Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Chart House

Kenneth Watrous is my name. All the opinions here are mine. The also only apply to the places I have tried n Las Vegas.

Last month, we talked about Nobu. This month we went to Chart House in the Golden Nugget on Fremont Street.

Chart House may be a small chain of fine dining locations, but they certainly fit in with the rest of the Las Vegas dining crowd, bringing out a level of class and attractions. The center of Chart House Vegas is an enormous aquarium with lots of different exotic fish inside. These are for viewing and not a storage tank for fresh catches. The fish are interesting to look at and the décor is built around this central area with more open tables that face it in an almost bar like arrangement. The room is also circular to accommodate that and it can be a bit disorienting if you get up to check on the car or something to find your way back to your table.
Chart House offers a lunch and a dinner menu. Each is also split between your steakhouse offerings and seafood. The steakhouse options are smaller in types than some other places but they offer more cut sizes in their steaks which I’ve always found interesting. They work hard on their prime rib rather than dry aged steaks like some other places. In the seafood department they have a nice selection of different fish and different flavors on display. The Mac Nut Mahi is one of those rarities where they have put together some combination of Hawaiian flavors with Thai influences to create something special. It is also one of those warm and cool dishes with a certain spice to the peanut sauce and a coolness to the mango dressing that goes with.
In the variety within an item, they offer a selection of dressed up shrimp in the Tour de Shrimp. This is a good place to go if you don’t quite know what you want. The flavors are sweet, savory, spicy, the whole array in one platter. The crab-stuffed shrimp is also a quick way to layer your experience with the original food inside food that everything else is trying these days.
One of the more interesting concepts at Chart House is the fish toppers. Instead of offering fish with a specific flavor profile or even a few options on the same cut, they go the pasta route where you pick your fish cut and then can pick what it is prepared in. All the fish is cooked to order pan-seared, blackened or baked, then you go through and pick up what type of finish you want with that. It is hard to say if this is a better option for the veteran seafood lover, that knows what to expect and can fine tune what they want, or if it is for the new-comer that wants to start learning to pick out the flavor profile of the fish while still knowing what they are getting into as a finish.

For me it is always a hard choice between the halibut, which has a thicker and richer flavor with a lighter after taste, or the sea bass which has a wilder and creamier flavor. The halibut usually wins out with the tropic fruit salsa. This gives a really deep flavor profile with a range of solid flavors and sweet finishes. When in doubt a conversation with the waitstaff can get you a bead on what is popular and which fish are more in demand. If I am on the fence with what I want, ordering what is less popular for the day gets me a better experience.
To make this harder there are also a solid compliment of sides that can pair or counter other flavors. These are fairly standard, but they are good at doing what they do simply. In particular are the sizzling mushrooms, which is a nice pile of assorted mushrooms made with a garlic butter. These almost seem like a topper, but can really add a different layer to a variety of the creations. They would also be great with the steaks if you are in the mood to go that route. Steamed asparagus pairs with most of the crustacean offerings and the mango rice is a good way to come down from their spicy ssamjang shrimp or the baja and pico toppings.
-Kenneth Watrous
Find more about me on or follow me on twitter at @KennethWatrous  

Wednesday, October 28, 2015


Kenneth Watrous is my name. All the opinions here are mine. They also apply only to the places I have tried in Las Vegas.

Last month, we went to Emeril’s New Orleans Fish House. This month, it’s a trip to Nobu.

Nobu is one of those places that has to be visited to be understood. It is rare to see a restaurant that is so much a complete product of all of its elements. The décor is fashioned after a variety of culturally significant Japanese items and traditions. The materials are authentic in several places and reminiscent in others. The private ‘pods’ they have around the outer walls are really interesting. They are connected to the main dining area but they are walled off on sides and it really gives a sense of being alone. The craftsmanship in all of the wood is really amazing, especially if you work with wood. There are patterns in various places and it ends up being intriguing without being overly busy. The tables often have a lazy Susan for that sharing style of food.

