Meeting Rick Moonen, and Other Las Vegas Adventures


​Some friends have asked for a food report on my recent weekend jaunt to Las Vegas, so here you go, foodniks.

First off, here's proof (um, not really) that I met chef Rick Moonen, who almost immediately asked me if I do my job anonymously, and later joked that he could make a killing on selling my picture to chefs in Phoenix.

He happened to be in the dining room while I was waiting for my dinner table, and was game for a photo. We chatted a bit and it dawned on me that when I'm not in Phoenix, I'm pretty darn outgoing -- I also met Alice Waters and Wylie Dufresne in similarly random fashion this past year. Moonen was also gracious enough to give me a copy of Eating Las Vegas' new restaurant guide book, where his restaurant RM Seafood is one of the top ten picks. (Thanks, Chef!)

I stopped by for dinner in the more casual downstairs dining room -- upstairs is the fine dining spot. Since I was with my dad, and dad was craving crab, we decided on downstairs, where he started with crab sushi and I had a lovely crabcake. Alas, I was too hungry and slightly starstruck from that random Rick Moonen encounter, so I didn't bust out the camera until my main dish arrived.

​I loved my halibut, a perfectly cooked piece of pristine, juicy white flesh set on a cloud of smooth carrot-cardamom puree, with celery root and shaved heirloom carrots.

​Although I told myself I'd behave, I had to have dessert when I saw red velvet whoopie pies on the menu. They were served with an adorable mini-milkshake that tasted like coconut cream.



​Why in the world did I want to behave? Because the night I arrived in Las Vegas, my brother and his wife welcomed me into their new home with a full-on (albeit belated) Thanksgiving dinner. Dad had the turkey carving duties, and just look at this plate full o' meat! Wow. I'm still kinda full.

Early last year I blogged about a kickass robatayaki place called Raku, and as much as I'd love to try each and every Asian restaurant on Spring Mountain Road, I couldn't resist coming back here. Thankfully, my dad was a willing companion and let me do the ordering.

We started with delcious, creamy, cold tofu (housemade!) teamed with seaweed, fresh tomatoes, olive oil, and a crispy garnish that I recognized as tiny fried fish. They were more for texture than flavor, though.

​Live scallop was sliced into sashimi and was remarkably sweet. The garnishes were clear seaweed noodles and kabocha squash.

​Even the miso soup here was superb, filled with nameko mushrooms and a big chunk of tofu.

​Crispy whole fried shrimp didn't need anything to taste good -- they were pure crunch and flavor all on their own.

​Grilled duck was succulent, dabbed with balsamic and scattered with scallions.

​Skewers of tsukune (chicken meatball with bits of shiso) and bacon-wrapped enoki mushrooms were flavorful bites that I wanted more of . . .

​. . . until the Kobe beef arrived, practically still sizzling and adorned with wasabi.

​The warm, savory custard called chawan mushi is usually a homey, simple dish in Japanese cuisine, but here, they pureed it with foie gras, which added that alluring, unmistakable flavor. On top, there was a slice of perfect pink duck meat.


​I got custard for dessert, too -- or actually, pudding. It was a bowl of frothy milk that obscured a smooth, "kokutou" brown sugar-flavored pudding. Mixed together, it was the most comforting taste. I had it on my first visit and couldn't resist it.

Now that the bridge over Hoover Dam is open, the drive to Vegas goes by very quickly -- under five hours, in my case. All of a sudden, I'm plotting a return to do a lot more eating!




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Wow Michele, that was awesome. Thank you for sharing! You've got me craving that comfort pudding dessert even though I have no idea what it tastes like. Good job!

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