I remember, not too many years ago, when the concept of seafood in the desert was a punch line complete with rim shot.
Things have improved greatly since then. Yes, we still could use a few fresh-seafood markets. But it’s easy these days to find good seafood in restaurants across the valley, including the oyster bars at locals casinos.
While the venerable oyster bar at Palace Station has reached iconic status, most are newer. Brigg’s Oyster Co. is one of the newest, having opened at the Suncoast in late November. But it’s making up for lost time with special touches that both update the food and help Brigg’s set itself apart.
Like most oyster bars here and farther afield, Brigg’s is a fairly small place, off the casino and conveniently near the front doors. It evokes the classics of its genre, lined with gleaming white subway tile with chalkboard art, and most of the cooking goes on in the center of the room in an area surrounded by bar seating (there’s also table seating). We didn’t see any fresh fish being thrown across the room, but it wouldn’t have surprised have us.
If you’re going to an oyster bar, you’re probably in search of the classics, and they’re definitely there, like the prawn cocktail ($12), a spin on a Las Vegas favorite. As the name implies, instead of the smallish (or even tiny) shrimp usually served in these sorts of things, four very large prawns — fresh and sweet and surprisingly tender for their size — had been suspended from the rim of a glass tulip dish, and a respectably kicky cocktail sauce (and plenty of it) filled the center. But here was the extra touch: Instead of giving the shrimp the usual bedding of shredded lettuce, Brigg’s mixed in some chopped celery for flavor and texture. After finishing the shrimp, we found ourselves eating some of the greens with the sauce, and when our server approached to take it away, she referred to it as a salad, so we know we’re not alone.
Since halibut’s in season, I was pleased to find it on the specials board ($26), and when we asked our server about the preparation, she extolled the virtues of the dish and said it was sauteed simply and served atop mashed potatoes with “vegetables,” so I expected a scoop of potatoes and maybe a couple of broccoli florets. It turned out to be a nice-sized fillet of fish, sauteed beautifully and topped with a wisp of beurre blanc, atop a layer of mashed potatoes that pretty much covered the plate. But here’s the part I loved: Around the fish was a great variety (not to mention profusion) of crisp-tender chunks of asparagus, red onion, zucchini, yellow squash and red bell pepper, which positively made the party with their contrasting textures and flavors and spring palette of colors. And if you’ve priced halibut on the retail level recently, you’ll recognize that the price was pretty reasonable.
Pan roasts have been on my mind lately because readers have been talking about them, so we of course gravitated to the one on the Brigg’s menu ($18), which involved lobster, shrimp and crab. As a reader commented lately, creamy — as opposed to brothy — pan roasts can be a bit much, but restraint was employed here, the tomato-tinged creamy sauce a nice complement to the seafood, a mound of rice adding both body and a bit of neutrality.
Brigg’s also serves sushi, if you’re so inclined.
The one weak link of the evening was the bread. Maybe Brigg’s is trying to be retro with this mini-loaf with the character of an old-school brown-and-serve roll. But with so much going on in the world of artisanal breads, it just seemed too soft, too bland.
And it certainly contrasted with everything else we had at Brigg’s, which is a great addition to the growing number of seafood restaurants that are quite at home in the desert.
— Las Vegas Review-Journal restaurant reviews are done anonymously at Review-Journal expense. Email Heidi Knapp Rinella at Hrinella@reviewjournal.com. Find more of her stories at www.reviewjournal.com and follow @HKRinella on Twitter.