The flavors are heavily Japanese inspired but range in their authenticity to experimental. This is one of the things that makes Nobu such a destination: it doesn’t just do a flavor, it invents a flavor. Which might sound a little broad to say, but I was told about the place before I visited and I have to say that everything I was told about how unique the place was didn’t really prepare me. So if it sounds like I’m laying it on thick, it’s because I’m trying to give even a partial accounting.

The food is best described in several different realms. The most understood are the sushi bar and the hibachi. These are probably types of Japanese food that have been experienced before. The sushi is split between the piece by piece sashimi, and the several pieces of rolls. Sushi offers a different texture than most other seafood, not just because it’s raw, which not all of it is, but it is the presentation and the coupling with rice or rice vinegar that makes a lot of the difference. This is also a place where you can sit at the sushi bar and see the work being done, which even when you watch carefully still comes across with a certain magic.
Hibachi is the other commonly seen Japanese fare. This is a heated unit in the table and then different meats and vegetables are prepared either by a cook with a certain performance to it or just at the table where as a customer you can take the choice ingredients and work out your own blend of seasonings and cooking techniques. Most hibachi foods are things that can be eaten raw, so there isn’t a big worry, mostly it is about preference but they also do offer tips and explanations if asked.
Now, for the rest of prepared meals there are flavors to explore and concepts to get behind. The main dishes include things like squid pasta, which is something made both out of squid and with squid ink. It has an interesting texture and a lot more flavor than you might think. The seabass with black bean sauce has a “melts in your mouth and then sticks in your senses” quality that easily rivals some of the earthier steak flavors I have had. The fish offered come from all over the world and then are given a Japanese treatment, which also adds to the complexity and the variety of foods offered. They also offer a whole range of something called kushiyaki, which is a type of meat kabobs. I could go on and on about kabobs from various areas, but the Japanese variety have a usually sweet and savory aspect and the seabass and scallop varieties put most pork and lamb kabobs around the world to shame.
The desserts can get a little out there as well. Not the usual offerings of pie and ice cream, these are really outside the normal things encountered (though they do have those standards, because why not). The bento box of cake and green tea ice cream with a type of syrup is terrific. The whiskey foam cappuccino is also about the most adult dessert I have ever had.
All in all, this was a memorable place to go and I would recommend anyone and everyone give it a visit. If you are visiting Vegas for a weekend you would be crazy not to give it a try.

-Kenneth Watrous
Find more about me on or follow me on twitter at @KennethWatrous  

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Emeril's New Orleans Fish House

Kenneth Watrous is my name. All the opinions here are mine. They also apply only to the places I have tried in Las Vegas.

Last month, we went to Crab Corner. This month, I tried Emeril's New Orleans Fish House at the MGM Grand. I liked it so much, I went back for more.

Emeril’s is a smaller place, which gives a more intimate feeling than some of the larger restaurants I’ve mentioned. The patio dining is also an interesting treat at certain times of year when the air outside is just the right temperature and the ambient lights provide the same kind of tone that all of the lights inside are trying to mimic. The décor is colorful and the way the lights dot the walls gives the feeling of being underwater or inside an aquarium kind of thing.

There are also a few different sections which give some variety to the feeling with booths on one side and more open classic dining on the other. This is one of those places that I would take kids to when they are a little older because it has a transition to a classier environment without being stuffy or full of people that will get that look when they see children. I think you know that look, if you have ever taken kids to what other people consider an ‘adults only’ place.

