Sea brings an unheralded cuisine to the Strip
By Jack Houston
Photos by Christopher DeVargas
As Thai food gains in popularity, the Strip has been notoriously slow to answer the call for top-shelf restaurants that feed our fix for pad Thai, chicken satay and shrimp tom yum. No more. Sea: The Thai Experience at Bally’s has arrived, and just in the nick of time.
Like all of Bally’s restaurants, Sea is tucked in a far corner of the casino, so it may be a little hard to find at first. But that seclusion actually helps when it comes to the décor, which is focused around a central, rectangular pool and a statue of a standing buddha, his left arm outstretched, thumb and forefinger touching in what’s known as the vitarka mudra. Buddhist iconography tells us this is a gesture of teaching, so perhaps Sea is here to enlighten our palates to something we haven’t tasted before.
Sea’s menu is a pared-down version of what you’ll find in most Thai restaurants, and in that, it acts as a sort of greatest hits compilation for the cuisine. Spring rolls are a hit with just about everyone, and they hit the table warm, wrapped in a toasted coconut roll. The cumbersome duck lettuce wraps are full of toothsome shredded duck meat, yet it’s unclear just exactly how to eat them. Too hefty for chopsticks, it’s probably best to dive in hands first and let the dipping sauces become succulent finger paint.
Chicken satay is a fairly simple dish—grilled, marinated chicken strips, skewered and served with peanut sauce—and it transcends its simplicity here, becoming a sweetly satisfying lead-in to the meal.
As with many Asian restaurants, entrée portion sizes range from large to “automatic doggie bag,” so it’s usually best to agree on a few for the table and share among yourselves. Pad Thai is a staple typically done well, but for something a little outside the box, the drunken man’s noodle is a good alternative. Wrapped in a banana leaf, the dish is packed with broad noodles, chunks of chicken and shrimp and peppers, simmering in a spicy basil sauce.
Grilled lemongrass chicken is prepared as it should be, tender and juicy, but the real showstopper is the whole tamarind fish. Yes, yes, there are those that will become squeamish at the sight of the once-scaly swimmer propped up on a plate, but the payoff is worth it: wonderfully flaky fish, seasoned with a spicy tamarind sauce. It’s one of those dishes you’ll find yourself picking at long past the point of satiation.
Although subtitled “The Thai Experience,” Sea offers a range of Vietnamese dishes as well, including rice and noodle dishes and the coveted pho. It seems as if Southeast Asia is finally getting its due on the Strip, and in Sea, it’s found a worthy proponent to deliver its cuisines to the masses.
11 a.m.-2 a.m. daily. 702.967.3888