It’s the biggest and brightest hotel-casino Downtown, but the Golden Nugget is routinely overlooked. Its restaurants, particularly the modern Vic & Anthony’s steakhouse, boast the best food on Fremont Street. Lost in the blurry hype of CityCenter’s opening—and subsequent bummers of other Downtown hotels struggling through the times—was the Nugget’s good news, the opening of a beautiful 500-room hotel tower with its own convenient valet just off Main Street. Capping this expansion is the Chart House, a chain seafood restaurant done quite nicely here, definitely Vegas-style.
You can’t miss the 75,000-gallon fish tank behind the bar, then wander ’round back, where you can steal a cozy, sea-green booth for dinner behind this wall of an aquarium. It’s a new restaurant with an old feel, and the menu matches. Of course there’s shrimp cocktail, oysters on the half shell and rather ordinary clam chowder. But surf and turf takes a welcome turn, combining short ribs with either scallops or mahimahi. There are steaks and lamb chops, seven fishes and nine other seafood dishes to choose from. I recommend the spiced yellowfin ahi, two great triangles of perfectly seared tuna with a vibrant spice rub and a smooth, curry-like ginger sauce. Order it at lunch, when it’s $12 cheaper and you get a pyramid of crab-topped fried rice instead of risotto. The fish and chips dish includes hand-dipped, beer-battered haddock. There’s a nice brick chicken, thin and crispy with tiny, tender potatoes on the side.
Like other Golden Nugget restaurants, the food here is prepared well, consistent if a bit uninspired. But you must order wisely at Chart House. The “specialty platter” is that silly old plate of fried fish parts, upgraded with tempura lobster. Go for scampi over coconut shrimp, and lobster bisque over chowder. But let’s not take all the familiar fun out of it … Why not get the old-school seafood tower to start? Chilled lobster, shrimp, oysters and crab? You’re sitting next to a giant aquarium in a borderline mermaid-themed restaurant in a casino. It fits.