Jules Verne and Rick Moonen Have Your Next Round

RM Seafood's second floor will undergo a steampunk makeover this spring

rmseafoodupstairs.jpgRM Seafood’s second floor will close May 3 for a reconceptualization that will mesh nicely with Mandalay Bay’s other new draws: Light Nightclub, Daylight Beach Club and Cirque du Soleil’s new Michael Jackson show. When it reopens in late June as “Rx Boiler Room” (pronounced “Rick’s”), the more casual venue will reflect Moonen’s taste for all things Thomas Edison, H.G. Wells, Jules Verne and steampunk.

Encouraged by the property to reinvent, Moonen says ideas ran from steakhouse (“but that’s not fun, that’s not me”) to a so-called “gastrolab.” But while avant-garde techniques would surely be a part of any new Moonen project, he felt the term “gastro” is overused. So, the chef looked inward for inspiration: “When I was growing up, I was kind of a geek. But back then being a geek wasn’t cool. Now it’s hip!” The Boiler Room will be both geeky and hip, celebrating the “alchemy of food and drink.”

Re-envisioned in tandem by Cleo Design and the chef’s wife, Roni, this will be Moonen’s clubhouse, “where things happen, where things get cooked up.” In the dining room, booths will become intimate, robed in velvet curtains beneath a stamped-metal ceiling. Tables of reclaimed wood will include communal dining options and no white linen in sight. The new menu will rely less on structure and more on seasonality. Service could include small plates, large platters, pairings and chalkboard specials. Plus: a great sound system? Yes. A killer brunch? Yep. Local crooners slinking in for impromptu performances on a Lucite piano? “It could happen,” Moonen says.

Moonen’s core value of sustainable seafood remains, and will operate alongside this new farm-to-table lineup of redefined comfort foods; think buckets of crisp, fried Cornish game hens, “Steampunk Oysters” and deviled green eggs. Looking for your culinary North Star? “There will always be oysters on the half shell at any Rick Moonen restaurant opened anywhere in the world.”

But the bar is where the fun really starts. The upstairs entry, formerly easy to overlook, will be wide open and festooned with gears and cogs. Inside the lounge, oddly shaped furniture leads to the bar, where lead bartender Nathan Greene and his team will serve original craft cocktails and classic revisions from beakers, flasks and barrels. Here, your orange peel is flamed by a Bunsen burner. “I’m gonna let these guys just run free,” Moonen says.

This is not the first time RM’s fine-dining level has received attention since it opened in 2005. The room shut down in 2009 and reopened just before Moonen’s appearance on Top Chef Masters, still a fine-dining room, but with a more modern approach and an emphasis on tasting menus. It sounds like this iteration, grounded in all the most current trends, should have more staying power. And when Rx Boiler Room is open, RM’s first floor will get a little update, as well. “I think it has infinite possibilities. It’s certainly more fun than trying to do fine dining in this environment right now. The three-star Michelin chefs have that covered.”

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