Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Monday, June 27, 2016

Hot n Juicy Crawfish

Hi, I’m Kenneth Watrous. I’m writing about seafood places in Las Vegas, and the opinions here are only mine.

Last month, we went to Mastro’s. This month, we’re writing about Hot n Juicy Crawfish.

Hot n Juicy Crawfish is a Louisiana style seafood place that offers the best in by the pound and fried foods. The restaurants, two in the Vegas area, are brick and mortar buildings with low frills on the decorations. They feature plastic table coverings and suggest bibs and an eat-with-your-hands style of meals. Most of the food is Cajun or Creole inspired and more than a little spicy, but they have some milder items on the menu for the timid and the weak (just kidding).

When you are looking for something authentic from the gulf area, this is the place. Everything is spicy and saucy and all the regional flavors of Louisiana are done justice without being forced. They offer a variety of spice levels and the levels are pretty accurate. I’ve had no complaints from friends that are a bit squeamish asking for a particular level of spice and getting something they couldn’t handle.

Lunch features a selection of Po’Boy sandwiches, a type of open bun sandwich with fried ingredients in. It is hard to say if the soft shell crab or the crawfish are better, but both are really good served on a bed of greens and tomatoes with a sauce and a bucket of fries on the side. The Po’Boy can be difficult to eat for a first timer, they tend to be eaten like a hot dog but with loose filling it can be difficult to keep it turned the right way and not lose everything out of the middle. Which is a shame, if you do spill it, the combination of flavors is the point and you miss out on that if you end up trying to eat it with a fork.

The fried baskets are the next evolution of the open Po’Boy and a good place to go for those with a lighter sensibility on spice. They are served on Cajun fries or sweet potato fries and are rich and salty. They also are served with a variety of sauces to match tastes.

The best of show for Hot n Juicy is the ‘Get Your Feet Wet’ combo. This is a huge portion of crawfish, shrimp, and Andouille sausage with corn and potatoes. They even offer a kicked up version with crab and calamari for the big eaters. These bad boys can take a lot of fortitude to get through as the heat builds ans you go and they are not easy to eat around. You are going to get messy pulling apart the shells and sucking out the well-flavored meat inside. The full meal can contain up to 5 whole pounds of food.
Speaking of pounds of food, Hot n Spicy, offers a whole set of by the pound meals. They have some seasonal dishes as well as some always ons like shrimp and clams. These are often served fried up in a bag and spread out on the table. These are cooked up pretty fast and can be a great way to get started and keeping adding as you need.
Hot n Spicy Crawfish is a great place to go after work and on a lunch break. A couple of people can order up different stuff and everyone can just go to town on the variety of items. The prices are fairly close together on most items, but you can always do a one ticket split.
This is a great family joint as well with enough kids favorites like chicken strips and cheese sticks. Since everyone is already eating with their hands, it is also a great place to take messy eaters, no need to feel embarrassed that you have the only kid covered head to toe in crumbs and sauce, everyone looks like that.

Assuming you aren’t bloated and sweaty in the best flavors of your life, the end of the meal can be finished up with some beignet style fried brownies. Crispy brown with a molten chocolate center and covered with a layer of powdered sugar, these things will cool you right back down.

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

Tuesday, April 19, 2016


Hi, I’m Kenneth Watrous. I’m writing about seafood places in Las Vegas, and the opinions here are only mine.

Last month, we went to Joe’s. This month, we’re writing about Mastro’s.