The food is a New Orleans style and has a fairly different menu from lunch to dinner and different offerings in the seated areas as compared to the bar. In the lunch menu I have a passion for the blue crab and remoulade. This is a good light assortment that makes you feel like you are eating healthy while still enjoying what you have. This is eaten together and has more of a blended favor than a lot of things I eat. I like to sample flavors and experiences and usually I work with single entrees and pairings of sides, but this is a solid blended dish that works as a dish more than its components. After the crawfish etouffee starter, you get a full meal of spicy and hot and chilled and savory. It is also pretty simple to go with this pairing because you don’t have to think too much about adding each item, which makes it a possible stop on a timed lunch stop. If you have a busy day, not exactly a place to hit in the middle of the work day.
On a dinner pass I like to pick up the Texas redfish. This is a more southwest flavor with some New Orleans touches. The dish comes out hot and has a variety of spicy and creamy that go back and forth over a solid fish. This is one of those dishes that really shows what seafood is about where it takes an item that is good by itself and then just adds to that flavor with little touches and additions. The Creoloe meuneiere sauce is one of those touches that shouts Emeril and is a definite treat for anyone familiar with his tv personality.
The dinner menu is also seasonal with different inspirations and offerings in the way of sauces and preparations as well as the central ingredient. The lunch menu tends to be more the same around the year, except for the tasting menu which always features a specific central ingredient which changes even week to week. The sides offer a good place to add or counter the main dish. I like to pick up the bourbon and brown sugar sweet potatoes as a sweet and savory side to the spicy and creamy of the redfish. This makes a really well rounded meal the same way my lunch combo works out.
The desserts are more limited in their scope, which matches up with the New Orleans flavors that are offered. The pecan pie is the best in the city and comes from an authentic attempt and not just adding sugar to sugar. The bread and butter bread pudding is also a good choice if you need something that transports you to New Orleans in that way. This is a warm and sweet dish that lands on the side of semi-sweet and not so sugary that it leaves you with an aftertaste. Emeril’s is a great choice for a single set of flavors and while it doesn’t offer the whole ocean, like some places, it does what it sets out for well.

-Kenneth Watrous
Find more about me on or follow me on twitter at @KennethWatrous  

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Crab Corner

Kenneth Watrous is my name. All the opinions here are mine. They also apply only to the places I have tried in Las Vegas.

Last month, we went to Herringbone This month, I tried Crab Corner. 

The Crab Corner is more of an all-you-can-handle than some other places. While not exactly giving a flat price for a whatever you can do, they offer a flat rate per unit and let you kind of add up from there. This works pretty well for trying a few things in combination but knowing you will get high quality eats. Their signature deal is the $1 oysters and $2 crabs.

 The décor is a lot like the some other deep seafood places. There are limited utensils, a lot of eating with the hands, and a certain amount of making everything be about just the rustic essentials. They spread paper on the tables and hand you a bucket of utensils and bibs and you get to go from there.
The drinks are also discounted on different days or they have daily drink specials where you can plan what day you will get what yo might want the most at some cheap prices or in some great quantity. Like the margaritas refills on their football brunch, but they are a bit pricy at $15 but that is for the whole time. So it can be worth it when you are really drilling down.

The crabs are specialized in Maryland and so are more of the blue meat variety. These have a softer flavor than some of the arctic crabs and are more fishy and less meaty. They also tend to be softer and this makes them quick to work with when making crab cakes or crab soup, which The Crab Corner offers great versions of. These are true crab dishes. Some places will give you a soup that has crab in it or cakes that are made with some crab somewhere, but the crab isn’t the central part it is just marketing. The Crab Corner works with the meat first and builds up around it and it shows. The food is much more flavor and also is what you want. They don’t spend too much time dressing things up with extra spices or sauces and cooking techniques. Everything is good and simple and well made.

The oysters are fresh and on the half shell. They can demonstrate shucking if you are in experienced. Which, if you are, be prepared to look silly a bit, but enjoy the atmosphere, others will be having the same experience and the laughter is generally good natured.

 If you are looking for something more in the fusion style they also have a crab burger that features soft-shell battered and cooked up on a bun. This can be a good introduction to crab for people who are okay with the idea of the flavor but maybe not big on breaking up or looking at something that can be described with bug jargon. I like the quick style of everything. Because they are working with a limited menu and also prepared to put out bunches of items on a pay per unit, they always have these things ready to go. While you might have to wait for a specific dish, most of the stuff is to you in just the time it takes for the staff to take the order and take a lap through the place to and back from the kitchen. They don’t go so far as to say they are doing table set food at fast food speeds, but that is the way I would put it out there.
I also have to recommend the scallops. Scallops are great in many places, but there is always a question of how worth it they are. While the prices on most of the items are set by the availability and quantity, scallops have a tendency to be priced by whatever marketing the place uses to talk about their secret technique being the best. Scallops are so good by themselves that it doesn’t take much to sell them, which is weird how often places go to lengths to show them off. At The Crab Corner they are just one more option and they are priced as such. They are really good, without being oversold. 

