Oyster Bar at Hard Rock Hotel & Casino
Fresh and Hot Salt and Vinegar Chips
Calamari “Fries” – Sriracha Aioli, Housemade Unagi Sauce, Crushed Peanuts, Chives
Belon Oysters with Cocktail Sauce, Lemon, Mignonette
Lobster Roll – Maine Lobster, Butter, Housemade Toasted Roll, More Butter with Hand Cut Steak Fries
Classic Pan Roast with Rice – Loup de Mer, Lobster, Mexican White Shrimp, Blue Crab
Shrimp and Grits – New Orleans Style BBQ Shrimp, Sharp Cheddar and Andouille Sausage Grits
Poblano Corn Chowder – Charred Corn, Potatoes, Garlic Oil
Linguini with Clams – Garlic, White Wine, House Made Pasta, Crushed Red Chile
Promptly shuttering his critically praised Glutton just a few months back, the lack of DTLV foot traffic and support claiming yet another business as nothing but bars, Eat. and Carson Kitchen can seem to survive the lack of nearby residents and a tourist population that is there only for the neon canopy and ‘cheap’ booze, it was not long before Bradley Manchester landed a job heading up the rejuvenation of Hard Rock Hotel & Casino, the rumors of its pending acquisition by Frank Fertitta and the Station Casinos Group seeming all the more likely as one of the first things to debut was the Oyster Bar just off the gaming floor.
Originally concepted by Marcus O’Brien and Derek Litzinger, their relocation to a local country club likely to also yield some great food in the near future, Oyster Bar at Hard Rock Hotel & Casino features the same circumferential design as those at Palace Station and elsewhere, but elongated and with more polish, the team led by Manchester and two Sous plus a busy Cocktail Waitress working in plain sight from a menu that includes all the Raw Bar Standards and Pan Roasts, plus several twists on Seafood based classics.
Greeted by Chef Manchester on arrival, his mood upbeat and description of things to come – including the nearby Steakhouse concept from Morton’s – explained with great excitement, those who have not been to the casino on Paradise recently may want to stop by soon in order to witness a more open floorplan that the Chef expects to evolve further in the coming weeks and months, the former Fuel Coffee Bar now a neon-lit Dunkin Donuts soon to be joined by a Mediterranean restaurant where 35 Steaks + Martini’s resides while Pink Taco is also soon due for a menu reboot and exterior facelift.
Proudly discussing the resources available at such a large property for sourcing, the vast majority of Oyster Bar’s Seafood flown in daily, it was after a bit more chat that Manchester sprung to work with what was essentially carte blanche, the complimentary fresh-fried Salt and Vinegar Chips thin and nicely seasoned while Calamari “Fries” featured the Cephalopod sliced into strips and gently battered beneath thickened Soy and ground Peanuts, the light application of Sriracha adding a bit of heat that made the whole dish seem like something inspired by Thai cooking.
Offering six Belon Oysters on ice next, the meaty Bivalves described as “The Rolls-Royce of Oysters” living up to their billing with a coppery edge that dissipates with a bit of sweetness, Oyster Bar’s Lobster Roll passes up on all the Mayonnaise nonsense to put nearly a pound of Butter-poached Crustacean on a housemade Roll with handcut Fries plus a variety of Vinegars and Hot Sauces, the $22 choice a better value than many found during peak season in the Northeast and easily the best tasted to date in Las Vegas.
At this point a local legend thanks to tourists up-all-night at Palace Station, it only seemed appropriate to next give the Hard Rock’s Pan Roast a taste, Manchester and his team holding nothing back with an “All In” version featuring filleted Loup de Mer, a full Lobster, several White Shrimp plus Blue Crab in a piquant orange broth that, like the Shrimp and Cheesy Andouille Grits to follow, was not only flavorful and cooked perfectly, but more than enough to share.
Requesting a cup of the Poblano Corn Chowder based on personal taste, the use of lightly charred Kernels amidst the creamy base fortified by Potatoes and brightened by Garlic Oil, those looking for something a little more fancy would do well to request an order of Manchester’s classic Linguini with Clams, the fresh noodles made on-site in the pastry shop cooked with a nice tooth amidst so much sliced Garlic and White wine that Vampires and significant others may be warded off, but well worth it thanks to both the just-cooked Clams on top and the copious amount of Bellies and Adductor Muscles found in the Sauce.
FOUR AND A HALF STARS: Located near the doors and proper ventilation, the gaming floor’s smoke imperceptible from any of the high-backed, comfortable seats, Oyster Bar at Hard Rock Hotel & Casino sees one of Sin City’s most well-liked Chef back in the spotlight with a smile on his face and big plans for the future while cooking up classics plus a few inspired additions at a price that is not only affordable, but essentially a bargain considering the portions and ingredient quality.
RECOMMENDED: Lobster Roll, Shrimp and Grits, All-In Pan Roast, Linguini and Clams.
AVOID: No desserts. An oversight that could easily be remedied by a Pie or two considering the in-house pastry department that is already making them for Mr. Lucky’s. 11a daily, closes at 10:00pm Sun-Thu and 2:00am on Fri-Sat.
TIP: Seating is first come, first serve and even now there is likely to be a wait during peak hours.
WHAT THE STARS MEAN: 5 World Class, 4 Excellent, 3 Good, 2 Fair, 1 Poor.