Sunday, July 7, 2013 | 10:39 p.m.
Star chef Rick Moonen kept his promise and in just two months completely changed over the upper levels of his RM Seafood at Mandalay Bay. He opened Rx Boiler Room on Friday, and the transformation and unique menu is the buzz of foodies. It’s not even called a menu; ask for the nourishment chart.
“Top Chef All-Stars” cheftestant Rick has taken an entirely new look at food and how to prepare and serve it, and also made it more comfortable for customers to eat. Call it a food revolution. His restaurant is steampunk-inspired; the lounge has an industrialized 19th century Victorian Era decor.
Wait until you see the waitresses. They’re costumed in the sexiest of black-striped stockings, curvy corsets and bulging bustiers. Rick wants it to be the most fun restaurant in Las Vegas, and he’s already getting two thumbs up.
Stratosphere headliner singer Frankie Moreno was so bowled over by it at the friends and family trial night opening that he wants to sing there at the silver grand piano when he’s not working.
Rick is proudest of all of his extraordinary glass wall display of drink potions, bottles and glasses. The entrance of discarded metals that spell out the name Rx Boiler Room is a must-photograph for patrons.
Rick, who with executive chef Johnnie Church has really pushed the boundaries of changing the way familiar foods and drinks are made and consumed, told me: “The concept of fine dining is changing in Las Vegas, so my decision to reconceptualize the upstairs space is my way of being able to indulge in my geekiest food-science fantasies and be a part of the evolutionary dining on the Strip.
“As a child, I always wanted a chemistry set for my birthday, but my parents were concerned that I would blow up the house. I also always had a love for Thomas Edison, H.G. Wells and Jules Verne, so the idea of Rx Boiler Room came naturally. Redefine familiar food and pair it with cocktails that have been crafted to stimulate your palate at a good price … why not?
“In just two short months, I transformed RM Upstairs into a steampunk-inspired restaurant and lounge. With help from Cleo Design and my wife, Roni Fields-Moonen, we have created an eclectic interior that defies its new age. The first of its kind in Las Vegas, Rx Boiler Room is a nerdy, geeky, fun approach to cocktails and food and offers a creative, cutting-edge experience.”
I asked Rick to define steampunk: “The answer is the sub-genre often associated with science fiction and inspired by industrialized Western civilization during the 19th century. At Rx Boiler Room, you will find the steampunk element in its design. Featuring refurbished and industrial-style decor, such as gears, cogs, vintage gas lighting, along with an expansive glass case full of antique jars, beakers and flasks with herbs, spices and collectibles, giving the space a lab-like feel.”
Did he manage to combine menu items to have old meet new and futuristic? Said Rick: “Yes, absolutely, and it features my spin on classic comfort food. I wanted to offer guests a variety of playful creations in small- and large-plate portions, ideal for a shared dining experience. Guests can indulge in our signature dishes such as chicken pot pie nuggets; inside-out French onion grilled cheese with provolone, parmesan and gruyere; braised oxtail croquettes dijonnaise with a lemon aioli; Rx steak-n-eggs featuring wagyu beef tar tare with miso marinated yolk, capers and truffles; and my take on Spaghettios — Squideos with spicy merguez meatballs featuring a squid ink tomato sauce, calamari and garlic toast point.”
There’s guacamole served with duck-fat chips, bacon-wrapped bacon-n-egg in a brioche, citrus gravlox smoked under glass, Peking duck lettuce wraps and charred octopus kabobs. You can finish your meal with a nice platter of warm cookies and milk or a Hawaiian-styled Mahalo green-tea panna cotta.
The drink menu is paired to elevate and complement the experience with an emporium of fine spirits and innovative libations capably crafted by renowned lead barman Nathan Greene.
“Expect the unexpected here,” Rick said. “On our interactive cocktail menu, guests can enjoy a selection of specialty cocktails that utilize cutting-edge culinary techniques. Just to name a few of the highlights: Papa’s Got a Brand New Shaker, which features a summery blend of 10 Cane Rum, house-made spiced grapefruit-lime cordial, anise liqueur, tiki bitters with ginger-infused sugar-rolled grapefruit cube for garnish; and Campfire Peaches, which features a smoky combination of sombra mezcal, olmeca altos plata tequila, house-made peach-mint shrub, benedictine, The Bitter Truth Jerry Thomas Bitters, topped with Magic Hat #9 Apricot Ale in a copper mug with dehydrated peach slices rolled in crushed pistachios with a mint sprig and dusted with powdered sugar.”
Rx Boiler Room can be a casual night out with friends or an intimate dining experience in tented booths. “It’s exactly the way I envisioned it — a playful restaurant and lounge feel with an approachable menu. It’s definitely a first for Vegas, the only one of its kind here, and maybe anywhere in America.”
Rx Boiler Room and the Steampunk Lounge are open seven nights a week from 5 p.m. to 2 a.m. (dinner until 10:30 p.m.; the lounge until 2 a.m.) Put it on your must-see, must-eat an must-experience lists.
Robin Leach has been a journalist for more than 50 years and has spent the past decade giving readers the inside scoop on Las Vegas, the world’s premier platinum playground.
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