Mastro’s is one of those places that elevates dining into the older days. It has a feel of a place from the 60’s before all of the chains made even private and mom and pop places have a certain similar feel to them. The décor is broad with a combination of blue and white and blue and gold themes. The grand chandeliers are where I see most of the older feel, they really add something to the place. So do the wood-worked layers seen throughout. They are sort of structural and sort of like sculpture. They are pretty nice. The best pat is called The Tree House and is surrounded by the wood structures and looks out on the rest of the shopping center. The staff is efficient, given the size and number of seats through the place. The wait times are on the long side of what I like, but the food is worth it and the kitchen certainly handles a lot while also handling a large volume.
This is one of the few places that I go that has sushi offerings in addition to more coastal seafoods. Sushi restaurants are usually their own thing and the competition leaves little reason to offer it in other places, but Mastor’s does a few change ups and rolls that reflect their own style. The Hamachi is my recommendation here. It is thin sliced and topped with green onions. It has a lot more of a traditional fish flavor and less of the Japanese styling to it.
The appetizers offer a solid cross section of the rest of the menu and can be seen as a trial menu. The vanilla battered shrimp is practically a desert, but can make for a good starter with its light and bright flavor that gets you ready for heavier stuff to come.
Mastro’s also does the steak house line up with a good set of meats including lamb, beef, chicken, and tuna steaks. When it gets into the seafood this is a place that celebrates more fish over crustacean. They have fine lobster and crab dishes, but they really excel at having a wider variety of fish than most places. Offerings include tuna, bass, salmon, char, snapper, sole, and even swordfish. If you are looking for a taste of seafood that is heavy on the sea and not on the flavors of the coast, this is really the place. There is a depth to the flavors that gives each its due. It isn’t just a different piece of fish with the same toppings, seasonings and sides. Each is dressed up special to enhance the flavor and to also reflect the regions that are best known for catching and supplying each of the central ingredients.
Speaking of sides, Mastro’s doesn’t just offer filler sides, each of the sides is a meal itself. There are some regional flavors reflected here, especially in the selection of potatoes which has everything from a baked to a scalloped. They have cheese infused, lobster flavored, some sweet potato alternatives and the like. Picking a different potato or vegetable to go with a meal can really change up the experience and offers an interesting mix-and-match style. The waitstaff is excellent here in explaining what textures to expect and which things will go well. They will also steer you away from a few of the combinations that are either redundant or will clash too much.
The desert options are all rich and give that same sense of all over the world appeal. Options in the ice cream even aren’t just ice cream but gelato and sorbet. Most of it is in the option of either hot or cold desert, with a few that offer both. The deserts are also the kind of thing that adds to the whole experience. I suggest doing the full 5 course experience at Mastro’s. It takes some fortitude and planning to be ready for that much food, but the large selection and knowledgeable staff will help design a meal that is as much an adventure and experience as it is food.

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

Friday, March 11, 2016


Hi, I’m Kenneth Watrous. I’m writing about seafood places in Las Vegas, and the opinions here are only mine.

Last month, we went to Aquaknox. This month, we’re writing about Joe’s (not to be confused with Joe’s Crab Shack).

Simply called Joe’s, but named after the original Joe’s Stone Crab, the place is a mixed fine dining seafood restaurant. This one is located inside Caesars Pavilion and Forum shops and has a large selection of dinner types. They offer a different selection of options for lunch and dinner and even have a carry out menu. This is as much known for their fine quality steaks as the crab and seafood. The location is usually pretty busy, but the wait times, while a little long on some items, show the care that comes into making some of the dishes.
For as upscale as the place is, it is still children friendly. They offer a kids selection of options and some worksheets. They even have a kids club where they offer new games over time and get input from the customers on what to offer. This is a good step from a place that could just as easily not bother.
The locations is a working man’s posh with subdued lighting and a lot of wood paneling. The tables have tablecloths and cloth napkins and so on. The wait staff is prompt and does a good job of describing the differences between some of the places more confusing items. They offer three different locations worth of oysters and the staff does a fine job of explaining what to expect from each location. They also work well explaining the different cuts of steak and what to expect from the texture and flavor profiles. They have a fairly consistent, non-seasonal menu, but it is deep and they have to really know a lot to keep all of the flavors and the wine and cocktail pairing straight.
The food is a combination of steak and seafood with a few other options like lamb and chicken tossed in. They also do some quicker style bar food like mahi tacos and even a cheeseburger. I’m usually interested in only one thing when I hit the town for a restaurant experience, but they work hard to really offer something for everyone, which you don’t always see in an upscale place. The combination is often called surf and turf, but I think that isn’t quite right. They really offer both in such quantity that it isn’t an AND it is much more of a BOTH.
The stone crab is the signature draw for the place. Stone crab is served in a bucket and takes some skill to crack and draw out. Stone crab is all about the claw meat and not legs or soft shell meat that can be made into cakes and the such. Stone crab has a clean flavor and is surprisingly one of the more sustainable crab concoctions.
Their fish offerings reflect a solid selection of favorites, halibut, bass, and salmon. They also have a tuna steak with a lot of character. These are all done up with matched sides and are pulled in fresh each day.
This is also a place I will go for a steak because they take a lot of time and have some pretty good options. Their marinated skirt steak with lime butter is something else, certainly. They also do some lobster and other crab products as well as shrimp. All of these are fresh and big portions with a lot of care to make classic flavors. Joe’s is the place to go with an early seafood enthusiast. The flavors show a range of ideas from the east and west coasts but they are simple and classic. Nothing too complicated so that the food speaks for itself without the need to be dressed up a lot.
In their lunch options the dry aged dip which is a shaved rib eye with seasoning puts most hot beef sandwiches to shame. The meat is so tender and piled high. They also do up a tenderloin sandwich that takes a serious commitment to get through, it feels heavy but tastes so worth it.

