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Desert Companion

Fork off! A fish and chips fight to the gills

Ri Ra's hearty dishIn this episode, we compare two takes on that most famous plate in pub grub: fish and chips. In one corner, we have a popular, no-frills Irish joint; in the other, a gastropub taking a few liberties with their interpretation. Let’s cast.  

The contenders: Public House’s Chatham Bay cod with salt and vinegar chips ($27), and Rí Rá Irish Pub’s crispy battered haddock with chipper chips (reg. $14.95/large $19.95).

The fish: Ever trendy, Public House keeps their fish seasonal, serving three pieces of Belgian beer-battered fish: Saison-battered cod in the winter and Hoegaarden halibut during summer. Although the fish was firm and flaky, the batter lacked the ideally crisp coating that Rí Rá executed so well. Rí Rá’s piece of North Atlantic Haddock arrived well-seasoned, prominently draped across the plate. Made from “secret” ingredients (a list you’ll never pry from your server), their beer batter creates a crunchy break when cut with a fork, releasing steam from the hot and juicy fish. Winner: Rí Rá.

Public House's fancy plateThe chips and dips: Although “delicate” isn’t a word you associate with alehouses, the slender cut fries at Public House earn it. Crisp with an addictive salt and vinegar coat, the chips are accompanied by braised cabbage and a fresh herb tartar sauce. Rí Rá’s unevenly cut, thick chips, served alongside a tangy Irish remoulade, create an ample bed for the fish, but they could have stood an extra 15 seconds in the fryer. Both versions left me looking for my side of mushy peas. Winner: Public House.

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The look: Public House’s thoughtfully stacked filets sit adjacent to fries perched upright in a tidy metal ring. While by no means fancy or artistic, Rí Rá’s presentation is quintessentially pub-like, their main concern clearly being how to pile the impressive amount of food onto the plate. (Wrapping the fish in newspaper would have given either contender the authentic edge and the win.) Draw.

The value: Rí Rá’s larger portion arrives with both ends hanging off the edges of the plate. The regular size could satisfy a hungry rugby scrum-half, washed down with perfectly poured pints of Guinness. Public House’s version is much more proper, each component fitting neatly onto the serving plate with room to spare. While neither will leave you hungry, the fact that your meal at Rí Rá is served by someone with a genuine Irish brogue makes this category no contest. Winner: Rí Rá.

The fish and chips king of the sea: Rí Rá.

Public House Grand Canal Shoppes at the Venetian, 3355 Las Vegas Blvd S., 407-5310,

Rí Rá Mandalay Bay Place, 3930 Las Vegas Blvd S., 632-7771,

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