I am greeted by Stephanie, the petite hostess of SEABLUE restaurant at the MGM Grand Hotel in Las Vegas, and I am amazed by the unusual cylindrical fish tank where thousands of creatures swim by. Dinner?

The concept for the Michael Mina Group restaurant was conceived by Adam Tihany Designs, and the focal point of the dining atelier is a unique, centrally located three-sided bar just inside the entrance that features two open preparation areas where I can watch my dinner prepared.   The cool aesthetics are evidenced throughout the dining room: with its artfully designed walls of stone and falling water, embellished with intense blues and lively reds and an exquisite yet playful sea-themed mosaic decorating the bar. One side of the bar displays items from the second “market menu,” a selection of greens, fruits, vegetables, proteins and dressings, allowing you to custom design the salads.




SEABLUE entrance.

Renowned California designer Barbara Barry worked closely with Mina to create the an ambiance with pale celadon, parchment, and toasty brown tones, and gold Murano lighting accents.

The Cairo, Egypt born Mina started his epicurean journey in 1987 at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park.  During those 18 months of formal schooling, he spent his weekends sharpening his cuisine talents in Charlie Palmer’s kitchen at Aureole in New York City.  Since opening his first restaurant at Westin St. Francis on Union Square in San Francisco he has been named Bon Appetit Chef of the Year (2005),  San Francisco Magazine Chef of the Year, and Restauranteur of the Year (2005) by the International Food and Beverage Forum, and Best California Chef (2002) by the James Beard Foundation.

Mina has made it into major epicurean magazines, such as Bon Appetit, Food & Wine, Gourmet, Food Arts, Cigar Aficionado, Newsweek, TIME, Robb Report, Travel & Leisure, Wine Spectator, as well as the Food Network's "After Midnight", and Fine Living Network’s “Opening Soon", and Pat O’Brien’s “The Insider”, and Fox's syndicated "Good Day Live". 




SEABLUE's Bar also
serves after hours desserts.

If a chef is superb enough to whip things up for First Lady Laura Bush right in the White House, then certainly my taste buds will cast a vote for him as well. In 2002 Mina, along with celebrity Vegas tennis star Andre Agassi, began their restaurant empire that now includes: Charles Nob Hill in San Francisco, Pisces in Burlingam, California , Michael Mina’s in the Bellagio in  Las Vegas, Nob Hill at MGM Grand in Las Vegas, and Aqua at the St. Regis Monarch Beach Resort and Spa in Dana Point, California.

Whew, how does he have time to cook?  Okay he has exceptional assistance from  Ben Jenkins, the Executive Chef and from Pastry Chef Rajat Parr, and after I am seated near the open wood fired grill by General Manager Don Hart, I can see that all the assistant chefs and wait staff work in sync, just like a massive fish ball.

Sean, my blond California surfing waiter, greeted me with the wine and cocktails menus and my eyes immediately focused on the Pomegranate Fizz.  The omegranate  flourishes in desert climes, and in fact, it was the symbol of ancient Israel, and in fact again, King Solomon and King David wielded power with golden pomegranate scepters.




Try a Pomegranate Fizz.

I am in the Mojave Desert of Las Vegas, so I had to have a Pomegranate Fizz, which I am sipping on when I meet the young and hip Betty Page look-alike, Stephanie #2 (there are three Stephanies in the restaurant), who told me when she grew up in Las Vegas her grandmother had a pomegranate tree (really a bush) in her yard.

SEABLUE offers over 2000 wines from all over the world with highlighted selections from Burgundy, Austria, and the Rhone, with an emphasis on mature wines, offered in every price range by-the-glass and half bottle. Bottles range from $25 to $14,000. The staff can expertly pair a wine to your dinner selection with over 70 Rieslings and a section of 40 to 50 wines under $40. Primarily focused on boutique producers from California, France, and Germany, but the wine list also offers selections from the Mediterranean, Austria and New Zealand, too. The extensive wine by the glass program allows guests to choose between three or six-ounce pours. In addition, mixologists are on hand to prepare a variety of signature cocktails, including a Saffron Martini and house-made Sangria from the full bar. The full dinner menu is also available at the bar.




A trio of tastings.

I am now sipping my second Pomegranate Fizz when Chip, my assistant waiter, brings me a house-made “non bread” Greek-style focaccia, served family-style with a dipping trio of douple pressed olive oils, tapenades, and aiolis.

