Reflecting On The Abundance Of The Ocean In Las Vegas

Since October was National Seafood Month, this is a good time to reflect on the abundance of the ocean and about the importance of taking care of our greatest natural resource. By eating sustainably caught seafood and dining in restaurants that promote that ideology, everyone can "Dish on Fish."

Lately we have had the great privilege of dining at two outstanding Las Vegas restaurants that not only stand by the philosophy of maintaining and sustaining our oceans, but also deliver meals that are healthy and harmonious with the planet. Our first venture was with American Fish at the Aria Resort & Casino, and our next stop was the acclaimed Aquaknox restaurant at The Venetian.

American Fish is a Michael Mina venture, so with a great chef at the helm, only the best is expected. The restaurant focuses on using the freshest ingredients and incorporates traditional American cooking techniques. As we entered the restaurant we were struck by the luminous quality of the appearance — the faux birch trees that accent the back of the bar, and the ceiling that looks like a hundred mantra rays floating above gave us a feeling of being surrounded by natural beauty. We were escorted to our booth and greeted by the lovely and energetic general manager, Tiffani Cioe. Tiffani wanted to make sure that we had no dietary restrictions. With that kind of service, we knew that we were going to enjoy an amazing culinary experience.

Tiffani urged us to try the lobster tasting menu — a menu that was created especially for National Seafood Month. Our sommelier, Kathleen, brought us a series of carefully selected wines that elevated each dish, revealing new and hidden flavors. We started with a lobster carpaccio, accompanied by radish, sea beans, and a ginger-lime vinaigrette. This carpaccio of delicate slices of lobster, with the bright acidity from the vinaigrette, and the delightful crunch of the sea beans, was a fantastic first course. This was paired with a Heidi Schrock Muscat, Rust, Austria 2007. The Muscat was austere and steely and provided a welcome balance to the light flavors of the dish.

The second course was a soup and sandwich combination that was unlike any we have ever tried before. This dish was a great take on an American classic — heirloom tomato soup alongside a lobster grilled cheese. The cheese melted perfectly with the lobster meat, giving us the perfect bite-sized sandwich. The heirloom tomato soup was rich and creamy, with a nice bite of pine nuts, which added texture to the soup, and a touch of basil oil brought forth wonderful aromatics. This was indeed one of our favorite courses of the evening and was very comforting. The dish was paired with a Joseph Drouhin Puligny-Montrachet, Burgundy, France 2008. All we can say is oui ("yes") to this pairing and merci ("thank you") to our sommelier.

The fourth course was bacon-wrapped lobster tail with roasted eggplant, that was paired with a Priere De Montezargures Rosé, Tavel, Rhone, France 2010. Although we loved the rosé on its own, we felt that this pairing could have been elevated further with a burgundy or pinot noir. The richness of the bacon and the denseness of the lobster could have used a wine with a little more structure and ambience. However, the rosé held essences of watermelon and strawberry and nice acidity and was a great drinking wine in its own right. 

The fifth course was a Maine lobster tail and fillet of beef with a pinot noir reduction; wood-grilled surf and turf. The richness of fillet mingled well with the bold Pesquera, Ribera Del Dureo, Spain 2007 pairing, but in some aspects the tempranillo was such a hearty wine that it overpowered the lobster. Aside from the wine, the dish was well executed and we enjoyed each bite.

Finally, the dessert course: farmers market figs with mascarpone cream and ginger-beer sorbet, paired with the Rwc Boston Boal Madeira, Portugal Nv. This dish was a pleasant finish to our bounty of the sea. The richness of the figs was met with the light ginger-beer sorbet and the creaminess of the mascarpone. American Fish is the place to visit in Las Vegas for a true experience honoring the beauty and abundance of the American waters.

Our next stop was the acclaimed Aquaknox located in The Venetian. As we entered the restaurant with its undulating hues of blue, we were escorted to our table by veteran server Alan, someone who has been with Aquaknox since 2003. Staying consistent in the restaurant business and being successful in a town full of celebrity-chef restaurants is a feat of dedication, talent, and of course, great food — that is exactly what executive chef Tom Moloney brings to the plate. Moloney is a nationally recognized chef that devoted 12 years of his career to working with celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck. He opened seven casual and fine dining restaurants, and he also consults and oversees kitchen operations for the International Panda Restaurant Group.

Chef Moloney is a pioneer for bringing sustainable seafood options to restaurant diners. He has since partnered with Safe Harbor Certified Seafood to bring fish to patrons that is free of pathogens and radiation and has passed rigorous testing that surpasses the FDA requirements for safe seafood. During this tasting, each dish was accompanied by information on where and in what method the fish were caught. The details were precise, down to boat's name, the captain's name, and the exact latitude and longitude of where the fish were caught. By using the best in seafood and local ingredients, chef Moloney hopes to raise the consciousness of each person dining at Aquaknox. He promotes the idea that everyone can play a part in protecting our most valuable natural resource by making informed dining choices. The fish was cooked to perfection, accented with the delicate saffron-tomato jus, and the richness of the gigante beans. Another favorite of the evening was a sweet shrimp and lump crab salad with a sesame and mango dressing. Chef Moloney also presented a beet and watermelon salad with a sherry vinaigrette that was a refreshing complement to our main course. We were also treated to John Dory that was served on a bed of succotash to coincide with the seasonal fare. Each dish was prepared with insight; bringing the most harmonious, healthy, and elegantly prepared food to our table.

The night was not over until we tried some of the chef's signature desserts. These included a vanilla crème brûlée and a version of the Take 5 candy bar. Both were rich and decadent and a little bite of each went a long way. Our meal was indeed a pleasure and also one that caused us to reflect on the care and culinary artistry of executive chef Tom Moloney and his excellent staff. For those who appreciate the best in sustainable seafood, dine at Aquaknox.