Normally, I’m not into casinos—I’m convinced that the house always wins, so what’s the point? But when you’re talking restaurants that’s a whole other story. So I was delighted to find myself in the company of a good friend from school, her wife and two young children last week on my WorldCon adventure to Reno. I was staying at the Peppermill for the conference. Since my friend knows that I’m clueless about how to get around town on my own, she suggested dining “in” at the casino seafood place, Oceano.
There’s something funny about dining at a casino. It isn’t the bright lights, loud noises of the winners on the slot machines, or even the dramatic over-the-top décor. No, it is the fact that we were able to walk for what seemed like miles with a ten year old girl and a three year old boy through the entire facility; past roulette wheels, poker tables, numerous and varied kinds of brightly glowing slots, security guards, bars and waitresses hurrying to deliver cocktails; and nobody even raised an eyebrow. Well, we sure weren’t in Kansas anymore.
Oceano is amazing, really. The food is ok but the ambiance, wow! Done up as if you were dining at the bottom of a shallow sea, we were surrounded by luminous jellyfish as lighting, sitting among fluorescent green plastic seaweed and blue neon that made the entire room feel like you were truly underwater. At our spacious booth, a friendly sea turtle was in the process of swimming by. I even saw a killer whale a few tables over, apparently looking for the right guest to sample.
The menu was full of restaurant staples. You could get almost anything fried. There were some sushi offerings, lots of fish and shellfish. Feeling extra excited, I started with a Manhattan with Blanton’s bourbon, my absolute fave. Look how the drink reflects the ceiling as if it was the surface of the ocean.
They brought out the obligatory sour dough bread and butter as we waited for drinks. I liked that since I rarely have this at home.
The Crustacean Celebration was just that: fresh oysters on the half shell, lobster, king crab legs, ceviche and jumbo prawns accompanied by six dipping sauces. I only remember five: butter, horseradish, cocktail sauce, cilantro and aioli. It was a fun interactive start, and really added to the party atmosphere.
I ordered the West Coast cioppino. This was a calculated risk on my part, as I usually find it is best to try things that you’re not too familiar with when attempting a new restaurant. It decreases your chances for disappointment. Fortunately, this cioppino was good. Sadly, hardly any of my clams opened, but the lobster more than made up for it in my mind.
The kids got fried things. Veronica had what to me looked like oversized crab cakes with huge fingerling potatoes. Karen tried the Louisiana gumbo, which I had considered too, but declined for the andouille, which is not currently on my personal menu.
We shared an ice cream sundae for dessert, though I have to say I was so stuffed by then, that I could only have a few bites.
The service was fine; the food, reasonable. I found it to be tremendously enjoyable to visit friends undersea. You can’t say something like that every day, can you?