Other small plate appetizer tasters include platters of raw, kebab, steamed, and fried seafood. On the kebab platter are calamari with sunburst squash, pear tomatoes, and couscous; Ahi tuna with apricot and sweet onion; and a diver scallop with artichoke and orange, and curried tabbouleh. (There’s Mina’s Med influence.) Mina also  personally designed the stunning Royal Doulton China for the restaurant - an integral dimension to showcase his original food concepts.

APPETIZERS

Raw Appetizers

Yellowfin Tuna Kibbeh, Bulgar-Pinenut Crust, Sweet Onion Yogurt ($16); Mackerel Sashimi, Black Olive Oil, Cara Cara Orange Confit ($15): Hamachi Poke, Key Lime "Ponzu," Pink Peppercorns ($17); "Small Plate Style" tasting of all three ($25).

Grilled Appetizers

Spicy Octopus, Yellow Pea Fondant, Red Onion ($15); Cuttlefish, Preserved Pumpkin, Salsa Verde  ($16); Baby Rouget, Almond Crema, Black Lemon Vinaigrette  ($19); "Small Plate Style" tasting of all three ($29).




Prince Edward Island Mussels.

Steamed Appetizers

Prince Edward Island Mussels, Saffron Bouillabaisse, Serrano Ham ($14): Maya White Prawn Scampi, Tomato Passata, Aquavit ($15): Manila Clams, White Wine, Garlic, Parsley ($12): "Small Plate Style" tasting of all three ($23).

Fried Appetizers

Lobster Corndogs, Whole Grain Mustard ($12); Calamari, Chickpea Crust, White Eggplant Yogurt ($13); Soft Shell Crab, Fava Bean Crust, Cucumber Raita ($12); Small Plate Style" tasting of all three ($21).

Marinated Appetizers

Lobster Seviche, Fennel Jus, Lemon-Ricard Chutney ($15); Tandoori Lamb Carpaccio, Crunchy Tabouleh, Tumeric Sambal ($16); Wild Smoked Salmon, Spanikopita, Tomato-Caraway Preserve ($14); "Small Plate Style" tasting of all three ($24).

Sean stated that he would give any other restaurant the “Pepsi Challenge” for SEABLUE's fish freshness because they are sourced and flown in from all over the world  daily and grilled on a free-standing wood-fired “island” grill, that offered me fresh, flavorful dining while wafting delectable, appetite-enhancing aromas.  The fish menu changes regularly based on the availability of the fish so consequently the prices are also subject to change. Fish entrées include à la carte preparations as well as daily whole fish selections.




A Moroccan Tagine
cooking pot.


TAGINES

Because Mina is from the Mediterranean region I expected that influence to carry over in many of his exquisite dishes, and I am certain that he gleaned many dining favorites and flavors by walking the burgeoning seaports and marketplaces along the Med.

The  King Mina touch is noticeable in the taste testing tagine (a Moroccan clay day oven that uses flavorful oils, vinegars, and juices in place of creams and butter, except in the desserts).  The tagine is served right at the table and when the lid is lifted I breath in the brothy aroma of North Sea Cod baked with Seasonal Wild Mushrooms, White Wine Risotto and Shaved Truffles; the flaky hot magnificent morsel crumbled under the fork.

Tagines are entrées of their own, such as the Chilean Sea Bass with Lobster Broth, Veal Confit and Morel Mushrooms. Here are other tagine favorites:

Guazetto — Select seasonal shellfish in Tomato Consumme ($49); Clearwater Lobster Tail — Saffron-Lobster Glace, Potato Gnocchi, and Wild Morels ($60); Spring Lamb Shank — Natural Jus, Marcona Almonds, Merguez Sausage ($39).



Australian Barramuda
is flown in fresh daily.

I was amazed to learn that the Australia Barramundi ($35) that I ordered for my main meal was swimming around the Great Barrier Reef yesterday; factor in the International Date Line and it was caught today! That is 777 airline fresh seafood!  Back where I grew up, perch grow only about the size of your hand, but the Barramundi, a true perch, was a good foot long, filleted with the skin and tail in place, but no bones whatsoever, which is great, because perch are known to be boney. The Barramundi has a delicate smoky flavor which I assumed came from the wood fired grill. What a delight!

Tableside Classics include signature dishes such as a caviar cart, ahi tuna tartare, lobster pot pie and whole fried chicken for two.

