another server brings the sweet, moist bread, and shortly after, our next appetizer arrives featuring an impressive selection of raw bar delights. The Chilled Seafood includes Maine lobster, gulf shrimp, New York clams, and mussels served on a bed of ice with a lemon wedge and a side of house-made cocktail sauce. The lobster tail is already halved and sits ready to be removed from its remaining shell. The meat is dense and tender, the definite highlight of the plate, and I appreciate that we are each able to enjoy an entire tail. Next I try the large Gulf shrimp dipped in thick cocktail sauce, giving the salty, meaty crustacean a sweet, tangy kick and providing just the right hint of fresh horseradish to clear the sinus and cleanse the palate. Finally we have the steamed mussel and raw New York clam to close out the sampler. The mussel has been cooked to perfection, making the meat consistent and tender, and the clam is very fresh with a powerful salty finish.
At this point, I love the lively atmosphere and the bustling crowd that has been steadily filling every seat in the house. This is a fun environment with friendly staff, lively music, and food to die for. I also have to mention, the service here is simply marvelous. There is always someone nearby to fill our waters, clear away used dishes, answer questions or bring us fresh corn bread between courses.
For our third round, Chef Moonen prepares two RM Style Sashimi Trios, for a grand total of six fresh sashimi samples. On one plate, we have Big Eye Tuna with garlic ponzu and rice puffs, Arctic Char Belly with fresh cucumber and an ume plum chip, and fresh Alaskan King Crab topped with ume plum gelatin infused with shiso leaf. The second plate features fresh Kona Kampachi White Fish fresh from Hawaii with a cucumber slice, passion fruit yuzu and a hint of finger lime tobiko, Fluke with a Fresno chili vinaigrette and Russian freeze-dried blackberry, and lastly, fresh Uni and Sea Urchin with macerated strawberries and grated jalapenos. The sashimi is served with fresh lemon and soy sauce, but as I taste each one, I decide that the fresh fish and innovative accoutrements speak for themselves. For me, the highlights are the Big Eye Tuna and the Alaskan King Crab; both are unique, meaty and satisfying.
Like clockwork, our dishes our cleared and we are set up for our next course, the Thai Green Papaya Salad with Diver Scallop. Chef Moonen warns us that this dish turns up the heat with some very spicy red Thai chilies, bean sprouts, tomatoes, peanuts and a large helping of shredded green papaya, tossed together and topped off with fresh lime juice and a single steaming scallop. The pale green papaya, fresh red tomatoes, crisp green onion-cilantro mix, and the pale meat of the scallop and peanuts create an appealing palette of natural colors. As I take my first bite, the chilies are instantly apparent. The salad mixture is designed to counteract the intense spice of the red Thai chilies with the powerful flavors of lime, green onion, cilantro and a hint of mint, while the scallop adds the element of warm salty meat to bring the dish full circle.
To follow this innovative salad, our next course features Charred Octopus with bell peppers, kalamata olives and potatoes, as well as Jumbo Lump Crab Cake made with fresh blue crab. This dish is served with a carrot, cucumber and daikon salad and chipotle aioli. The crab cake is mostly crab, with breading only on the top and bottom to create a crispy outer crust, and overall it is very dense and buttery. The chipotle aioli provides a hint of spice and a creamy consistency that melds the flavors together and makes the cake seem to dissolve in my mouth. The octopus is charred black and topped with its own octopus jus. It has a very smoky flavor that is infused throughout the meat and pairs well with the olives and mixed peppers. While the octopus is new and intriguing, my favorite of the two was certainly the crab cake. With our bellies slowly inching closer to maximum capacity, we brace ourselves for the last main course before moving on to our desserts.
We are now presented with the Mediterranean Branzino entree, grilled with cipollini onions and shiitake mushrooms then served over butternut squash puree and sprinkled with toasted pumpkin seeds, as well as the Grilled Cobia entree, with piquillo peppers, sake lees and celery leaves. The outside of the Branzino is seared crispy with the skin still attached, sealing the juices inside, and the meat is tender and flakes apart with a fork. The squash puree is rich and buttery, and the pumpkin seeds are crunchy and savory, offering the perfect complement for the seared, salty flavor of the fish. The flesh of the Cobia is vibrant white, and the bold acidic bite of the peppers helps to add depth to this very fishy dish. While I definitely favor the Branzino, I always take pleasure in trying new things and subjecting my palate to less common flavor compositions such as the fresh Cobia.
