One of the most annoyingly persistent myths about dining in Las Vegas is that it’s impossible—or at least difficult—to get good seafood in the desert. There may have been a time when that was true. But in 2014, Las Vegas restaurants boast a wider variety of fresh, pristine ocean delicacies than you’ll find in many coastal cities. Both Bartolotta Ristorante di Mare in Wynn and Estiatorio Milos in the Cosmopolitan fly in seafood from the Mediterranean several times a week. BarMasa in Aria and Chinatown’s Kabuto both source exotic types of sushi from Japan. And now, thanks to chef David Walzog, Wynn’s Lakeside Seafood is presenting diners with a sampling of what the waters around Hawaii have to offer.
The restaurant recently launched a program called Ocean to Table, which entails a rotating selection of fish indigenous to Hawaii. Walzog relies on about 30 Hawaiian fishing boats to supply it. Every day, he contacts the head fishmonger to find out what they’ve caught, and places his order.
About six or seven Hawaiian species of seafood are listed on Lakeside’s menu on any given day. If guests are interested in seeing them before ordering, most are on display in the kitchen. Should they decide to sample one, they can order a 7-ounce portion in one of four different preparations, which also rotate seasonally. (Current selections include Asian, Mediterranean, citrus and caviar beurre blanc.)
Walzog says the inspiration for the program was “to have a story to tell” to his customers. “People want to know the provenance of food these days and know where products are coming from, and also know to what lengths we go to source things,” he says.
To be able to tell that story better, Walzog recently traveled to Hawaii to meet with the captains of some of the boats that would be catching his product. He explains that he wasn’t content simply calling or texting in his orders to fishmongers he’d never met. “What about a face? What about a relationship? What about really understanding who these people are, and going out to dinner with them?”
Thanks to the relationships he formed during his trip, guests at Walzog’s restaurant may have the chance to sample fish species they’ve never before encountered. Recent offerings have included opakapaka (pink snapper), uku (blue-green snapper), monchong (sickle pomfret) and ono (wahoo)—each one further proving that our little patch of desert is actually one of the best places in the world for enjoying the bounty of the world’s oceans.