-Kenneth Watrous
Find more about me on or follow me on twitter at @KennethWatrous 

Thursday, July 9, 2015


Kenneth Watrous is my name. All the opinions here are mine. They also apply only to the places I have tried in Las Vegas.

Last month, we went to The Boiling Crab This month, I tried Herringbone.  

At the top end of the spectrum is Herringbone. The invention of Chef Brian Malarkey, who hails from southern California, is this top of the line restaurant. The Las Vegas location is the third, with the other two being in California. This is the kind of place you go once or twice on special occasions because it takes reservations and it is pricey. But it earns what it charges through excellent service and more than a touch of class without feeling like it is shoving it in your face. The décor is not just elegant but also has this feel like it is a real seaside resort. A cabana like canopy for the balcony and a lot of white and cream colors. The staff are excellent as well, well spoken people who know the menu and are fun to talk with about the dishes and the art of seafood. These are people that can really go into some detail about why certain flavors have moved from one region to another and why so many pairings of sides work with fish from so many places.
Which brings us to the ‘ands’ section of the menu. This is where the different side dishes are listed and are a total mix and match. The menu is broken into simple sections of single options. This isn’t a place where you order a meal in one pointing of the menu, you build the stuff up from each section and customize so much. That is why having knowledgeable wait staff and some dedicated taste preferences are good things. And with the cost, it I pays to know what you want so you can get what you want. Options like the roasted mushrooms show a certain Greek sentiment for seafood while the ‘death by potatoes’ are a northern Italian touch.

Not everything is just seafood. There are a variety of more land based eats on the ‘land’ section of the menu. Like I’ve said in other reviews, I don’t go to seafood palces for not seafood, but I have to admit I’ve struggled to avoid ordering the rib-eye more than once. It is dry aged and features an aged balsamic sauce that sounds like the best piece of meat you might ever experience. As for the rest of the menu, it is divided between the ‘ocean’ section and the ‘hot fare’ and ‘cold fare’. Each has some great things to offer and it comes down to what I’m feeling at the time. I like it all, so choosing can be difficult. The Yellowtail is amazing with the fruit and spicy finishes. In the hot fare the mussels and clams can be messy to eat, but very satisfying.
The experience of a place like this can’t be overdone. Between the reservation system and the open dining area, the feeling is impressive. If you want a night where you feel like a captain of industry, this is the place to go. Everything is ocean to table with less than a 24 hour time table. Early evening it is possible to order food that was in the pacific less than a few hours before. And the taste is there, nothing diluted, nothing dry or processed.

The next anniversary or birthday you have, book a table and be excited. Be warned, if you treat yourself to something this fine you might get hooked and want to do it again and again. Just watch the wallet and keep your head about you and it could be the best night you’ve ever had.

-Kenneth Watrous Find more about me on or follow me on twitter at @KennethWatrous 

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

The Boiling Crab

Kenneth Watrous is my name. All the opinions here are mine. They also apply only to the places I have tried in Las Vegas.
Last month, we went to Joe's Crab Shack. This month, I tried The Boiling Crab.

The Boiling Crab is one of those places that could be described as a ‘hole in the wall’ joint. Not because of the location and the size, but in the sense that it is one of those places that you either know about or you don’t. Those that don’t’ know are missing out and those that do know will give a smile and a nod when they are asked about it. As the name says, they do crab. Lots of it and so well. They also offer up a selection of home-grown sides and fare. This is the kind of place you can’t out-eat because the portions are enormous and the food is rich and savory while being simple.
The décor is a solid mix of diner and sit down. It is open and they like to let in the light. There are bits of net and some local flares to make it look like a fisherman kind of place.

