The joy of Rx Boiler Room

Rick Moonen’s new concept is as fun as food gets

Fish tacos” are actually a bright tartare of kampachi cradled in crisp taro root shells.
Photo: Nick Coletsos

Rx Boiler Room is an odd place, and that’s by design. It’s upstairs from celebrity chef Rick Moonen’s popular sustainable seafood restaurant, and its main entrance—framed by a cartoonish, seemingly mechanized metallic arch—is located at the end of a casino retail mall. Its insides are decked out in red velvet, skulls within crystal balls, disco-sequined ram heads, propellers and gears and chandeliers, and a statue of an octopus wearing an old-school diving helmet. Decidedly odd.

This is the way Moonen wants it. Rx is pronounced “Rick’s,” in case you didn’t know. But somewhere along the way to creating a space on the Las Vegas Strip dedicated to the alchemy of food and drink, something got lost. The word “steampunk” got thrown around too much. And maybe eaters and drinkers became confused about what’s going on in here.

In a word, it’s fun.

Several new restaurants have confidently declared they are adding exciting new twists on traditional American comfort cuisine or bar food, but no one is doing it as joyfully or deliciously as Moonen is here, aided by journeyman executive chef Johnny Church. This food is crazy. Bacon-wrapped hunks of pork belly on mini brioche crisps topped with sunny side-up quail eggs—beautiful breakfast in one bite. Tiny “fish tacos” of delicate kampachi tartare in crunchy taro root shells. Chicken pot pie in panko-breaded nugget form. Instead of mozzarella sticks, oxtail croquettes. That’s improvement.

There must be some seafood, and there is. Calamari rings and lamb sausage meatballs float in squid ink-tomato sauce, a play on SpaghettiOs. There’s lobster bolognaise over herbed pasta ($38) and shrimp and grits ($32) with Cajun gravy, and other non-fishy entrees for those not interested in full food whimsy. A Niman Ranch skirt steak, perhaps, or Greek-style lamb osso buco ($28).

The Rx Boiler Room version of wings is lovely, crispy fried game hen served with vegetable ribbons and dipping sauces of blue cheese and hot sauce.

The Rx Boiler Room version of wings is lovely, crispy fried game hen served with vegetable ribbons and dipping sauces of blue cheese and hot sauce.

Reading through these dishes might lead you to believe Rx Boiler Room is a casual restaurant, and it can be if that’s what you want. Those brilliant small plates are mostly between $9 and $16, and sharing a bunch of ’em with a sampling of the bar’s cutting-edge cocktails could be a very relaxed experience. Or, in these theatrical surroundings, it could be a fancy night out without that cloud of formality so many casino dining rooms can’t shake.

There’s a bucket of crispy fried game hen ($22), nodding to Buffalo wings with its hot sauce and blue cheese dips and decorative ribbons of carrot and celery. There’s a build-your-own taco plate ($22) with a foundation of luscious pork steamed in banana leaves. And there’s the tangiest mac and cheese you’ve ever tasted, pinwheels of pasta drowning in parmesan, Brie, cheddar, blue cheese and fromage blanc.

Moonen clearly can’t stop enjoying himself with this place, a manifestation of nerdy childhood mad scientist dreams. I find it impossible not to join in the fun.

Rx Boiler Room Mandalay Bay, 632-7200. Sunday-Thursday, 5 p.m.-midnight; Friday & Saturday, 5 p.m.-2 a.m.

Tags: Dining
Photo of Brock Radke

An award-winning writer who has been living and working in Las Vegas for more than 20 years, Brock Radke covers ...

Get more Brock Radke
  • Stellar as the entertainment onstage can be, the menu is just as well-thought-out, featuring American steakhouse classics sprinkled with surprises.

  • Most dishes on the belt cost $2.50, which means you can share a sizable 10-plate meal with a companion for $12 each (beer, tax and ...

  • My favorite bite? The behemoth Firebird sandwich. The giant, spicy fried-chicken thigh is the crispiest, crunchiest fried chicken I’ve tasted, yet it maintains the perfect ...

  • Get More Reviews Stories
Top of Story