an member station
3930 Las Vegas Blvd. South
Las Vegas NV 89119
What makes a good meal go bad? There can be any number of reasons, but bad service would have to be the number 1 culprit. To such things did my mind wander recently as the Food Gal and I waited twenty minutes for our dessert menu at RM, the classy seafood emporium at the Mandalay Place. But before I recount my litany of service offenses, let's accentuate the positive.
RM is the eponymous restaurant named for Rick Moonen, long one of New York's premier seafood chefs. To his credit, Moonen moved to Las Vegas to run this restaurant, not just lend his name to it. I had the privilege of dining at Oceana many years ago, when he was first making his mark. He liked to play with sauces and presentations sure, but foremost in his style was a firm sense of letting the flavors of the sea come forth and stand on their own. And for years, his was one restaurant that demanded and got only the best and freshest bounty from the sea.
I'd been to the café downstairs several times by the time I wandered into the small, tasteful dining room on the second floor. The vaguely nautical themed room is just the right size (85 seats), and hits just the right balance between relaxed and formal. It's quieter than SeaBlue, and smaller and not as frenetic as Michael Mina so the décor had me from the get-go.
The food never disappointed either. An uninspiring soufflé of brandade (really just a cold hard pudding of salted cod), was okay, and didn't come close to the rest of the meal. When the waiter correctly pronounced taramosalata, it falsely boosted my confidence that the service would be a cut above. That's just what this addictive fish roe dip was, but it was also about the last thing that showed up on time. In sporadic order we then tasted superior grilled prawns with an oh-so-subtle lobster-miso consommé, a slightly overcooked, but otherwise excellent single sea scallop atop a corn veloute-the sweetness of each complimenting the other; a beautiful filet of rainbow trout that could've been overwhelmed by the braised artichokes, smoked bacon and balsamico around it, but wasn't; perfectly grilled wild salmon in a deceptively spicy green cocoanut curry; olive oil poached halibut and butter poached lobster....topped with crispy sweetbreads in the ultimate surf and turf of flavor and texture.
All of this superior stuff showed me that Moonen hasn't lost his fastball. The front of the house was another matter. No refills on wine without asking, no bread refills at all, the water was there for me to pour and so I did, and (as I said), and the dessert course took so long (even after I told the waiter we were in a hurray), that we insisted on the check and left before we even saw what the offerings were.
Looking around the dining room I noticed the culprit. No adult supervision. No maitre 'd, no manager, no front man or lady, kicking butt, taking names, and making sure the service was running smoothly. Just a bunch of twenty-something waiters running around , sometimes hitting their marks, and often not.
Memo to Moonen: get a manager who spends a few nights walking around Circo, MIX or Fleur de Lys to see how a busy, smoothly run operation works. Otherwise, despite your ab-fab food, prepare to start losing customers.