Michael Mina’s latest Las Vegas venture is American Fish, a celebration of the bounty of America’s great lakes, rivers and oceans. The design of the space impossibly melds soothing nature with Vegas glitz. Displayed behind the elevated bar is an infinity forest of birch trees, a blue-lit installation in the ceiling brings to mind salmon running upstream, copper and wood tones glow throughout the dining room, and a gleaming showcase kitchen spans the length of the room.
The menu features regional products prepared in four signature cooking methods: poached in ocean water, griddled over cast iron, baked in sea salt, and wood grilled and smoked. I sampled a dish prepared in each style.
First up was Dayboat Halibut poached in ocean water and served in an aromatic sake broth. The fish is cooked sous vide in a mix of ocean water and butter. Interestingly, the ocean water not only imparts the fish with a subtle saltiness, but it also keeps the fish fresh for up to 2 days (and unlike other brines, it won’t cure the meat). Chef Mina first came across this interesting method while he was in Hawaii…surrounded by ocean water. (You can read more about Mina’s discovery, and how to replicate this technique at home in my interview with the chef.)
The second method showcased had me making mental notes to invite Mina along next time I go camping. Oh, the cast-iron griddle – an American classic. True to tradition, at American Fish, the griddles are set over a wood-fired grill. Our Rainbow Trout was dipped in a batter of whipped egg white, then dusted with cornmeal before getting a generous brown butter basting with lemon and thyme. The fish was served over Israeli couscous, with a sweet roasted toybox red pepper and saffron aioli.
Next up was Mina’s personal favorite method: salt-baked. Over the wood-fired grill, the chef places a perforated hotel pan filled with coarse rock salt. Branzino and Gulf Shrimp, are then layered in with lemon, orange, and fresh bay leaves and “baked” under another layer of more hot rock salt. The result was wonderfully crispy skin and succulent meat infused with a slightly smoky flavor.
The last technique showcased was the tried and true wood-grilled and smoked method. We were treated to a melt-in-your-mouth piece of Angus Beef in a pinot noir reduction and rainbow cauliflower florets. Mina revealed his secret to the rich flavor and tenderness of the meat: butter poaching. The entire steak is slow poached in clarified butter for about 45 minutes to just under rare before hitting the grill. This method ensures that the steak is as juicy and tender as possible. Why? Mina explained, at 150F the meat begins to release its juices. By slow cooking it in butter to 145F (just under rare) before exposing it to the 600F grill, you are essentially tempering the meat and limiting the amount of cooking time where juices start to release. After the butter poach, all you need is about 6 minutes on the hot grill to finish the steak.
For a taste of American Fish at home, try this recipe for Salt-Baked Branzino below. Also, check out my Interview with Chef Michael Mina.
This Salt-Baked Branzino uses Michael Mina's favorite cooking method at American Fish. Try it for yourself next time you fire up the grill or go camping!
- 4 Branzino filets, skin on about 7 oz. each
- 1 lemon, sliced
- 1 orange, sliced
- 4 fresh bay leaves
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tablespoon mixed fresh herbs chopped (parsley, tarragon, chervil, chives)
- 1 pound coarse sea salt
- On a perforated pan, spread a thin layer of sea salt and heat on an open wood fire.
- Place Branzino filets skin side down on hot sea salt.
- Cover filets with slices of lemon, orange and 1 whole bay leave each.
- Cover with more hot sea salt and cook for about 4-5 minutes.
- Lift the fish out of the salt and brush clean of salt
- Combine the olive oil and chopped fresh herbs. Before serving, brush the fish with the herb oil.
Recipe Source: LickMySpoon.com.
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ARIA Resort & Casino
3730 Las Vegas Boulevard
Las Vegas, NV 89158