No frills is the name of the game at The Boiling Crab. It does what it does well and it brings the flavor. The Boiling Crab does a mix of southwestern and Cajun mixes. The food is hot and spicy but always full of flavor and you can taste the fresh. This is also a back-to-roots place where the majority of the food is shoveled in by hand.

 Get a bib on, grab a handful of napkins and be ready to get a little sloppy. The shrimp in particular is great. They boil it in a bag and bring it out to be eaten just right there. It has a lot of character and flavor. The shrimp are mostly whole and it is up to some people if they eat all of the bits or if they pick it apart. I’ve no problem with things like shells and heads. I still don’t eat the tails, don’t know anybody that does really. The crab is just as good. Served simple with some butter on the side or some extra garlic if you are into it. The utensils are a bit rough to use if you are having a mixed meal, but I already mentioned the need for a solid supply of napkins.

One of the things I like about The Boiling Crab is the atmosphere. There are smells of food everywhere, the fragrant dishes make it hard not to be constantly hit by another barrage from someone getting their meal. This gives that rare sense of being hungry throughout the meal. That way you really want something when you are hungry and you can smell food persists almost the whole way through. It is so easy to come in wanting one thing and then so hard not to order two more things even as you fill up. That is good food and a good time.
Word of caution: because so much of the food is meant to be eaten by hand, the children can be tough to bring along. They will not remember to stay away form their hair and pants and the bib can only do so much. The flavors tend to be a little intense for some kids, but others will take to it. But you got to keep an eye on them to prevent all the juices and sauces from ending up soaking their socks and it doesn’t take too much cayenne to the eye from a stray palm in the eye to bring out the tears. It is best to be ready to watch the kids first and eat second if that is the plan.

 The drink and desert selection is the fairly standard stuff. Soda fountain, a few beers, a few ice cream and pie options. Usually no room left for much of anything after the sheer sizes of the entrees. I usually like to finish the meal and then have a beer after, take a moment to cool down the hotter flavors. Be warned, stay for too long and you will order again. I do, every time.

-Kenneth Watrous
Find more about me on or follow me on twitter at @KennethWatrous   

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Joe's Crab Shack

Joe's Crab Shack 

Kenneth Watrous is my name. All the opinions here are mine. They also apply only to the places I have tried in Las Vegas.

Last month, we went to Red Lobster. This month, I tried Joe's Crab Shack. 

Joe’s is more of an after-work place. They specialize in faster food, but good food. The establishments often are built around the central bar. They have a more rustic appearance and seem less like a fancy place and more just like a place you go in and sit down. Less of a family joint and more of a place to go with co-workers or friends, Joe’s is about keeping you well fed while you hang out and enjoy a few drinks. The drinks are cheaper than a lot of places of the same kind. The food is also cheaper in price, but definitely stays high in quality.

Seafood is the name of the game at Joe’s Crab Shack. They have a mainland section to the menu for those that maybe walked in expecting something else, or for those times when you just don’t feel the group. But most of what is there is seafood and seafood on top of seafood. The best bet are the steampots and the buckets of crab. These are huge portions of food served hot and kept hot throughout. You have to be a pretty big guy to walk out of Joe’s hungry. The steampots are also the signature feature of the original crab shacks back on the west coast. This is the kind of throw it altogether food that people think about when they think about some of the old beach movies. That is part of what gives Joe’s the great party atmosphere.

This is a lively place and they can get pretty noisy later at night. While children are welcome, they aren’t the best bet. Joe’s is more of that bar-style and there gets to be a fair amount of mingling, especially on the weekends and in the after 8 crowd. It is a great place for a dinner and a movie style date night with the wife, usually a good idea to hit the movie first. The selection of beers is top notch and they offer more on-tap options than a lot of other places.

