It takes some special food to draw agonizing lines to a townie casino across the interstate from the Las Vegas Strip. The Oyster Bar in the Palace Station casino is worth every torturous minute of waiting in line. There is something especially painful about watching people enjoy shellfish while you wait. Their slurping and sucking and the methodical dressing of oysters seem so unnecessary when you are the one who is waiting. But once it is your turn to belly up to the bar, all is forgotten. Good seafood is meant to be relished.
The menu is reminiscent of New Orleans’ great oyster bars: raw ones, of course, plus such Creole favorites as gumbo and pan roasts. Food is cooked to order in front of you. Stews are made at the bar in pots over open flames. The aromas of simmering brandy-laced broths of crab and lobster continue to torment you, even after you’ve ordered.
This being Las Vegas, of course there is a shrimp cocktail. But it is not the typical quickie casino shrimp cocktail. It is five mega-jumbo shrimp, perfectly poached and immaculately dressed, accompanied by peppery cocktail sauce charged with a heavy forkful of stinging horseradish.
The combo pan roast is a bisque of tomatoes and cream that includes shrimp, crab, and lobster. As it simmers, the crab breaks down into the soup and becomes present in every spoonful. Shrimp and lobster chunks stay whole and become the targets of spoonfishing. A little warm roll and a bowl of freshly steamed jasmine rice help scoop up every last bit of the pan roast. It’s a giant bowl, but we can’t recommend sharing. It’s too good, and you’ll end up fighting over precious nuggets of lobster.
Days in Las Vegas can be exhausting. The heat, the drinking, and the fickleness of lady luck can wear you down. Hedonistic temptation is everywhere, but its promise all too often ends in disappointment. On the other hand, the Oyster Bar is a lock — a sure thing. It’s rejuvenating late-night fare to help extend your winning streak a few more hours into the morning.