Press Release 12/18/09
GONE FISHING: VEGAS DINERS FIND TRUE RESPITE AT MICHAEL MINA’S AMERICAN FISH
Fresh Fish, Flavor-Enhancing Techniques and Mina’s Mastery – AMERICAN FISH at ARIA
LAS VEGAS – With characteristic sincerity and a zeal for culinary history, Michael Mina celebrates another of America’s great dining legacies with AMERICAN FISH, now open at ARIA Resort & Casino. Mina’s fifth Las Vegas restaurant pays homage to rustic cooking methods from across the country – lobster boils, clam bakes and campfire cookouts – but applies them with modern finesse for a truly refined affair. Dishes draw on authentic regional products from the nation’s great water ways and woodlands, like Copper River salmon and Great Lakes walleye, with freshness and seasonality setting the pace. The décor by SLDesign brings a contemporary tone to the comfort and familiarity of a mountain lodge backdrop, as it evokes the spirit of the continent’s great landscapes and salutes the time-honored quality of American craftsmanship.
Mina first appeared on the culinary map as Executive Chef of Aqua in San Francisco, receiving a Best Chef California title by the James Beard Foundation in 2002. Soon after, he founded Mina Group, under whose auspices he has opened 17 restaurants, including AMERICAN FISH. In 2005, his eponymous restaurant, MICHAEL MINA, earned him a full plate of accolades, including Bon Appetit’s Chef of the Year title and the International Food and Beverage Forum’s Restaurateur of the Year award. Mina also has played an integral part in the development of Las Vegas as a gourmet dining destination, contributing such outstanding projects as SEABLUE and NOBHILL TAVERN (formerly NOBHILL) at MGM Grand, STRIPSTEAK at Mandalay Bay Resort and MICHAEL MINA Bellagio, a Michelin one-star and Mobil four-star winner.
At AMERICAN FISH, Mina draws from the down-to-earth, backyard flavors of America for inspiration. Over 95% of the seafood, meats and produce – always seasonal and sustainable whenever possible – is gathered from the rivers, stables and fields of the United States. Regional cooking techniques produce simple, uncluttered dishes not obscured by obtuse fusions or busy presentation; Mina’s mastery renders them beyond sublime.
Entrée selections spotlight four rustic methods. Salt-baking – known to enhance authentic flavors through a dry-salt steam that precludes added liquids or aromatics – tenderizes such dishes as Rack of Lamb from Colorado or Sweet King Shrimp from Key West, served with sunchoke, olive and arugula.
Wood-grilling methods contribute a smoky, flame-kissed depth to proteins that have first slow-poached in herb-infused olive oils. Menu highlights include wood-grilled Yellow Fin Tuna from Hawaii or Angus Bone-in Rib Eye from Idaho partnered with salsify, spinach and celeriac. Exemplifying the backwoods tradition of “campfire cooking,” cast-iron griddling sears flavor nuances into specialties like Cornmeal-crusted Trout from Idaho or Free-Range Chicken from Sonoma cooked up with apples, fennel and squash. And ocean-water poaching seals in the distinct, deep-sea flavors of Diver Scallops from New Jersey or Lobster from Maine joined by carrots, cabbage and curry.
Mina’s “twists” on classic American dishes especially shine through his small plates and appetizers: “Corn Dogs” made of spiny lobster; or classic “BLT’s” of smoke-cured salmon with watercress and tomato vinaigrette. Other appetizers combine compelling regional ingredients with intelligent care, like Tuna Tartare with wild arugula, fried quail egg and pine nuts; or Pork Belly & Octopus with white beans casserole and black kale. Side dishes deliver hearty, American staples with an added zing, like Horseradish Whipped Potatoes, Collard Greens and Bourbon Maple Syrup, even the traditional favorite Sweet Potato Puree with Marshmallow.
Desserts continue with flavor-favorites from across the country, strategically embellished for an ultra-indulgent spin on homemade. Valrhona Chocolate Custard courts that all-American beauty, red velvet cake; mythical Coconut Pearls from the islands manifest as creamy tapioca with clementines and blood orange sorbet; and of course the classic Warm Brownie offers an extra touch of Southern comfort with bitter chocolate, Tennessee Whiskey and chestnut ice cream.
AMERICAN FISH’s carefully researched wine list similarly salutes the great American outdoors, with a focus on boutique U.S. growers and producers. Progressively organized by taste, instead of region, the list is designed to assist diners in their search for perfect food-wine matches. Balancing out the list, regional wines from France, Spain, Italy, Germany, Australia and New Zealand also find representation. More than 30 labels are offered by the glass.
Cocktails emulate old-fashioned American classics and lesser-known, regional gems. Eschewing the fruit-forward trends of purees and infusions, favor falls on the bitter, smoky and savory undertones of libations past. Angostura, Peychaud’s and orange bitters; the assertive spiciness of rye; the herbal tartness of vermouth; the subtle sweetness of Old Tom gin; and the “taboo” tingle of absinthe all enjoy repeat performances.
Warmth and hospitality are AMERICAN FISH’s calling card, with interiors by SLDesign that evoke the masculine charm of a 19th-century lodge. Taking cues from Mina’s outdoorsman ethos, visuals allude to the rugged beauty of the American landscape with nature-inspired features and celebrate the superior artistry of turn-of-the-century craftsmanship with traditional woodworking methods. Newer technologies like artisan cast glass and woven copper mesh balance and refine for a setting as contemporary as it is comfortable.
As a key focal point, oversized, glass panels embedded with laser-cut images of birch trees – like illuminated groves captured in amber – both welcome guests at the door and line the 40-seat lounge upstairs. A soothing space for relaxation, the lounge features a bar that evokes a slow-moving stream, walls lined with sepia-toned postcard images, hand-blown glass pendants and a floor of end-cut recovered oak. Low-set banquettes are designed for comfort, some opening onto the casino floor for heightened socialization. An adjacent dining area upstairs seats 34 and overlooks the buzz of the 130-seat main dining room with its glass-enclosed display kitchen. Here, design techniques similarly summon nature – in the artistic abstraction of an open fire pit and in the changing light rhythms of a contemporary ceiling sculpture. Leather Pullman-style booths with plain-sawn tables line the room and reinforce the restaurant’s casual elegance, backed by streamline silhouettes of wine bottles behind a wall of amber glass.
Located on ARIA’s Promenade Level, AMERICAN FISH produces epicurean cuisine with humble, all-American roots.