I like that the service and the servers are also more casual. Things are tidy and clean but they are also functional. You don’t find a lot of extra glasses or too many table cloths. Just what you need. This is also good for getting sauces and the like. I don’t like asking for extra when I’m in the mood for a lot of dipping. So they have a sauce bar you can just hit and stock up on what you want. That really frees me up to not feel like I’m taking all of someone’s time just because I have a particular taste one night.

The atmosphere and the vibe make for a laid-back experience so you can unwind. I have gotten a little crazy here and there and the food has helped. The Cajun steampot is one that will get you a little extra tipsy if you don’t watch it. Nothing cools that down like a cold beer and the back and forth can be one of the most rewarding dining experiences I’ve had. They also do a solid set of cocktails and this is one of the few places I will go all out for some margaritas to accompany.
Desert selection is simple but fun. The appetizers are less like a taste but more like samples of the other options. Sometimes I am disappointed when the appetizers seem to be the same four things, but Joe’s practically offers its whole menu up there in trial size.
If you are looking for a night out with the guys or without the kids Joe’s is a good time that won’t leave you feeling bad. I’ve never had a bad meal or a bad time in the Shack.

-Kenneth Watrous
Find more about me on or follow me on twitter at @KennethWatrous   

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Red Lobster

Red Lobster Logo Kenneth Watrous is my name. All the opinions here are mine. They also apply only to the places I have tried in Las Vegas.

Red Lobster may not be the cheapest place to take the family to dinner. It may not be the fanciest. But it is the best consistent experience with seafood you can find. The distribution network does a good job of keeping things fresh and the whole chain is more seasonal than other sit-down places. They are also really kid friendly and I always know that the family will be taken care of and it will be a good evening for everyone. The staff is used to working with children and the activity books are themed and the children’s menu has the right amount of samples of seafood and traditional food like mac and cheese and burger and fries. The kids can try something new but you know they will have enough of what they like that they won’t be complaining they are hungry an hour later. And that is important to me for having a family outing.

The décor is kept nice and the lights are just low enough to show the kids this is a serious place. I’ve been in several and all are kept in great shape and look used but not worn. I also like that there is always someone working on cleaning. Even with the cleaning it never smells like cleaning, just like food. Be it a part of the floor or the bar or the tables, there is a business to a good Red Lobster that makes you feel like it is a place where work gets done and nobody has to be totally on their toes. You can hear people talking and having their own dates and evenings. You don’t have to feel like if you cough too loud that everyone will be looking at you.

Now for the food. The food is heavy on the surf-and-turf style of seafood. Like the kid’s menu, there is room for the picky eater who is new to seafood and the hardcore fan both. I can get a steak and lobster combo or go all out on a nothing but different types of crab. The seasonal specials are also made to be a deeper experience. If you pick up a lobster tail here and there through the year it will give a solid taste, but during events and specials you can pick up something a little more exotic or made for a particular flavor. This is where I like Red Lobster the most, this idea that seafood is for everyone and it works hard to demonstrate the many ways it can be eaten.

The other thing I like about the food is the portion sizes. The portions are big enough to really fill you up, and they have all sorts of all-you-can-eat items through the year if you really want to double down on something. But the portions are also big enough that if you want to stay a bit longer and take some home for later that you don’t feel like you are taking home just the last two bites. Seafood in general doesn’t always keep, but some items do. I like to hit the lighter fish and things like lobster hard and save the potatoes, fries, or pasta for later. When I’m feeling like I will take something home. Otherwise I just kill the plate, and enjoy the time.

The drink selection is also good. They offer cocktails, mocktails, beer, wine, soda. Something for everyone. They are also pretty good on refills of most non-alcohol things. Some places get stingy when it comes to anything that isn’t soda, but the Lobster likes to keep everyone happy. The desserts are also a good section of ideas. I don’t do a lot of dessert, but I like that if I have a feeling for something they usually have a version of it. From cake to pie to different ice cream ideas. It makes for a good birthday or celebration place because you can order different sizes of some items as well so you can get a whole cake or pie if you want to do a party.

That’s what I think. Maybe you think different. 

-Kenneth Watrous
Find more about me on or follow me on twitter at @KennethWatrous