Other fantastic 777 fresh wood fired grilled fare includes the following, but stop back regularly at SEABLUE because there may also be "True" Dover Sole or Wild Turbot on the menu:




Wild Turbot is served
if or when caught.


Chilean Sea Bass — Elephant Garlic Confit, Steamed Mussels, Rapini, Smoked Bacon; Pacific King Salmon — Roasted Cauliflower, Jumbo Asparagus, Curried Couscous; Loup De Mer — a Sea Bass from the Mediterranean ($38); Pink Dorade — a Sea Bream from Senegal  ($37); Pompano —  a type of Jackfish from the Bahamas ($35); Rouget —  a type of Red Mullet from the Mediterranean ($42); Black Grouper — from Florida ($34); Swordfish — from the South Pacific (Market price); Lobster Tail — from Australia (Market price); Monkfish — from Georges Bank, Canada (Market price); Fruits de Mer — Select Seasonal Shellfish, Cut To Order Fettuccini, Baby Fennel, and Portuguese Sausage (Market price).

Land & Sea Combos:

The
14 oz. bone-in NY Strip Steak from Nebraska ($47); 8 oz. Kobe Flatiron ($56); 8 oz. Kobe Ribeye Medallion ($75); Double-Cut Kurobuta Pork Chop, with the last three selections from Snake River Farms, Idaho ($32); Free-Range Chicken from California ($27); Halibut from Alaska  ($32); Yellowfin Tuna from Hawaii ($34); Dayboat Scallops from Maine ($37); Wild King Salmon from the Pacific Northwest ($30); 2 pounds of Maine Lobster ($65).




Kumamoto Oysters.

SEABLUE Market Price Shellfish: Scallops in the shell; Prawns; Florida Stone Crab Claws; Hama Hama Oysters; Malaque Oysters; Kumamoto Oysters; Littleneck Clams; Dungeness Crab; Maine Lobster Tail; and California Spiny Lobster Tail.

The side dishes at SEABLUE are called SEASIDES (all $8): Olive Oil Smashed Potatoes; Jasmine Rice & Lentils; Chickpeas; Royal Trumpet Mushrooms; Asparagus.

Salads: Choose up to ten selections to create your own salad prepared individually or for the table.  All produce is organically grown.

Desserts (All desserts run about $11 each): Tableside Desserts include a classic root beer float and huckleberry financier.  You can also get desserts at the bar which is open until midnight.

Among the imaginative desserts are chocolate molten cake with a root beer float and white chocolate-coconut cake with a pineapple-mango compote; Strawberry Shortcake Brulee or Vanilla Creme Brulee; Strawberry-Creme Fraiche Float; White Chocolate Raspberry Cheesecake; Raspberry Sorbet; White Chocolate Frappe; Butterscotch Banana Tart; Carmelized Bananas; Chantilly Cream; Bananas Foster Sundae; Baklava; Cinammon Ice Cream; Apple-Pomegranate Granita; Lemon Pudding Cake; Creamsicle Float; Pistachio Frangipane; Roasted Pineapple; Coconut Sorbet; Molten Chocolate Hazelnut Cake; Rocky Road Float; Homemade cookies; Mini Creme Brulee; a selection of seasonal sorbets ($7); a selection of seasonal ice cream ($7).

SEABLUE Awards:

Four Diamond Award – 2006
AAA Award of Excellence - 2005
Wine Spectator Award of Excellence - 2004
Wine Spectator Best New Wine List – 2004
Food & Wine Best Seafood Restaurant – 2004
Five Star Reviews Editor’s Choice Best Seafood Restaurant – 2003

Phone. 702/891-3486
Fax: 702/891-3487
Large Group reservations: 702/891-7433
Open 5:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. daily
Average Check: $65/person


Sean was on his way to establish the new SEABLUE restaurant at the Borgata Hotel and Casino in Atlantic City, New Jersey, which is partially owned by the MGM Mirage. Hopefully someday they get Chesapeake Bay Blue Crabs on the menu, too.

The restaurant seats 130 people in the main dining room and 24 in the private dining room.

SEABLUE'S ample portions made me feel like a whale coming out of a can of tuna.

Michael Mina also operates the Nob Hill Restaurant inside the MGM Grand Hotel and Casino; for reservations call
702/891-7337.

By Kriss Hammond, Editor, Jetsetters Magazine




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