*Review of their upstairs (more formal) dining area.

It was one of those nights where we should have just stayed home. It would have been a much cheaper and probably more satisfying night than dining out. Unfortunately, we decided to eat out. Being big fans of both Top Chef Masters and Rick Moonen, we dined in the upstairs area at RM Seafood Room.

There’s no doubt that the food is creative, unique, and artistically presented. But, I thought the flavors were hit or miss. We each got the five course prix fixe menu for $75 (yeah, seems like they raised it recently from $65).

//Amuse Bouche//
Watermelon two-ways with crab meat. Delicious, light and refreshing.

//First Course//
The Steak and Potatoes (beef tartare with crispy strips of potatoes on top) were great, my favorite dish of the night. The seafood bouillabaisse looked cool and the individual components were good. But the gelée had a sweet taste that didn’t compliment the seafood, in my opinion.

//Second Course//
The custard-like texture of the onion soup was interesting. But, compared to other onion soups the flavor could have been stronger. The green eggs and ham dish is beautiful and when you get the right amount of ham, egg, noodles, and asparagus in one bite the salty taste is enticing. But, when all the ingredients start to mix together it starts looking like baby food and loses some of its appeal.

//Third Course//
Both the Walu and Roasted Fluke were solid dishes, with the fluke being the better of the two. The walu was flaky, buttery, and very meaty but the flavors were too subtle.

//Fourth Course//
We both got the China Pig for our 4th course. My wife wasn’t a fan of it at all. But, I thought the flavors were very intense and the skin had a crispy quality to it that reminded me of lechón. My parents would have loved the taste of this dish. The chewiness of the fat was a nice contrast to the skin but I can see how this dish might not appeal to everyone.

//Fifth Course//
The desserts were decent but unspectacular. The Chocolate Car Bomb was creative but again the flavor just wasn’t on par with the look of it. The Tropical Creme Brulee had the consistency of melted ice cream with pieces of fruit at the bottom. It was an odd dish that had me wishing I had tried the Italian Citrus instead.

Most of the dishes were largely forgettable, with the steak and potatoes and the China Pig being the only ones that I would want to eat again. That’s surprising considering seafood is this restaurant’s specialty. I’m all for trying new and inventive dishes, but if the flavors don’t even come close to matching their traditional counterparts (the onion soup and creme brulee, for example) it leaves me disappointed.

And what about the service? Well, like the food it was hit or miss. If you get up to use the restroom during your meal the staff will retrieve the person’s napkin and replace it with a new, folded one. But, when my wife got up they took hers away and didn’t bother to replace it until we asked for a new one. I ordered a beer, which the waiter poured tableside. According to the waiter their protocol prohibits them from tilting the glass when it’s being poured. So, if the waiter isn’t experienced at pouring beer with the glass flat on the table the result is a lot of head. Needless to say, I got a lot of head (but not the good kind, haha). So much so that my beer overflowed and I had to ask for a new one. I don’t know if tables are waited on by teams of waiters, but that’s what we experienced. We saw our “main” waiter a couple times and three or four other waiters throughout the night. Most were friendly and knowledgeable. The sommelier was excellent. He definitely knew his wines and did a great job of pairing wines with each dish.

I knew having a five course dinner would take a while, but I had no idea how loooonnnngggg it would be. Everything just seemed to take a long time — from getting drinks to the amount of time between courses. Looking around the dining room I saw a few other couples who looked bored out of their minds, like they were forced to watch C-Span for the whole day. So, maybe we weren’t the only ones suffering from slow service. Three-plus hours later our dinner was finally over. I had to flag another waiter down to let him know we were ready for the check. We didn’t have any of their complimentary tea and barely sampled the petits fours before heading out. I really wanted to love this place. I’m still a fan of RIck Moonen (he wasn’t there that night) and think he should have won Top Chef Masters. I was hoping RM Seafood Room would leave me wanting more. But, instead I just wanted to leave.

3 Stars

— Updaated below: 9/1/12 —

Apparently, the second time is the charm. After my first experience at RM Seafood upstairs (the more formal dining space) I had no desire to come here again but the wife wanted to give it another try. This visit changed my opinion for the better. We had our kid with us and they didn’t seem to mind as we walked up to the host stand and asked if kids were welcome. Of course they sat us on their “patio” in the hallway overlooking the escalators to Mandalay Place, but that was understandable. The inside looked too quiet for us anyway.

There’s no kid menu, but they were happy to make a plain, grilled chicken breast for our son. He deemed it the best chicken he’s ever had. At $17 for a kid-sized portion, it better be.

Our food was excellent all around. The half dozen Kumumoto oysters ($23) were meaty, mild and delicious. My wife’s order of steak tartare ($21) and ringo roll ($24 / spicy tuna, apple, jalapeños, tuna, cobia, spicy garlic ponzu, kabayaki sauce) were nearly flawless, albeit expensive even for the Strip. My black cod ($32 / bok choy, candied kumquats) was one of the best pieces of fish I’ve had with its flaky and fresh meat, cracker-like, crispy skin, and delectable sauce. Even the cornbread and crackers in the bread basket were great. The cornbread, by the way, came in handy for soaking up the sauce from my dish. It was so good that I couldn’t let a drop of sauce go to waste.

I’d be happy to recommend this place now. But bring a fat wallet because it’s not cheap. Some might even complain about portion sizes, which lean towards the smaller size, but I wasn’t looking to stuff my face silly this night. Unusual for me, for sure, but what this place lacks in quantity it certainly makes up for in quality.

RM Seafood has gone through many changes in the kitchen staff since my first visit and it may not be entirely fair to compare the two. But, what the hell, I’ll do it anyway. The upstairs dining area experimented with a more avant grade approach to food where certain dishes fell flat. Conceptually, they were all impressive, but the execution and, more importantly, the flavor disappointed. In the downstairs area, dishes are less aggressive in pushy boundaries and concentrate on the perfect execution of a few ingredients. And, that’s where they shine. They’re more simple, but the end result are flavors and textures that seem more refined and palatable.

4 Stars

3930 Las Vegas Blvd S
Las Vegas, NV 89119
(702) 632-9300

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