Emeril's New Orleans Fish House brings on new dishes
He has returned. In late 2016, chef de cuisine Jean Paul Labadie returned to his roots, taking back over the reins of Emeril’s New Orleans Fish House at the MGM Grand. Labadie began his career under Lagasse himself at the chef’s eponymous New Orleans venue before transferring to Vegas as Fish House’s sous chef. After rising to the restaurant’s chef de cuisine, he moved on to Table 10 before leaving Emeril’s empire. But the lure of his roots was too strong and he returned to the Cajun-influenced cuisine of his early career.
Settling into the position, Labadie’s influence is clear with most recent menu changes, a portent of things to come with an infusion of fresh menu offerings such as slow-roasted pork belly sliders and squid ink pasta. The former is a mix of sweet and heat with a hoisin glaze balanced by a jalapeño-cilantro aioli, while the latter exudes an essence of the sea with an adornment of lump king crab and mussels in a rich, buttery buerre blanc sauce.
And in ultimate expression of earth and sea, dayboat scallops alight atop butternut squash purée with nutty Iberico de Bellota bacon and an umami-laden foie gras gravy.
But rest assured, the Gulf Coast-inspired classics still remain. Lightly fried Florida frog legs are still sparked with a Crystal hot sauce-infused Creole tomato glaze, while freshly shucked oysters from both coasts are accompanied by watermelon mignonette, in-house cocktail sauce and freshly-grated horseradish, transporting you to the Big Easy as always. The Louisiana-style broiled oysters are almost excessively buttery—as if that’s ever unwanted in a Southern dish—while Emeril’s barbecued shrimp remains an epiphany with crustaceans wading in a rich, Worcestershire-laden sauce. With his upbringing, Labadie understands classics are classics for a reason and need no tinkering.
Emeril's New Orleans Fish House
Other signature dishes include herb-roasted free-range chicken breast. Crusted with oregano, thyme and parsley, the flavorful fowl arrives atop bacon-braised Brussels sprouts elevated with a red wine demi-glace. It's a chicken dish worth exploring amidst the seafood-heavy Fish House menu. But in case you want an oceanic dish, pan-fired rainbow trout battles for plate dominancy with mounds of jumbo lump crab in an Oscar-esque presentation.
And the classic Lagasse desserts which await will not disappoint. Emeril’s banana cream pie is legendary; finished with chocolate shavings and a caramel sauce, the light and airy pie ranks amongst the Strip’s best. But arguably as intriguing is the banana bread pudding swimming in a caramelized Bananas Foster sauce. The dish exudes New Orleans charm, with the sauce’s sweetness cut by the house made vanilla ice cream.
Truth is, Emeril’s New Orleans Fish House has always been a Las Vegas institution as one of the Strip’s first celebrity chef-driven restaurants. While it has not lost any of its luster in delivering Gulf Coast cuisine in the heart of the desert, Labadie’s arrival is welcomed as he brings a fresh set of knives to the kitchen. It is a return we can all be thankful for.
MGM Grand, 11:30 a.m.-10 p.m. daily. 702.891.7374