MGM Grand: Seablue with Michael Mina
Guest Post from Susan Brady
Seablue at the MGM Grand is the newest addition to Executive Chef Michael Mina’s line of excellent restaurants. Having enjoyed eating at his NobHill restaurant (also in the MGM Grand) twice last year, I was looking forward to his new venture and was not disappointed. I was able to make reservations easily online, three weeks before our visit. This is a wise choice, as the restaurant was booked and those who walked up without reservations had quite a wait.
The space, at the far end of the hotel, out of range of the casino, is large, open and airy. Decorated in various art mediums to represent the water, it is pleasing to the eye. From blue- and green-hued tiles behind the shellfish and salad stations, to the walls of water, to the large canvases bearing bold swaths of color, there is always something to remind you of the sea. The noise level in this space is at the upper reaches of my tolerance, however. The music tends to be somewhat techno oriented and is at a louder level than is necessary. The servers need to lean in close to relay specialties or explain the menu, and the clientele seems to be a chatty bunch, trying to talk over the music. The open kitchen, salad station and shellfish prep area also contribute to the decibel level, making for an overall louder-than-is-pleasing atmosphere.
The menu is Mediterranean-inspired, with an emphasis on freshness and choice. There are six sections to the menu. Rotating each day are the shellfish selections. Oysters and assorted crustaceans and mollusks are flown in daily and priced by the piece or by the pound. On our visit there were eight types of oysters, all from either Washington, Alaska or Canada. The daily list also offered king crab, Gulf prawns, scallops in the shell, littleneck clams, half a lobster tail, and Rocka-fella oysters. We were within eye shot of the shellfish prep station, and it was clear that staff was having a run on the oysters and king crab.
The second section is a unique feature that I have not seen at a high-end restaurant. It is a “Create Your Own Salad” section, which, for $13.00, allows you to choose up to ten items to put on your salad. To make ordering easier, pencils are supplied on each table so that you can mark your menu for the waitstaff. We had 28 items to choose from, including greens, vegetables, nuts, seeds and croutons, cheeses and proteins. Four dressings are available to complete the salad. While the selection is impressive and the ingredients fresh, the size of the salad was smaller than I had imagined. The taste was wonderful however, and we were easily able to finish our salad, leaving nary a nut left on the plate.
The big draw, in my humble opinion, is the appetizer portion of the menu. There are eight sections, each devoted to a different type of appetizer with three menu choices, and featuring a small plate style tasting of all three. There is raw, marinated, kebab, steamed, fried, and soup. Individual prices vary from $8.00-$18.00, with tasting plates ranging from $17.00-$25.00. Not being able to get past this page was our downfall, but we were able to taste a multitude of food by ordering extensively. My husband, the sushi and sashimi lover, chose the raw tasting plate with ahi tuna poke, limukoho seaweed and shrimp chips, salmon with crispy ginger and green apple consomme, and yellowtail jack with spicy shitake mushrooms and ponzu. The tuna was especially tasty and paired well with the shrimp chips. I chose the fried tasting plate consisting of lobster corndogs, cumin shrimp with avocado-lime puree and fish and chips. The lobster corndogs were a taste treat, dipped in whole grain mustard, but my favorite was the fish and chips, minced fish wrapped up in a crispy wrapper approximating the size of an unfiltered cigarette. I could have noshed all night. We also ordered the marinated tasting plate. This trio consisted of Nantucket Bay scallop cerviche, octopus with spicy cucumber and black bean vinaigrette, and swordfish carpaccio. The swordfish, served with preserved pumpkin and micro arugula, was a refreshing finish to our trio of sampler plates.
There are three main meal sections to the menu. The jet fresh market fish is flown in daily and done on Seablue’s woodburning grill. All fish are caught in the wild and served whole. Available were black grouper from Florida, loupo de mer from the Mediterranean, tai Snapper from New Zealand, barramundi from Australia and touget from Madagascar. Prices range from $29.00-$42.00. The barramundi was popular and sold out by 8:00 p.m. As limited quantities are available, get there early to be able to have a full range of choices.
Also prepared on the mesquite woodburning grill are steaks and assorted seafood. New York strip, Kobe flatiron or ribeye, Berkshire pork loin, free range chicken, swordfish, tuna, scallops, salmon and lobster tail were available the evening we were visiting. Several specials are also available each day. Prices range from $26.00-$70.00.
Mediterranean influence lends a hand to the last section of the menu: Tagines. These Moroccan clay pots are sized for individual portions. Available are Seablue’s version of paella which included quail, fruits of the sea and a spicy choirzo broth prosciutto-wrapped Chilean sea Bass served barbecue style with white beans and roasted root vegetables and North Sea cod with an almond crust, beluga lentils and Meyer lemon-grapefruit jus. The portions are hearty and well priced at $32.00-$42.00.
Last, and by no means least, is my favorite and adored part of any repast: the dessert. Requiring a separate menu, five pages are devoted to desserts, dessert wines, brandy, bourbon, single malt, cordials, specialty beers and artisanal teas. Desserts, at $11.00, are unique and full of flavor. The house specialty is a chocolate banana mousse bombe with a caramelized banana rum sauce. This rich dessert starts with a thin layer resembling a peanut butter rice crispy treat, topped with banana mousse and robed in dark chocolate. The sauce, resembling that of bananas foster, was a nice addition. The neighboring table ordered the apple tasting, consisting of a pink lady tarate tatin, poached apple cider-wine granita and green apple sorbet napoleon. This was a good palate cleanser and light dessert option. But the best dessert we tasted, by and far, was the lemon pudding cake with creamsicle float. I actually scared my husband with the somewhat-orgasmic noises I made upon sampling the cake. The intensity of the lemon flavor underlying the cake sent my taste buds to heaven and upon finishing every last bite of cake and float, could not have ended our meal on a better note.
Overall, the quality of the food is excellent as is the preparation of each dish. We enjoyed every bite of every dish we ate. And we ate every single bite. The restaurant is well worth a visit, and the more to your table, the merrier it will be, as you can sample more items.