Conventional wisdom once warned against eating oysters in months without an “R” in their names. But used-to-bes don’t count anymore, as the song says, and the bivalves served on the half-shell at the Oyster Bar at the Hard Rock Hotel in June proved it.
The Oyster Bar opened in February near the even newer MB Steak at the Hard Rock, where former Glutton chef Bradley Manchester is executive chef. It’s a minimalist place that hews to the tradition of its forbears, just 16 seats around a U-shaped counter in a space with a chalkboard-and-stainless-steel decor motif.
Although the “R” advice seems silly on its surface, it made sense when you realized May through August are the hottest months in the Northern Hemisphere. Transportation wasn’t always as sophisticated as it is now, and cross-hemisphere shipping — along with the development of seafood farming — allow for year-round enjoyment. Oysters also spawn in the summer, meaning the supply gets a little thin when they’re concentrating on trivial matters like survival of the species.
Oysters have been farmed for a number of years on Prince Edward Island in eastern Canada, one of three East and West coast sources of the fresh mollusks at the Hard Rock’s Oyster Bar recently. The half-dozen ($16), shucked by a cook just feet away, were impressively plump, fresh to the point of being almost crunchy and blessed with the briny kiss of the sea. They were served with mignonette, the shallot-and-vinegar mixture that provided a light but effective flavor counterpoint, plus cocktail sauce and a cup of horseradish.
Pan roasts have become an oyster bar standard, and the Hard Rock excelled here as well. A shrimp pan roast ($19; crab, lobster and “all-in” options also available) came in a deep bowl with five medium-large, firm and sweet shrimp, in a bath that side-stepped the cloying intensity of many of its kind with a deft balance of tomato and cream. The brothlike liquid gained substance from steamed white rice served separately.
Linguine and clams ($19) is commonplace in Southern Nevada, but not like this. The obviously house-made linguine was a worthy foundation for the succulent littlenecks, augmented by a generous amount of chopped clams and all of it drenched in a buttery white-wine sauce with enough garlic to complement the clams without overwhelming them.
And a lagniappe, brought early: Thick, oversized house-made potato chips with a salt-and-vinegar coating. They tasted of brine, further evoking a beachside experience.
There’s no ocean breeze or sound of waves slapping the shore, but with the Oyster Bar’s fresh seafood, it’s easy to dream of seaside summers.
Las Vegas Review-Journal restaurant reviews are done anonymously at Review-Journal expense. Contact Heidi Knapp Rinella at Hrinella@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0474. Follow @HKRinella on Twitter.
Oyster Bar, Hard Rock Hotel; 702-693-5000
The essence: The essence of the sea, right here in Las Vegas.