One of my favourite sayings is: "If you can't see the sea, don't order the fish." I mean, you'd think the last place you should look for great fish and seafood would be in the middle of the desert? Alas, as with many other things, Las Vegas throws all caution to the wind and not only disproves this theory but rather obliterates it. Some of the greatest fish restaurants in North America can be found up and down the famous length of Las Vegas Boulevard.
Take for example barMASA at Aria Resort and Casino where Chef Masa Takayama refuses to serve his guests any Bluefin Tuna that has been out of Japanese coastal waters for more than 24 hours before it reaches their plate. TWENTY FOUR HOURS. They don't mess around in Las Vegas. BarMASA sets the bar fairly high and many others follow suit. With this in mind choosing the top fish and seafood joints on the Las Vegas Strip is no easy task. The options are vast and varied — to choose just one would be unjust and leave out so many great choices in various categories and price ranges. I spent a week "fishing" on the strip to test out all of the greatest fish and seafood options. I've chosen my favourites in a number of categories you'll see below and also paired each with a matching drink at every stop along the way.
So, the next time you're in Las Vegas get out your rod and reel and see which of these catches is your favourite!
Best Fish & Chips - Ri Ra Irish Pub at The Shoppes at Mandalay Bay Place
I've tasted a lot of fish and chips in my day and I don't make this selection lightly. My parents are both British and I've been over to Ireland to judge a local food contest. So no ordinary fish and chips would do. I tip my cap though to Ri Ra Irish Pub. The Las Vegas location is one of about a dozen across the US. The Irish pub look and feel is pretty authentic considering it's about 8,000 kms from Las Vegas to the shores of Ireland. There is live Irish music every night of the week, and a massive selection of Irish beers, ciders and whiskeys. At Ri Ra the menu is full of fish dishes — Irish smoked salmon from Burren Smokehouse in Ireland, crab cakes, stout soaked mussels and the like. However, we're all about "the best of the strip" and Ri Ra is the place to be for authentic fish and chips.
For me, perfect fish and chips have a few basic requirements. The beerbatter needs to have a good crunch, be well seasoned and not too greasy. The fish should be sizeable and have a good fish-to-crust ratio. The French fries shouldn't have too much crunch to them. Good fish and chips have fries that are perfectly built to absorb copious amounts of malted vinegar. Not soggy but not far off.
Ri Ra's battered cod comes served with hand cut chips/fries (along with an optional order of mushy peas). The large order arrives as a massive 10-14oz serving... about the size of my forearm! For the more timid diner there is a smaller 7oz size available. Served with Irish tartar or remoulade (go with the tartar!) the dish is superbly genuine and scores an easy 10 on any fish and chips scale. The batter is incredibly crisp and the fries are authentically homemade and not too crispy. It really matched up with any order of fish and chips I've ever sat down to.
Paired drink: Murphy's Irish Stout. In most of southern Ireland they won't even mention the 'G-word.' When you order stout you order Murphy's from Cork. In Ireland you will absolutely be judged by your Guinness VS Murphy's allegiance. Grab a pint at Ri Ra to help wash down this fabulous meal.
Best Sushi - Shibuya at MGM Grand Hotel & Casino
There are so many options for sushi in Las Vegas that it can be dizzying at times. Sushi options range from incredibly high-end and authentic sushi, to all-you-can-eat bargain sushi that maybe shouldn't be eaten at all. Las Vegas runs the gambit. Shibuya at MGM Grand has a menu full of delicious options that spin an American take on a Japanese menu. It's the sushi that really steals the show though. Master Sushi Chef Yoshinori Nakazawa has been perfecting his art since he was 18 years old in Tokyo.
When you first enter this stylish restaurant the first thing you will notice is the gentle smell of fresh flowers (lilies perhaps?) and a wall of sushi chefs hard at work on diners' orders. For a real treat let your waiter know any likes or dislikes you have and allow the sushi chefs to deliver some of the most delicious and beautifully prepared sushi and sashimi to your table. The sushi arrives supremely fresh and delicate — Chef Nakazawa doesn't go overboard with sauces and massive rolls the way many sushi restaurants will try to grab your attention. Here the fish is the star of the show. Simple, subtle, perfection. The way sushi should be. If rolls are your thing be sure not to miss their signature Shibuya Roll — soft shell crab and jalapeño inside topped with spicy albacore, ponzu, and scallions. Every piece of sushi and sashimi arrives perfectly presented and sized to be a single mouthful of excellence.
Paired drink: Shibuya boasts a massive Sake menu with over 125 varieties to choose from. Try the well balanced Wakatake Junmai Daiginjo. Very clean and smooth with a healthy 16.5% alcohol content that will keep you smiling nearly as much as the delicious sushi will.
Best Fish Tacos - T&T (Tacos & Tequila), Luxor
A lot of bars will throw fish tacos on their menu as an easy way to feed the masses. Few take theirs as seriously as T&T. Found upstairs from the main lobby in Luxor this casual, fun restaurant / bar is a great place to grab a quick bite. They offer a number of margaritas (both authentic and new-age concoctions) and nearly 100 types of tequila. A mariachi band can often be found roaming the floor entertaining guests with impromptu songs.
T&T's menu is chock full of tacos, fajitas, enchiladas, and burritos — an impressive selection of Mexican offerings for hungry visitors but it's the fish tacos that brought me here and it's the fish tacos that would bring me back. Three soft tacos arrive stuffed with Mexican beer battered tilapia and chipotle slaw. A side of refried beans and rice round out the dish nicely but it's all about those delicious tacos. Delicate, well seasoned crispy batter gives way to the delicious fish with every bite . Any heaviness of the fried fish is countered by the jicama slaw and lime. I'd suggest trying it with T&T's own Hot Ass Habanero sauce.
