How did Rockin’ Baja Lobster get on my list for reviews? I don’t remember, frankly, but as we walked in from the parking lot, the thought that popped into my mind was “another week, another poker bar.”
We went in, got the standard pitch: “Have you ever been here before? No? Well, our specialty is … .”
Yeah, OK. Buckets. Beans and rice. Create-your-own Caesar salad bar. Whatever.
And then our server brought a container of warm flour tortillas, and chili-honey butter to spread on them. Never has a tortilla been so satisfying.
Then we hit the salad bar, which is included with most dinners. The first thing I noticed was that it was small. The second was that, yes, they had all of the components of a Caesar salad — which, since it originated in Tijuana, is sort of in keeping with the beachy-Baja theme. But then I noticed that there were some things on that little cart that were a lot more interesting, so I topped my pile of crunchy romaine with a lively, zippy black bean-corn sort of relish (or salsa cruda), some queso fresco, some of the Smokey Vinaigrette and a sprinkling of crisp multicolor tortilla shards.
And it was crystal-clear that this wasn’t just another poker bar.
Sure, we’d have a bucket, since that was indeed one of the specialties of the house; it would be the Surf ‘n’ Turf Bucket ($21.95 per person, and yes, you can order it for just one person, which is what we did) so we could try a little bit of a lot of things. Flash-fried in the shell and judiciously seasoned, the snow crab and shrimp were both fresh and perfectly cooked, the chicken breast and piece of carne asada moist and just kicky enough so that they served as counterpoint rather than redundancy.
But we’d also have to try the San Felipe-Style Fish Tacos ($9.95), which turned out to be one of the great bargains of our time. There were two tacos, each made with two soft-fried corn tortillas (tiny bit of grease here) and filled with cabbage, tomato, avocado, onion and strips of crisp-fried mahi mahi, plus a creamy taco sauce to help keep it all together, physically and figuratively.
Beans and rice were served with both (unlimited with the bucket) and were way better than average, the rice gently seasoned and mixed with corn kernels, the beans nice and moist.
We didn’t neglect the starters, of course, and the house-specialty Tequila Lime Shrimp ($9.95) deserved its billing and, with the garlic bread that comes with it, would make rather a nice main dish. A chicken quesadilla ($7.95) was a little more basic (although the blend of cheeses helped in that regard) but was anything but when dipped into the two accompanying salsas, one a fiery chipotle-spiked red, the other a cooling tomatillo-avocado.
Dessert? Out of the question. But things had been going awfully well so far, and we’d already resigned ourselves to one takeout container, so what the heck. Rocky’s Chocolate Lava Cake ($5.50) was a little unconventional — basically a warm mini-Bundt cake with some moussey stuff in the middle — but it sure was good.
So was service, throughout. The hostess seated us promptly and gave us the “we’re known for …” pitch because our waitress was otherwise engaged. She, in turn, was quick to tell us about happy hour and other important details. And she had the knack of appearing when we needed her but not when we didn’t.
No, Rockin’ Baja Lobster is not just another poker bar. Not by a long shot.
Las Vegas Review-Journal reviews are done anonymously at Review-Journal expense. Contact Heidi Knapp Rinella at 383-0474 or e-mail her at hrinella@ reviewjournal.com.what: Rockin’ Baja Lobster
where: 7020 W. Sunset Road (at Rainbow Boulevard)
pluses: Good food and service, surprising touches.
minuses: That it’s not centrally located.