Chef Bradley Manchester’s calamari fries were but one of the standouts on the menu at Glutton, his sadly shuttered Downtown restaurant. The thicker cut and familiar shape of the squid made it memorable, and the spicy-creamy sriracha mayo was the perfect complement to the dish’s crisp and tender textures.
Now that Manchester is running the new Oyster Bar at the Hard Rock, that dish lives again, but it’s far from the only reason to belly up to this bar. A foursome of ahi tuna tacos ($16) packs fresh raw fish with yuzu guacamole, frisée and pickled chilies into crunchy wonton shells. It’s a cool contrast to hearty shrimp and grits ($21), inundated with cheddar cheese and andouille sausage. The similarly sausage-laden gumbo ($18) is richly flavored, speckled with fried okra and served over rice. There’s also curried coconut seafood stew ($23) and a classic cioppino ($25) in case our wild spring weather veers back to chilly winds.
The casino oyster bar has been surging recently, with multiple properties bringing this satisfying option back to the forefront. The Hard Rock’s version doesn’t disappoint, mixing obligatory raw bar faves (and Florida stone crab when it’s in season) with heavier fare like pan roasts, fish and chips and buttery lobster rolls. With Manchester, it has a chef who can get creative with all of the above.
Oyster Bar Hard Rock Hotel, 702-693-5000. Sunday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-10 p.m.; Friday-Saturday, 11 a.m.-2 a.m.