For the grand dessert finale, we decide to head upstairs, where dinner is offered from 5:30pm to 10:30pm, Tuesday through Saturday only. This more intimate setting can accommodate up to 80 adults and features deep-set, private booths along the back wall with plush, high-backed benches and rich cherry-wood accents as well as plenty of table-seating throughout the center and a few smaller booths with windows looking out into the bar and lounge area. Through the windows we can see there are several armchairs and love seats surrounding low tables as well as several stools in front of the bar. Though not quite as spacious as the downstairs lounge, this more darkened setting with unique neon lighting and comfortable seating is quite appealing. I also notice that there are two more private dining areas on this level, so parties and business meetings are a definite possibility.
The dining room itself is set aglow by multiple hanging chandeliers shining down upon crisp, white table clothes set with royal blue accented plates and neatly folded white napkins. This level of the restaurant is certainly to be considered more elegant and significantly quieter than the lively bistro setting just downstairs. Also, this section of the restaurant has access from the second level of The Shoppes and features its own separate kitchen and staff, offering three different menus to choose from. The two more popular menus are comprised of seven pre-selected courses for set prices, and they change regularly to reflect ingredients that are in season and to support sustainable practices. This concept also applies with the A La Carte menu, for those who wish to customize their own taste of Rick Moonen’s creations.
We sit down in a booth for two and our server offers Espressos to help settle our stomachs before diving in to dessert. The cups arrive hot and fragrant, served on small saucers with spoons and sugar. To help keep the drink hot, boiling water is poured into the cup and emptied prior to pouring the coffee; so we must make sure to be careful when handling them.
Our dessert course features three signature dishes made fresh in house. First, we have the Honey Dew Melon Dippin’ Dots with vanilla ice cream and brown sugar streusel, which is very light. The honey dew is subtle, and it adds a refreshing burst of sweet fruit flavor to the creamy vanilla ice cream while the streusel lends a wonderful crunch to the overall creamy dessert.
Next up is the Mascarpone Cheesecake, served over caramel sauce and graham cracker crumble then topped with more caramel sauce, bubblegum sorbet and a decorative shortbread garnish. This dish is quite interesting. The graham cracker crumble and caramel sauce help the cheesecake feel very traditional, but the bubblegum sorbet adds a very unique color and flavor that somewhat heightens that of the thick, creamy cheesecake.
Our final delicious dessert is the brand new Matcha Tea White Chocolate Panna Cotta topped with cubes of li hing-coated, white pineapple and garnished with a small scoop of passion fruit sorbet on a macadamia nut tuile at the center. The presentation is impressive, with bright red cubes of pineapple scattered over the pale green panna cotta with a golden tuile and sorbet rising up like a small, edible statue. I am excited to see and experience one of the newest desserts available, and as expected, the panna cotta is light, creamy and sweet. The li hing, a red powder made primarily from special dried plums, provides an interesting, salty flavor to the tart pineapple, and the tuile gives us something crunchy before the sorbet clears the palate and we begin the whole process over again.
With our meal finally coming to an end, we make our way out towards the stairs and pause in the upstairs lounge to gather our things and prepare to head back to reality. When it comes to seafood, there is no other chef quite like Rick Moonen. His sustainable practices as well as cutting-edge styles and techniques have catapulted his restaurant to the forefront of the Las Vegas dining scene, and he shows no signs of slowing down. With private dining rooms, two full bars, a casual downstairs bistro and fine dining options upstairs, there are many ways to savor the bounty of the sea with RM Seafood inside The Shoppes at Mandalay Bay. Needless to say, I will be back for more the first chance I get.
Insider Tip: In the constant struggle to maintain the abundance of our oceans' many species of fish, Rick Moonen makes subtle changes to his menu to reflect the different fishing seasons, and endangered species are absolutely off limits. By dining at RM Seafood, you become a part of his never-ending conservation efforts, so be sure to ask what's new the next time you visit.
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