Rick Moonen has said his new Rx Boiler Room project—replacing RM Seafood’s upstairs dining room inside Mandalay Place—is all about applying precise, somewhat scientific technique to classic cocktails and comfort food. That description might have been used before by other restaurants or bars, but Moonen and his team—including executive chef Johnny Church and lead barman Nathan Greene—are really doing it, pushing the boundaries of how familiar, favorite dishes and drinks are made and consumed. Rx Boiler Room is expected to open to the public after July 4, but mad scientist Moonen invited the Weekly for an exclusive tasting of three plates paired with cocktails. Get ready to have your idea of bar food completely recalibrated.
Dish: Chicken Pot Pie Fritters
Cocktail: Some Like It Hot
Imagine the most hearty, savory, hot-from-the-oven bite of chicken pot pie love you ever had … then have it over and over again in nugget form. These tasty morsels are sure to be an every-time order at the Boiler Room; some things are worth burning your mouth for. The matching drink is a stunningly fresh beer cocktail: Tanqueray No. Ten gin, Solerno blood orange liqueur, honey syrup, fresh lemon, habañero shrub bitters and Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, with a smoked salt rim. It’s crazy balanced, equal parts spicy, sweet, salty, bubbly and smoky.
Dish: Bacon Wrapped Bacon
Cocktail: Smoked Whiskey Cola
A simple thought (“What if we smoked a simple cocktail?”) inspired Greene to create this drink, George Dickel Tennessee Whisky and house-made cola syrup with cherry wood smoke piped in for extra flavor and aroma. Its layers of flavor and slight maple notes go perfectly with this fun, breakfast-y bite: crispy brioche toast topped with tomato jam, pork belly and quail egg. It looks too big for one mouthful, but trust me, you can do it. And you’ll be glad you did.
Dish: Citrus Gravlox Smoked Under Glass
Cocktail: Mario Took the Wrong Warp Pipe
This twist on Scandinavian salt-cured salmon also gets the smoke treatment, with cucumbers, briny sea beans, toasted bagel chips and chive cream cheese. It’s familiar, unique and perfect for sharing. The savory cocktail complement takes its name from Super Mario Bros. because it’s kinda Italian (extra virgin olive oil, lemon, thyme syrup) but could end up anywhere (Pierre Ferrand Dry Orange Curaçao, Novo Fogo Silver Cachaça). The ethereal egg white foam demonstrates how things will be done differently here.
Bonus Dish: Squid-E-O’s with spicy merguez meatballs
Let’s get this out of the way first: Why haven’t we been served lamb sausage meatballs before? Merguez is the perfect meat to make balls—fatty, juicy, spicy with cumin and chili pepper, all-around ideal. A plate of these would be marvelous, but Moonen tosses them together with tiny, tender rings of California calamari, deliciously masquerading as pasta. There’s a tomato and squid ink sauce under it all, plus a few cherry tomato halves and grilled garlic bread to keep you thinking you’re eating something normal. But this is not normal. This is wild, experimental and amazing food.