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

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Looking for suggestions

If there's a place that you've tried and it just knocked your socks off, let me know in the comments below. I'm always looking for a new place to try.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016


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 Chart House. We took December off, so this month, it’s Aquaknox.

One of the great high-end places to dine in Vegas is Aquaknox. This is one of those signature places that acts as a draw for one of the casino/hotels, this one is inside the Venetian. Now I say, dine, for a place like this because it is a lot about the experience and the prices make you enjoy the food a bit more. Unlike some other places this is about checking out what can be done with high quality ingredients and a lot of time and dedication to designing flavors. If you are interested in getting a lot of food and hanging out after work, check out some of my other reviews of local spots.
This is a sit-down and reservation kind of place, but it you check in early it isn’t normally more than a day kind of wait, none of that three week in advance stuff. The décor is elegant, and I don’t normally use that word. But this place is. It has recessed lighting, large tables and silver booths. The bar area has ice and fountain decorations that are lighted from the inside. There is a real ambient quality to the place that makes it feel more than special.
There are two bar areas. One is the drinks bar where you can lounge with other up and comers and enjoy a signature cocktail or a pricey wines and bears. They also feature a collection of Absinthe, which is unique. Not my kind of thing, but it is worth mentioning just for the novelty quality. Though I have considered the rootbeer float they make with it, one of those things you can mention later in life to the right kind of people. The other bar is the raw bar. This is a place to get ready in a minute style seafood like shrimp, oysters, and mussels. The items are fresh and usually raw or semi-raw (always hard to tell with ceviche) but are assembled on order and not fully ready just when you walk up. This is a great setting for a meet up before a show at the hotel or an after hours cool down.
The menu itself is top-notch with some exciting flavors and some prices to prove they aren’t joking. Items such as foie gras, cavier selections, and $60 steaks show that they aren’t just cooking whatever. These are also not dishes made in advance and dished out over the day, these are hand-selected kinds of items that are worth really considering each bite.
The flavors come from a variety of different locations and feature a combination of authentic and fusion flavors. While something like the Ora Salmon is pretty much a Japanese dish, the house fish soup is a fusion of different sea-foods and flavors from the Mediterranean and Maine. The halibut is my favorite as it is pretty simple and naked with a great bed of vegetables that it rests on top of. I’m also a fan of the plateau from the raw bar, this is a kind of heap of different foods and is about the only dish offered with a combination of seafoods and not a single dedication to flavor. It isn’t a sampler so much as it is a type of miniature tasting menu of its own. It is heaped with prawns, mussels, crab, and oysters.
The deserts include a cheese plate of soft and semi-soft selections. This can be a good choice after the richness of the food and isn’t so much a desert as a way to kind of come down from the rest of the experience.
Overall the experience you can get at Aquaknox is really high class and a bit indulgent. Everything they do they do well and the staff is helpful without being pushy. I also like that they work with you and are not rushed. At the same time, the staff is also not at the table every minute asking follow ups, so it is my ideal type of service.

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

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