On one hand, I'm pretty ecstatic about the amount of food embedded within current pop culture and a big piece to that puzzle is due to the rise of the 'celebrity chef.' Think Iron Chef. Diners, Drive-Ins & Dives. Bourdain. But on the other hand, I'm sick of the general use of the term 'celebrity chef' towards any chef that has had a noteworthy experience across any media platform. Yes, it's really cool that you served a meal to the Royal Family of the United Kingdom. And yes, congratulations on getting to the second round of Chopped that one time. But should anyone (including your publicist) really be adding the moniker celebrity to your name and title? Not so sure.
The reason for my prefacing soliloquy (get to the news!) is because it's somewhat rare that our team comes across a menu that is noteworthy for more than a few items. And it's even more rare for us to schedule a 'celebrity' chef interview and actually like the footage that came out of it. Our conversation with Chef Rick Moonen and the corresponding meal that followed at RX Boiler Room at the Mandalay Bay did both. If you, the reader, even made it this far in the written editorial without immediately scrolling to the food pictures - you're about to come across Chicken Pot Pie Nuggets, Buffalo Fried Oysters, Bacon-Wrapped-Bacon and Squid SpaghettiOs to name a few.
The restaurant itself is themed with a Steampunk design. For those of you unfamiliar, think of the time with steam machinery and how people of the period would build futuristic objects. Think Hugo, or that semi-awful, semi-awesome Will Smith movie, Wild Wild West. RX Boiler Room apparently isn't the first steampunk restaurant since we've found pretty impressive displays in India and Poland. But it is the first we've seen in the US.
Part of the reason Moonen rose as our favorite chef in Las Vegas was because he sat, ate and drank with us. For almost 3 hours. Rarely do we get the opportunity to sit down with a chef for more than 15 minutes before/after a meal. The result? An evolving conversation across ranging topics versus the rapid fire Q&A that can often be stale, rushed or jammed with brand messaging. Will I just shut up and get to the food already?
Chicken Pot Pie Nuggets
Make a killer pot pie filling with classic peas and carrots. Pour that into small molds to be frozen. Panko coat and fry them up. Holy shit, is this real life?
Corporate Menus and packaged food items are still treating bacon like it's the next big thing. And they're not exactly wrong. How do you make it better? By wrapping bacon around pork belly of course. If we are gonna perform [bacon] inception than we need imagination.
Good news for us, Ms. Moonen has a gluten allergy! Well wait, we don't mean to celebrate the fact that Moonen's wife can't eat his delicious pastas or pizzas (or do we?!). But because he has to constantly create meals at home without that dreaded bread/dough protein, he concocted SpagehttiOs made of out squid and used squid ink for the sauce. Served with N. African based Merguez meatballs.
In case you haven't noticed. Rick Moonen doesn't give a fuck. You think buffalo sauce and oysters should never be paired together? Come get some. Literally, he would love you to come get some. Texas Pete hot sauce, blue cheese on oysters hilled on the half shell.
Mac + Cheese x Five
Why have Mac and Cheese, when you can have Mac and CheeseCheeseCheeseCheeseCheese? Blue, Parmesan, Brie, Cheddar and Blanc all make an appeaerance.
Kampachi Tartare Tacos in Taro Root Shells
Taro and Ube are increasingly becoming more popular in savory and sweet dishes alike. Since Moonen's flagship restaurant in the Mandalay Bay, RM Sseafood, is based around sustainable and delicious oceanic fare - these tacos are no joke.
Pan-Fried Game Hen
Chef Moonen was hungry after watching us eat and describing a dozen of entrees. Good thing it's his kitchen. His preference? The pan-fried game hen. Enhanced with a citrus pepper maple glaze and typically served with waffles.
Lamb Osso Buco Greek Style
And just when you thought this restaurant could have any less of a theme, enter stage left, the Greek Osso Buco. Served with Toasted Orzo, Gremolata and Ricotta Salata Cheese.
"So I'm looking up Tiramisu recipes, and they're all bullshit. Every single one of them. I'm like, I can make this better. So I put in fresh vanilla beans, that's not in any tiramisu recipe [. . .] I'm not making fun of it, I just take it, tweak it, do what I want with it." -Chef Moonen
Lead barman Eric Smith took us on a roller coaster ride of great cocktails. When the lighting was just right, you could actually see the excitement excreting from his pores and in every hanging word. Nini Franco Prosecco. Goji Berry Liqueur. Old Fashioned Fee's Bitters. All combined with Bombay Sapphire Gin, Aperol, All Spice Syrup, Lemon/Lime Juice and Cayenne Pepper.
Smoked Whisky & Cola
Without a doubt, this is the best whisky and mixer drink we've ever had. Could be due to the fact that this drink has house made cola syrup, bittercube cherrybark vanilla bitters, fever tree soda water and smokey cherrywood chips. I'm glad you know what all this means.
RX Cerveza Paloma
Just in case you have an 11 ingredient minimum when ordering a cocktail, you're in luck. Avion Silver Tequila, Stiegl Grapefruit Radler, Pink Grapefruit, Honey/Gomme Syrup, Domaine de Canton, Lemon/Lime Juice, Grapefruit Juice, Aperol, Campari, Peychauds Bitters and Mint.