Charlie Palmer-New Places in Reno
Went to Fin Fish last night with a large group for a birthday celebration. Very good overall.
Oysters were superb. They had about 7-8 different varieties, we got a mixed dozen. My previous favorite in Reno for oysters was Oceano, and these matched (if not beat) the freshness of what we've had there. Only quibble was that the server just set the plate down at the table; with a mixed plate, I think the server should go through and point out which are which.
The lobster corn dog appetizer was okay; sounded better in concept than in execution. I thought the breading was a bit too sweet for the lobster, and the lobster flavor was a bit hard to pick up.
Tuna tartare was very good. Excellent fresh tuna, nice presentation with avocado in a layer in the middle (nice flavor complement as well).
I did not personally try the crab cakes, but others at the table said they were very good. Same report on the marinated diver sea scallops.
A half lobster from the "iced shellfish" section was found to be a little stringy by one of the other diners. Flavor okay, but texture not ideal.
Corn and dungeness crab soup was absolutely delicious. Very fresh corn; sweet crab meat, great flavor to the soup.
Mussels in tomato and fennel broth was reported to be good, didn't try it personally.
Deserts were huge in size and pretty tasty overall. The 'peanut butter cup' was probably my favorite. The duo of creme brulees (vanilla and dark chocolate) was pretty good; the vanilla had a good flavor, but was a bit light and runny. Both could have used more of a crust on top.
The two restaurants share a host podium, but have separate dining areas and kitchens. Charlie Palmer Steak appears to be busier and harder to get into than Fin Fish. The side starches and vegetables appear to be mostly the same between the two restaurants. Main menu items are mostly different (e.g., halibut available on the CPS menu, but not the FF menu).
Menu sections and price ranges are as follows (asterisks are what they use on their menu):
Raw*Marinated*Chilled $12-15 (Tuna tartare, diver sea scallops, etc.)
Iced Shellfish $15-28 (prawns/king crab/dungeness crab $15-18, lobster $28)
Hot*Crisp $12-14 (crab fritters, lobster corn dog, onion-crusted rock shrimp)
Chowders*Pan Roasts*Soups $13-15
Surf&Turf $26-59 (lobster & filet $59, all others $26-29)
Grilled*Broiled $19-59 (lobster $59, runal, swordfish, trout, snapper, salmon $19-30)
None of us ordered a true main (but with oysters and appetizers, the soup was enough to satisfy), so can't comment on the size/value of those. Dessert was on a separate menu I don't have a copy of, but I recall them being $8 each.
Charlie Palmer Steak prices are:
Wet Aged Steaks $28-36 (porterhouse for two $85)
Dry Aged steaks $28-45
Misc. $21-59 (short rib, duck, chicken, fish)
Also, note that mains appear to be 'a la carte' (i.e., no sides) in both restaurants.
Starches are $6 (yukon gold puree, fries, mac&goat cheese; Twice-bake truffle potato is $12); veg are $6-9. Given the portion sizes we saw for the other items (e.g. desserts are plenty big for two, soups are quite big), I'm guessing two could easily split a side.
Oysters are by the piece. They have a big white board that has the names and prices of what is available that day, as I recall, they were in the $2-3 range, depending on variety.
I'm sure you could do wine and oysters only with no problem. There are two bar options available. First, there is a 'bar bar' that is between CPS and FF, which has seating, and does offer food service. Second, if you go into Fin Fish, there is a counter area. (On that note, if you don't sit at the counter at FF, I suggest a booth--I found the tall stools required for the high tables to be a bit uncomfortable, as the ring on which you rest your feet is not well positioned.)
TRIED FIN FISH ON SATURDAY NIGHT AND WAS GREATLY DISSAPPOINTED. HAD DUNGENESS CRAB LOUIS WHICH WAS NOT CRAB LOUIS AT ALL, NO SALAD, JUST CRAB BALL WITH THOUSAND ISLE DRESSING. ALSO TRIED CLAM CHOWDER WHICH HAD CLANS IN SHELL WITH WEAK CLAM SOUP. SEEMED LIKE FAILED EXPERIMENT IN SEAFOOD RESTAURANT. POOR FOOD, BAD SEATING ARRANGEMENTS AND UNINVITING DECOR.
I love Charlie Palmer restaurants. I've had spectaular meals at Aureole in New York and Las Vegas. Dry Creek Kitchen in Healdsburg is superb. I find it hard to believe that Fin Fish is from the same chef. It was so exciting for Reno to finally get a superstar chef. Cutting edge restaurants have been appearing on the dining scene. Obviously Charlie felt the need to dumb down his cooking, either because of his location here in Reno or in the casino or combination of both. The biggest surprise for me was his use of the concept of choosing a fish for your entree and combining it with a selection from his sauce list. This is a page out of Bonefish, an upscale seafood restaurant in the Outback group predominantly on the East Coast and in the Midwest, at significantly lower prices.
I found the lobster corn dogs quite tasty, but marinated scallops, served cold, were fair at best. Ms.Rev ordered a special Bouillabaise appetizer for her entree. The broth was superb but some of the seafood a bit overcooked. I chose Halibut with a meyer lemon butter. The fish was very good and the sauce was fine, if uninteresting. It was served with Charlie's signature slaw, which I liked. No other side was offered so the necessity of ordering a la carte makes this dish very expensive, considering it's simplicity. The wine list is pricey.
All things considered, the experience was disappointing. There's better fish to fry than at the Grand Sierra.
My wife and I met you at Janet's dinner a couple of months ago and enjoyed talking with you and Ms. Rev.
Interesting that you mention Bonefish Grill. I've eaten at Bonefish restaurants in Raleigh and Greensboro, and in both cases had good fish dishes for a reasonable price in a pleasant environment. Given the comments on Fin Fish so far, I can't see any reason to give it a try.
It's been a while, but we've had good fish dishes at Lulou's here in Reno. Is there anywhere else here locally that does a good job of serving interesting, well prepared seafood?
Rapscallion went downhill for a while. I stopped eating there. They were also operating the Roadhouse Grill in Sparks, which is now the Vista Grille near that Chinese place you like. I haven't been back recently but Janet gave them good marks. It would be worth trying again.
For simple fish and chips and great clam chowder there's the Steamed Clam on McCarran next to Black Bear in Sparks.
Bill, that was a very nice time at the best Indian restaurant in Reno. It was nice to meet you 2, although I wasn't at the top of my game, so soon after my surgery.
I enjoy Bonefish when I'm in Florida. Although a chain, they have very good seafood at good prices. I haven't found anything comparable in Reno. I imagine the high end restaurants like Sezmu serve excellent fish but unfortunately Reno is a meat and potatoes town.
Made it to Charlie Palmer Steak - sat in the bar area (is that a shared bar with Fin Fish?) and shared 2 types of sliders (BLT - yum; Kobe - only so-so) and the chicken wings (very meaty, but the sauce was really vinegary). The two of us had 2 beers and 2 glasses of wine between us - bill was $85. Not worth it. The real bargin is the beautiful lounge bar with the walls of water - Ketel One and tonic was just $5. Oh, really interested in trying "Reserve", the wine bar. Several (maybe 60 to 80) dispensed wines by-the-ounce. Lots of great selections.