Paired drink: Pomegranate Acai Margarita — a lime and berry margarita with Herradura Blanco tequila, agave nectar and lime on the rocks. You can pretend you're drinking it for the antioxidants but darn it, it's just plain tasty!
Best Seafood Platter - Sensi, Bellagio
As you walk past the Bellagio Hotel and Casino front desk it's easy to be taken away by the stunning conservatory and botanical gardens. But don't miss the other treat just around the corner from the stunning display of flora and fauna. Here lies Sensi, a restaurant that overwhelms the senses at every turn. The cooking takes place at various cooking stations in full display of diners. The elegant bar and restaurant is perfectly tuned with eye-catching blue tones, gently babbling fountains and tasteful decor. The aroma of fresh herbs and spices grabs your attention the moment you sit down until you are distracted by the fresh naan bread brought to your table with chutney and cucumber yogurt. The vibe is relaxed allowing the food to really steal the show. The appetizer seafood platter is an absolute must. A daily selection of fresh shellfish and sauces on ice arrives in a beautiful arrangement that reminded me of trip to eastern Canada. Only serving the freshest seafood they can get their hands on, and focusing on sustainable and naturally grown produce, this is a stop that shouldn't be missed!
Paired drink: Obey Your Elder — Grey Goose la Poire Vodka, lavender bitters, fresh lemon and lime. Refreshing, not too sweet, a perfect palette cleanser between tasty mouthfuls.
Best Fish Sandwich - Emeril's New Orleans Fish House, MGM Grand
If you are going to put fish in a giant roll and take the 'Best Of' title you'd better have enough zing in there to capture a little attention. Emeril Lagasse has made a career of adding that extra zip of seasoning and his cornmeal dusted catfish po' boy sandwich at Emeril's New Orleans Fish Hosue does not disappoint. In case the crunchy cornmeal batter doesn't win you over your tastebuds will be tantalized by the jalapeno tartar sauce, apple-cider coleslaw and vine ripened tomatoes. All served with a healthy portion of Creole-spiced hand-cut French fries. The sandwich is a study in harmonious balance between textures and flavours. Just spot on from start to finish. The apple slaw being the quintessential balance to the flavourful fried fish.
Emeril's Fish House is casual but trendy. Giant copper fish statues seem to leap from the floor at the entranceway. The atmosphere is fairly typical for a signature celebrity chef restaurant but this one sports a great New Orleans themed menu.
Paired drink: New Orleans Nectar. The bartender will happily fix you one of Emeril's classic cocktails: Light rum, coconut rum, Midori, orange and pineapple juices with a splash of grenadine and lastly topped with a slice of orange and a maraschino cherry. A perfectly refreshing way to wash down those tasty N'Oleans fries.
Best Whole Fish - Rice & Company, Luxor
A hidden gem nestled in towards the back of the Luxor pyramid near the pathway to Mandalay Bay is Rice & Company. The restaurant is esthetically delightful with an eye-pleasing combination of colours, shapes and lighting. The food doesn't disappoint either. The flavours are all adventurous and even classic dishes are challenged with sparks of modern sauces, tropical flavours and flare. The dishes are varied with a combination of Japanese and Chinese origin but all share a common Rice & Company twist to them. Even the sushi menu is amp'ed up so much that each roll is listed in the menu with a dizzying combination of inside-the-roll, outside-the-roll, and sauce combinations.
The highlight though is definitely the Chef’s Selection of Crispy Whole Fish. The fish is partially deboned and prepared with a Hunan black bean sauce. The whole thing arrives served in an egg noodle nest and served atop the rest of the stunning whole deep-fried fish. Note to diners: you will get a LOT of jealous looks from other diners who were not wise enough to order this treat. The fish is soft and tender, the sauce delightfully sweet, spicy and salty with each mouthful. Marvelous.
Paired drink: The Pure Dusk Sake (Junmai Daiginjo) perfectly balances on the edge of dryness with notes of fresh fruit. It's an awesome pairing to go along with the strong flavours of the Hunan sauce on the fish.
Best Las Vegas Oversized Seafood- Steakhouse at Camelot, Excalibur
From the fountains, to the hotels, and the casinos — everything in Las Vegas screams "Bigger is better!" This extends to the dining scene where restaurants advertise the "biggest steak," the "largest buffet" and the like. No trip to Las Vegas would be complete without a stop for an oversized helping of some dish or another. In the seafood department there is nowhere better to turn than The Steakhouse at Camelot, in Excalibur. The restaurant makes no apologies and does not try to dress itself as a high-end steakhouse. It is a classic Las Vegas casino steakhouse with all of the comforts and coziness that goes with plush booths and candle lit tables. Ironically located an arm's throw from the casino food court that boasts a pretzel shop, fast food Chinese food and a burger shop. Once inside though you'll quickly forget about the interesting neighbouring food joints and get lost in the charm of this classic casino steakhouse.
While steak is certainly the most popular dish at Camelot it's the King Crab Legs that are worth the visit alone. The massive crab legs arrive weighing in at an impressive 1lb and can certainly be shared among a group. Served split and steamed with drawn butter it's everything Las Vegas is about. Bigger, bigger, better. The restaurant is certainly more casual than other steakhouses along the strip if you want to wear jeans or are on a budget.
Paired drink: While a cabernet is not generally paired up with seafood I'm going to recommend the Cabernet Louis Martin, Napa, 2007. These massive crab legs with heated butter serve up more like a steak than anything else.