Valentine's weekend (2005) in Las Vegas saw the launch of celebrated New York chef Rick Moonen's rm restaurant.

Enter rm restaurant from
Mandalay Place, or climb a
stairway fromé.

Overhead spot lighting is flattering, and easy listening jazz plays unobtrusively in the background. Booths and tables, arrayed with white linen tablecloths & napkins and deep dish votive candles, seat 80 people. Mahogany is everywhere, and pinpoints of light reflect on a glass wall separating the bar from the restaurant. In the middle of a window overlooking the shopping mall, water cascades down glass to pool above the entrance below.

This striking design was created by Cass Calder Smith, a San Francisco-based architect. Perhaps that's why the clean, modern look could be reminiscent of a swank yacht club with both a tranquil and intimate feeling. You get the idea that no detail has been overlooked by Smith and Moonen, right down to the square water glasses and square white china plates.

Brett, our waiter, in simple black shirt and slacks, brings menus and fresh-from-the-oven-tasting crusty rolls with a tiramisalada. The spread consists of almonds, potatos, lemon, oil and carp roe. We remind ourselves not to fill up on this delicacy—there's much more to come.

The striking design of rm
seafood wascreated by San
Francisco architect,
Cass Calder Smith.
(Photo by Eric Laignel.)

We begin with an Amuse of Yellow Fin Tuna finished in champagne vinaigrette, which perfectly sets off the salty flavor of the tuna's spicy crust.

The first of the six courses that constitutes the Chef's Tasting Menu is the flash-seared Hamachi, a white fish surrounded by honshimiji mushrooms and green onions. At the table, Brett pours over it a warm lobster consommé.

Since I ordered the Chef's Tasting Menu and my husband, Cork, ordered an entrée, his salad of choice is served at the same time. It's a cold Hamachi Ceviche, with ruby grapefruit and yuzu. "Yuzu is a spicy sweet and sour sauce," Brett says. It's lemony and sweet at the same time, but doesn't overpower the tender morsels of hamachi.

Dorade Royale with a golden
raisin caponata, garlic purée
& white balsamic agrodolche.

Next is served Dorade Royale with a golden raisin caponata, garlic puree and white balsamic agrodolche. Two of these words are new to me. Brett explains: "A caponata is a mixture of vegetables and pine nuts, a sort of Mediterranean relish. Agrodolche is Italian for sweet and sour." The golden raisins make a tiny burst of sweet in your mouth when you least expect it.

The third course is Rainbow Trout accompanied by braised artichokes, apple wood-smoked bacon, oven-roasted tomato, aged balsamic and black truffle. All these exotic ingredients may sound busy, but the flavors blend well with the light flavor of fresh trout.

Braised leeks fan out from the
Grilled Wild Salmon, drizzled
with Manila clam vinaigrette.

While I'm tasting and photographing the artistically presented dishes, my husband's entrée arrives. He's picked the grilled wild Salmon. Braised leeks fan out from the salmon. All is drizzled with a Manila clam vinaigrette.

Rick Moonen has a passion for ocean conservation and the sea, which he calls "our last wild frontier," but he won't serve any seafood that's farm-raised. His is a strong belief that our favorite seafoods must be eco-managed in such a way that natural seafood populations continue to be sustainable. In his New York restaurant, concerned about the dangers of over-fishing, he took Chilean Sea Bass off his menu at the height of its popularity. Moonen has testified several times for environmental and sustainable policy issues in Washington, DC and New York. As a founding member of the Chef's Coalition, he brought together 2,000 chefs nationwide to fight for the purity of food. He is a founding member of the Seafood Choices Alliances and an active member of the Wildlife Conservation Society, Seaweb, and a chef's advisory board member of Ecofish. He has also served as a spokesperson for American caviar, an environmentally sound alternative to the Caspian Sea varieties.

The fifth course is oven roasted
monkfish surrounded by oxtail
ravioli & porcini mushrooms.

The fourth course is a wild mushroom-crusted halibut, perched atop a lobster potato puree and encircled by a lemon parsley emulsion. The fifth course is oven roasted monkfish surrounded by oxtail ravioli and porcini mushrooms.

Chef Moonen’s inventive and refined tasting is a signature of his craft. A native New Yorker who loves deep-sea fishing, cooking, teaching and writing about fish and seafood, he received the 1993 Chef of the Year Award for the Northeast Region from Chefs in America. He serves on the board of advisors for the French Culinary Institute and is a member of the Culinary Institute of America. He’s written for Food & Wine Magazine and is a frequent guest chef at the James Beard House and Macy’s De Gustibus Cooking School. You may have seen him on NBC’s “Today Show,” ABC’s “Good Morning America,” CBS’s “The Early Show,” CNN’s “Lou Dobbs Tonight,” Martha Stewart Living Television, Fox 5 News in New York, or on PBS and Food Network shows such as Cooking Live with Sara Moulton. As executive chef and owner of New York City’s rm, Moonen earned critical acclaim and 3 stars from the New York Times  and four stars from 2005 Mobil Travel Guide.

My sixth course comes with an unnecessary steak knife; the Braised Beef Short Ribs are so tender that bites are easily separated with a fork. Accompanying the short ribs is a sautéed Skate Wing surrounded by a garlic herb emulsion. These two presentations on the same plate make up a modern, more creative version of the old “surf and turf,” seen on so many traditional Las Vegas restaurant menus.

These courses may be ordered singly as an entree. For the pure meat lover, there’s also a plate of Filet Mignon and Braised Beef Rib in a red wine reduction, with potato gnocchi and black truffle mac n’ cheese. Or an herb, garlic and hazelnut-crusted rack of lamb, served with a goat cheese potato tart and au jus. For the vegetarian, there is a spaghetti squash primavera—spaghetti squash makes a delectable substitute for traditional pasta.

rm owner & executive
chef, Rick Moonen's
Meyer Lemon Meringue.

When I requested a cup of hot tea, Brett presented a tea and dessert menu. Black, green and a white tea called “Drum Mountain White Cloud” were my choices. These are whole leaf teas which can also be purchased at Pursuit of Tea elsewhere in Mandalay Place. I selected an Oolong tea called Oriental Beauty, with hints of cinnamon and honey.

Dessert choices included Meyer Lemon Meringue, Warm Spice Cake, Roasted Maui Pineapple, and a selection of homemade ice creams and sorbets, seasonal fruit and artisinal cheeses from all over the world. Cork loves peanut butter, so he chose the Peanut Butter Tart, a chocolate sorbet with peanut ice cream, crystal peanuts and butterscotch sauce. I was presented with a chocolate tasting that included 3 kinds of ice cream, a no-flour brownie, a tiny cup of chocolate mousse and a chocolate cake with pistachio ice cream.

rm Seafood
Mandalay Place
3930 Las Vegas Blvd.
Las Vegas, NV 89119
Reservations recommended.
rm restaurant is part of Rick Moonen’s 16,000 square-foot, $8 million, rm seafood, located on two levels of Mandalay Place, the new shopping mall situated between Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino and the Luxor in Las Vegas.

Feature and most photos except where noted by Carolyn Proctor, Las Vegas Jetsetters Magazine Correspondent.

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